Damp January: How to Drink Less This Month

  • Written By:Lauren Slayton
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I do believe you can eat, drink, and still be healthy, it’s just far less drinking that most of us do.

Don’t hate on resolutions. Goal setting and taking advantage of a clean slate are worthh of our attention – especially when it comes to our health. The problem is the grand, sweeping type of resolutions that would require a personality or life transplant. I get it, I know quitting sugar, losing a big chunk of weight and running marathons sound exciting, but that’s only if you succeed. Guilt and disappoint aren’t exciting.

One popular New Year’s goal is “Dryuary” or Dry January. And it makes sense as most of us get a little too boozy over the holidays. Whether you’ve attempted dry and it didn’t work out or want a goal that might last more than one month, there’s another option. My ears perked up when someone in the office joked they heard the term “Damp January.” The key if you’re not setting a hard-and-fast “no” rule is that you’re specific.

Maybe dry isn’t the answer?

  • No drinks from Monday through Thursday each week.

  • Sticking to one, two or three drinks per week.

  • No drinking in the house, only when out socially. In these covid times, social is less frequent.

  • One and Done: If you’re going to drink, only have one per night.

  • No mixers. Drink only clear spirits on the rocks or dry wine.

The key is to take stock of your usual and holiday habits and pick one or two “damp” ideas that feel doable but are still a nudge. If you already have tequila on the rocks, going for “no mixers” is meaningless, right? Most people underestimate their drinking, so even if a goal or modification sounds easy, it might prove challenging when you actually do it.

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There’s a payoff

When you first set a goal, it’s daunting. Initially, you’re only focused on what you’re giving up. But when you cut back on alcohol, you’ll sleep more soundly, be more productive the next day, lose the guilt that comes with “drunchies” (drunk munchies) and notice your skin looks healthier. As you see and feel these improvements, it gets a lot easier to stick with. We are more sensitive to alcohol’s side effects, as we age, and so the improvement felt and seen when cutting back are more noticeable.

Many of us make an exception for alcohol. And though we vaguely know it affects the liver, perhaps we’re not as keyed into the other side effects. Alcohol affects your microbiome and therefore your immunity, alcohol affects your blood sugar and blood pressure. Though alcohol’s initial effects may seem relaxing, alcohol is a depressant and can increase anxiety. And more alcohol means more snoring, which seems minor unless you sleep next to a snorer.

Give this a whirl and hold back on the judgement. We learn as much from a goal that didn’t pan out, as we do from ones we ace. Whether it’s alcohol, sugar or exercise, what you are doing if you set a goal in these areas, is paying more attention. If a goal is tricky to implement, that tells you something.

And I think it’s a misconception that dry or damp January is for people with a drinking problem. Just because drinking isn’t worrisome doesn’t mean it’s healthy. And I understand alcohol’s draw. I love mezcal and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but I’m also a nutritionist. I’ve also read the research, watched a father martini himself to death, and have realized just how much better I feel with fewer weekly drinks (sad, but true). I do believe you can eat, drink, and still be healthy, it’s just far less drinking that most of us do.

Lauren Slayton, MS RD is the founder of Foodtrainers and the author of the book The Little Book of Thin (Perigee 2014).

This story was originally published in 2020 and updated by the author in 2021.

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