Stephen Jardine: One surefire way to lose weight

Many drinkers do not realise the full benefits of a dry January. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

Many drinkers do not realise the full benefits of a dry January. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

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After all the excess, it is time for the antidote. Following a fortnight of eating and drinking and some downright gluttony, most of us don’t need to look at the scales to know it is time for change.

Traditionally that means a trip to the gym and the salad counter but there is new force sweeping away the dregs of December. Launched three years ago by Alcohol Focus, Dry January is now a firm fixture of post-festive recuperation.

Christmas has become a bacchanalian booze up. In case we don’t have enough red, white, beer, whisky, vodka and gin to keep us going we even roll out extra drinks like egg nog and mulled wine to keep us topped up. Cutting back on eating is tough but reducing drinking can be a lot more difficult.

At the extreme end, the statistics are sobering. Last year over a thousand Scots died of alcohol related problems at a cost to the nation of £3.6 billion. Compared to England and Wales we drink 20 per cent more alcohol.

Dry January aims to punctuate that. Four weeks might not seem like a big break but research from University College London Medical School showed liver fat in Dry January participants fell by 15 per cent, with blood cholesterol down 5 per cent, reducing the risk of heart disease.

And the benefits don’t stop at the end of January. University of Sussex research shows six months on, the majority of those who took part are still drinking less that they were before. The reality is that the 16 per cent of the population taking part in Dry January are those most motivated to get fit and healthy. Reaching those unable to skip drinking for a month is much more difficult. They are the people who simply aren’t interested because they don’t believe they have a problem. Campaigns like Dry January will never touch them and it’s often left to their families to try and persuade them to cutback on the booze.

For many problem drinkers, the toughest bit is not stopping but instead actually admitting there is an issue needing to be faced. In Scotland it is easy to hide that behind a social life steeped in alcohol. Anyone who has tried to spend a night in the pub on fresh orange and lemonade will know how pervasive our drinking culture is.

I’m not a prohibitionist. From a simple meal at home to a big night out with friends, everything can seem brighter and better with a drink. A cracking pint or beautiful glass of red wine can be one of life’s simplest but finest pleasures but it has to be when you want it, not when you need it.

For a nation with an alcohol problem like Scotland, every one of us should be thinking about taking part in Dry January. If you are not, why not and is that just an excuse ?

If someone invented a magic potion that was good for your health, helped you sleep better and reduced your weight we’d all be lining up to buy a bottle but taking part in Dry January won’t cost a penny. In fact, it will save you money.

At the very least, a month off the booze is a chance to prove just who is in charge of the relationship. With 24 days left in January, it’s never too late to start.

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