If there’s gin- I am in! I am without doubt known amongst my friends and family for my love of a crisp G&T. For Christmas I received no less than 4 bottles: rare gins, bath-tub gins, exotically spiced gins. All were very gratefully received and added to my ever growing collection. A quick check tells me I have no less than 12 different types of gin in my house. And it is not just gin. I enjoy a sneaky rum, an occasional whiskey, and no good meal out should ever go without a glass or two of wine.

Reading the above I sound like the ideal candidate for Dry January, and I have taken part several times. Not to the level of having people sponsor me as a Dryatholon, but simply a personal promise to give the liver a break after overindulging in December. But this year I chose not to take part in Dry January.  This was not due to a lack of willpower, but a considered decision which has in the long run benefited me.

I suppose the most honest reason I am not taking part in Dry January is that it’s already a pretty rubbish time without depriving myself one of my favourite pleasures. Don’t get me wrong, I like January for its promise of fresh starts and days getting longer. However, the lack of money and miserable weather makes it a pretty glum time of year. Promise of a hot toddy can be enough to keep you going through the most challenging of wet weeks in January, why deprive myself such a comfort.

Another reason I chose not to partake this year, is that my house is simply filled with temptation: gifted bottles of wine and opened bottles of baileys. You wouldn’t choose to start your diet the day you went to Cadburys World, so why choose to give up booze in a month where it is in such abundance. As mentioned; I received 4 new and exciting bottles of gin for Christmas. Already they are calling at me to sample their mysterious botanicals. If I had been partaking in Dry January I know for sure that I would have cracked them open and slurped down a few before New Years Eve. Now I can take my time to enjoy and appreciate them.

Just some of my ever growing gin collection.
Just some of my ever growing gin collection.

Which leads to the main reason I am not taking part in Dry January: the excess in December. For some reason, knowing I was taking January off the booze always felt like an allowance to do as I please in December.

Each year since starting my weight loss journey and even after getting to goal weight, Christmas has been a time for letting go. Then each January I have suffered the same embarrassment , annoyance, upset and disappointment in myself  as I faced the scales. In the past I have put on as much as 12lbs over the festive season, and then spent most of January, and sometimes a good part of February battling to get it off again.

It never felt worth it. Outwardly I would smile, and say; ‘yeah but I enjoyed myself’ but inwardly I was scorning myself and all the bad choices I had made.  Then last year I was faced with a couple of additional challenges and some additional motivation which made me assess my usual festive indulgence.

The big motivator for not piling on lots of weight over Christmas 2014 is that my birthday is January 27th, and this year is that big 30 milestone.

Each year that I have put on weight over Christmas I have frantically battled to get it off before my birthday. Every January I would force myself to follow extreme exercise routines and a heavily restricted diet in efforts to get myself quickly back to my pre-Christmas weight. Cutting out the booze was always a part of that. This year I decided I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to enjoy January and the build up to my birthday.

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Celebrating New Years Eve with loved ones. It was nice enjoying the night and not feeling like it was the last supper before a long dry January

Knowing I wasn’t going to be ‘dealing with it in January’ meant that I had to be a little more mindful, but I didn’t deprive myself. I enjoyed all the usual festive treats, including a few rum and diet cokes on Christmas eve with friends, some wine with Christmas dinner, and plenty of gin and champagne on New Years Eve.  But without my pledge of a booze free January, I was simply a bit more careful in between the big events. In the past I would have opened up a bottle of white to enjoy on that dull weekday around December 28th, simply as I had no work the next day, and hey- I was dealing with it in January.

Then something miraculous happened. Come my first January weigh in, this year I had only gained 1lb!! Amazing, something I could never have possibly dreamed could happen! I used to look at those people who didn’t put on weight over Christmas and think: how is that possible- they must have had a boring Christmas. But I don’t feel like I missed out at all.

The most amazing thing is that I drank significantly less throughout December. Usually I have this feeling of needing to drink and eat everything I can before the big January deadline and it is all gone, and it becomes off limits. This year I didn’t have that urge. And on top of this I haven’t actually yet had a drink in January! Usually when taking part in Dry January I would be begging for a G&T by now- especially as the weekend approaches. But without a moment of stress, worry or effort I haven’t actually had a drink yet this year.

Not partaking in Dry January this year has made me assess my usual drinking habits and the way I control my diet and my cravings. I’ve come to realise that I am one of those people who isn’t that bothered- until you tell me I can’t have it. Then like a stubborn toddler, that is all I want. I’ve realised that yes; I do appreciate and enjoy a drink. But that’s the point- I enjoy it. I don’t aimlessly drink the rest of the year, only in December when I know it’s been taken away, and then in February as hey- I didn’t have a drink all last month.

I think that is what Dry January should be about: helping you assesses your usual habits. Not, a quick fix solution or a get out of jail free card for December excess. So, if you spend Dry January with a bottle of Pinot poised and waiting in the fridge ready to be chugged down on February 1st, then you may just be missing the point… and the benefit.

Cheers!

Jennie x

I am Jennie, founder of set U free fitness and a Weight Watchers leader in Leeds. In 2009 I got to goal weight after loosing 7 stone. I believed that once I shifted the excess weight my life would be perfect, and I would live happily ever after. The truth is, it’s still toughLife After Goal is my ongoing journey to stay healthy and happy. It is a collection of my thoughts, the lessons I have learnt, and the mistakes I have (and still do) make in battling my relationship with food and keeping up an active life.