“Over the course of a month there are situations, usually of a social nature, that invite people to uncork a bottle or take a cane, and I have decided not to fall into temptation.” Image: photo bank file

Do not misinterpret the headline: it is not an “alcoholic anonymous” type statement. I am what the World Health Organization would call a “moderate” drinker, someone who simply likes to have a glass of wine at meals. I do not drink liquors or mixed drinks. And when I go out, I do not over-indulge. I also want to believe that responsible consumption is good for your health. I trust the Mayo Clinic (USA) when it suggests that wine polyphenols, when consumed sparingly, protect the heart. I also believe another study that says moderate drinkers live longer than those who never drink.

Some readers may think that going a month without drinking alcohol has no merit: there are people who never drink. However, the figures show that most of us do. According to the Ministry of Health’s report Alcohol, Tobacco and Illegal Drugs in Spain, 64.4 percent of Spaniards have drunk alcohol in the last 30 days. Even the most strict will have a glass of wine at a dinner party.

“I have done it for three reasons: to lose weight, to feel healthier and more agile, and to see if I can resist the temptation”

I have deprived myself of even that, for a month, for three reasons. One, lose weight. I’m the kind of person to who others will say, “You’re not fat,” but secretly knows that he is. If I stop drinking two glasses of wine I will avoid consuming 150 calories (628 kilojoules). Instead of drinking wine with my meals, I will drink alcohol-free beer, which has 26 calories (109 kilojoules) per 100 grams.

The second reason is to find out if one feels more healthy, agile, plugged in or inspired.

The third is to check, simply, if resisting temptation is possible. Over the course of a month there are situations, usually of a social nature, that invite you to uncork a bottle.

Step down in the wine aisle

Unlike fruits and vegetables, buying wine at the supermarket has always seemed a very satisfying experience. Time stops while I select vintages, inspect varietials and admire labels. So much so, that once in the middle of the process I received a WhatsApp that said: “Has something happened to you? I’ve been waiting for you for half an hour.” It was from my partner, and I suspect he was not interested in my health.

Now, instead, I avoid looking down the corridors of wine and liquor and I come back to the beer aisle, where there is not much to select, inspect or admire. But here is a curious finding: alcohol-free beer has alcohol. It can contain a very small amount of alcohol (less than 0.05 percent by law). As the challenge is not to drink even a drop of alcohol, I buy two packs of six of “0.0” which, I hope, will last me for a whole week.

My new and healthy concoctions

Call me practical, but the one good thing about drinking directly from a can is that there is no glass to wash afterwards. That thought crosses my very clear mind on the first day of abstinence. Then, while I taste this brew without a single trace of alcohol, I find that it tastes pretty good.

“Call me practical, but the one good thing about drinking directly from a can is that there is no glass to wash afterwards. That thought crosses my very clear mind on the first day of abstinence”

Additionally, I check ecstatically how the pile of empty bottles of wine, which normally grows with astonishing speed, has been invisible, which serves as a very good sign.

The waiter notices that my hands are sweating

Seeing as I have to read several books for an article, I decide to take a seat on the terrace and make the most of the weather. When the waiter arrives at my table, I have my doubts about ordering. I want to ask for a “0.0” beer instead of a alcohol-free beer that still contains 0.05 percent alcohol. But if I specify too  much, will not I be like one those fussy eaters who ask for coffee with warm milk, semi-skimmed, in glass and with sweetener instead of sugar?

Self-conscious, I ask for n alcohol-free beer. Thankfully, the waiter, who must have noticed how my hands were sweating, brings me a “0.0”. The only issue? It comes with three tapas. I want to say “I want to lose weight, don’t you get it? Do not swell me with chips, olives and salad”. Somewhat defeated, I skip the chips and olives, but eat the salad.

I catch up with colleagues and …

I meet three old friends whom I had not seen for four years. We met at a hamburger and rib restaurant (which we frequented 15 years ago) and the nostalgia seems to enable the consumption of beer. However, I resist temptation and order myself a “0.0”. Surprisingly, one of my friends seconds my order, another asks for a zero soda and the final one stands out with water. God, we’ve hit a low!

“When I ask for my ‘0.0’, a friend seconds me with another, the third one asks for a ‘zero’ drink and the fourth one stands out with water, God, we’ve hit a low!”

 

Food with wine without alcohol

In the past, I used to bring a bottle of wine to meals. As I am involved in this experiment, I resort to wine without alcohol, of which I have not spoken well of. But if beer without alcohol is decent, why wouldn’t it be the same for wine?

My relationship with this unique product starts badly: it takes 20 minutes to locate in the supermarket (and with the help of an employee). When I bring it to the table, my sister-in-law breaks the silence with: “But wine without alcohol is not wine.” Everyone to whom I speak of about this drink, in which I now have great hopes, tells me the same thing. I come out in its defence brandishing the label: they have taken normal wine, and through a complicated process they have removed the alcohol. And then we taste it… It’s terrible. I politely remove the bottle from the table and ask my mother if, by any chance, she has any alcohol-free beer in the fridge. Yes, she has a solitary can of alcohol-free beer.

“As I am involved in this experiment, I resort to wine without alcohol, of which I have not spoken well of. But if beer without alcohol is decent, why wouldn’t it be the same for wine?”

with the parents of the school

The potential of alcohol as a social lubricant is well known. In fact, “social” drinkers have more friends, according to a study by the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) published in December 2016. Socialising on Friday afternoons with the parents from the school seems to confirm it: it’s an excuse for mums and dads to drink while the children make their own fun. Now that I do not drink, will I remain silent, excluded? I have myself a “0.0”. And no, I do not remain silent or excluded. I even notice that I’m more alert than I am on other Fridays.

Dinner with a couple

Nobody in their right mind thinks that substituting wine for water will be a fine accompaniment to a good dinner. But here I am with my “0.0” beers, which I have already bought a box of 24 of as I have become accustomed to the taste and am happy drinking them as they do not make you get fat! Yes, I have become an addict. When in the middle of the dinner I reach for a second, and then a third, my partner does not look at me badly, unlike those times when I was served more wine. But drinking so much beer has two consequences, neither of which are pleasant. The first is that you need to take more trips to the bathroom. The second is that is produces a build-up of gases, whereby a moment of solitude is in order before getting into bed.

Conclusion of my month without alcohol: have I lost weight?

– As I decide not to weigh myself until the end, I interpret the fact of feeling lighter as a good sign. I am able to go up and down the stairs of the apartment with a cheerful teenage trot (although it is also true that I live on the first floor).

– Psychologically, I feel great as having been able to keep up the challenge increases my self-esteem.

“Psychologically I feel great having been able to keep up the challenge increases my self-esteem”

– An unexpected effect is that my interest in wine has decreased considerably.

– When I get on the scale, I am tremendously disgust as I weigh about the same as I did 30 days ago. I go through all the stages studied by psychology for bad news (denial, anger, acceptance, etc.) in the course of five minutes, and then I understand: yes, I have banished alcohol, but my diet has not changed at all.

I read that the kilojoules in conventional beer are mostly from alcohol, while those in  alcohol-free beer are 85 percent carbohydrates. I ask nutritionist Roberto Cabo what this means. He says, “There are two types of carbohydrates: the complex ones (found in legumes, rice, pasta) and the simple ones, also called sugars (found in sweets, cakes, etc).”

Perhaps I should have forgone the beer and opted for water after all.

thoughts?