Melanie: In 2016 when Registered Dietitian, author, podcaster and Eat Fit NOLA founder Molly Kimball announced the first #AlcoholFreeFor40 Challenge I decided to go for it. Frankly, laying off of the booze after a full Carnival season and excessive Fat Tuesday sounded pretty welcome. It was an interesting psychological, physical and social experiment, which I blogged about in this space and explored questions like: Will I have the willpower? Will I sleep better, have clearer skin, more energy and maybe even lose a few pounds, as Kimball suggested? Will I have as much fun at happy hour, parties and concerts? Do I even like mocktails? (The answers are yes, yes, sort of, yes, no — ugh — mostly, but I definitely didn’t stay out as late and yes, I even created my own recipes.) Over the past four years, the challenge has grown. Now, participants are treated to discounted biometric screenings through Ochsner, free happy hour workouts, meetups, mocktail recipes and a list of bars and restaurants offering mocktails, many developed with the Eat Fit/#AlcoholFreeFor40 team. All of that sounded pretty appealing and welp, a few weeks ago I signed up! What?!
Several friends and family members are surprised, because after completing the challenge last time, I decided that, while a worthwhile endeavor, I didn’t see enough changes to do it again. It was heartening to know that I don’t drink enough to warrant huge psychological, physiological or social changes, but it all felt a little “been there; done that” each time the challenge came around again. I can’t really tell you what is different this time, other than just feeling ready again. Also, I leveled up my fitness routine last year by training for the Crescent City Classic 10k, several 5ks and finally — surprising everyone, including myself — the Big Easy Half Marathon. I like the idea of gauging my performance sans alcohol and perhaps actually dropping a few pounds this time around, since I exercise way more than I did in 2016. Also, about a month ago I got serious about better nutrition and started using the Noom app. Exercise + Nutritious/Moderate Eating = Bikini Bod, right? So, here we are.
My colleague Ashley McLellan also signed up, so we’re going to blog our way through it, offering up tips, tricks, mocktail recipes, non-alcoholic beverage reviews and insights into our experience. So, stick around for that good stuff, or hate read at the temporary teetotalers and taunt us online with Instagram pics of you sipping a crisp rosé, cheersing frosty mugs of beer at the bar and clinking cocktails. We can take it! (We hope.) Oh, and Kimball has invited us onto her podcast around the halfway point of the challenge. Stay tuned for the release date.
Ashley: As with most things, New Orleans celebrates everything a little longer and a little more fabulously. After the celebration, we also take things one step further.
Keep your month-long Dry January; we party hard all the way from Twelfth Night through to Mardi Gras Day, and when Ash Wednesday comes around, we go Alcohol Free for 40 (days of Lent that is) adding 10 WHOLE DAYS to the dry-out. Or at least some do.
While I have done a sort-of “dry Lent” before, it has always included lots of feast days and exclusions for work, celebrations (St. Paddy’s Day!) and so forth.
For this Eat Fit Alcohol Free for 40 challenge, I may allow myself one feast day, although I will try to avoid any, and will end my challenge at the finish line of the Crescent City Challenge 10k run on the Saturday before Easter (yes, one day early) because I will deserve it. That finish-line Michelob Ultra’s not going to drink itself.
What challenges am I expecting to face? I generally have anxiety and end of the workday stress (I have two teen boys at home), so I am expecting to have an increase in nervous anxiety in the beginning. But I am hoping to curb that through work outs and meditation with help from apps like Calm. I am also going to investigate natural stress relievers, such as CBD. What’s that all about anyway? This intrepid reporter will find out.
What am I hoping to get out of it? I would love to lose some weight. Also, I’m hoping to see an increase in my sleep quality. I’ve heard some people report glowing skin, which would be amazing. Finally, since I run each morning, I’d like to see if those a.m. workouts get easier, faster, better throughout the 40 days.
Most importantly, how will I reward myself? We all need goals, and for me, I like presents. I will give myself the gift of a new pack of tarot cards, maybe a new pair of running shoes, a bottle of nice bubbles (the alcohol kind, although the bath kind is also good) and take-out from my favorite local restaurant.
Will it be the longest 40 days of my life? Maybe. But we will get through it. Stay tuned for all the best tips and tastiest non-alcoholic drinks I can find.
Do you want to take the challenge? It runs from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26) until Easter (April 12). Sign up for free on Ochsner’s #AlcoholFreeFor40 page. If you decide to participate, use the hashtag #AlcoholFreeFor40 and share your progress in the comments. For questions about the program, email Kimball at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @mollykimballrd.
Follow Melanie’s stone cold sober bon vivanting on Instagram at @melaniewarnerspencer.
Follow Ashley’s NOLA sober swizzle trip through mocktails and more at @taraashleymclellan on Instagram.