I Cut Out Alcohol and Sweets for 40 Days—Here's My Story

I'd given up alcohol and sweets before, but only ever for Lent. Sacrificing for the sake of religion made the task easy.

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I chose a random month, October, when the idea of sipping hot toddies and snacking on cookies next to a fireplace was at the forefront of my mind.

I knew that giving up these two pleasures would be super-challenging this time of year (hello, Halloween). But I had put on a few pounds thanks to poor eating and stress-related snacking—consuming an entire bag of mini Reese's peanut butter cups at a time—and I felt lethargic. My habits made my daily life, including my workouts, much more challenging. Of course, that's frustrating for anyone, but as a fitness editor, it was particularly stressful.

So, on October 1, 2015, I quit cold turkey. My goal was no alcohol or sweets for 31 days, which ultimately turned into 40 days (more on the surprising reason later). From peer pressure to cravings, here's everything I learned from my adventure in abstinence.

There Is No Scaling Back

Cutting out alcohol and sweets is like pulling off a Band-Aid or jumping into a cold pool. There is no easing into it; you have to jump right in. It's much easier said than done, of course, especially when, on day one, I found myself amid a coworker's baby shower, complete with Champagne and mini-cupcakes. I could easily forego alcohol in the middle of the day, but those cupcakes called me. A coworker said, "Oh, it won't matter; they're so small." To which I replied, "It's day one."

Instead of giving in, I just left the party early. Here's why: cheating, even if it's just an itty-bitty cupcake, is still cheating—and the only one who was going to lose (or not lose, as in inches) was me.

Peer Pressure Is (Still) Real

Whenever you go against the norm, people will have something to say. In my case, the norm is a couple of cocktails at brunch, a glass of wine after a crazy-hard work day, or an event with an open bar filled with top-shelf liquor.

So, when a friend was in town, and a couple of us went out to dinner—post-workout, of course—wine and sweets were plenty. After repeatedly declining both and explaining why I had sworn off alcohol and sweets, my friends still felt the need to press me to have just one sip or one bite. These convos went a little bit like this:

Her: "This wine is amazing; taste it."

Me: "No thanks."

Her: "Why not? Taste it. It's really good."

Me: "No, really, I'm good."

Her: "What's wrong with you?"

Me: "Nothing, I'm just not drinking."

Her: "Oh, come on, it doesn't matter."

But yes, it did matter to me. Honestly, I felt like I was in one of those "Just Say No" after-school specials. More than that, I felt that my friends were being inconsiderate. Lesson learned: If your habits aren't in line with your friends, there will be a little friction.

You've Got To Learn How To Fake It

One of the more interesting lessons from my little experiment is that it's much more socially acceptable to skip a piece of cake than not to have a drink in your hand. I guess because so much socializing happens with the help of alcohol, being the lone non-drinker means being a pariah.

I eventually started to side-step questions by quietly ordering a seltzer and cranberry with lime, which just so happens to look like a vodka and cranberry. There comes a point when you are tired of telling everyone that you aren't drinking.

It's pretty sad that I had to go to these lengths to make my pause from drinking manageable, but in the end, I think it gave those around me some sort of peace of mind. And it worked for me too: not having to explain myself each and every time helped me stay the course, which brings me to my next point...

No Booze and No Sugar Really Does a Body Good

I am so glad I did stick with it. While plenty of literature touts the benefit of a daily glass of red wine or a square of dark chocolate, the truth is I felt so much better without any of that stuff. I was so much more alert: That sluggish feeling during and after my workouts I mentioned earlier was gone, and I was getting some of the best sleep of my life.

You Won't Miss It (After About a Week)

Given the timing around Halloween and the lack of religious motivation, I fully expected the 31 days to be torturous. I thought I'd spend every day marking my calendar and praying for the day I'd get to treat myself again. But honestly, after a few days, I stopped missing sweets and alcohol.

After the initial adjustment of the first week, I no longer walked to the vending machine or my corner store for my 3 p.m. must-have-sweets-now break. It was honestly awesome to not feel that need. Plus, going sans sweets and spirits whittled down my middle. Oh, and I suddenly had more money in my pockets. Seriously, those habits added up.

That's why, after the 31 days ended, instead of diving head first into a vat of chocolate and a fifth of whiskey as everyone predicted; I did nothing. I just wasn't interested. In fact, I didn't have a sip or a sweet until nine days later. The best part: when I finally did imbibe (a glass of Prosecco with a splash of St. Germain, thank you very much), I felt happy to be "back" in time for the holidays—but most importantly, I felt totally in control.

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