FebFast is growing in popularity, with millions in funds raised since 2008 and thousands of Australians expected to participate this year. But what about the health benefits for you, the abstainer?
Every year FebFast asks people to make a pledge to abstain from alcohol, sugar, junk food or some other bad habit of their choosing. Funds raised go to various partner organisations supporting disadvantaged youth around Australia.
Dry July is another popular annual alcohol-free campaign, which has so far raised $37 million for people affected by cancer.
It’s not only worthy charities that benefit though - you can improve your own health by giving up alcohol for a month.
Improved sleep, better energy levels
We’ve known for a long time that alcohol disturbs our sleep patterns. The DrinkWise organisation warns that “Lack of sleep or poor sleep affect your health and quality of life, causing fatigue, poor concentration and memory, mood disturbances, impaired judgment and reaction time, and poor physical coordination.”
The good news is 44% of Febfasters polled by Febfast report getting better sleep during their fast and 60% believe they’re more productive at work.
Sydneysider Jane is 46 and has done both Febfast and Dry July multiple times. As a person who looks after her body with exercise and good nutrition, she’s already quite fit, but as she told TAL in an interview, “after a few days I find my sleep overall is better and I have more energy.”
VicHealth research into Febfast participation reported that 38.1% lost weight during Febfast.
In a survey conducted by Dry July in 2018, 33% of participants said they had changed their diets or eaten healthier more healthily during the month, and 30% started exercising or exercised more, according to a spokesperson from the organisation.
31-year-old Dan has done alcohol-free periods a few times, which he told TAL was initially to raise money, but now more for health and fitness. After combining his fast with other lifestyle changes like increased exercise, less coffee and a better diet, he’s managed to lose up to 10kg over four to six weeks of alcohol fasting, albeit with some initial withdrawal symptoms.
Drinking alcohol can affect your liver or cause brain damage, heart disease, high blood pressure and increases your risk of many cancers, according to the Australian Department of Health.
Whether one alcohol-free month makes a difference in preventing serious diseases like these is still up for debate.
For some people though, Febfast and Dry July definitely act as a catalyst for a new health regime, with the DryJuly survey showing that 74% of 2018 Dry July participants said their outlook on alcohol consumption had changed because of Dry July, and 77% saying they will drink less having completed Dry July.
29-year-old Jaxon is a prime example. His first month of abstinence in 2010 kick-started a weight loss journey that resulted in 10kg lost. That’s something to get excited about, given the health risks around being overweight explored in our own blog article.
“Dry July has helped me cut down on how much I drink during the other 11 months of the year, as I know how amazing I feel when I'm not drinking,” Jaxon told TAL.
Taking charge of your health
Having a break from alcohol allows your organs, tissues and essential systems a much-needed re-boot, especially if you’ve been overindulging. Taking these kinds of pro-active steps is all part of a preventative approach to health, a topic we covered on our own Slice of Life blog.
For those health issues you can’t control, TAL offers insurances including Life Insurance, Total Permanent Disability (TPD) Insurance, Recovery Insurance and Income Protection Insurance to provide income for you and your family if you’re sick, injured or in the event of your death.