Today is the 6-month mark of the No Alcohol Challenge!
These past six months have been incredibly enlightening…and surprising.
I’ve both gotten results I did NOT expect, AND NOT gotten results I did expect.
For starters, I thought the extra weight I was carrying around from consuming all those empty calories would just fall off me, but that didn’t happen.
Reflecting back now, I realize that one reason I was skinnier before I quit drinking is because alcohol replaced a lot of my meals, and the lack of motivation to get up and go find food resulted in skipping meals. As a result, I was eating a lot less.
Since giving up alcohol, I’ve found myself to be much hungrier and have gained about 10 lbs.
Not just because I have the energy and motivation to get up and find food, but because when I need a distraction or to keep myself busy, I turn to eating.
Another reason is that my extreme change in mental clarity and brain power makes me much more tuned into my body’s cravings as well and requires more fuel to keep me going.
My brain power has boosted by 1000% since I stopped drinking alcohol, which is AMAZING, but it’s also incredibly draining.
Many people don’t realize that our brains actually burn 20% of our calories.
The brain requires ENERGY (which we get from food) to keep functioning – to send signals to our body to tell us to move, to tell our heart to keep pumping blood and lungs to keep pumping oxygen, to tell our intestines to digest our food, and our liver to get rid of toxins.
Every process and function going on within our body, as well as the thoughts, behaviors, and actions that we’re actually aware of, all come from the brain using energy to make it happen.
It’s kind of cool, actually, to know that even while we sleep our brain is still burning calories to keep our bodies running.
If we stop giving our brain energy (food), it will stop working, and all of our body’s processes will shut down. And we’ll die.
Before I quit drinking, my brain always felt “spacey” and “foggy”, unable to focus and be productive. Since I felt that way regularly, I didn’t recognize when I was feeling that way due to lack of energy from food.
NOW, since I quit drinking, my brain is much more clear and aware of how my body feels, so when I feel a dip in energy and start spacing out, I feel the effects much more intensely and start stuffing my face with food to fuel my brain.
This newfound hyper-awareness of my body’s cues (like hunger and low energy), leads to over-compensating with my food intake.
I end up consuming a lot of food quickly to get a major boost in my energy and brain power, rather than eating just enough to give my brain what it needs to keep working properly.
When I overeat, my brain takes the small amount it needs, then sends the rest to be stored as fat. Hence my problem with losing weight.
With all of the new ideas, thoughts, goals, and ambitions swirling around in my brain all the time, I’m constantly focused on my mindset and mental growth, and ignoring the needs of my physical body.
By eating with only the intention of fueling my brain, I end up neglecting my body. So going into month number 7 I’ll be focused on finding a balance between energizing my mind and energizing my body.
Moving on to the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had some very POSITIVE and unexpected changes in my lifestyle in general.
For example, I am officially a MORNING PERSON now.
Seriously, something I NEVER thought would happen.
I use to be that girl who hit snooze 10 times, and finally forced myself out of bed when I had just a few minutes to head out the door. If I didn’t have to be somewhere, I would sleep all morning. And when I finally rose from bed, I moved around like a sloth for the first couple of hours of my day doing absolutely nothing productive with my life.
Now, I actually look forward to my mornings. I naturally wake up between 6:30am-7:30am. (I would prefer to wake up at 6, which was the norm for me in Croatia, but people don’t eat dinner and socialize until after 9pm here in Spain, so I’ve been staying up later and waking a bit later.)
I never set an alarm, so I never have to hit snooze. I wake up energized and excited to start my morning routine.
One reason I love waking up so early is that most other people are either still sleeping, getting ready for work, or commuting, so I can have uninterrupted “me time” without feeling the pressure to check my email, respond to messages, or start working right away.
During my travels the past couple of months, I’ve tested my feelings and tendencies towards my old ways of living like going to parties, staying out until 4am dancing, or even having lazy all-day Netflix marathons.
I despise all of these things now. Not because there’s no alcohol involved (on my end), but because it ruins my morning routine – my favorite part of the day. It throws my whole schedule and motivation out of whack, and it’s a lot harder to refocus and get back into the flow of things.
Even having a late night out without drinking makes me feel those “spacey”, unfocused, foggy brain symptoms that I felt with a hangover. And I hate feeling that way. Especially now that I feel the effects much more clearly and intensely.
I’ve realized recently that I don’t miss the night life or party scene one bit. I don’t miss the people, or social pressures, or lack of responsibility and awareness, or impaired judgment and ability to make smart choices, or making an ass out of myself, or the excuse to spend an entire day being lazy and unproductive.
The “No Alcohol Challenge” doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. I simply don’t want to drink. Or be a part of that lifestyle.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to meet up with friends for “dinner and a drink,” or skip out on wine and cheese night, or not attend events where other people are drinking. I have no problem being around alcohol.
I’m referring to the lifestyle that REVOLVES around drinking and drinking-related activities. And only connecting with others on a “drinking buddy” level.
In the past few months, I’ve experienced a mix of the “drinking buddy” people in my life, and the people I can share a real connection with.
Particularly since I’ve been in Spain, I’ve noticed a MAJOR difference between the two and how to recognize them.
I’ve met people who only invite me out past 9pm, and I’ve met people who want to wake up early and go hiking, or spend the day at the beach, or go explore unfamiliar parts of the city.
I’ve met people I can talk to for 5 hours straight, and people I can’t hold a conversation with for 5 seconds.
The people I end up having a real connection with, are the ones who have never questioned or challenged my choice not to drink. They never call attention to it, exclude me from events that revolve around alcohol, or make me feel like an outcast for being the only one not drinking. My presence is enough for them.
Experiencing these types of deeper connections is new to me, and they give me a sense of fulfillment that was missing in my life before I quit drinking. Even with longtime friends, whose friendship I now feel a much greater appreciation for.
I HAVE experienced a MAJOR transformation, but it wasn’t at all in the way I expected it to be. It wasn’t physical. At least not in terms of weight and appearance.
I do FEEL much healthier though. In fact, I feel like an entirely different person today than I was 6 months ago. But it’s mostly internal, not external. My entire way of living and vision for the future has shifted.
This “experiment” has ended up becoming more of a “spiritual journey” of sorts for me. A journey of self-discovery, self-awareness, self-love, and finding my meaning and purpose in the world.
The past 6 months have FLOWN by, and I’ve already experienced so many profound changes I can barely wrap my head around. I can’t WAIT to see how different my life will be in the second half of this year.
Have you ever given up alcohol for a specific period of time (maybe 30 or 90 days)? What changes did you experience? What surprised you? Share in the comments below!