Here's why Dry January is terrible and you should stop doing it

Getty/ Marco Di Lauro

We share a mutual contempt for smug people on the Internet (and in real life) who proudly boast that they have the ability to forgo alcohol for extended periods of time.

If you have engaged in social media in 2016, you’ve probably heard of Dry January, Dryuary, or Drynuary, the latter of which sounds like cold medicine. The concept is simple, albeit Puritanical: participants simply do not drink alcohol for the first month of the new year. The execution, however, is downright infuriating.

Dryuary is not for people wishing to better their lives, it’s for people who wish to publicly better their lives, and inadvertently shame those who continue to indulge in the semi-frequent glass of wine.

In an era of juice cleanses and Crossfit selfies, it’s yet another way to signify a dedication to health of uncertain nutritional value. Ironically — but perhaps unsurprisingly — there is no concrete evidence that Dryuary is a healthy decision.

In fact, some experts say that completely cutting alcohol from your diet can be problematic for a number of reasons. Ian Hamilton, lecturer of the department of health sciences at York University, told Discovery News that if people who are dependent on alcohol completely cut it out from their diets, the sudden change can induce seizures or cause hallucinations. While this shouldn’t be a concern for most Dryuary participants, it highlights the importance of the less sexy moderation as opposed to the flashy all-or-nothing approach of Dryuary.

“It would be better to have two alcohol free days each week all year rather than one month abstinence,” says Hamilton.

There is some evidence that quitting drinking, even for a short period, can reduce the risk of liver damage and improve blood glucose levels. However, evidence that Dryuary has any long-term positive results is lacking — especially if participants return to their original drinking habits after the month is over. Most research on crash diets indicates that diets that focus on a period of restriction instead of long-term changes results in a speedy return to prior habits — plus potential bingeing — and a loss of any short-term health benefits.

One of the most rational takes on the concept of a dry January, in fact, seems to come from the founder.

“Half of the point of Drynuary is to live your life as you normally do, just without drinking,” John Ore, who is credited with coming up with the idea in 2006, wrote last year in Slate.

Ore allows for exceptions and generally focuses on Dryuary as a fun challenge — not a performative exercise in one-upsmanship.

We concede: there is nothing wrong with wanting to abstain from drinking or wishing to behave more abstemiously. Any moderate drinker who has lessened his or her drinking knows the benefits are obvious: you sleep better, you think better, you operate as a human better. But there’s something to be said for people who have the ability to truly drink socially — that is, one glass of wine at a social function versus getting sloppy — or people who can commit to drinking only on weekends. Most of us probably lack that strength and drink too much. Dryuary is a way of saying, “I’m better than all of you.”

Because no one silently does Dryuary. People write about it on the Internet. Consider this Refinery29 editor who has made a career out of omitting fun things from her life, from coffee to take-out food (which, arguably, is a fair and difficult challenge that can improve your wallet and cooking skills). During her several Dryuary experiences, she has amassed plenty of knowledge, such as what it is like to have perfect, glowing skin after two weeks without a drink and how her
friends are terrible people (they “kind of suck,” she writes.) She claims that if you omit drinking from your life, you might learn the same. 

The public component to Dryuary is even more ostensible when you go beyond the blogosphere and look at social media. Currently, there are more than 32,000 Instagram posts under the hashtag “DryJanuary,” plus several hundred more under “Dryuary” and “Drynuary.” Social media allows for connection and a sense of community — and that can be a good thing. But, it also helps users conflate an ego boost from a handful of “likes” with a functioning health plan. It additionally perpetuates the wrong reasons to do Dryuary in the first place. Doing it to feel more clear-headed and as a kickstart to a healthier lifestyle for the new year is great; doing it to criticise those who continue to drink as hedonistic human waste is not a great reason.

Ultimately, if you want to take a month off of alcohol, there is nothing we can do to stop you. We even salute you for your noble strength. We’re not going to ostracize you or publicly shame your personal temperance movement. Indeed, we’re more than happy to join you for sober activities and promise not to force you to do any keg stands. In fact, just because we enjoy going out for drinks doesn’t make us boring people. We read books! We drink coffee! We see movies! We go the gym! We (admire those who) craft! But, please realise that this isn’t a long-term health plan or something you need to evangelize constantly. Yes, we acknowledge: you have done something that we have not.

In other words: please #DryJanuary responsibly.

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