Dasani pineapple jalapeno sparkling mocktails. Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Mardi Gras is less than a month away. For many New Orleanians, Ash Wednesday, the official end of Carnival season and all of its excesses, is a great time to renew health resolutions.
To that end, we wanted to put our annual NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune Alcohol Free for 40 Challenge on your radar.
The challenge is simple: Give up all alcohol from Ash Wednesday until Easter.
The results can be profound: “This challenge has changed my life” is something we’ve heard from participant after participant since we began this challenge in 2016.
Here’s what’s new this year:
· AFF40 2.0: We’re upping our game with #AlcoholFreeFor40 2.0. You can still do the traditional challenge but we highly recommend the 2.0 version, which includes nixing sugar and white carbs as well.
· Mocktail + workout meet-ups: We’re in it with you. We’ll have mocktail meet-ups, including workouts, around the city with low-sugar, Eat Fit mocktails.
· See lab results (nearly) instantly: Participants will be able to see pre- and post-lab results online within days.
· Visual summary: At the end of the challenge, each participant will receive a one-page graphic summary of before-and-after results, including pre- and post-challenge close-up photos.
Molly Kimball at a AFF40 kick-off party. Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Before you start: Take a moment to establish your baseline metrics. Do this before you stop drinking, or shortly after.
The metrics include:
· Recording your weight.
· Taking a close-up photo of your face so that you can see the details of your eyes and skin.
· Asking your doctor to run the following lab tests that are either indicators of overall health or specific markers of inflammation, liver health and alcohol toxicity: CBC (complete blood count), CMP (comprehensive metabolic panel), lipid panel, GGT (gamma glutamyl transferase), Vitamin B12 and folate panel, hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein) and ESR (sedimentation rate).
Rather than go to your doctor, you can sign up at eventbrite.com to get your pre-challenge metrics evaluated at our #AlcoholFreeFor40 kickoff event at Ochsner Fitness Center’s FUEL Café + Market on March 7. The cost is $25. .
Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
WHY TAKE THE CHALLENGE?
We get it. The idea of going alcohol-free for an extended period of time can be daunting, because liquor is layered into so much of our culture.
To top that off, we are encouraging you abstain for 46 days adding in the six Sundays, which are traditionally not considered part of the Lenten fast.
On the plus side, you won’t have to go it alone. This challenge comes with lots of support throughout. And trust us, the rewards are worth it.
Here’s just a snapshot of the many benefits that this extended detox will have on your mind, body and spirit. How do we know? We have participant comments dating back to 2016.
Within days you’ll notice more energy, improved sleep quality, clearer eyes with less under-eye circles
Within one week you’ll notice less fluid retention and can start to see brighter skin (conditions like rosacea often improve). You’ll also probably notice fewer cravings, mental clarity and ability to focus.
Within a month you can start to see and feel the changes in weight (particularly if alcohol was contributing a significant bit of excess calories) as well as healthier hair, nails and digestion.
Beyond 40 days: The benefits aren’t limited to the days of the challenge. Feedback from past participants is that for many, the Alcohol Free for 40 challenge is a reset that stays with them.
Even when they go back to drinking, the frequency and volume of alcohol is reduced, and their awareness of their drinking patterns is enhanced. A 2018 review from the University of Sussex validated this with similar results, finding that people who participated in “Dry January” drank about 25 percent less often. Of the participants, 58 percent saw lost weight, 67 percent had more energy and 71 percent slept better.
Why cut sugar and white carbs, too? In the four years that we’ve led and taken part in this challenge, we have heard from participants that cravings for sugary treats and carb-loaded dishes become more intense during the challenge. Replacing alcohol with such foods can lead to weight gain and feeling sluggish. To combat that, we’re recommending that folks consider eliminating empty carbs, such as sugar, pasta and white bread, from their diet. If that’s too big a lift, then consider significantly cutting back on such foods for the duration.
Photo by Noah Simon
ALCOHOL FREE FOR 40 KICKOFF EVENT DETAILS
To make it as easy as possible, participants who commit to the full 40-day challenge can have their pre-and post-challenge lab tests done and blood pressure and body composition checked, as well as get pre- and post-challenge close-up photos, for $25 (a value of more than $200) at the #AlcoholFreeFor40 kickoff party on March 7, from 4 to 8 p.m., at Ochsner Fitness Center’s FUEL Café + Market at 1200 S. Clearview Parkway in Metairie.
The event is free to attend and will feature Ochsner Eat Fit-approved mocktails and small bites from FUEL Café + Market at Ochsner Fitness Center, Big Easy Bucha, Andi Lynn’s, CitroNOLA, Dasani Sparkling and Swerve Sweetener.
Stop by to meet others who are taking the #AlcoholFreeFor40 challenge, and take advantage of the specials that our Ochsner Fitness Center team is offering participants:
· 40 for $40: A 40-day Alcohol Free For 40 fitness center membership for $40. Regular fees would be $110.
· 10 percent off FUEL Café + Market at Ochsner Fitness Center for the duration of the challenge.
· Small group training: 12 sessions for $390 for AFF40 participants. The regular fee is $420.
· 10 percent off one-on-one personal training.
Advance registration is required to have your blood screening at our opening event.Availability is limited to the first 200 attendees who register through Eventbrite.com. This event usually sells out.
Those taking part are asked to make a blood donation at the time of the blood draw. This partnership with the blood bank is how Ochsner is able to keep the lab cost down. For those who cannot donate blood for medical or other reasons, however, Ochsner’s Corporate Wellness team handle blood draws.
Even if you can’t make it to the event, you can still join the #AlcoholFreeFor40 Challenge. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or visit an urgent-care clinic to get your blood screening done before going alcohol-free.
Where to find that support? If you’re interested but concerned about sticking with it, don’t do this alone. Recruit friends to join you or interact with fellow participants on social media by using and looking for the #AlcoholFreeFor40 hashtag.
Join the #AlcoholFreeFor40 group on Facebook. There, you can send messages and ask questions, follow the journey of others and share your own experiences, challenges, successes, mocktail recipes and photos. Go there now to see messages from past participants.
Have questions? Send an email to me directly if you’d like, at EatingRight@nola.com. All personal information will be kept confidential.