And yet, the decision to participate in Dry January can be overshadowed by diet-focused motives and language. alcohol change uk describes the initiative as “a rest and a total reset for the body and mind”. This word “reset” appears in almost every article I read about Dry January (see here, hereY here), despite the fact that it is medically impossible for your body to restore itself to a natural state of well-being, which I assume is the aspiration here.
Usually the word “reset”, along with detox, cleanse, etc. from your friend, it’s a red flag that you’ve stumbled upon a fad diet and should probably run. But when it comes to Dry January (and other sobriety-oriented challenges), this word is allowed to creep back into our consciousness, as Christy Harrison says. GLAMOR, diet culture is a “slippery thing.” If we’re using diet-coded language to describe our attempts at sobriety, who’s to say we’re not legitimizing the culture these words represent?
Also, the benefits of participating in Dry January or any short-term sobriety challenge often skew toward weight loss, which isn’t inherently problematic. Still, it’s worth checking out.
“Did you know that a standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of beer has about the same number of calories as a packet of potato chips?” read the opening sentence in an NHS”advice on alcoholic beverages” website. “So if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to think about what you’re drinking and what you’re eating.”
While it is helpful for some people to understand the caloric content of different alcoholic beverages, I wonder if it could lead to a useless combination between food, which we need to consume to survive, and substances like alcohol, which actually not need to survive. This blurred understanding of food and alcohol can lead to disordered eating and drinking problems, as Harrison sometimes sees in his clients:
“People will end up ‘drinking their calories’ and will decide to drink wine or any beverage instead of eating […] They will skip meals to try to save their calories for alcohol.”
As Harrison points out, this is rarely tenable: “People’s inhibitions drop as they spend a night drinking, and hunger increases because they don’t actually get their needs met with alcohol.” […] And so, at the end of the night, they end up binge eating because of all those factors and then I’ve seen people say, “Well, I have to stop drinking because it makes me eat. It’s making me break my diet.”
I spoke with Holly Whitaker, bestselling author How to quit smoking like a woman – about the “wellness lens” through which sobriety is often viewed. She notes that Dry January itself gives “people who might not otherwise examine how alcohol appears in their lives the space to do so. It allows them to do this within a community.” Since we still live in a society hell-bent on literally forcing alcohol down our throats, Whitaker also notes that Dry January “creates an excuse” for people to stop drinking without going to any lengths to justify their decision.