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11 Lessons From One-Year No Booze

 

I am currently 11 months into a one-year challenge I set myself to go alcohol-free.

I had considered giving up after the birth of our second child. The broken sleep and the early starts were getting the better of me! I was also getting irritated by my procrastination at work and wanted to nip it in the bud.

I considered giving up booze for ‘a while’ until my life felt in order, but after discovering the blog OneYearNoBeer and reading all the great success stories, I set myself the challenge of the full twelve months.

It has been a fascinating year and here are the lessons I have learnt.

Black and white is SO much easier than grey

 When the answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it takes up much less mental energy than ‘maybe’ or ‘a little bit’.

I am in a time of my life where I don’t want to get drunk. Kids and business make me really regret having written off a day with a hangover, so the mental gymnastics I would have to go through when considering a night out was TIRING!

Trying to stick to my two-beer rule (we all know how that ends) was so hard. I even turned down nights out with friends because it didn’t cross my mind that I could go out and not drink. I missed out on my friends because I was put off by the grey zone.

Knowing that for a whole year I have been able to say ‘no’ has been easy on my mind and has actually meant that I have said ‘yes’ to more events, knowing that I can still be productive the next day. I have just as much fun, just none of the downside.

Social anxiety is 100% in my own head

This one took me a while to learn. When I would go to a pub or to a party, I would spend many anxious moments frantically trying to come up with a story in my head about why I was alcohol-free.

These thought-storms in my mind were driven by embarrassment, anxiety for what my friends would say and even guilt for not ‘joining in’.

It took me a couple of months to realise NO ONE CARES!!!

It’s liberating! Everyone else has their own stuff going on in their own heads, the stuff going on in your head is entirely fabricated.

Other than a few interested questions about why I’m doing it and how difficult it is, they didn’t care. They got back to enjoying their drink and I enjoyed my AF one. Simple.

Booze makes you fat

I went into this year with a perfect ‘dad-bod’ – skinny arms and a nice little paunch on my tummy. I wasn’t overweight, but I wasn’t lean.

This year I have become super lean. With no effort.

Not having those weekly ales has kicked the dad-bod to touch.

There were many times I wanted to have a drink, but there wasn’t once I wished had a drink

If I think back through the last year, there were many times I can remember wanting to have a drink.

Times like my birthday, toasting the purchase of our first family home, walking into a nice country pub on holiday, or even just getting home on a Friday night after a long week – they all got my juices going and it was hard to resist a beer or glass of wine, but I was committed to the challenge and I never gave in.

Later in the evening, going to bed and certainly the next day, there was never a time where I looked back and wished I had had the drink. There was never a time where I felt like I had missed out.

Curious isn’t it, the way our mind works in the present compared to reflecting on the past?

Procrastination is largely driven by anxiety, and booze makes you anxious

Now, don’t get me wrong, when it comes to productivity I am no Elon Musk (possibly the most productive man on the planet), but I am happy with the amount I get done.

My productivity ebbs and flows, it has highs and lows and I am always striving to improve it, but I would say that my baseline is pretty good.

It wasn’t always like this though and one of the main reasons for me to choose to quit booze for a year was that I noticed I procrastinated more on a Monday and Tuesday.

Procrastination is a funny thing, we never procrastinate over the easy stuff, do we? Just the hard stuff, the stuff that really matters.

Often, the stuff that really matters involves putting yourself out there, putting your reputation on the line, having hard conversations and putting in the work. In order to do this, you need to be confident.

When I observed my tendency to procrastinate at the beginning of the week, I noticed it was because I was more anxious. It didn’t take me long to realise it was the alcohol from the weekend that was the cause of this.

Now being alcohol-free, my Mondays are just as productive as the rest of the week and I sleep well knowing my tasks are getting done.

There is a difference between pleasure and happiness

I have had many joyful moments with a drink in hand, but as I have been researching happiness and noticed the change in myself in the last few years, I have become very aware that there is a difference between pleasure and happiness.

Pleasure, (depending on how we get it) is a good thing and it is part of what makes us human, but it mustn’t be confused with true happiness.

I have found that true happiness comes from overcoming hardship, getting done the things that are important to you, having integrity and congruency through your life. These are the things that fill you with a happiness deep from within and help you sleep easy.

There is absolutely a place in life for pleasure, but I now know that I won’t find happiness in the perfectly balanced malts and hops of my favourite amber ale or a softly spiced Rioja! That’s pleasure.

Happiness comes from living one’s purpose, and quitting the booze has helped me with that this year.

There are many hidden benefits to ‘voluntary hardship’

I read recently that 80% of people who try Dry-January fail. Eighty percent! For one month! I don’t get it.

Human existence has never been easier, so from time to time it’s fun to test yourself with some voluntary hardship.

Deliberately taking comforts out of your life or adding difficulty means you become less stressed by negative things happening that are out of your control.

You’re already practised in the skill of dealing with hardship.

This year has been that for me. It’s nice to have a drink from time to time, but by taking it away I have proven to myself that I could cope with other comforts being taken away if they had to be.

Don’t drink alcohol-free red wine, it’s terrible!

There are many good alcohol-free alternatives. There are some good lagers and craft ales, (my favourite beer is Brewdog’s Nanny State) and the best drink I’ve found overall is the gin alternative, Seedlip.

Seedlip is a genuinely nice drink, intensely flavoursome, dry, spicy and ‘adult’. A lot of alcohol-free drinks are sugary and sickly, but Seedlip’s two AF spirits are beautiful drinks.

Often, a drink is just about ‘breaking state’

In the personal development world, they talk about ‘breaking state’, which is where a trigger like a particular movement or action breaks the mental state that you’re in and prepares you for the next part of your day.

Well, I’ve noticed that that is often what a drink does. Getting in from work and ‘cracking open a cold one’ is a fast-track to breaking the tensions of the day.

The beautiful thing is, it’s just as effective with an AF beer as an alcoholic one. Some of the AF beers are really quite refreshing and they create the same experience as an alcoholic one when it comes to relaxing after a hard day.

I never felt I needed the actual alcohol to get the mindset shift at the end of the day. The ritual of cracking open the bottle and having a refreshing drink was enough.

It’s nice to prove you are not a slave

In the last year or so I have become fascinated by the topic of minimalism. This is the process of asking what you value in your life and then not spending any time, energy or money on anything else.

One of the by-products of this process is the realisation that we are slaves to the things around us. How long could you cope without your smartphone for example?

Even though I didn’t drink that much before this year, I was still a slave to it. I relied on it to add to the good times and ease the bad times.

Having the year out has helped show that I don’t need it. The good times are just as good and I don’t need it for the bad.

Despite the great year, I will go back to booze

Despite everything I’ve said and what a great year it has been, there is definitely a place in my life for a good pint of real ale or a nice glass of wine.

Life is here to be lived and I do find pleasure in these things.

I have learnt a lot this year and I feel like my relationship with alcohol has changed. I imagine most of the time I will continue to drink alcohol-free alternatives (I love the #smug feeling the next day where I can still exercise and be productive), but there is certainly a time and a place for a good couple of ales with a friend or a glass of wine with my wife.

I’m looking forward to it!

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60 Hour Keto Fast – Live Updates


Sunday 9pm – The Fast Begins!

My last morsel of food was eaten half an hour ago. It’s a strange feeling knowing that I’m not going to eat again for (hopefully) 60 hours. I’m super aware of all the feelings in my body, wondering if I’m going to cope until Wednesday.

I followed the advice from the experts and didn’t eat more than normal to ‘stock up’ and I avoided sugar. I had a small glass of white wine at lunch (sun was shining and I couldn’t resist!), but otherwise it’s been a fairly normal and healthy day.


Monday 7am

It’s been interesting this morning. Obviously I’m not hungry yet, but I’ve noticed how often I steal my daughter’s breakfast! Normally, as I’m getting it ready I take little nibbles here and there, and any leftovers go down the hatch too.

Even things like licking my fingers after picking up the cooked streaky bacon would probably give me the wrong stimulus during the fast.

It’s taken quite a bit of self-awareness not to do that because normally it’s so subconscious!


Monday 11am

I had a bad night sleep last night and that always makes me crave more sugar! Not a good day to be feeling this! I’m going to go for a walk to take my mind off it. I’m in the hunt for some Himalayan salt to put in my water…


Monday 6:30pm

Just finished work and have got through the day easily. At about 3pm I got a surge of very ‘clean’ energy that has lasted the rest of the afternoon. I felt very smily and happy all of a sudden!

My tummy is still rumbling and I do have feelings of hunger, but nothing major. Not having dinner will be difficult from a habit perspective rather than having any excruciating hunger.


Monday 9pm

Pretty hungry, but also pretty tired. I’m going to go to bed and hope I can get to sleep quickly.

I don’t think you can feel hungry when you’re asleep, can you?


Tuesday 5:30am

I’ve woken up at 5:30 with a bit of a headache. Nothing serious, just feel a bit groggy. I’ve necked a pint of water with some salt in and this seemed to help.

I don’t feel hungry as such, just ’empty’. I’m quite impressed with how well I feel actually. Despite the grogginess, it’s not as bad as I was expecting!


Tuesday 8am

Making my daughter’s breakfast was quite tough. I started to get a little angry! I was rushing, and became clumsy and irritated. It was so tempting to eat some, but I resisted.

I had a bit of a talking to to myself. I realised that this is where the test begins. Acknowledge the discomfort, but don’t give in to it. Yesterday was easy but it was just the warm up. Any discomfort I’m feeling now is normal so I don’t need to be irritated.

Feel it. Breathe. Let it go.

I’m now enjoying this slight feeling of tension and realise that it has actually given me energy. As I’m writing this, my fingers are moving faster than normal and I’m not making as many typos.

I took a brisk walk to the shops to pick up some more mineral water and I’m feeling good.

On that note, yesterday I drank about 3 litres and I don’t think it was quite enough. I’m going to aim for 3.5 – 4 litres today. This is just a feeling, so don’t take it as gospel that this is the right amount for you.

I see my first patient soon and I’m curious how much energy I will have to do the more physical side of my job. Mentally, I’m up for it!


Tuesday 10:30am

Salt! I’ve not been having enough salt!

Over the last couple of hours I’ve drunk a large glass of water with a good amount of Himalayan salt in it and it’s changed everything. I feel happy, energised and my headache has completely gone.

They said in the group I’m in that we need to be having salt, but I hadn’t been putting enough in my water yesterday. This has made a big difference.

I feel much better now than at any point in the fast so far. Treating my first few patients has been fine, I haven’t felt dizzy or weak at all. In fact, I’m more focussed mentally and able to be more ‘present’.


Tuesday 1:30pm

It’s funny how I haven’t eaten for over 40 hours but my tummy still rumbles at lunchtime!

I have a few feelings of hunger, but I feel very clear mentally and I’m coping well physically too. I had one small episode of dizziness after getting up quickly and I feel more cold than normal, but nothing bad at all.

The improved mental clarity out-weighs any negative feelings from the hunger and cold.

I think I’m in ‘the zone’ that they talk about 🙂


Tuesday 4pm

I finished work a little early today so went for a walk into town. Big mistake.

Food. Is. Everywhere!

I was feeling fine until then but all the food made me feel so hungry! Being busy with things to take your mind off the hunger is essential.


Tuesday 9pm

Phew! Nearly there!

Dinnertime (for the rest of the family) was really tough. The smell of freshly cooked food was enough to drive me insane!

In all honesty I nearly cracked. But when I really asked myself if I need food, I realised the answer was no. I could push on. I didn’t feel dizzy or unwell, just really, really, hungry.

I wanted to taste flavour again. And chew something. Drinking salty water all day has become a little tiresome!

As I sit here now, a little after 9pm, all the food has been cleared away and I feel much better. There’s no food in sight and I’m busying myself writing this blog and I feel very good.

I’m quite tired, I’ve got the very beginnings of a headache, but I feel very positive about the experience now. Earlier I nearly gave up and had a lot more negative thoughts floating round my head.

I must warn you, I absolutely stink! My breath stinks. My armpits stink. Generally I’m a pretty horrible person to be in close proximity of.

I’m assured this is a good sign and is completely normal for when you are in ‘ketosis’. This shows that my body is now getting its fuel from my fat reserves and starting to detox damaged cells. Very cool. (And also very smelly).

Earlier, all I could think about was what I’m going to have to eat at 9:30am tomorrow (my 60 hour mark), but now I just want to go to bed and fall into a deep sleep. I have vague thoughts of how perfectly I’m going to make my scrambled eggs in the morning, but the tiredness is taking over the hunger.

I will fill you in in the morning…


Wednesday 4:55am

Wanna know something embarrassing…?

I woke up to the smell of my own breath! I have the breath of a two day old corpse. It’s appalling. I’m going to go and have a mug of hot water to see if it helps.

I don’t feel hungry at all which is a sign I’m working off my own fat reserves and in full ketosis. I’m really happy I punched through the tough bit last night at the family’s dinnertime so I could get to this state.

However, I don’t feel happy! I’m pretty groggy and bleary-eyed. I remember writing on day one about a clean energy and feeling smily for no reason. Well, that’s long gone!

Despite the typical feeling of hunger having disappeared, all I can think about is that first meal…


My First Meal

Ok, here’s a little disclaimer, I’m writing this a day after I finished the fast.

Yesterday, I was just too moody to write anything! I was the grumpiest and most irritable I’ve been for years. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt like that.

I slept terribly from Tuesday to Wednesday. Every time I fell to sleep, I’d get dragged awake by some unseen force 20 minutes later. I also had some funky nightmares and my head was in a spin. All of this lead me to be the biggest grump I think I have ever been!

In the fasting group I’m in, most people have found their sleep actually improves during the fast, yet there’s a smaller number of us where they can’t sleep, and I’m one of them.

When I think about it, I also felt like I had restless legs, which could be a magnesium deficiency as magnesium also affects the ability to get to and stay asleep.

Yesterday, even once I had eaten, my thoughts were, “I’m never doing that again” (and then a lot of swear words). However, thankfully, for those of you who may have been put off, there’s some good news. I managed to have a nap half way through yesterday which really helped the grumpiness, and I ate a little more food. By last night I was feeling “okay”. Not brilliant, but on the normal spectrum of happiness.

Today I feel brilliant. I can really feel a noticeable difference and my mind and body feel clean.

When I think about it, all the resources I had says there will be a time where you feel terrible, and this is actually the detox process at work. You can’t get the full benefits without feeling bad at some point. If you go on to try this though, I must warn you, if you feel like I did, it’s horrible! Remove yourself from all conversation for a day because you won’t be rational.

I can assure you however, you will get through it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a good place to be.

But, I digress. My first meal!

Despite the dark clouds hanging over my head, my first meal of scrambled eggs and a mug of bone broth was absolute bliss. To have flavour and texture again was heavenly, and quite literally put a smile on my face.

I couldn’t eat much at first. I’d made 5 scrambled eggs to be shared between me and my little girl, and initially I think I had one and a half. Then I drank my broth and let things settle. I could feel my stomach physically expanding. And then, my daughter lost interest in her breakfast and I kept chipping away at the eggs with little breaks in between and I reckon I ended up having about 4 of the 5 to myself.

For the rest of the day, I ate some avocado on toast and then a light dinner, but the real challenge was getting through the day without having a mental breakdown! I slept really well last night and today I’m happy and glad for the experience.

I will be doing one again!

Will you join me…?

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Can a Nutritionist Help You?

I can tell you exactly when the biggest change in my own health happened. It was December 9th, 2010, and my appendix nearly burst.

Thankfully it was caught early and whipped out before anything major went wrong. However, the fact that it went wrong confused me. I thought I was healthy!

I was really into cooking at the time and eating a wide range of foods, so I thought I had the “balanced” diet that we get told to eat.

I’d heard about an idea filtering through the health and fitness community about eating the way we’ve evolved to eat – “the paleo diet”.

Having just had an operation I had a few weeks off to recover which gave me time to read up on this idea.

I read one book and I was hooked! Within a month I’d read five books on the topic and I realised a few things:

  • My “balanced” diet may have been varied, but it wasn’t right for me
  • There is no such thing as the perfect diet, just the right diet for you
  • Eating the right foods is the foundation upon which all of health should be built

For years I’ve read about nutrition and I’ve slowly tweaked things away from the true paleo model, but I have always valued the importance of eating clean, natural foods and I try to help my patients do the same when I can.

However, we now have an expert here to help as we have our own in-house nutritionist starting this week!

I have been collaborating with Adele for about a year now with patients who need nutritional help alongside their osteopathy, and during that time I’ve secretly wanted her in the clinic. And with a fortuitous twist of fate Adele is now here at Forte!

Adele can obviously help with weight-loss and build you a healthy eating plan, but her real skill lies in working with problems like:

  • Digestive issues (like IBS, acid reflux, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis)
  • Hormonal issues (like hypothyroidism and changes related to the menopause)
  • Autoimmune conditions (like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue and diabetes)
  • And many more…!

As this is a new service to us, and you may not be sure if it is helpful for you, Adele is offering a free 15 minute consultation to discuss any health matter and see how nutritional medicine can help you. This can be in the clinic or over the phone.

We’re very excited to be able to add this facet of health to our repetoire at Forte, and if you have any questions, please do let us know.

Yours in health,

Chris and the Forte Team