Ditching the drinks during Dry July

It’s the start of the month of July. For many in the southern hemisphere that means lots of snow, thermal undies, down jackets and snuggling up to a fire with a glass of fine red wine, while our northern hemisphere friends undoubtably think about beaches, sunblock, ice cream and a frosty lager.

An alternative approach to the month, however, is as a great detox opportunity – this month is also known (in New Zealand, at least) as Dry July, a challenge to go without alcohol for the whole month. To quote the Dry July website, “Dry July is a non-profit organisation determined to improve the lives of adults living with cancer through an online social community giving up booze for the month of July.”

Those who take up the challenge are known as DJ’s, or Dry-Julyers. You can either do it on your own as a personal challenge, or formally sign up and have a go at raising funds for the Dry July charity, thereby potentially helping those living with cancer towards an improved quality of life.

Refrain from pouring your favourite tipple for the month of July. (© All Rights Reserved)
Refrain from pouring your favourite tipple for the month of July.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Dry July started in 2008 as a challenge among friends, but even in its first year close to a thousand people participated and more than $ 250 000 was fundraised. The initiative has gone from strength to strength, and to date more than $ 11 million has been raised.

Even if you only enjoy the occasional social tipple, giving up for a month is not easy – there are always special occasions, social events, parties and more where we typically enjoy a beer or a glass of wine. It’s all about self-discipline, for your own health and wellbeing, and to support a good cause. Not to mention the amount of money you can save by ditching the drink for a month!

So, cheers to a Dry July. I see lots of water, fruit juice, coffee and tea in my immediate future!

Drink Wine Day – keep it moderate and reap the benefits

Today, my research tells me, is Drink Wine Day – a day that I (and many people I know) enjoy celebrating a bit more often than only on the 18th of February.

The idea of the day is to celebrate the joys of wine, and specifically the health benefits that moderate wine consumption holds. More than enough has been written about the benefits of drinking wine – many of it, I sometimes think, by writers and columnists who are trying to make themselves feel better about their own wine habits.

Wine - it can be good for you, but watch out that moderation does not spill over into excess.(© All Rights Reserved)
Wine – it can be good for you, but watch out that moderation does not spill over into excess.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Indeed, it has been reported that the antioxidant resveratrol in red wine “helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and prevents blood clots.” Other reported benefits include that it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers the risk of colon cancer, slows brain decline, cuts the risk of cataracts and promotes longevity. It may even lower the risk of depression in women.

The key, of course, is that all these benefits apply to wine consumption ‘in moderation’ – a difficult measure to quantify, as it varies from person to person based on age, gender and weight, as well as genetic factors. Most sources, however, seem to agree with the 2005 US dietary guidelines as well as the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation, which define moderate drinking as one drink (150ml) a day for women and two a day for men. Some guidelines consider anything up to four drinks a day to still be moderate. Different countries also tend to have different measures of moderation, with France appearing to be particularly lenient.

Personally, I think if we’re honest, each person pretty much knows, intuitively, what moderate alcohol consumption is. You may not want to admit it, but you know when you’re exceeding ‘moderate’. And the bottom line is, when you pass this point drinking wine is no longer good for you. It may be fun at the time, but it’s no longer beneficial, and any long term benefits that may be gained from moderate consumption is quickly lost through excessive drinking.

So here’s to wine; here’s to moderation; and here’s to a long and healthy life. Cheers!!