Claire Turnbull is a Qualified Nutritionist, author and professional speaker whose mission is to help make it easy for people to live healthy, happy lives. Here she shares in her Q & A, her tips for people wanting to take part in Dry July – a fundraiser that challenges you to go alcohol-free and raise funds for people affected by cancer.
Will you be going ‘dry’ this July?
With two small children and many sleepless nights, I don’t actually drink that much alcohol at the moment anyway! But given it’s for such a good cause the little I do drink will be going, so yes! I’ll be sharing recipes throughout the month using SodaStream sparkling water and beautiful fresh ingredients, so anyone who’s also taking part can check out my Facebook page for some inspiriation!
What are the benefits in taking part?
A single month off alcohol won’t make a huge difference in the long term to your health by itself, but there’s two real benefits in my mind – giving your body a healthy break, and taking the opportunity to evaluate your drinking habits and reset.
Giving up alcohol for a month gives your liver a break, and people will probably also start to notice they’re sleeping better – while alcohol can feel like it ‘knocks you out’ and helps you fall asleep, it affects the quality of your sleep so you’re not sleeping as deeply. It takes an hour to process one unit of alcohol, so if you’re having half a bottle of wine or more in the evening you’ll obviously still have some to process while you’re asleep. Alcoholic drinks can also very easily add a lot of extra calories to your day without you really realising it, so provided you’re making healthy alternative choices you will be far better off.
A month off alcohol is also a really positive opportunity to assess your relationship with it – do you use it to manage stress or do you drink because it’s a habit or because other people are? Dry July is an opportunity to reflect and make changes if needed – it’s a really positive thing if it helps you to drink less alcohol overall after July is over, and you’ll no doubt end up drinking more water based drinks too which is great for your hydration!
Are there any watch-outs?
The main thing is that a lot of the alcohol free replacements are packed with sugar and can contain as many if not more calories than the alcoholic drink you are replacing! Be mindful about your food choices this month too – avoid extra snacking or reaching for sweet treats in place of alcohol – this is especially important if you drink to try and manage stress, as many people eat for the same reason! You also don’t want to give up alcohol for a month only to have a massive binge when August rolls around.
What are some easy swaps people can make for alcoholic beverages in Dry July (or anytime they’re trying to reduce alcohol intake)?
There are lots of delicious alternatives! For me a staple is having a SodaStream machine on hand, as sparkling water can form the basis of so many great drinks and I like that you’re not using single use plastic bottles. Most cocktail type drinks can be made without alcohol and very low sugar – for example, a virgin Bloody Mary, or just use sparkling water as a base and mix in any fresh fruits, vegetables or herbs you want to create an amazing flavour. I love using lime, chilli and mint to create a sort of spicy mojito type drink! There are now even distilled alcohol free spirits (such as Seedlip) which you can add.
A good alternative to wine is a splash of grape juice in SodaStream sparkling water which kind of looks like red wine so psychologically feels like a nice replacement! There are also no alcohol beers and wines available.
How do you find a healthy balance when it comes to drinking?
However much we love alcohol, it really isn’t good for us.There are far more negatives than positive when it comes to booze so it’s important to assess the reasons you drink and how much and often. For me personally, drinking small amounts with friends and food, while appreciating the taste and experience, is a healthy balance. Alternating every second wine with sparkling water is a good way to achieve this while still feeling involved in social occasions! This is quite different to someone who’s drinking alone or cracking open drinks when they get home from work just to unwind on a Tuesday. It’s really about working towards a healthy relationship with alcohol where we can enjoy it in small amounts in the right context, and not rely on it or feel dependent on having it. Alcohol is a coping strategy for a lot of people and that’s not what it should be, so if that’s the case then people need to find alternative ways to enjoy themselves and manage stress.
What are your top tips for people wanting to make Dry July happen?
Prepare! Look at all the situations where you’ll encounter alcohol in July and work out in advance what you’ll do. Will-power is like a muscle, which can get tired when you’re resisting all week. If you rely on that alone, sometimes it can be tricky by the time Friday comes along! But if you decide in advance what you’re going to have instead and how you’ll be prepared, it becomes a lot easier. For example, invest in a SodaStream machine and keep cold sparkling water in the fridge and ready to use for Friday nights at home, while at the same time ensuring that beer and wine is not in the fridge and stored out of sight to remove the temptation. This could also be a great opportunity to advocate for low or no alcohol drink options in your workplace, if this is somewhere that you might typically have a couple.
How can people can set up to succeed?
Find different ways to enjoy yourself or wind down! You could catch up with friends by going for a walk, playing a sport or taking a yoga class together. Music can be a profound tool too – if you’ve had a stressful day and would usually reach for a drink, playing music you love really loudly can be enough to change your mood! Doing something creative works for some people who perhaps drink out of boredom – some people love adult colouring, or crosswords, drawing, making something, healthy cooking, writing, the possibilities are endless! Just getting moving or getting outside for 10 minutes can be enough to change your mood – do a few star jumps or go out into the garden for a minute. Also, finding non-alcoholic recipes that you love to drink will help you succeed – get creative and experiment!
What are some ways you relax and wind down without alcohol?
I personally love to have a shower if I’m feeling stressed! Getting outside is another great option, or even just finding a great comedy to watch on Netflix and snuggling up for some laughs on a cold night.