What with FebFast, Dry July and Ocsober we now have three months of the year when we can commit to not drinking for a month for the sake of good causes – and our livers. Now, along comes Droptober, which is about spending a month trying out new eating and exercise habits with the aim of losing two kilos for charity – and our waistlines.
Do these months have any value for improving our health? I think these dry months are a great way to rethink how much we drink. They're not about giving up alcohol for good - although they can help normalise not drinking – instead they remind us that a break from alcohol doesn't necessarily take something away, but can give something back, like a clearer head, better skin and more money.
As for Droptober, now in its second year, the idea is that maybe some of the changes people make will stick around for good.
They have for Sara Howard, a 40 year old copywriter with two children whose new habits peeled off five kilos over a month – and this is the important bit – the weight has stayed off 12 months later.
“I liked the idea that Droptober was about dropping just two kilos – I thought 'I could do that',” says Howard, whose new habits began with downloading a food diary incorporating a kilojoule counter on to her phone.
“Once I could see what I was eating - and how many kilojoules there were in things like three full cream lattes- it became easier to make smarter choices, “ she says. “They weren't big changes – I switched to low fat milk, I ate an apple instead of a muffin. If I was making lasagne for the family I ate a smaller portion but with more salad. After two weeks I had a new way of eating.”
A food diary app also worked for 36-year-old Lindsey Hoad who after losing almost six kilos in Droptober 2011 went on to lose another 17 kilos which have also stayed off. The diary helped her monitor what she ate and kept her accountable, says Hoad who works in marketing and financial services.
Backing up Howard and Hoad's experience is research that keeping a daily record of what you eat and drink can help keep you on the right track. The most recent is a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the US that found that over a 12 month period women who kept food journals lost more weight than those who didn't.
What else works?
Taking lunch to work – either leftovers from dinner or a salad, made a big difference Howard's eating habits.
“It means I'm not nipping out for a BLT or buying chicken and chips and it saved me a fortune,” she says.
Hoad also kept junk food out of the house and only bought healthy food. “I also check restaurant menus before I go – and if it looks hard to find the right food, I'll ask friends if we can go somewhere else. It's also about prioritising time to exercise," she says. Everyone finds an hour to go on Facebook or watch TV. You can always fit in a 30 minute run.
“This is the first time in six years that I've been able to maintain my weight and the hardest thing is getting started. You keep putting it off. You say to yourself 'I'll have this pizza and then I'll do something about it tomorrow'. The whole premise of Droptober is about getting started and changing habits that set you up for success — and the fact that you're raising money is an extra commitment factor.”
Losing two kilos for Droptober will raise funds for children's charities Variety and the Kids for Life Foundation.
There's good advice to get you there from experts like Droptober's organiser, personal trainer Mike Jarosky, and nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan on www.droptober.com.au
Paula Goodyer blogs at smh.com.au/chewonthis