How to participate in Dry January without falling into diet culture
And yet, the decision to participate in Dry January can be overshadowed by food-centric motives and language. Change of alcohol in the UK describe the initiative as “a break and a total reset for body and mind”. This word “reset” appears in almost every article I read on Dry January (see here, hereand here), despite the fact that it is medically impossible for your body to return to a natural state of well-being, which I guess is the aspiration here.
Usually the word “reset” – with detox, cleansing, etc. from her boyfriend – is a red flag that you’ve stumbled upon a fad diet and should probably be running. But when it comes to dry January (and other sobriety-focused challenges), that word is allowed to come back into our consciousness — as Christy Harrison puts it. CHARM, diet culture is a “slippery thing”. If we use diet-coded language to describe our attempts at sobriety, who’s to say we’re not legitimizing the culture those words represent?
Additionally, the benefits of participating in Dry January or any short-term sobriety challenges often translate into weight loss, which is not inherently problematic. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
“Did you know that a standard glass of wine can have as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same number of calories as a packet of crisps?” reads the opening sentence on an NHS”advice on alcoholwebpage. “So if you’re trying to lose weight, you have to think about what you drink as well as what you eat.”
Although it is useful for some people to understand the calorie content of different alcoholic beverages, I wonder if this could lead to unnecessary confusion between food, which we must consume to survive, and substances such as alcohol, which we do not do it need to survive. This fuzzy understanding of food and alcohol can lead to eating disorders and problematic drinking, as Harrison sometimes sees in his clients:
“People will end up ‘drinking their calories’ where they decide to drink wine or drink whatever instead of eating. […] They will skip meals to try to save their calories for alcohol.”
As Harrison points out, this is rarely long-lasting: “People’s inhibitions are lowered during a night of drinking, and hunger builds up because they fail to meet their needs through alcohol. […] And so at the end of the night, they end up binge eating because of all these factors and then I’ve seen people say, “Well, I have to stop drinking because it’s making me eat.” It makes me break my diet.
I spoke to Holly Whitaker – bestselling author How to quit like a woman – on the “wellness lens” through which sobriety is often viewed. She points out that Dry January itself gives “people who otherwise couldn’t examine how alcohol appears in their lives, the space to do so. This allows them to do so within a community. Given that we still live in a society determined to force alcohol down our throats – literally – Whitaker also notes that Dry January “creates an excuse” for people to stop drinking without having to make uncomfortable efforts to justify their decision. .