As hard as it is to believe, the new year is right around the corner — with it, all the resolutions we hope to keep moving forward. And among the most time-honored annual promises we make to ourselves annually is to quit drinking for good. The reasons range from personal ("I've become a bit of a lush") to practical ("I spent the equivalent of a car payment on wine last month"), but the sentiment is the same: many of us want to greatly reduce the amount of alcohol we consume in our daily lives. The good news is that even a temporary halt to your alcohol imbibing will net your body some seriously worthwhile benefits.
There's more good news where that came from, too. Despite the fact that so many of us feel like our drinking habits fall under the umbrella of too-much-bordering-on-an-addiction, we're likely being a bit too hard on ourselves — a recent study in Preventing Chronic Disease showed that most Americans who actually drink "excessively" (eight or more drinks each week for women) are not alcoholics. So should you cut back if you're hitting that threshold? If you feel like that's something you want to do, sure. But doing so doesn't mean you are alcohol dependent or that you will suffer withdrawal should you decide to go sans alcohol for any period of time.
If you do opt to cut alcohol out of your life — whether it be a week, a month, or for good — you won't just notice a surplus in your bank account. Your body will undergo the following positive changes as well.
1. Your Complexion Clears Up
Because alcohol is a diuretic, it makes you urinate more. In turn, urinating more can lead to dehydration — particularly since alcohol can keep your body from reabsorbing water. If your body is less hydrated so is your skin, and skin shows it. Yours might feel dry or stretched. Once your system is clear of alcohol, you should see a marked difference in your skin. Not only will your complexion clear up and even out, but the hydration in your skin will lend a more youthful look.
2. You Become Less Susceptible to Cancer
According to Cancer.gov, extensive research has found a "strong scientific consensus" of a correlation between alcohol consumption and several different types of cancer. The thought here is that carcinogens found in alcohol are to blame — the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen. Yikes! Increased alcohol consumption equates to a higher risk of cancer, whereby eliminating alcohol consumption could greatly decrease your risk for cancers of the breast, colon, mouth and more.
3. You Sleep More (and More Soundly)
A study earlier this year in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research suggests that drinking before bed leads to an increase in alpha wave patterns in the brain — predictably, this kind of cerebral tsunami, which typically occurs when you're awake, does not make for restful sleep. Giving up alcohol ups the odds that you will get a full night of deep sleep. Plus, you won't wake up with a hangover so, winning.
4. Your Brain Gets a Boost
Although we wish it wasn't so, drinking alcohol diminishes your mental acuity. Why? Well, my friend, you are inhibiting your hippocampus — that part of your brain which creates memories — thereby essentially rendering yourself incapable of or much less capable of learning and storing new information. Clearly, this does not bode well for team trivia night at your favorite bar.
5. Your Glucose Level Regulates
There's a reason diabetics must exercise extreme caution when imbibing alcohol, and that is because alcohol consumption can cause blood sugar levels to rise or fall. For some people living with diabetes, sharp drops caused by alcohol can lead to dangerously low glucose levels. Surges in the opposite direction can create consistently high blood sugar levels, which can make you more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. When you quit drinking, your blood glucose levels even out — in regards to beneficial dropping, an average reduction in blood glucose of 16 percent is reported.
6. Your Liver Shapes Up
A study by New Scientist in conjunction with the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School found that liver fat decreased by an average of 15 percent when participants gave up alcohol. And since the accumulation of fat in the liver is a sign of early liver damage, this is definitely an organ you want to take care of.
7. Your Muscle Tone Might Improve
If you've been strength-training but feel as though your muscle tone doesn't reflect your efforts, drinking may be to blame. Research shows that alcohol consumption can actually interfere with muscle growth. It also puts a damper on your post-workout recovery process, slowing it down and making it less likely you'll hit the gym as often or with as much intensity as needed to define muscle tone.