Mind and Body
Dry January Ups the Odds of Achieving Your New Year's Weight Loss Goal
If you could cross off two New Year’s resolutions for the price of one, why wouldn’t you? Well, with Dry January, you can do just that. It may come as little surprise that people who go for a month without alcohol end up drinking less the rest of the year, but new research shows that those who participate in Dry January tend to glean other benefits too, including one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions of all: weight loss.
In research released last week from a team led by Richard de Visser, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Sussex, more than half of the people who participated in Dry January in 2018 reported that they ended up losing weight. In the results of an August survey taken by 816 Dry January participants, 58 percent said they lost weight.
A YouGov poll from 2018 showed that 37 percent of people in the US had resolved to lose weight, making weight loss the most popular New Year’s resolution — tied for first with getting more exercise and saving more money — so it’s clear that the growing numbers of people participating in Dry January (4.2 million in the UK signed up for 2019) are on the right track. And for those who struggle with hitting their weight loss goals, Dry January may provide a clue as to how to get there.
And there’s plenty of evidence to back up this observation. These people’s experiences with Dry January fit right in with what researchers have already found out about the relationship between alcohol and body weight.
In a 2003 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that, for men, heavy drinking “contributes directly to weight gain and obesity, irrespective of the type of alcohol consumed.” Further research illuminated why this might be.
A 2008 study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences concluded that for some people, the calories from alcohol might actually contribute more to obesity than calories in food. In people who don’t drink every day, especially those who eat a high-fat diet and are already overweight, alcohol calories can count more than others.
The relationship between alcohol and weight isn’t always so simple, though. In a 2010 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that women who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol “gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight and/or obese during 12.9 years of follow-up.” This suggests that drinking isn’t always going to make it hard for people to maintain a healthy weight, though this particular study did not include enough heavy drinkers to draw strong conclusions about the role of heavy alcohol consumption.
That being said, the experience of Dry January devotees speaks for itself: Ditching the booze can mean losing a few pounds without even trying. So now that we’re sweeping away the glitter, confetti, and hangovers that ushered in 2019, it’s time to get down to the business of New Year’s resolutions, and you can’t be blamed for taking the easy way out, especially when the end result is enhanced physical health.