It’s easy to see why people love the start of the new year so much. January 1 is the day we collectively start over and vow to do things differently, to make this year better than the last. It’s the time of resolutions and renewal. That said, I can’t remember the last time that a significant change I made started with a New Year’s resolution. Change doesn’t have to start with the beginning of the year, the month, or the week. Change starts whenever you’re ready and willing to do the work. Therefore, this post, primarily covering my drink habits, is the first in a mini-series covering some of the changes I plan to continue into the new year.
Health and Fitness
A new year’s post wouldn’t be complete without some mention of being active and eating right/better/healthier/etc. About a year ago, I was forced into making some dietary changes. It hasn’t been fun, and it certainly hasn’t been easy. Nonetheless, it has been worth it to lessen or eliminate some of the uncomfortable (or even painful) symptoms I was experiencing. As part of this change, I avoid certain foods, eat others in moderation, and maintain a minimum level of activity. To continue feeling better, I plan to continue doing all of these things into the new year.
Please note that I made these changes in consultation with my doctor, a licensed and experienced medical professional.
What I Drink and What I Don’t
Now, in my completely amateur opinion, I’ll quickly share what I believe to be an easy place to start if you’re looking to cut back on sugar or empty calories: what you drink. The habits I’m outlining here have developed over the years for a variety of reasons, but they work for me. Even better, I save a lot of money.
I drink water.
The vast majority of the time, I drink water. I know, we’ve all heard “drink more water,” but it really is incredibly beneficial in a variety of ways. Personally, I’ll drink a lot more water if it’s already in front of me (like at a restaurant) or easily accessible.We have become better at refilling our water glasses at least once during dinner, which has made a difference.
Unless you’re in a poisoned water situation like Flint, Michigan, skip the pre-bottled stuff (it’s expensive and terrible for the planet) and fill up on good old tap water. If you don’t like the taste, install a filter or use a filtered pitcher. Bring a bottle to take with you or keep in the car when you’re out and about; I love my hydroflask water bottle for keeping water cold on hot days. What changes could you inact to make drinking more water easier?
Plus, restaurants and other food establishments in the United States are often required to provide drinking water for free or a minimal “cup fee.” This savings adds up over time, leaving you more for more meals out or your savings account.
I don’t drink coffee.
I know this one isn’t going to be feasible for everyone, but I don’t drink coffee. Yes, I now live in Seattle. Before you try to tell me what I’m missing, I’ve never been interested; too much caffeine gives me a headache; and I save that money for other things. If you feel terrible when you cut back on the coffee (or soda), it’s likely because caffeine is a legitimate physical addiction and you’re undergoing withdrawal. If you do decide to cast off caffeine in the new year, know that the secret to waking up well isn’t coffee — it’s getting enough sleep.
I do drink tea.
Instead, I usually drink tea when I want something warm. Black tea (no cream, no sugar) is generally my first choice. Right now, I’m primarily drinking decaffeinated English Breakfast from Twinings which I bought in a 100 pack from Amazon (an excellent decision).
I sometimes drink fruit juice.
Sometimes I get a craving for fruit juice, especially a nice glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. If I do drink fruit juice, I try to make sure that what I’m drinking comes from an actual fruit and isn’t fruit flavored sugar water. You should also know that a naturally occurring chemical in grapefruits can interfere with certain medications. Check everything you’re taking for interactions before you choose that particular citrus. (Side note: unless you are severely dehydrated from the flu or serious exercise in the hot sun, your electrolytes are probably fine. Skip the sports drinks.)
I very rarely drink soda.
If I do drink soda, it’s on rare occasion and probably at a fancy event. I’ll order a non-alcoholic mixed drink when the occasion calls for it. (Side note: Trader Joe’s pomegranate limeade + tonic water is an easy mocktail.) Maybe once every two years I’ll get the hankering for a Coke and drink half a can. Soda has never been a big fixture in my diet, and that’s something I’m not going to change.
I sometimes drink hot chocolate.
Of course, if you’ve seen my Instagram feed, you know that I also love a good hot chocolate. For those dietary reasons I mentioned, I avoid hot chocolates made with dairy or soy milks and order almond or coconut milk if available. If not, I order tea. I don’t stock it at home, so hot chocolate is a treat usually reserved for cozy coffeehouse meetings with friends.
I don’t drink alcohol.
Disclaimer: If this part of the post sounds defensive or overly aggressive, know that complete strangers have voiced very strong opinions on this personal decision of mine over the years, ranging from inappropriate to uncomfortable and even threatening.
This is for several reasons, including those dietary restrictions I mentioned above. Several of my many reasons for not imbibing are deeply personal and not up for debate. No, avoiding alcohol doesn’t make me a prude or a buzzkill or anything like that. It also doesn’t tell you anything about my religious or political views. Yes, I have tried it, and no, there isn’t any drink out there that will change my mind.
For one thing, it seems that I smell alcohol much more strongly than other people. I’ve had plenty of “but you can’t even taste the alcohol” drinks shoved in my face, and they all reeked of booze to me. (In the spirit of full disclosure, there was a mixed-drink exception, but I’m 99.9% sure that person had actually been discretely cut off by their friends.)
I want to emphasize that I believe alcoholic beverages, in moderation, can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Many of my friends drink alcohol, and I spend time with them when they do. (Built in DD!) I become concerned, however, when people promote alcohol (and a lot of it) as an essential part of having fun. That’s an incredibly dangerous and disturbingly prevalent notion. If you can’t remember the last time you had a good time without consuming alcohol, please consider seeking help.
Some Myths About People Who Don’t Drink Alcohol
Weirdly enough, not drinking alcohol seems to make some people very uncomfortable. Let’s talk about some of the reasons I hear:
- Judgement. If you do something unwise or dangerous under the influence of a substance, I’m going to judge you for it. If you do something unwise or dangerous not under the influence, I’m going to judge you for it as well. Your actions factor into others’ assessment of your character. Having a drink or two isn’t going to change my assessment of you. Getting violent, belligerent, or behind the wheel while impaired will.
- Fun. Yes, you can have fun without being tipsy or drunk. In fact, you should have non-alcoholic fun on a regular basis. It’s fun, and you won’t have that bar tab at the end of the night.
- Social lubricant. This is the one that probably makes the least amount of sense to me. Some people use alcohol to help them relax in social situations. Fine. Somehow, this has been twisted around to imply that people who don’t drink alcohol are somehow less socially adept. While there’s bound to be some overlap between the two groups, this one’s just not true. Maybe it’s really because your sober friend can clue you in as to whether you’re actually funnier while drinking or just think you are.
Being A Better Host/Friend/Member of Society
What can you do to be more conscious of people who do not partake (whether that means ever or just on a given night)?
- If they decline alcoholic beverages, don’t question it. Offer the non-alcoholic options. Better yet, offer all the beverages up front.
- Have non-alcoholic options. This is just good practice for everyone. (If you’re serving cocktails, include interesting multi-ingredient non-alcoholic drinks.)
- Don’t ask them why. There are a million completely legitimate reasons, all of which are none of your business unless they choose to share. Some examples include:
- They don’t feel like it.
- They need to drive home. Alcohol tolerance varies wildly and is not a competition. Some people are uncomfortable or not safe driving after even a single drink.
- They’re taking medication. Many medications are incompatible or unwise to take with alcohol, including antibiotics. Do you really want to be the person who puts someone on the spot over a UTI?
- They have a personal or family history of alcoholism. Addiction is serious business and very personal.
- They’re trying to save money.
- Reconsider alcohol-themed events. If you make the entire point of the party “champagne” or “beer pong,” you’re making someone feel unwelcome or uninterested. At a minimum, try to provide alternatives and include them prominently in the invitation, like hosting a wine and chocolate tasting event (sign me up!).
Words to Avoid: “Detox” and “Chemical-free”
It seems appropriate here to caution against “quick fix” diets or “detox” products. As any legitimate medical professional will tell you, your body has its own methods of removing “toxins” from your body; their names are liver and kidney. If you want to help them out, drink more water and less alcohol. A juice “cleanse” probably won’t kill you, but that healthy feeling people report afterward is more the result of cutting back on foods heavy in fats and processed sugars. If you want to change what you eat, skip the (potentially dangerous) magic pills and simply focus on foods that are better for you. If you’re still not feeling better, consult your doctor. You may, like me, have food-related or other health issues that require treatment.
Furthermore, anyone who touts a “chemical-free” product has no idea what they’re talking about. Period. This is a fallacy (especially rampant in health and beauty products) easily countered with basic science literacy. Water is a chemical. That isn’t to say that there aren’t chemicals which you should legitimately avoid putting in or on your body; there definitely are harmful chemicals out there. However, if someone tries to sell you a “chemical-free” product, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.
What drinks do you consider worth the money? What’s your favorite mocktail recipe? What would you like to see in this series? Let me know!
We cannot change that which we do not recognize.