This week we have a guest blog from a member of our social media community, Vickie King. She talks about the ‘quadruple strike’ of the four ways drinking alcohol leads to weight gain – and a surprising way she turned it all around to lose weight and quit drinking! 

I haven’t consumed a drop of alcohol since 23 September 2017. Sounds like a long time doesn’t it?  It is and it isn’t. But what hasn’t changed in all that time, is how much better I feel for it.

You don’t have to have a drinking problem, for drinking to be a problem.

I wasn’t an alcoholic. I didn’t drink every night. I didn’t binge drink on weekends. I didn’t consume vast quantities or have blackouts. But what I did do was have 2–3 glasses of wine on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. To relax, with a cheese platter, bar snacks, or dinner – all very civilised.

But the problem was I had started to rely on it to relax and unwind from a stressful job. However, I wasn’t happy about how it made me feel, or how it made me look. Inside and outside the booze wasn’t doing me any favours.

I was unmotivated, unfit, overweight, bloated, puffy-faced, and feeling pretty crappy about myself.

Four strikes a charm?

You see booze sets you up for what I call the ‘Quadruple Strike’

  1. You’re enjoying yourself, but you’re drinking a bunch of calories that have ZERO nutritional value – strike 1
  2. You’re drinking so you get snacky and end up ordering fatty fries or consuming a whole creamy brie with crackers – strike 2
  3. You’re riding the cocktail (or beer, or wine) highway till late. The next day you’re dusty … so you skip the gym – strike 3
  4. Being a little under the weather the next day, you need a big plate of greasy, salty  calorific goodness – You’re out!

Swap the bad, for the good.

I decided to draw a line in the sand. I stopped drinking and started going to CrossFit. CrossFit is good for the couch-potato boozer as it has a strong focus on injury prevention, competing only against yourself, and it’s ALL about community. So not only did I get exercise, but I also got to socialise and meet new people without alcohol.

For me, joining a normal gym where you go to anonymous classes or work out alone, wasn’t going to work. If I wasn’t going to the bar, I needed somewhere new to joke around with friends. CrossFit fitted the bill perfectly, so I went twice a week.

Becoming fitter and starting to take care of myself made it a whole lot easier to clean up the food too, because it’s hard to hate a body that you’re looking after. So it was easier to get the motivation to eat well and exercise because my body was responding and giving me encouragement. You start to build a wonderful momentum that carries over into other parts of your life (but that’s another blog post altogether!).

Results that speak to me.

Over a period of eight months I did lose weight – 14 kg to be precise! It just fell off me. I dropped 3 dress sizes and had to buy a whole new wardrobe (sorry not sorry). I felt better. Looked better. Thought better. And I had made a bunch of new healthy friends and found a place to socialise that didn’t require alcohol. It literally changed my life.

If I can do it, you can too. And trust me, it’s so worth it.

Vickie King


If you find you need extra support to help you change, check out Hello Sunday Mornings’ mobile behaviour change program, Daybreak.

For someone wanting to cut back on their drinking, getting into healthier lifestyle habits can be an effective way to replace habits and change their relationship with alcohol.

People often have the tendency to replace one bad habit with another, like giving up smoking and binge eating sugary food. Whether it be exercise, art and creative therapies, picking up a new hobby or practising meditation, the replacement suggestions below are an important step in changing old habits and replacing your drink with something better for your mental and physical state.

When you start to develop new habits, passions and hobbies, you start to create new goals for yourself and the determination to improve in these areas can be a great distraction from drinking. You won’t want to drink on a Saturday night if you have an art course with a highly regarded teacher, or the waves are forecast to be clean and offshore the next day!

Replace habits by getting active

Get active to replace habits

Alcohol releases a chemical in our brains called dopamine, the reason why you feel pretty good when you first start drinking. The great news is that exercise also releases these feel-good chemicals and endorphins into your body, so you don’t have to drink to get this effect! Plus, you can’t get a hangover from a jog or boot camp. As well as helping to replace habits, exercise works as a great stress relief, boosts your mood and helps you sleep better.

Getting active does not have to be all about spending a day in a stuffy, sweaty and uninspiring gym. There are so many activities you can try to see what you enjoy the most, whether that be:

  • Cycling
  • Personal training
  • Group fitness classes
  • Outdoor meetups, like sailing or kayaking
  • Running/ running groups
  • F45, aerobics, spin classes, or cross fit
  • Boxing or martial arts
  • Triathlons or marathons
  • Ocean swimming

As long as your chosen activity gets the blood pumping and the mind present, you’re on the right track!

Try meditation

While sitting in on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting recently, I heard people talk about their progress or their relapses and what really struck me was that over 50% of the people in the meeting spoke about how they deal with their anxiety or frustration by meditating.

 

Meditation does not have to be bound by any ‘right’ way or technique. Sometimes just sitting still and breathing can actually increase the feeling of heaviness and depression, or sitting still is not physically possible because of anxiety. Luckily, there are different techniques of moving meditation that helps move these negative energies around the body instead of sitting still. If you’re in this frame of mind, moving that energy around and out of the body can be the most effective. Some of these techniques include ancient mindfulness practices like Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga Asana, Kundalini, and Aikido. There are also group meditations, guided meditations, apps, books, workshops and endless resources to help get you started and replace habits.

“It’s helped me find my centre, helped me tone down and control my reactiveness, rebuilt the part of my brain that was affected by alcohol and pot and food addiction, given me control over my negative mind, pulled me out of depression again and again, allowed me to connect to that greater thing outside of me (or inside of me — however you want to look at it), and more than anything, become the number one coping mechanism in my life — for stress, anxiety, anger, blues, bitchiness — it fixes everything.”— Hip Sobriety

Be creative

Be creative to replace habits

Art therapy is a type of treatment that guides people to use the creative part of their brain and express their emotions through creation to replace habits. Art therapy has been proven to boost self-esteem and confidence, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate different experiences and feelings by encouraging people to use their hands, paint and other mediums.

The Professional Association for Arts Therapy Australia says art can be an outlet for some and can encourage people to:

  • Express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise
  • Explore their imagination and creativity
  • Develop healthy coping skills and focus
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence
  • Identify and clarify issues and concerns
  • Increase communication skills
  • Share in a safe, nurturing environment
  • Improve motor skills and physical coordination
  • Identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth.

Gardening and horticulture therapy

Gardening and horticulture therapy are often promoted as a tool to help people get outside and boost general wellbeing. Horticulture therapy is now practised in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, mental health programs and addiction rehab to replace habits. As it is also a caregiving type of role, gardening can often provide a sense of purpose and structure.

Research has shown that gardening can reduce aggression, anxiety, depression and improve concentration and even self-esteem. Getting into projects like creating a vegetable garden can be a great way to feel motivated to work outside, and often you will find that time just flows by when you stop to smell (and plant), the flowers.

Hobbies

Despite what people may think, you’re never too old to take up a new hobby. The best part about taking up a hobby is that it is something you are choosing to do because you enjoy doing it, and you don’t need anyone else to be involved, or even like it! To list all potential hobbies that you can explore would take up pages and pages of this blog, so here are just a few hobbies the team at Hello Sunday Morning are into:

 

  • Surfing
  • Hiking
  • Dragon boating
  • Collecting art

  • Dancing- salsa, ballroom, No Lights No Lycra
  • Computer games
  • Drawing
  • Cooking

For a heavy drinker to replace habits, these alternative therapies should be used in conjunction with talking to your GP, psychologist, and a consistent support platform such as the Daybreak program and community.

Finished in time to still be #hellosundaymorning!

Posted by Hello Sunday Morning on Saturday, 17 September 2016

Last Sunday one of our amazing Hello Sunday Morning members, Ruby, totally smashed the Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon. But I know many of us are thinking, “Gym? Who’s Jim?”  And boy, do I know that sentiment. When it’s been so long since you’ve exercised, all fitness related terms begin to sound like a foreign language. But you’ve tried to hop back onto the exercise bandwagon. We’ve all tried. The thing is, the routine just doesn’t stick. Or at least it hasn’t, yet.

So how do you start and maintain an exercise routine? We have some ideas.

How to start and maintain an exercise routine

Prepare

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Although it can be tempting to write this off as no big deal, starting a fitness routine can be a genuinely tough task. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your Doctor about your plan to start exercising, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while and/or have other health concerns. If that’s not for you, jump ahead and start making yourself a fitness plan.

One of the biggest mistakes that we make is not setting appropriate goals when we plan our exercise routines. Have you heard of the SMART criteria for how to create good goals? What this means in terms of exercise goals is that they need to be targeted, show measurable progress, and be realistic.

The key word here is realistic. Many of us jump the gun when creating these sorts of goals. Expecting yourself to run five kilometres every day, right off the bat, is a great ambition –– but not a realistic goal. So take it easy and ditch the all-or-nothing frame of mind. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Everyone’s realistic goal will look different. Maybe when you’re a week in, the plan is to go for a run three times a week. At this stage, your indicator of success may simply be: did you get out the door? You might’ve walked the whole way, but as long as you got out of the house when you intended to, you checked off the box.

Further down the track, when you’re more comfortable with your three-day-a-week walk/run, you might set the intention to run for 30 minutes on each occasion without taking a break. Maybe you could start adding other activities to your routine, like resistance training. Perhaps throw in a longer run on the occasional Sunday. Soon enough it will be like brushing your teeth – a healthy habit.

Mix it up and see what works

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Try different activities

Usually, when we think of the word ‘exercise’, we imagine either toned people cheerfully running in the sunshine, or Schwarzenegger’s figure pumping iron at the gym.

But you’ll be happy to hear that there are so many other activities that count as exercise. Rock climbing, Zumba, yoga, team sport, parkour, dancing – the list goes on (and on, and on …).

You could even try one of those workout plans that everyone’s always raving about at the water cooler. Typically these provide you with an interesting and specific exercise routine, access to a community of fellow exercise-ees, and sometimes even a nutrition plan. Kayla Itsines, we’re looking at you.

Try exercising at different times of the day

Morning workouts

Some people try exercising in the morning and it becomes their everything. And it’s true: this is a great way to start the day, giving you the energy and headspace you need to kickstart your morning.

Here are a few tips if you’re planning on giving the morning workout a go:

  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before;
  • Plan the workout you’ll be doing. If you’re going to a class in the morning, book it in. If you’re doing your own thing, maybe consider roping a friend along to hold you accountable;
  • Set an alarm: don’t snooze. As soon as the alarm goes off, that’s it. No second guessing. You’re up. Dressed. Out the door.

P.S. a secondary tip here: keep your alarm away from your bed so you actually have to get up to turn it off.

  • If you’re anything like me, with a tendency to remain half-asleep for at least an hour after rousing, consider writing yourself a morning to-do list. Brush teeth, water plants, drink coffee. check, check, check.

Evening workouts

For those of you who groan at just the thought of waking up to see the sun rise, there is always the trusty old evening workout. This is actually an excellent way to de-stress at the end of the day. Plus, there is the obvious benefit of getting to snooze a little longer in the morning. Pack your exercise gear with you when you leave in the morning for work. The key thing to remember here is that if you go home before exercising, you’ll probably just end up eating a snack on the couch. (It’s okay, we’ve all been there!) Again, classes are a great idea in the evenings.

It all just depends on how you roll.

You’ll figure out what exercise time is best for you.

Try exercising both alone and with others

Solo work-outs mean you get time and space for yourself. It means that you can work at the level that best suits you and really absorb yourself in the exercise task.

On the other hand, exercising with others also has its benefits. Primarily, you’re held accountable for turning up. If you’ve promised your mates you’ll turn up on Sunday morning for a doubles tennis match––unless you want to be “that guy”––you know you’re going to go.

Eliminate excuses

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If you’re serious about this, eliminating excuses should become your priority.

At least at first. Once exercise is a part of your routine, you can begin to work your life around your fitness schedule.

But the biggest excuse we tend to pull out of our back pockets is time. The thing to remember is,no one has time to exercise. Not even those people who do exercise regularly. You have to make time to exercise.

Plus, there is evidence to suggest that if you exercise in the right way, you might not even need to invest much time at all.

Other excuses might include:

“I don’t have access to a gym,” to which we say, there are plenty of workouts you can do outside of a gym.

“I don’t have a babysitter,” in which case we suggest ways to get fit with kids in tow.

Even, “I actually just hate exercise” simply means talk therapy might help.

The list of exercise excuses is neverending. But if you look hard enough there’s a reasonable counterpoint to each one of them. Eliminate excuses and you’re halfway there.

You don’t need to become an Exercise Person

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You definitely know who I am talking about when I describe Exercise People. These people are persistently posting health food and fitness photos on Instagram, and invariably touting activewear at all times, even when they’re not actually exercising.

But, really, you don’t need to become an Exercise Person (i.e. change everything about yourself) when you begin to exercise regularly. Just because you brush your teeth every day doesn’t mean you’re “super into dental hygiene,” although that’s probably a good thing if you happen to be. Think of exercise in this way: it’s just another part of your average day.

Get to it

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Our final piece of advice? Frankly, now’s the time to just stop thinking and start exercising. So hop–step into your sneakers and grab some H20 on your way out the door, because it is time to get physical! Don’t forget to applaud yourself for every workout. And voilà! You’re on your way to starting and maintaining an exercise routine.

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