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Octsober - are you joining? Things to consider

Octsober or Sober October is a time of year when people are encouraged to give up alcohol for the month of October, either to raise money for charity or to improve health or both. For example, Macmillan are hosting a sponsored Go Sober event for the month.

I'm not usually a fan of deprivation, but in the case of Octsober, and dry January (giving up alcohol for the month of January), it can be an opportunity for reflection on lifestyle change.

My own experience of doing dry January was really interesting from a health point of view.

I didn't change my diet and I kept my exercise routine the same, I just removed prosecco from my life completely. My internal body fat decreased that month by 2.5%. I am planning a blog post to discuss internal body fat, how it's measured, what is considered to be a healthy level of internal body fat, and how it can be helpful to your goals to focus on reducing yours - so please make sure to follow me on social media and sign up to my website for more information.

For some people, living without alcohol can be a good way to show yourself that it's become a habit that can be broken. Even if temporarily, it shows it's possible to reduce intake and create health benefits. Also, remember there are financial benefits too.

The NHS recommends:

Knowing your units will help you stay in control of your drinking.

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis

  • spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week

  • if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week

14 units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of lower-strength wine. (More information here)

Unfortunately, in the fast-paced, stressful and busy lives we lead, and with the ready availability of alcohol and the way it's sold to us as a solution (wine o' clock etc), the units can creep up and can catch us unawares.

You can use this tool by Drink Aware to check your drinking habits: click here

Crucially, though, Octsober is not appropriate for everyone. If you have an alcohol dependence, which many people do and is nothing to be ashamed of, it can be dangerous to suddenly cease drinking.

You can find out more about alcohol misuse and problematic drinking here

In order to know whether you have a dependency, if you suspect that you might, please speak to a healthcare professional, ideally your GP, before reducing your drinking

For others who don't have dependency, Octsober is a great way to eliminate alcohol for a month and see where it leads.

If you are in the habit of reaching for a drink after a stressful week at work, or you find that you have certain stress or emotional triggers, it's a good plan to have some alternatives lined up. So, will you go for a walk instead? Have a soft drink? Listen to music? Meditate? Swim? Snack on fruit or veg or nuts/ seeds? Do have some plans in place for go-to distraction activities and healthy snacks and drinks. Try not to replace alcohol with a calorie or fat dense alternative because you won't get all of the health benefits of quitting.

You can find more handy hints & tips around reducing alcohol intake here

So, who's joining me for a sober October?

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