Over the last month Instagram has been flooded with posts of #DryJanuary alongside images of people going to the gym or photographs of healthy meals. This tradition of ditching alcohol for the first month of the year has become more common and is usually part of a New Year’s resolution to drink less or used as a detox from excessive drinking over the holidays. Dry January has become so popular that it has been made an official event promoted by Alcohol Concern, which engages people to publicly sign up to the challenge and raise money for charity.
While the campaign has gathered momentum there is conflicting research from Professor Charles Bamforth of the University of California. Bamforth argues against the benefits of Dry January, saying: “You are seriously mistaken if you think having a month without drinking will protect you from the effects of the excessive drinking for the rest of the year. The best advice is to drink moderately throughout the year.”
New York-based R.D Jessica Cording, Women’s health expert Jennifer Wider and Frank Lipman, M.D, and founder of ‘Be Well’ disagree. They believe avoiding alcohol for a month can benefit your health once its approached in the right way.
Lipman told SELF that giving up alcohol for a month is a good way to “rest” your liver: “The liver is the largest internal organ we’ve got, but few of us pay it any mind until we’ve got a serious health problem,” he said. “While we’re busy ignoring our liver, it’s busy managing hundreds of bodily functions, including supporting metabolism, controlling blood sugar, and regulating fat storage.” Lipman recommends showing your liver some additional love (during Dry January and onward) by eating a steady stream of nutrient-dense, plant-based foods, good fats, and high-quality animal protein.
According to Alcohol Concern these were the main health (and financial) benefits experienced by people who signed up to the challenge last year; 49% of people lost weight over a month of no alcohol, 62% of them slept better, 79% of people saved money and 65% of participants had sustained reduced levels of drinking six months after completing Dry January.
When asking DCU students why they participated in Dry January, one said, “I felt I was going out too much and not achieving my personal goals.” Another said “It’s a personal thing I didn’t just do it for the month, it’s a New Year lifestyle change.”
Students also said it was difficult to explain to their friend groups that they weren’t drinking and felt pressured into “just having one”.
“Not being able to engage socially (was the most difficult part) because I wasn’t drinking, even if I did people questioned why I wasn’t drinking,” said another student.
DCU student Chloe Demolder 19 is known as a teetotal (a person who has not consumed alcohol before and chooses not to drink). When asked if she would ever consider drinking, Chloe said: “Recently I got the thought into my head that I would like to get drunk just one night and never again but then the more that I thought about it, I just really didn’t like the thought of alcohol being in my system so no, I don’t think I will ever drink.”
She added: “Drinking, especially in Ireland, is an extremely social thing. I was afraid when coming into college that everyone would think it “weird” to not drink and that I’d be excluded with pre-drinks and drinking games etc. but everyone has actually been very accepting of it.”
Chloe also noted how happy she is knowing she can have loads of fun on a night out while saving money and not waking up with a hangover.