8 Ways 'Dry January' Can Kickstart Your Entire Year Of Fitness

by Robert Parmer

This year, many people will conjure up some outlandish and unattainable New Year’s resolutions.

While these types of goals are, in essence, a fantastic idea, they are oftentimes abandoned before the month of January is even over.

But don’t fret.  New Year’s resolutions are, in fact, realistic, if set goals are attainable and taken in baby steps.

A common resolution is to give up an addictive substance, whether it’s cigarettes, coffee or booze.

Start by viewing your resolutions as attainable goals.

Initially, it seems like a great idea to think long-term about giving up an addictive substance. However, an excellent starting point is taking part in Dry January.

The concept of Dry January is simple. You can have no alcohol the whole month of January.

That’s 31 days without any booze.  That isn’t so long, right?  Well, that depends on your personal level of overconsumption and the length of time you’ve been binge-drinking.

For me, my first stab at Dry January was last year.

While I was successful at going the entire month of January without a drop of alcohol, I can’t say it was easy.

Honestly, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my blossoming, young adult life.

I noticed many side effects of quitting drinking cold turkey, and they will likely be experienced by most people taking on Dry January:

1. Withdrawals are real.

About 17.6 million Americans abuse alcohol or are dependent on the substance.

That’s the equivalent of about one in every 12 adults.

Even if you don’t think you are quite at the point of alcoholism, the first two weeks of quitting drinking can be surprisingly challenging: both physically and mentally.

While alcoholism has never completely taken over my life, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have at least a few beers most evenings.

This is not shameful. It’s a way I unwound after a hard day of work.

But this had the potential to become problematic in the long run.

It’s not easy to watch your friends around you drink while you’re trying not to.

Every time you pass a brewery or a bar, your brain will likely debate stopping and grabbing a quick drink.

The same can be said about walking past the beer cooler or wine section while at the grocery store.

We all have our particular vices, and that’s okay.

We have desires. When those are put on the back burner, many people experience withdrawal symptoms.

The following are some common withdrawal symptoms:

- Elevated temperature

- Increased blood pressure, breathing rate and pulse

- Excessive sweating

- Tremors

- Anxiety and depression

- Decreased energy and metabolism

- Feelings of aggression or hostility

- Declined sexual interest or function

- Sleep disruption and nightmares

These symptoms are typically only present for a maximum of a few weeks.

Many of these effects flip-flop tenfold once the body and mind are comfortable functioning without any alcohol.

2. You'll have better sleep.

While insomnia may be an initial side effect of quitting drinking, sleep quality usually substantially increases in the long run.

An in-depth review of 27 credible studies found that while alcohol can initially cause people to fall asleep quickly and deeply, it drastically affects sleep quality after that initial restful span.

It may be a challenge to fall asleep sober at first, but the improved level of sleep you get from not falling asleep drunk leaves you much more rested than ever before.

3. You'll find a clearer complexion.

Westlake Dermatology points out some largely negative impacts alcohol consumption has on skin quality and longevity of young-looking skin.

Alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, impacts skin health because it causes dehydration and blood vessel dilation.

In cases of pre-existing skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis, drinking alcohol can cause flare ups and other complications.

4. There will be a noticeable boost in your bank account.

For me, this was hands down the best part of quitting drinking.

I was blown away by how much extra cash I had after I quit hitting the bottle so frequently. I saved hundreds of dollars every paycheck.

The thing is, while I don’t consider myself to be a downtown junkie or bar regular, I do have one expensive vice: I absolutely love craft beer.

As most people know, that doesn’t come cheap.

Even though I typically buy beer from stores and avoid the added cost the bar scene presents, I was consuming at least a six-pack of craft beer a night during my peak.

I was spending $10 a night on beer on average if I limited myself to a six-pack.

That’s a very substantial amount of money. It's roughly how much I typically spend on food every day.

I was spending hundreds of dollars a month on beer.

When I cut that expense out of my life, I was happily surprised by how much money I had.

5. You will lose weight.

Drinking oftentimes comes at a price, in terms of caloric intake.

Most alcoholic beverages have hundreds of calories, and can contain a lot of gluten and other unhealthy ingredients.

When a multitude of drinks are consumed, the calories can quickly stack up.

These calories -- paired with the phenomenon of "drunk munchies" -- can result in much more consumption than planned.

If you’re curious about how many calories you drink in a night, use this handy alcohol calorie calculator after a night of drinking.

6. Your liver will love you.

It’s pretty much common knowledge that alcohol is filtered through the human liver.

It’s the magical organ that makes getting drunk possible and safe, as it processes our alcoholic tendencies.

However, too much alcohol is extremely harsh on the liver, and forces it to produce a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde. This enzyme damages liver cells, and can even cause permanent scarring in some cases.

Furthermore, fatty liver disease is caused by overconsumption of alcohol. This is a serious matter.

Fatty liver can cause a plethora of problems, including inflammation of the body and pre-diabetes. It can even put you at a greater risk of having a heart attack.

When those with fatty liver disease quit drinking, the liver fat decreases to an average of 15 percent, with some participants losing up to 20 percent.

7. Your productivity will skyrocket.

It may seem like common sense that limiting excessive drinking and all the attributed byproducts (late nights out, hangovers, etc) will equate to more productive days.

However, it’s pretty staggering just how far a proper sleep schedule and a fully sober mind will get you during your work week.

I started a new office job last year while I was experimenting with Dry January for the first time, and I’ve never felt such instant success in the workplace.

It’s like I became a more robust, sharper version of myself.

In addition to not drinking, I took other productivity tips to heart. I began to hold myself much more accountable in the workplace.

This gave me a big boost in confidence.

8. Your hangovers cease to exist.

This last one is definitely obvious.

But simply think about how much better you’ll feel and how much extra time you’ll have if you never have to face a brutal hangover again.

Personally, I think back to some examples of hangovers from my life.

I have spent full days on the bathroom floor in unrelenting pain.

Those hangovers that seem to last for days are on par with food poisoning and the stomach flu.

The all-day-hangover lifestyle is not a glamorous one. Rather, it is a nauseating one.

Although we are already well into the first week of January, it’s not too late to experiment with going a month without alcohol.

Consider taking a break from your binge-drinking.

If you find these efforts to be worthwhile, post your experience in the comments section of this article.