I love a good glass (or three) of wine.
I love the taste of a Californian chardonnay or the ease of an Italian montepulciano. I enjoy the social aspect of bonding with friends – old and new – while drinking. I think alcohol is invaluable in having a good holiday while overseas. I crave that sense of relaxation that a drink brings after an awful day at work.
It's winter soon. If you're in the capital like me, or otherwise outside of Auckland, you're already experiencing single-digit temperatures in the evenings. It's cold and nobody wants to go out anymore. This is exactly why winter is the ideal time to go on a health-and-body boost and stop getting drunk completely.
During an average week during the height of summer, I might end up tipsy-to-drunk three times a week. All those after-work drinks on balmy evenings, weekend nights out on the lash with mates, Sunday barbecues ... they're impossible (and too much fun) to avoid.
As the temperatures have cooled in the last month or so, I think I've only been drunk once (and was still in bed by 11.30pm).
The next few months are commonly known as the period everyone gets fatter. We're supposed to be putting on "winter weight"; comforting ourselves with bowls of pasta and easing back on the exercise regimen with the confidence that our bodies won't be seen by others until at least September. Nobody goes into winter thinking they're going to come out fitter.
But if you stop getting drunk as I will, it's going to be a real possibility. I want to emerge in the springtime with a better mind and body than I have today.
When you get inebriated, your entire metabolism slows down. Your body is so focused on alcohol as a toxin so your general metabolic rate can run like a tortoise for several hours while it rids itself of the poison.
On top of that, when you're drunk you get hungrier (enter the 2am Burger King queue), and the next day when you're hungover, you continue to crave carbohydrates to counter your tiredness. Moreover, those Sundays in bed seriously limit your mobility and calories burned.
The result, week after week, month after month? Easy weight gain. Especially for folks like me in their 30s and older.
Alcohol isn't all bad, so I don't have to stop drinking altogether, and neither do you. The most influential studies on alcohol consumption have found that the metabolism actually speeds up if you have one – but never more than two – drinks a day. It doesn't have to be wine, either: all alcohol has that effect as long as you strictly never go over the two-standard-drink limit.
When I go out on a Saturday night and really screw my metabolism over, I calculate that I have about 6-8 drinks to get me sufficiently boozed. That's about my limit to stay in the Fun Lee Zone and not get sick (and ghost my mates). Instead of drinking those six-odd glasses of wine in one go, my winter plan is to spread them out over the week: a glass a night. I'll still be drinking the same but I won't be damaging my body doing it.
I foresee this as being more effective than the cold turkey route. I've done that one before when on muscle-building benders, and the result is counterproductive. Not only does zero alcohol fail to increase my metabolism, but because I'm denying myself, I begin to crave it. I might go a week – even two or three – but my desire to emotionally let loose gets the best of me and I end up getting completely plastered.
Conveniently, one or two drinks are also my personal limit for legal driving. All I need to do to stick to this wintertime health plan is to always drive to social events so I self-regulate. This will positively affect my pocket, too, as I can have a few months off the $50 Uber rides home and won't need to buy rounds at the bar anymore.
When you're not getting drunk, you're not getting hungover either. Typical winter comforts are easier to abstain from when your head is right. I find it far easier to get up on cold mornings and force my arse to the gym when I don't feel impaired by a hangover. Keeping to my regular diet is easier too because I don't want to binge-eat half a loaf of bread.
Winter is the perfect time to stop getting drunk. Join me on my quest, and we can all come out of the season feeling good about ourselves. We have nothing to lose except any excess weight we've piled on from previous winters.