#160 A Rest and Reset. My Experience with 150 Days of No Alcohol, Caffeine, or Sugar.

Every year my husband and I do a sort of reset after the holidays. We aren’t people who drink a ton. We stick with nicer wines and maybe a Negroni or two when out. Our diets are pretty good, and I usually only consume matcha or decaf espresso in limited amounts.

However, the holidays build and build upon these vices, and since we have been eating cleaner every year, when we have more than we should, our bodies feel it more. Sleep gets affected, memories of a story the night before are hazy, brain fog, bloating, and anxiety increases so slowly you don’t realize how badly you feel. How much your body is telling you it needs a break.

So years ago, we started this “reset”. It all began about 5-6 years ago with 30 days. Just 30 days of clean eating and no drinking. We adopted a diet plan called Whole 30. It began with no complex carbs, removal of alcohol, white sugar, flour etc. The first year was a success!

Every year after that first experience, we kept adding on days to this time period. 60, then 80. This year we aimed for 100 and honestly we felt so good we went to 150. I had a lot of questions along the way of why we choose to do this, what it felt like, and what I learned.

In this episode I will talk about Why we do this. What I gained (and lost) and also some substitutions for alcohol, sugar, and caffeine so if you wanna try this yourself, you are set up for success!

Allow me to say that I am not a doctor, and I am not here to judge anyone for their choices. This is specifically geared towards those who may be curious about trying a reset. Please ALWAYS consult your health professionals before beginning any diet or change to your diets.

Now we begin!

Why do you do this to yourselves? It sounds so extreme!”

I get this question a lot. To be clear, Phil doesn’t not give up caffeine like I do. He cuts back. I go all in. The reason I do this yearly is because I like to strip away anything in my system to get down to the nitty gritty of what my BODY really wants, and what serves it best. Not my mind, our minds get in the way. The key here is to get to your intuition and basic bodily needs.

We take breaks in life, in work, in our general daily habits. Why should we not take a break from substances that have a negative effect on our body? Seems like common sense to me.

This episode might not be for everyone, but I hope the people who are curious about taking a reset find some options! It is a hard subject to speak on, and it took me years to come out about our reset. Fear of judgement is a big thing that I am working on, and I am happy to announce moving past. Self acceptance and love really help 🙂

Let’s first take a look at the main three things we removed from our diet, and some reasons why we removed them.

CAFFEINE

MedlinePlus states-

“Caffeine has many effects on your body’s metabolism. It:

  • Stimulates your central nervous system, which can make you feel more awake and give you a boost of energy
  • Is a diuretic, meaning that it helps your body get rid of extra salt and water by urinating more
  • Increases the release of acid in your stomach, sometimes leading to an upset stomach or heartburn
  • May interfere with the absorption of calcium in the body
  • Increases your blood pressure

Within one hour of eating or drinking caffeine, it reaches its peak level in your blood. You may continue to feel the effects of caffeine for four to six hours.

What are the side effects from too much caffeine?

For most people, it is not harmful to consume up to 400mg of caffeine a day. If you do eat or drink too much caffeine, it can cause health problems, such as:

Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.”

That last sentence is 100% true. I am now HIGHLY sensitive to caffeine. Part from removing it from my system and then experimenting with myself of what spikes my energy in the form of Whole Foods. I used to love matcha (I still miss it so so much), but I noticed that along side my regular grief I was feeling, when I would have a cup of matcha my stress levels and anxiety would spike.

I couldn’t see the line between excitement, and anxiety anymore. My mind would race and I would feel… off. Not myself at all. My sleep would also be affected along with my belly. I would get the gurgles or an upset stomach. I can now feel even when I have a piece of chocolate the slight rush it gives me.

SUGAR

This is a no brainer, but American Culture in particularly forgets that everything we buy has sugar in it. Why is it bad for us again?

According to Healthline.com

Sugar can…

  • Can Cause Weight Gain. … 
  • May Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease. … 
  • Has Been Linked to Acne. … 
  • Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. … 
  • May Increase Your Risk of Cancer. … 
  • May Increase Your Risk of Depression. … 
  • May Accelerate the Skin Aging Process. … 
  • Can Increase Cellular Aging.

The list goes on and on. Did you know, that upon visiting a doctor for a patient’s first diagnosis of cancer, one of the immediate responses from the doctor will say to eliminate sugar from their diet? Truth. I have heard it from multiple friends who have had cancer, and also experienced it with my sister. First thing they say “Eliminate sugar from your diet.”

You would think, if we all knew as a nation that sugar increases your risk for these things, that companies would stop adding more sugar to our food. Yeah, no. Not to get on a soap box, but I trust ZERO front labels in a store. I always look at the back and look directly to the ingredients of sugar and oil content. I am almost always disappointed. It is everywhere and it is so not our fault that we crave it because it is single handedly the number one addictive substance on the planet. When you have it, you want more of it. Try cutting it out of your diet for three days and see your cravings just…. poof. Gone.

It is the one thing we can all agree that is bad for us, but it still exists in so much of our store bought foods. I could go on and on.

ALCOHOL

According to Healthline, Long-term effects of frequently drinking alcohol can include:

This list isn’t even touching on short term problems, or the break down of white and grey matter in our brains. There is a lot I didn’t know about alcohol. I suspected, but didn’t know. It is a touchy subject for so many people. For example, I bet a ton of people stopped reading this post or shut off my podcast episode right about now.

I don’t blame them because I too was in their shoes. In the past when I heard a friend was giving up or taking a break from alcohol, I would instantly become defensive of my own habits. I would maybe say something like this to them. “Do you really have to give it up? Can’t you just cut back? Why are you not drinking today? Aww that’s no fun”

I don’t blame myself now, because I realize it was-

A. The alcohol talking.

B. My own insecurities about my relationship with alcohol.

C. My fear of things that I knew were changing.

I have had multiple people say these things to me. Suddenly everyone has an opinion about it. Once again, I don’t blame them because I see now how it messes with our heads.

I am a person who LOVES wine culture, loves it. Honestly, it takes a lot for me to even post about this, but I still haven’t quite figured out my relationship with alcohol yet. I know it is bad for me, and I don’t drink a lot of it when I am drinking, but I hate the way it makes me feel afterwards. That is the key thing here, how you feel after.

What did you substitute with?

Finding substitutes for these three things was a challenge, and honestly to try something like this… you need HELP. You need alternatives at the ready so that you set yourself up to succeed. Believe me, they are out there and they are great! There are so many resources now, and I wanted to stop and feature them here so you are armed and ready! It took me a few years to discover some of my favorites and here they are.

Sugar Substitutes- I spent the first two weeks avoiding fruit, sugar, or anything sweet at all to reset my palate and remove cravings. I then started introducing Monkfruit sweetener (it doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels as much) and also some fruits minimally (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries)

Alcohol- Hibiscus tea became my crutch. I would buy a ton of it and brew large batches of iced tea and hot tea with it. I love it’s tart flavor. I then moved on to many different teas that were all herbal and not sweetened. I would use a French press to steep large batches. My tea cabinet is overflowing.

Hop Tea- I am so in love with these new non alcoholic beverages. They infuse all different hops into sparkling water and some teas. It is like drinking a beer without that malty taste and bloating afterwards. I am now addicted to them and want to learn how to make them myself. I like to combine them with some of my teas over ice with a lemon slice.

Brew Dog AF Beers- So good. I especially love the Elvis AF Grapefruit hoppy one! It is my favorite. I tricked so many people into thinking it was full of alcohol. They said they woke up the next day with no hangover and are now converts!

Ghia- An Italian inspired drink that is full of FLAVOR. Think bitter grapefruit blast. If this drink was made at a bar I would have no idea it didn’t have alcohol in it. It is low sugar and addictive in the best way possible. Shout out to The Vandal Pittsburgh for having it on their menu!

Taking this moment to plug my sponsor for the show Open Road Bar Pgh where I procured a TON of my non alcoholic beverages. I love this place SO much because you can taste bunch of their products before buying them. Curious about the zero alcohol gin? They probably got it. They have SOOOO many options and I love that Pittsburgh,PA now has a place to turn to for non alcoholic drinks.

Food- While I am on the medical keto diet, Phil stuck mainly with the Whole 30 model. No complex carbs, white flour, sugar, etc. Mine was a limitation on how many carbs per day (20) Fat (80) and protein I could have (25grams)

Typical dishes included pork belly with steamed broccoli, a nice cut of steak, chicken thighs and veggies and large salads.

Quite a challenge but once you get in the groove, you don’t notice much after a while. Although, peanut butter became my new evening ritual. 2 tablespoons with celery. So good.

Caffeine- As I said before, Phil would still indulge on weekends with a cup of coffee. I however would have not had a drop in 102 days. Matcha either. I tried, and I could not consume it. I would have a sliver of dark chocolate or Lily’s chips sometimes.

Ground Mushrooms really helped me as a substitute in the mornings!

Activities– This is where that whole experiment it gets interesting. When we first started years ago we noticed immediately that we now had a lot of free time on our hands in the evenings. What was normally spent opening one or two bottles of wine with friends or with dinner, had shifted.

Honestly, THIS is the hardest part about giving up alcohol. You have to reassess what you do with your time. It can feel extremely restless, and can leave you with some darker thoughts because you just don’t know what to do with yourself. I took it as an opportunity for Phil and I to spend some meaningful time together and learn something new!

Years ago it was salsa dancing lessons, then Italian lessons, yoga practice, and now Improv theater and drawing classes. We are so in love with those last two we will continue to do them.

What Challenges Did You Come Up Against During This Time?

Well, I already touched on the challenge of other people’s attitudes towards this reset. It struck a nerve with a lot of people. Let me say that this is not for everyone. It may not be for you at all, but I know my own body and I know what is good for it. Yay! Achievement unlocked. That is one of the hardest things we as humans try to discover. Knowing what is good for our bodies and minds. We are often distracted, swayed, and full of substances to notice.

Some of the obvious challenges were the alcohol cravings to pass. This began in the first three days (It takes four for alcohol to leave your body, and not even completely). The sugar cravings were the worst to get past. Took about a week and change to not craving any sugar or have “Dessert” after a meal.

Boredom… this was a huge challenge, but allowed our creative selves to flourish!

So what were the benefits of doing this?

I could list a ton.

Night Sweats- One of the most acute side effects from drinking was that my night sweats disappeared after about two weeks. I would always soak the sheets in the middle of the night. I mean BAD. Try googling night sweats and you will find yourself starting to worry about your health. I couldn’t stop it. I had a sneaky suspicion it was the glass of wine I had in the evening, but couldn’t prove it.

Suspicion correct! After alcohol left my body, no more night sweats. My sheets are fine in the morning. It was my body trying to process the alcohol and eliminate it from my system.

Better Sleep- This alone should be a reason people try this. I would always find myself waking up around 3am when I would have a glass of wine or two the evening before. Now I sleep soundly through the night. No snores from either myself or Phil! That alone is worth it! 🙂

Mental Clarity– For the first few days I had a lingering headache and a bit of brain fog. Then it just… lifted. Went away and my mind was sharp as a tack. It keeps getting better too. My focus is laser.

Memories- I am getting flooded by memories I had forgotten dating all the way back to my childhood. It is incredible, it is like someone handing me a book I loved but reading years ago and revisiting it. Some are so unexpected.

Less Bloat, more Confidence– My clothes fit better. My face is more radiant. Eyes are clearer and so is my skin. I feel generally lighter.

Creativity– Our creative juices giving up alcohol were now activated. I found myself being scared to give up our ritual of having a glass of wine in the evening. What would we do with ourselves?! I long ago began the process of finding different activities to learn. To stretch our brains and find a new way of discovering play.

As we age we will naturally transition and the “fun” things we used to do which included binge drinking, tailgating, partying all night long, or dinner and gathering focusing on alcohol just don’t hold the appeal for us anymore. Who are we now without alcohol in front of us or representing us. We found out quite a bit about ourselves, and discovered we are AWESOME without it.

We are actually more fun, more engaging. We are better friends and family to those around us because we are there for them when we show up and we are listening. We aren’t there because there is a $30 bottle of wine on the table. We are finding other’s with like minded interests that we know we can continue to enjoy as we age.

Where do we go from here?

This is the biggest question I get asked. What do we do now. I am on day 155 of no alcohol or sugar. I did recently have a decaf espresso and was pleased to announce that my mind was alright for that day. Small doses. Sugar I will continue to leave out of my diet as much as I possibly can. I know there will be slip ups and honestly sugar is snuck into every meal outside of our house, but I will stick to my guns.

As for my relationship with alcohol, that is exactly what it is. A relationship. I am trying to have a better one with it. I leave soon for my Yoga Sailing Retreats in Greece and Italy and I honestly… I am a bit nervous about drinking. I am trying to give myself some slack and know that before this, alcohol was diminishing in my life anyways. I know the reset is always there, and that I can return to it. If I have a glass of wine in Italy. I will make it a GREAT glass and leave it at that. End of story. If I don’t drink during the trip, how great for me to be able to experience a new place without having it dimmed or numbed by alcohol.

Either way, changing my relationship with these substances is the whole point and doing this reset or challenge is a nice way to allow some perspective. I personally will become really excited when more restaurants and experiences incorporate different options for those on these restrictions. Especially alcohol. Stay tuned when I return home for a feature on restaurants in the Pittsburgh area serving ELEVATED mocktail options.

What about you? Any interest in a reset? Would love to know your experience!

Curious to try this reset? Come join my Transformational Wellness Retreat on Sept 8th-11th 2022. This ladies only retreat features hiking, yoga, meditation, group reiki, workshops and more. It is all inclusive and I myself will be available to hold a safe space for you if you are curious about cutting back or removing any of these substances from your life. Early Bird special is going on right now until June 30th. Price is discounted by $100. Refer a friend and get $50 off your retreat booking for your private room.

This episode is sponsored by Open Road Bar Pgh I truly don’t know what I would do without this shop in town! I love that they have a tasting area where you can sample before you buy. Mel the owner is super knowledgeable about all the products she carries. Check them out and tell them Marta says hello! Special thank you to Liz Roberts for the rec!

“Find your new drink”

The Open Road Non-Alcoholic Bar + Bottle Shop in Pittsburgh, PA launched January 2020 as a pop-up bar and currently operates as a thriving online retail store offering local delivery, shipping elsewhere, and hosting virtual events. 

Brick & mortar storefront opening late March 2022 in Allentown, PGH
600 East Warrington Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15210

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