Food & Drink Tuesday, January 19th

Dry January: Giving up booze vs going to the pub

It’s estimated that your average 18-34 year-old Brit will have consumed 3,700 calories in alcohol alone during nights out in the run up to Christmas and New Year.

That’s the same as scoffing 200 chocolate gold coins in one sitting.

While part of me thinks ‘mmm, gold coins’, the other isn't surprised so many of us sign up for Dry January; foregoing alcohol for a month makes perfect sense in the fugg of the festive hangover.

Doubly so when you sober up long enough to realise that getting smashed remains the UK's most socially acceptable unsociable thing to do, followed by the humble brag about how much was put away the night before. When did ‘I can’t remember getting home’ become a badge of honour?

To help us cut back on booze, Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon has arrived – a neatly packaged way to feel better in the New Year, save a little cash and lose a few party pounds, while raising money to help beat cancer sooner. 

It works - 55,000 people took part in 2015 and raised over £5.8m by going dry for 31 days. But no one said it was going to be easy.

“Cider is my downfall. Let’s not talk about cider.” 

Last year a self-inflicted “health kick” prompted 20-year-old Meg Handley to give Dry January a go. Three weeks in, she ran out of steam.

“To start off with, I tried to avoid going out and going to pubs. But I had a few friends’ birthdays to celebrate. I ended up going out and… yeah, I couldn’t carry on.

Meg Handley dryathlon

"It was alright until the end of the month – that’s when everyone had been paid, everyone was saying ‘let’s go out’ and I couldn’t do it.

“Knowing that I’d failed wasn’t great. It did make me feel quite down. I probably had a week to go - why had I not finished it? It was disappointing."

This year, said Meg, it's different.

“I’ve got incentive this time.

"My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer last year so I thought, let’s do it, let’s raise money for Cancer Research. I’m determined. That’s what’s going to keep me going. I’m going to prove people wrong.

“I’ve got two 21st birthdays this month but I’m going to go out and show people that I’m not drinking, and that I’m raising money. If I went into hibernation, it wouldn’t be the same."

Meg’s mum has now been given the all clear, but one brush with cancer and your outlook changes.

“It feels like a real reason to do this,” said Meg, who lives near Bromyard.

"My target is £100 but if I raise more than that, and I might regret saying this, I might do February as well. That’ll be more of a health kick – and, you know, to prove that you can go without alcohol in your life!

To dry or not to dry...

With or without overindulging at Christmas and New Year, Dry January doesn't appeal to everyone.

For Graeme Anderson and his brother-in-law, the natural reaction to Dryathlon was the Tryathlon, a tongue-in-cheek campaign that encourages followers to try British beers every day throughout January.

"Dryathlon is obviously a very worthy cause but I kinda felt that getting sponsored to do nothing was a little bit… well, you know,” said Graeme, who lives in Worcestershire.

"To be honest it was a reaction to having my Facebook feed full of people going on and on about Dry January. When I started thinking about the massive renaissance of British beer we’re seeing right now - the sheer number of good pubs serving good craft beers now, this made more sense.

“And January is a tough month. It’s dark, it’s cold, everyone is going back to work.

"Maybe now isn’t the best time to abstain."

In the same vein, the national campaign Tryanuary is encouraging those who are still drinking (in moderation, of course) to support local brewers and pubs.

"This isn't about drinking more," said the organisers.

"It's about trying something different. Tasting something new. Experiencing something interesting."

Try Banner 728x90

You can follow Graeme's Tryathlon, which is raising money for Parkinson's research, on Twitter.

Head to Hereford Beer House in West Street, Hereford, where the Tryanuary movement is in full swing. 

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