Is Damp January the New Dry January?

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Every January, many of us roll out of bed (possibly covered in more holiday cookie crumbs than we’d care to admit) with the well-intentioned goal of having a dry January. After all, there are plenty of Dry January benefits to potentially reap, and the detox feels welcome after a season of carousing with festive cocktails and drinks. Inevitably, however, many fall short of abstaining from alcohol for the whole month—and that’s where the concept of Damp January comes in.

Here, we spoke with Olympia Rusu, a board-certified holistic nutritionist, about the effects alcohol can have on the body and what can happen when you remove it from your diet. Low-ABV (alcohol by volume) beverage producers Jilly Hendrix, CEO and Founder of BODY vodka and Grant Hemingway, co-founder of Libby Wines talk about alternatives that may help keep you on track to a successful Damp January.

31 Mocktail Recipes That Go Beyond Seltzer and Fruit Juice

Meet the Experts

  • Jilly Hendrix, CEO and founder of BODY.

What Is Damp January and How's It Different from Dry January?

Dry January began in 2013 as a campaign by Alcohol Change UK after one staffer had shared she was giving up drinking for a month. The campaign's goal? To start a conversation about healthy drinking habits. Following the initiative, participants were surveyed, and results showed that 70 percent were drinking “less riskily than before. Almost a quarter of the people who were drinking at ‘harmful’ levels before the campaign are now in the low-risk category.”

Since then, the interest in Dry January has grown well beyond a campaign. According to Mintel, a consumer trends report agency, “social media analysis reveals social mentions of ‘Dry January’ increased 89 percent from 2018 to 2019 and 1,083 percent from 2015 to 2019.” It even dubbed Generation Z the “sober generation.”

However, giving up any habit can be incredibly difficult, which is why many people find they can’t commit to a whole 31 days. There are after-work mixers and birthdays and brunch. Sometimes, it feels like you must choose: Social life or giving up alcohol? This is, in part, why the concept of a Damp January has been picking up steam.

Damp January is seen by many as a more approachable way to reduce alcohol consumption. Instead of cold-turkey quitting, a person instead chooses to drink more intentionally and not every time the opportunity presents itself.

Who Is Damp January For?

Originally, Damp January has been a fallback for those who found themselves slipping on the Dry January front, but anyone can participate in Damp January. What’s most important is that you’re making a commitment you feel good about—not one that discourages you. And, says Rusu, any step is a good step. Just make sure to set a goal that’s comfortable and not throwing yourself off the deep end.

“I believe that even the smallest step towards moderation, whether done cold turkey or gradually, is a step in the right direction,” she writes to PureWow. “It is important to note, though, that alcohol consumption, just like coffee or sugar or even media, can be an addiction. Oftentimes, removing a substance for a time may lead to withdrawals or intense relapses when the ‘freedom’ is given back once [Dry] January is over. As with anything, use caution and be realistic about your expectations and your abilities before jumping one way or the other into major behavioral changes.”

What Are the Benefits of Participating in Damp January?

Consuming anything in excess can be harmful, but Rusu maintains that alcohol has much more power to affect the body than other substances.

“Other than water and certain salts, alcohol is one of the only substances that are absorbed directly through the stomach into the bloodstream,” she shares. “This is why alcohol affects blood sugar levels, proper stomach function, vitamin B12 production, the immune system, hormones, liver detox pathways, gut microbiome, sleep and skin—just to name a few. Additionally, many modern alcoholic beverages, from beer to wine to hard liquors, contain harmful additives, mycotoxins and pesticides that have been linked to a number of diseases.”

Even if you don’t wish to commit to a dry month, a small effort to limit your drinks could help put you on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

What Are Some Actionable Steps?

So you want to make a plan for Damp January, but don’t know where to begin? Start here and modify based on what you need.

Know the CDC Safe Drinking Recommendation

The CDC states that women should stick to one drink per day and men should cap it at two. What is a standard drink, you ask? That’s defined as 12 ounces of beer, eight ounces of malt liquor, five ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor.  

Set Attainable Goals

Try allotting yourself a limited number of drinks per week and then plan your important social commitments (birthdays, big events) with that in mind. And, when you find yourself in a situation where you will be drinking, you can do things like purposefully drink slowly (see if you can be the last one to finish your drink), don't top off and set boundaries. Maybe that’s ordering a mocktail on round two (this writer’s go-to order at any bar is a Shirley Temple) or having a glass of water or another non-alcoholic beverage. Perhaps something that could be most effective? Find an accountability partner. That way, someone is checking in on you (and vice versa) and if you happen to be at events together, it’s easier to say no when someone else is, too.

Try Lower-ABV Drinks

Short for “alcohol by volume,” different beverages have corresponding ABVs. For example, distilled spirits have 40 percent ABV, while wine has 12 percent. There are many retailers crafting low-ABV drinks that have significantly less alcohol, like Libby Wines (8 percent ABV) and BODY (vodka with 30 percent ABV).

While there are some misconceptions that lower-ABV drinks are less palatable, diluted or unbalanced, that’s not necessarily the case.

“Most vodkas are produced at 40 percent ABV. BODY is still a distilled spirit, but produced at 30 percent alcohol,” Hendrix tells us. “This technically makes it a specialty category, but the flavor profile is incredibly similar to what people would expect from a higher proof vodka. We’re seeing a trend now of people opting for low-ABV drinks as the interest in moderation and improving health and wellness continues to grow.”

Plus, there are perks to choosing a low-ABV drink (we’re eyeballing Libby’s Bubble Pack) over a traditionally crafted beverage.

“What’s amazing about low-ABV beverages in today’s age is with advanced technology and innovative blending, you can still have great tasting liquid without the full octane ‘buzz’ you would get from a normal drink,” shares Hemingway. “One of the benefits of low-ABV is also fewer calories because the alcohol level is one of the major contributors to calories in alcoholic beverages, the other being sugar.”  

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