A new study has revealed that the unhealthiest city in the UK is Cardiff, closely followed by Glasgow and Birmingham. But things aren’t looking too peachy in the south, either, with London and Plymouth also making the list.
Fitness app Freeletics asked 2,000 British adults questions about their health to see which of the major cities across the UK came out as the unhealthiest. It took into consideration the amount of alcohol they drink, how little they exercise and the amount of processed, high sugar foods they consume.
It turns out that as many as 58% of Glaswegians and 50% of Londoners feel that their lifestyle is so unhealthy that it’ll affect their life expectancy.
More than a quarter of the adult population feel the stresses and strains of modern life are the main barrier they face when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, leading to habits and addictions such as overeating and binge drinking. The same number blamed depression for unhealthy and inactive lifestyles.
Furthermore, 52% said they fear they will remain unhealthy forever, with 15 percent claiming they have no idea how to start living more healthily, and 14% saying they are too old to change.
Shockingly, 43% of Brits admit they don’t eat the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, with 40% revealing they never do the 30 minutes of exercises a day that the NHS suggests.
Cardiff (60 percent of residents say their current lifestyle will lead them to die early)
Glasgow (58 percent)
Birmingham (55 percent)
Edinburgh (53 percent)
Sheffield (52 percent)
Manchester (51 percent)
London (50 percent)
Leeds (48 percent)
Newcastle (47 percent)
Plymouth (46 percent)
Daniel Sobhani, CEO of Freeletics, which commissioned the study as part of its Dare To Be Free campaign, said: ‘It’s extremely worrying that the majority of the nation are not living the healthiest lives they could be.
‘Our study revealed a myriad of common barriers that get in the way of people being healthier and more active, and the fact that a shocking 88 percent feel powerless to change their lifestyle is something we want to change.
‘As a company, we aim to encourage the public to free themselves from exercise excuses and dare to better their lifestyle.’
Sex can leaves us feeling many things – euphoric, confused, hungry, and even guilty (if it’s an ex that you were supposed to be avoiding – we’ve all been there).
But while post-sex emotional symptoms are pretty common, some physical symptoms aren’t.
Sure, you might feel achey or have shaky legs (TMI?), but the one symptom that you should never ignore after sex is nausea.
That’s right. According to gynaecologist and medical director Lauren Streicher MD, you should never have an upset tummy after intercourse.
‘It’s never normal to feel nauseous after sex,’ she explained to POPSUGAR, flagging the symptom as something to look into.
What could it mean if we do feel nauseous after sex? Luckily, Dr. Streicher broke it down.
‘Contact with your cervix during sex – or cervical stimulation – can create a vasalvagol response in which your blood pressure and pulse drop,’ she explained. ‘This can cause you to feel nauseous or even to pass out. Your cervix changes throughout your cycle, dropping lower during your period, which may make it more susceptible during penetration.’
Another reason could be an underlying condition, with Dr. Streicher explaining that ‘women with endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease may experience painful intercourse’, with other causes including cervical infections and fibroids.
If you are experiencing any type of pain during sex, you should contact your GP or gynaecologist.
From diagnosis and symptoms to causes and treatments, here’s everything you need to know about sleep paralysis…
What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak as you’re falling asleep or waking up. The sensation occurs when in a hynopompic state (when waking up) or a hypnogogic state (when falling asleep), where the person is completely aware of their surroundings whilst being asleep. Whilst harmless, this sensation can often a very scary experience, with many describing it as an out-of-body experience. After the episode passes you will be able to move and speak as normal.
How long does sleep paralysis last?
Although it will feel like the paralysis is lasting an excruciatingly long time in the moment, the episode generally tends to last for only a few seconds.
How common is sleep paralysis?
Feeling this sensation is not uncommon, with some surveys suggesting that 25-30% of the population will experience some form of sleep-type paralysis at least once in their life. For most people, experiencing sleep paralysis is a one-off episode, while others experience it more frequently with some experiencing it a few times a month.
What are the symptoms of sleep paralysis?
The most obvious symptom is being temporarily unable to make movements or speak whilst being very aware of your surroundings. Other symptoms of sleep paralysis include difficulty breathing, a crushing sensation on your chest and in some cases hallucinations and being able to open your eyes. Another key symptom is actually the feeling of fear as it can be a very unsettling experience.
What can cause sleep paralysis?
Experiencing this type of sleep disorder can happen to anyone. While there’s no definitive cause, it is most commonly linked to sleep deprivation, irregular sleeping patterns, stress, depression and some prescription medications. In some cases it can be down to more serious causes like a family history of this sleep disorder or narcolepsy, and in others, it can be simply down to sleeping on your back.
Is sleep paralysis dangerous?
Experiencing this type of sleep disorder can be terrifying, with many people explaining that in the moment they felt as though they were dying. Whilst being scary, however, the natural state is completely harmless and will have no dangerous or lasting effects.
Are there treatments for sleep paralysis?
Like most sleep disorders, this tends to improve over time. You can help the process though, by improving your sleeping habits, sticking to a regular sleep pattern in a comfortable environment. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can also help, as well as avoiding smoking, caffeine and big meals before bed.
When should I consult a GP about my sleep paralysis?
For most people, sleep paralysis will be a one time occurrence and as it is not harmful, there is usually no need to consult a doctor. If, however, you are experiencing sleep paralysis on a regular basis or feel that your symptoms could resemble narcolepsy, get in touch with your GP.
As January gets underway and we start breaking our New Years resolutions, we’ve got some good news: petting a dog is actually really good for your health.
Yes, if you promised yourself that 2019 would be the year you focused on your health and wellbeing, the secret to seeing it through isn’t just journalling, spa days or meditation. The self-care journey can also include something as easy as having a pet. Hurrah.
If you love nothing more than coming home and giving your fur baby a big cuddle, it’s not just giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling – it’s actually lowering your blood pressure, too.
Tombola released a study that reveals petting an animal – be it dog, cat, goat – for just fifteen minutes can lower your blood pressure by up to 10%. Great news.
The study showed that petting an animal ‘releases serotonin, oxytocin, prolactin and even lowers the stress hormone cortisol. These feel-good hormones lower our stress and anxiety, serotonin being the main thing antidepressants try to replicate.’
Disclaimer: fluffy toys don’t quite cut it. In order to see this health benefit, it has to be a real, living animal.
It claims: ‘Researchers found that petting a living creature, whether furry or shelled, massively reduced anxiety in the participants.’
That’s right – if you’ve got a pet turtle it also counts.
We already knew that having a pet is good for your mental health. Numerous studies have shown that they can help with depression, PTSD and loneliness, too.
So all in all, having a pet dog can help your mental and physical health. We’re sold.
CBD has officially hit the main stream, with industries including beauty and wellbeing embracing the ingredient for its many potential benefits. But what is CBD Oil? And how are you supposed to use it? Keep reading for the complete Marie Claire guide…
By Rebecca Fearn.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is an oil derived from the cannabis plant. It is different to THC (tetrohydrocannabinol), which is the part of the plant that creates the ‘high’ associated with smoking weed.
‘THC is the compound in cannabis that gets you high but CBD alone won’t get you high at all,’ explains Charlotte Ferguson-Quilter, psychotherapist and founder of Disciple skincare.
‘It is important to check that your CBD products contain minimal THC if you don’t want to feel high – also any products with >2% THC are considered psychoactive in the UK and are therefore illegal.’
What are the benefits of CBD?
Let’s start with how CBD works. We all have internal Endocannabinoid System (ECS for short), which affects things like our mood, appetite and memory. CBD can support the ECS, helping with things like anxiety.
‘The popularity of CBD says something about how stressed and anxious we are as a society,’ says Charlotte.
‘By far the most popular benefits are pain relief and anxiety. It’s thought that CBD interacts with receptors in the brain and immune system to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.’
‘CBD is also great for sleep issues and insomnia,’ she continues.
Indeed, studies conducted in recent years have suggested CBD oil can help with a range of problems. Recent studies cited by Medical News Today are an interesting read, highlighting the effectiveness of CBD Oil with anxiety, arthritis and a whole other host of symptoms.
How can you take CBD?
On board with CBD? There are a number of ways to try out the trend, from sipping a smoothie to smothering it onto your skin.
Several boujee health food cafes now serve smoothies or coffees with CBD extract in the ingredients list. Glow Bar, for example, serves a moon milk (golden, available hot or iced) that contains Wunder Workshop Golden Mylk and CBD. Planet Organic also offers CBD Oil Coffee, which features espresso, butter, coconut oil and CBD oil. While drinking your CBD at cafes is a treat, it’s not ideal for daily usage due to money and time constraints. Another option is to eat your CBD; Green Goddess Wellness now offer a ‘Bliss Bar,’ which uses vanilla flavouring, dark chocolate and CBD oil. Delish.
Perhaps the most versatile way to incorporate CBD into your life, CBD oils can be taken orally or applied topically onto skin. We’d recommend checking out Disciple’s new range of Miracle Drops, which offer CBD levels of 1%, 3.5% and 5%. All you need to do is swallow half a dropper’s worth (of the actual glass dropper, not just half a drop), or mix it into a drink to take it orally. Alternatively, you can apply it directly onto skin as a face oil, which will be absorbed into your skin.
Skincare is another realm of the beauty and wellness industry that is embracing CBD oil. CBD Oil has great moisturising properties, notes Charlotte, making it great for dehydrated complexions. It’s also good for acne-prone skin:
‘CBD creates a highly effective sebostatic effect ( this essentially means that it is amazing at balancing sebum and skin oils.) Both of which are catalysts for the series of issues that result in skin breakouts and acne,’ explains Charlotte.
While many brands are taking time to perfect CBD formulas that we hope to see in future, there are a few options you can already buy. Revolution’s Nourishing Oil – CBD Oil is perfect for dry, dull skin that needs soothing, while MGC Derma has a whole range of CBD Oil-based skincare, from creams to serums.
As the number of teens being treated for self-harm doubles, Polly Dunbar speaks to women who carry the mental and physical scars into adulthood
Han Wright was 16 when she began self-harming. Now 27, it’s been years since she last cut herself, but when she feels particularly angry, stressed or sad, the urge is still powerful. ‘I don’t know if it will ever go away,’ she admits. Recent figures reveal self-harm is more widespread among young women now than ever before, with one in four 14-year-old girls deliberately hurting themselves, according to a survey of 11,000 teenagers by The Children’s Society charity. NHS figures also show that the number of girls under 18 being treated in hospital in England after self-harming has almost doubled compared with 20 years ago, up from 7,327 in 1997 to 13,463 last year. The alarming stats reflect a mental- health crisis, fuelled by the pressure of trying to live up to impossibly high standards in everything from their appearance to academic achievements and social standing. ‘Social media is a huge factor,’ says Dr Maite Ferrin, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health, an award-winning mental health service provider. ‘It encourages us to compare ourselves to others, even if what they’re showing isn’t real − and it’s constantly there.’
Although self-harm is often associated with cutting, it can take many forms, including eating disorders, excessive exercise, misusing alcohol or drugs, addiction to cosmetic surgery or trichotillomania (a hair-pulling disorder). It’s believed the reason most of these forms are more common among females is because girls are more likely to turn their feelings of anxiety, depression or anger inward. Boys often express these emotions through violence or aggression, whereas girls are taught to avoid confrontation. ‘Girls tend to internalise much more. If there’s a problem, they’ll blame and punish themselves,’ says Dr Ferrin.
However the recent TV drama Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams as a thirtysomething reporter whose body is a labyrinth of scars from years of injuring herself, showed that what’s typically thought of as an adolescent issue doesn’t simply vanish with age. Women of all ages can experience self-harm, particularly if they’ve used it as a coping mechanism in the past. ‘It can affect any woman,’ says Sarah Kessling, 30, training team leader at Harmless, a national support agency for people who self-harm. ‘We’ve seen women in their seventies − it doesn’t discriminate.’
For Wright, a blogger and content creator, self-harm remains a part of who she is, despite the fact she no longer engages in it. ‘When you’ve self-harmed before, it’s always a temptation in the background,’ she says. ‘When things are really bad, I still get that urge.’ Her self-harming began as a way to deal with the emotional distress she felt as a teenager. She began to experience severe anxiety after being excluded by her friendship group. ‘I’d stopped being invited to things by girls who’d been my friends, and
I started feeling I wasn’t good enough because I was always the quiet one,’ she says. ‘It was typical bitchy schoolgirl drama, but I felt so desperate and angry with myself, thinking what had happened was all my fault, self-harm was a means of punishment. For a couple of seconds, it also helped to release some of those feelings and I’d feel better − until I’d think, “Oh God, why on earth have I done this to myself?”’
Those who self-harm often describe the sense of control it gives them when they’re struggling to cope with situations they find overwhelming. Emily Everitt’s self-harming began at 13, during a particularly turbulent period in her family and school life. ‘I was feeling lost and my self-esteem was at zero,’ says Everitt, now 26. ‘My anger and self-hatred would reach a point where it stopped me from functioning, and self-harm made me feel calm and in control. I felt like it helped me to deal with those feelings.’
It’s this momentary sense of relief from overwhelming emotions that can become addictive. ‘The body releases endorphins when we’re injured, which gives a sense of reward,’ says Dr Ferrin. ‘It can make people feel better for a time, but the more they do it to try to get that feeling, the more trapped they become in the cycle. Just like any addiction, it’s destructive and doesn’t make anything better long-term.’
Everitt says self-harm was her emotional crutch for years; something she’d turn to whenever she was under severe stress. ‘As I got older, it became more sporadic, happening up to five times a year,’ she says. ‘I’d try not to, but when my friend died, for instance, it was always there when the feelings became unbearable. It was my safety net.’
Both Everitt and Wright kept their self-harming a secret, worried that if people found out, they wouldn’t understand. Even now, it remains a taboo subject that people find difficult to comprehend. ‘There’s so much shame and guilt involved because I knew my family would be horrified if they knew,’ says Wright. Kessling adds: ‘People who self-harm often feel judged because their injuries are self-inflicted. They’re seen as attention-seeking when usually, it’s an incredibly private problem.’ She’s experienced this stigma herself, as someone who self-harmed from the age of 14 until her early twenties. ‘My mum felt she had failed as a parent and that was difficult,’ she says. ‘People’s responses to what you’re doing can reinforce your feelings of low self-esteem.’
In her role at Harmless, Kessling travels around the UK giving training on how to help those who self-harm. The key is to focus on what’s driving the self-harm, rather than the act itself, which often triggers panic. ‘The physical act of self-harm is really the tip of the iceberg,’ she says. ‘It’s the bit that gets all the focus, but understanding what’s underneath the water − the emotional pain and triggers − is far more important.’
Therapy helped Wright work through her anxiety and depression, and she has not self-harmed since she was a teenager. Now, when she feels the urge, she is able to manage those feelings. ‘I’ve always been an anxious person and I don’t know if it will ever leave me,’ she says. ‘But if I’m in that space, I use breathing and meditation techniques to calm myself down. Her blog, Wellness & Wander, explores mental-health issues and offers advice about healthy coping strategies. ‘I want to help others going through it to not feel so alone,’ she says.
Everitt has also developed ways to manage her self-harming. ‘It was still a coping mechanism for me until two years ago,’ she says. ‘It’s been a long process, but therapy helped me to figure out my feelings and change how I deal with them. Now I do a lot of exercise, which stops me getting to crisis point, I do a lot of painting and writing and I’ve got a good support network. It’s taken willpower to break the addiction.’
She is now studying for a degree at UCL and also works for the London-based charity The Wish Centre. Sadly, what she sees there has left her unsurprised by the increase in self-harm. ‘I see a lot of girls who’ve experienced some form of sexual exploitation, and who talk about the pressures from social media and peers. It’s an epidemic and we need to talk much more about the reasons behind it.’
Forget the ‘humble’ marathon. As Katie Mulloy reports, women are going ultra with extreme fitness goals that push them harder than ever
At some point, everything hits avocado-on-toast status – too mainstream to be impressive, and so the marathon, a mere 26.2 miles of sweat, tears and blisters, may be at such an impasse. Our lust for a long-distance challenge has moved on and going ultra is the new social currency. ‘Seeing how impressed people are when you say you’ve completed an Ironman [a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and a marathon] makes you feel good about yourself,’ says Sarah Grant, 38, a paramedic from County Durham who first attempted the extreme triathlon in 2016.
And while extreme fitness is still male-dominated, things are changing. Around a third of Ironman World Championships competitors are women, a figure that tallies with Triathlon England’s membership – the number of British women joining has increased by 230 per cent since 2009. Davina McCall completed a gruelling 500-mile triathlon in 2014 for Sport Relief and, last summer, a group of six female teenagers from London became the youngest relay team to swim the Channel. We’re being inspired to test our endurance harder than ever before.
Pushing yourself to your limits taps into a very current notion of what success looks like. Dr Rhonda Cohen, sport and exercise psychologist at Middlesex University and author of Sport Psychology: The Basics: Optimising Human Performance, says, ‘When many people can’t manage a minimum amount of weekly exercise, the discipline to commit to something so intensive is a virtue. It is a modern kind of thrill-seeking.’ And, she adds, a result of life lived through a screen. ‘People don’t want to aimlessly scroll their lives away. Extreme fitness is an antithesis to that.’
The visceral, human-meets-nature necessity of extreme exercise is part of the pull. ‘Being out in the elements is good for me,’ says Heather Ford, 36, from North Yorkshire, an ultramarathoner and mum of two who competes in several races a year of up to 110 miles. ‘Your mind can’t wander – you are focused instead of stewing on your problems, which is brilliant for mental health.’
For Jodie Moss, 27, a PhD student and Ironman World Championship competitor from London, it is a different kind of mindfulness: ‘I used to suffer from depression but Ironman has taught me a lot. If you’re able to identify that nothing stays the same for long, good or bad, you can cope.’
There’s a confidence that comes with achievement and these women’s stories have a common thread: first, surprise at what their bodies can do, followed by curiosity to see how far they could push themselves. None of them began as elite athletes. ‘When I first started, I couldn’t swim front crawl,’ says Sarah, who progressed from sprint triathlons to Ironman. ‘I just wanted to complete it within 12 hours, but I ended up being the first female over the finish line.’
The distances may sound intimidating, but the atmosphere isn’t. ‘You don’t have to race against other people,’ explains Heather. ‘You’re racing against the course and the elements.’ She adds that they’re not superwomen. ‘If you told me to run 30 miles I could do it. Ask me to do three pull-ups? No way!’
There are specific physical benefits to endurance training. ‘Beyond the three-hour mark, the body stops using carbs and starts raiding your fat stores,’ explains Dr Mark Burnley, an expert in endurance exercise from the University of Kent. Translation: after a four-hour run, calories don’t count.
For every pro, however, there’s a con. ‘Muscle damage is part of the process. And your immune system will take a dip after prolonged exercise. If you’ve done a long training session, think twice about places where there’ll be lots of people – and therefore germs – for the next 24 to 48 hours,’ says Dr Burnley.
Rest and recovery are vital. As is sleep. ‘Athletes who don’t get seven to eight hours are more likely to become injured or ill,’ adds Dr Burnley. ‘Your body improves not during training but during recovery.’ He suggests finding a training guide online or enlisting a personal trainer. ‘Factor in strength training. Plenty of fluid, foam rolling and massage can help reduce DOMS [delayed onset muscle soreness].’
Extreme challenges require serious fuelling. ‘If running, eat your last substantial meal – packed with carbs and fat – three hours before setting off,’ says Dr Burnley. ‘In cycling or swimming, meal timing matters less. For any exercise of two to four hours, you’ll need carbohydrate during the session [energy drinks, gels, Jelly Babies] and plenty of water. Refuel afterwards with carbohydrates as soon as you can.’
So how does a novice get involved? Firstly, building up slowly is essential. Depending on your fitness level, it takes six months to a year to train for an ultra event. ‘You need
a balanced regime that involves long duration work, lower-impact recovery work (such as swimming or cycling), and some shorter, high-intensity sessions,’ suggests Dr Burnley.
One more word of warning: balance is crucial. ‘You can get obsessed,’ says Jodie. ‘It attracts a lot of Type-A personalities with an all-or-nothing approach.’ For Heather – who became a mum five months ago and is already back in training – knowing your limits is key. ‘You can’t forget what really matters. Family, friends – they’re too important to sacrifice for a challenge. Yes, I train, but I still go out for prosecco with my mates.’
Up to the challenge?
If you like climbing, try… Vertical Rush (14 March)
Climbing makes its Olympics debut at Tokyo 2020. Welcome it with this homage to altitude: a race to the top of London’s Tower 42, in aid of Shelter.
If you like running, try… Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race (20–24 May)
Consider Ironman a snooze? Try the world’s toughest five-day mountain running race. Over five days, participants cover 315km, with 15,500 metres of ascent.
If you like swimming, try… Great North Swim (7–9 June)
Challenge yourself in England’s largest natural lake, Windermere. Distances vary from 250 metres to 10km, which may pale in comparison to the Channel’s 33km but you’ll be up against pleasure boats – and the Cumbrian weather.
If you like cycling, try… London to Paris Cycle (various dates)
If your leisurely weekend ride isn’t cutting it, try going cross-continental over five days and 532km from London to Paris, ending up beneath the Eiffel Tower. C’est parfait.
It’s January, your Instagram feed is littered with ‘New Year New Me’ promises and you’ve decided – yet again – to make this year count. Resolutions range from getting fitter, cutting out alcohol and maybe even going vegan for the month.
But there seems to be one common goal in 2019 – focusing on mental health and wellbeing. Whether it’s reading self-help books, taking up yoga or commiting to meditation every night before bed, it appears that we’re all looking for a way to de-stress and make this our happiest year yet.
But how? Before you start Googling ‘moving to Australia’, take a look at this.
A new study by Yopa of 2,000 British adults – who live in cities and the countryside – has revealed that 31% of those living in rural areas consider themselves ‘mostly happy’ compared to just 23% of city dwellers.
The research also showed that a fifth of those who live in a city admit to being constantly stressed, compared to just a tenth of those who live in the countryside.
The participants stated that the benefits of living in a rural area were safer neighbourhoods and better schools for their children. But it does have its downsides, with 41% unhappy with public transport, and the same percentage of people living outside of the city saying they often feel lonely and cut off.
Around 30% of those living in big cities said that one major pull was a wide choice of work and career options. However, 75% said that they would jump at the chance to swap the bright lights for scenic views – so what’s holding them back? It seems it’s the cost of commuting back into town and the struggle of knowing where to move to, despite the fact that a fifth admit to worrying about the cost of housing and affording property that’s big enough for their family.
Those living in the country spend less time commuting, a smaller percentage of their income on housing, and are more likely to know the names of their neighbours than city dwellers.
Ben Poynter, CEO of Yopa commented: ‘People often ask themselves whether they should live close to work or move out of town for more space and a better quality of life. But, with so many factors to consider, people often give up before they even start.’
Could 2019 be the year that we ditch the city for country living?
It’s the time of the year when you’re packing or, perhaps more realistically, over packing for a holiday. But, with excess baggage charges high and space tight, a hair dryer might not seem like an essential item to squeeze into your luggage – especially because there’s almost always one in your hotel room.
However, you might want to think again. It turns out hotel hair dryers are covered with germs – so much so that they might even be dirtier than the toilets.
It might be time to rethink some of our packing choices.
When microbiologist Chuck Gerba conducted tests about hotel room hygiene for ABC News he seemed pretty disturbed by the results he found on hair dryers. Testing various items in hotel rooms across the Los Angles area, he revealed which items had the most germs, and the results were pretty surprising.
Along with room service menus and ice buckets, hair dryers made the list.
Whilst you might just want to use a hair dryer for drying your hair, it appears not all hotel users have the same idea, with the microbiologist explaining, ‘There must be some things you can do with a hair dryer that I am not aware of because some of them were pretty germy.’ Concerning, right?
We’ll be bringing our own hair dryers on our next hotel trip – and some antibacterial hand gel…
More and more of us are breaking up with the booze – so what happens to our bodies when we do?
Many of us will admit to mainlining the prosecco, beer and spirits over Christmas and new year (me included). But after a season of heavy drinking, many of us start wondering about the benefits of giving up alcohol.
Dry January aside, teetotalism is very much on the rise – a 2015 study conducted by the ONS found that one in five adults in Britain don’t drink at all, a massive 40% increase from 2005.
Annie Grace, author of The Alcohol Experiment, stopped drinking alcohol completely and says it changed her life. ‘My drinking was very typical: Happy hours at work, social events with friends and stress-relief at home,’ she explains. ‘I believed drinking was the key to good life, but in many ways my life was falling apart. I was tired, lacking in energy, short-tempered, not sleeping well – life just felt difficult.
‘I really thought that alcohol was the glue keeping everything together, but in reality it was the chisel chipping away at my foundation. I know that sounds dramatic, but once I realised alcohol might be part of the problem instead of the solution, I decided to take a break.’
As part of her ‘break-up’ from alcohol Annie wrote about the process, later publishing her journals online. In just two weeks more than 20,000 people had downloaded and read them, showing that the change in outlook was something that really resonated.
Intrigued about the benefits of giving up alcohol? Keep reading to find out how it can improve your physical health and mental wellbeing.
The benefits of not drinking alcohol timeline
There are a number of mental and physical benefits of not drinking alcohol including weight loss and skin benefits. Below we break down when you can expect to see them after breaking up with booze.
After a week
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means you lose fluid through sweating and those all-too-frequent toilet visits on a night out. Within a week, normal hydration levels become sustained in your whole body, including your eyes. Drinking lots of water can also speed up this process.
After two weeks
A fortnight in and your blood pressure starts to normalise, which reduces your chances of getting hypertensive retinopathy. This a condition which can seriously damage the way your eyes focus on images.
After three weeks
As Dry January draws to a close, your liver is already starting to benefit from the lack of alcohol and this is reflected in your eye health. Expect the sciera (the white part of the eye) to lose any yellow tinge it might have had from excessive drinking.
Benefits of giving up alcohol after one month
That month of no drinking really does work wonders, folks. ‘How I looked changed dramatically,’ Annie tells us. ‘I lost an entire stone in just 30 days, my skin cleared up and my eyes were bright again. I had so many people asking what I was doing!’
What’s more, after a month red blood cells are beginning to renew which causes a better blood and oxygen flow for all your organs, including your eyes. And good circulation is key in obtaining good eyesight.
Benefits of giving up alcohol after 6 months to a year… And beyond
Dry January is a big milestone, but if you’re thinking of making the change permanent it can have a real positive impact on your life. ‘I looked five to ten years younger within months of stopping drinking!’ Annie enthuses.
But that’s not all; your mentality can see a huge improvement too. ‘The inward changes were equally as profound; I felt a real sense of confidence,’ she continues. ‘I had been relying on alcohol to get through the day or to deal with my kids. When I did these things without a drink my confidence soared – I realised that I am quite strong anyway!’
Since giving up alcohol, Annie has also been able to come off three antidepressants: ‘This doesn’t mean I don’t have a good cry or that I no longer experience the difficult emotions – but it does mean that when I do, I stop and listen and focus on healing myself, rather than numbing myself.
‘I was repeatedly telling myself I was not strong enough to handle my life without an external substance. Learning that the opposite is true has been incredible.’
Don’t know about you, but that bottle of prosecco doesn’t look quite so appealing now…
The Alcohol Experiment: A 30-Day, Alcohol-Free Challenge to Interrupt Your Habits and Help You Take Control’ by Annie Grace is out on the 31st December 2018