How my Dry January turned into a Dry 2020.

Dry January | Alcohol Change UK
Why stop at a month? Set your goals higher.

As alcohol consumption rose throughout 2020 and home drinking (my norm) became everyone else’s norm I am pleased to say I bucked the trend.

Here’s how.

It all started in January with my now regular detox. I’ve been a fan of Dry January for several years and in 2018 my Dry Jan ran until June before I cracked in Italy.

I had piled the pounds on in 2019 and so as my 60th birthday started to focus on my horizon I felt it was time to, once and for all, do something about it after a good effort a decade earlier.

Imagine my horror as I tipped the scales heavier than I had in 2012.

So, Dry Jan was going to be a good focusing point for the start of the diet and, of course, it’s good to have that annual break from the bevvie, isn’t it?

As expected, I successfully negotiated the month (few social distractions) and so ploughed on with the diet (and the dry bit towed along with it). February came and went without much incident and as March kicked off, well, it ALL kicked off. At that point I said to myself I’d stay dry until after the ‘lockdown’ that began on March 26th. By now I was three stone to the good.

I’d also decided to move to a veggie diet (not vegan) in January and I was feeling the benefit of that too.

And as the weight dropped my exercise increased. Mainly walking, but every day. It was having a compound effect.

Well, lockdown came and went, but we hadn’t seen off the virus, so I stuck with it. My birthday in May was negotiated with ease. The distractions of Glastonbury and PrimaveraSound in June were both dispensed with, as they were both cancelled, as was our summer holiday.

Six months in and it was feeling good. Now four and a half stone better off.

Summer turned to autumn. I was now fit and running half marathons and cycling anything up to 85 miles in a trip. The weight continued to fall, peaking at 6 and a half stone.

By now I was into the normal BMI zone and had shed 94 lbs.

I’ve put some on since then, (cheese) but no more than half a stone, so I’m in a good place in that respect.

Of course, not everyone respects your decision to go dry and that’s been a challenge. For some, it seems to be some sort of weakness; not drinking. I faced the same problem in 2018 when I went six months dry. But you just need to rise above the criticism and hold your nerve. You’ll overcome that insidious social pressure to conform. But it’s difficult and unneccessary.

The next hurdle was Christmas and New Year and that’s where I relented. I shared most of a bottle of whisky with Keir and Ria on Christmas Day and I had a smaller tipple on New Year’s Eve, but nothing else.

I enjoyed the whisky. But not THAT much. I didn’t enjoy the day after, AT ALL.

It’s now Jan 6th 2021 and I’m 1 year and 2 days into my self imposed drought.

I feel great, no hangovers, much more energy, better sleep, clearer thinking.

I’ve discovered great alcohol-free alternatives and enjoyed many social events without the need for a drink.

And so it’s Dry Jan #2. Bring it on.

I realise some people will not have had the same success in tackling the bevvie, but I’m happy to share my experience in more detail if you think I can be of any assistance/encouragement. Just get in touch.

Of course, my weight loss had very little to do with coming off the booze, although it helped initially. If you’d like a fuller report on what I’ve been up to you can read an older post I wrote here.

And if you want real professional help my daughter Amy is a hugely successful health and nutrition coach and you can get help from her here. I know many people who have benefitted from her thoughtful and bespoke training and encouragement. (Including me!)

You can do it. You just need to start.

Good luck.

An alcohol free lockdown. (Or, how to fight coronavirus Corona-free)


There have been reports that the average drinker is drinking more in the lockdown caused by Coronavirus.

I’ve done the opposite.

In fact I went dry on January 5th as  part of my annual ‘cleanse’.

As is my want I also began a diet and a new exercise regime that is based principally on walking 10,000 steps a day.

This year, for the first time, I also went vegetarian.

All four disciplines remain fully in effect.

101 days later I find myself 53 pounds lighter and feeling the benefit significantly.

I will report on this in a later post but, for now, I wanted to share with you and encourage you, if you’re thinking of taking the sober plunge, with my observation that not drinking through the lockdown is neither the end of the world, nor an unimaginable fate worse than dearth (pun intended).

One motivator for me in this is that I am self employed.  All of my work has dried up and I am not receiving a penny of government support, despite trying to feed a family of five, all adults, and none of us earning a bean.

My son and my daughter’s boyfreind are both just back from travelling – one was too late to find work and the other was unceremoniously dumped the second things got tough – only a few days before the furlough ruling was approved.

My wife doesn’t work and my daughter is a student.

Luckily I have savings and, let’s be honest, our outgoings are significantly reduced (especially as I was able to negotiate a three month mortgage holiday).

So, not drinking (my wife doesn’t anyway) has meant the budget stretches a fair bit further and that could be a primary motivator for you if you find yourself yearning an alcohol-free life just now.

But is it purgatory?

No, I have to say, the good news is it’s not.

The benefits, aside from financial, are manifold and for some of you that get ‘the fear’ when overindulging – thankfully not something I have ever experienced – that could be the biggest one.

In past purges I have substituted with alcohol-free beer, but I think it’s a bad move.  This time I took a conscious decision not to ‘substitute’ in this way and it lessens the sense that I am being punished.

My poison, instead, has been stove-top coffee (Illy Rosa is the king in my opinion) – caffeinated during the day and decaf in the evening.

Some other low calorie ‘treats’ you might like are frozen grapes.  Truly a guilt-free option of an evening.

You’ll find a number of benefits

  • weight loss – if you’re a fat bastard like me
  • good levels of energy
  • much better sleep
  • excellent concentration – particularly helpful in the endless Zoom quizzes you may be, like me, taking part in.
  • I think, generally speaking, better mental health all round

My advice would be to go ‘cold turkey’ rather than trying to wean yourself off.  Get in a good supply of caffeine free diet coke and the aforementioned coffees, but I like to start with a hangover so that at least on day two you immediately feel better.

If you want any support along the way drop me a line.  I’m happy to personally share my experiences.

Mazel tov.




The annual fast.


My daughter Amy, a nutrition coach, is helping me this year with a plan and it’s off to a very good start.  (You should try her.  She’s amazing.  Contact me and I’ll give you her details.)

I’ll give you a taste of her success to date – 6% body weight loss in three weeks.

My wife has also probably lost more weight than she ever had previously on a diet.  It’s my daughter’s regime that’s keeping her on track this time.

But it’s early days compared to my 160 day alcohol-free abstinence in 2018 (including attending PrimaveraSound completely without a drink.  You can read about the impact of that here.

But it’s good.

21 days in.

Intermittent fasting all the way and an average calorie intake of maybe just over 1,000 a day. (Although my daughter coach insists that is too low and will be putting me a short rebalancing phase soon – when I get to 8 -10% loss.)

One thing I am trying this time round is to not simply replace alcohol with alcohol-free beer which, although excellent these days, simply reminds me that I am not drinking alcohol.  And, in any case, my tipple of choice is wine, not beer, and alcohol-free wine is repugnant.

I do like a bunch of frozen grapes mind you, of an evening.

I think a key to this has been going veggie for the last three weeks, strictly so.  I have eaten some terrific meals – including the best cauliflower cheese I have ever tasted in my life.

I’ve also discovered a superb new stir-fry sauce consisting of light soy, palm sugar, fresh ginger and lime leaves.  To die for (except, ironically, it might do the opposite).  Last night we had it with mushroom, carrot, fennel, radish, onion and red pepper.

If i get any support for this I’ll put the recipes up.

100 (actually 105*) days of not drinking alcohol. (* It ended up being 160!)


I love wine.  I love beer.  I love whisky.

But I drink too much of each.  Period.

So, in January this year I began my now almost customary Dry January (starting on 7th of the month because I was working on a theatre production until then and, of course, that involved drinking each night – not forgetting the after show).

Over the years I have more and more looked forward to, rather than dreaded, Dry January because it has become something of a physical reset button.  Maybe a mental one too.

Now, I don’t do ‘Mindfulness’ in fact I shit on mindfulness.

So, if that’s what floats your boat you won’t find any of that chat in the following paragraphs. (What I will say, though, is that 100 days without alcohol changes your perspective on stuff.  It energises you and if there were no twats in the world you would become very, very calm.  But there are.  Twats, that is. Lots.)

This ain’t no mindfulness lecture.

What do twats do?

Well, for one, they call me boring for not drinking.

My wife hasn’t drunk for six years and that doesn’t make her boring.  She lives with me for fuck’s sake.  It isn’t possible.

One of my friends said to me last week, “Mark, you know when we (twelve blokes) go to Primavera next month and if you decide you aren’t drinking, that’s cool.  Your choice.”

No, David Reid, (for it was he) you were cool for saying that, unsolicited.

(The fact is I did go to PrimaveraSound and I didn’t drink a drop.  It was cool hanging out on the rail at Jon Hopkins – my highlight – with a bunch of pissheads and stoners but enjoying it fully, nonetheless.  I broke in Italy, for the record, in mid-June, as I just couldn’t go two weeks eating without wine.)

So, why, not drink for 100 days (160 actually)?

I honestly don’t really know why.  Well, maybe I do and I’m just not admitting it to myself.

Some of it has to do with the second sentence in this post, and the research that shows that it’s not young people who are over-indulging most these days – it’s 55 year olds like me that are.  That worries me.

More time, cheap booze, plenty disposable income = drinking too much.

Drinking too much = decreasing return on investment and increasing chance of cancer.

But, you know, as Joe Jackson says (sings), everything gives you cancer.  There’s no cure, there’s no answer.

So it can’t be that.

Let’s just say, I’m experimenting.

The experiment so far.

Hypothesis.  Drinking less than the garden pond of beer/wine/whisky a week that I did will have an impact on your body.

Observation. Yes.  It does.

I have lost at least two inches –  I’d say 3 – 4 actually – around my gut.  But this has been helped by my increased exercise (running) and my increasing adherence to a form of fasting diet. No food till noon.

My face is thin as a linguine strand, sadly atop a conchigilie, but, in time, this conchigilie is morphing into a macaroni.

(Shut this fucking pasta strand (no pun intended) down NOW.  Ed.)

My legs are fucked to bits though.  Knees, hamstrings completely kabooshed as I pound my fat carcass around the streets of South Queensferry.

But it’s getting easier.  Not to watch.  To do.  I wear lycra you see, and nothing is as inelegant as a still-a-bit-obese middle aged man in lycra – but it holds my muscles together and stops my breasts slapping my face.

I sleep better.  I can’t actually stay awake past about 10pm.

I work better.  If I had any.

I am calmer.  I’m not.

I remember stuff.  Oh yes baby.  I remember everything.  EVERYTHING.

I am fun.  Debatable.  But I have been to many gigs (and enjoyed them), theatre shows, nights out, parties and not been a wanker.  In my opinion.

I piss like a horse.  I don’t know why, but I do.  Maybe I have pissed 2 inches off my gut.

My shit is exactly the same colour every day.  Tan.  Never black.  Consistent texture too.

I am less sarcastic.  So I am told.  But this post surely undermines that.

I am richer.  This has many caveats but, yes, I have saved some money.

How do I replace the bev?

The answer partly lies with Nanny State by Brew Dog, Piston Head Lager and Erdinger Alcohol Free Isotonic Drink, with a lemonade top because it is gash otherwise.

Thank you Nanny State and Piston Head.  Erdinger, you only get a pass.

The other answer is a new found love of coffee.

(Note: Two years later, and I’m back on Dry January and this time I am eschewing the AFB.  I think it just reminds me that I’m not drinking too much.)

Will it continue?

I don’t know, do I?  I am an addictive personality.  I only have on and off switches.  So when you see me in my natural pre-this-post-state don’t throw it back in my face please.

(Note:  That did indeed happen and I returned fairly quickly to normal and gained weight as a result.  I’m back on it again and hope my willpower will be even stronger this time, although I’m starting to realise it’s not willpower or even commitment.  It’s about self-0realisation.  Maybe it is that wellbeing stuff I dissed above.)

Can you do it?  And what advice would I give?

Yes you can.  Don’t make too much of it.  Set a date a few weeks in advance so that you can blow out before you start.  Starting with a hangover is an EXCELLENT idea.

This blog is good.  Far more thoughtful than this car smash of an advice-piece.

Now, head off to the bar and get me a lime and soda.  Please.





How to lose weight. The easy(ish) way.

I’ve been asked a fair bit about my diet and how it works so effectively.

Here’s what I wrote earlier today.  I hope it helps because it most certainly works for me.


OK. It’s really simple. And involves calories.

You consume as many as you burn and you don’t lose weight. Simple.

So, start from your normal daily burn which for men my size is about 2,500 calories. Cut that by 1,000 and do 1,000 cals of exercise (an hour vigorous workout) and you are at a net 2,000 calorie debt per day. It’s 3,500 calories to lose a pound so I reckon this equates to half a pound a day or 3.5 – 4 lbs a week.

Now, to what to eat. You need to go for slow release foods on so few calories (but you can have lots of them). Alcohol is a total no no.

No simple carbs like bread, cereal, pastry, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, potatoes, fruit juice, white rice and pasta – absolutely none at all

Instead swap those, if you must, for complex carbohydrates like brown rice and wholemeal pasta (in moderation).

Eat lots of pulses (beans and lentils) and protein (lean meat and eggs preferably).

DO NOT go on an Atkins style Protein diet.  THEY DO NOT WORK.

Eat breakfast. An absolute MUST. I have 50g of high fruit and nut muesli (my preference is for Dorset Cereals – the dark green box) supplemented with a lot of fresh fruit in it like melon, blueberries and strawberries and skimmed milk (400 cals approx).

Do not go to Starbucks.  Or if you do, only have an Americano with skimmed milk.

For lunch I have soup and fruit (2 apples usually) – no bread with the soup – or, if at home, a two or 3 egg omelette, no fat in the cooking (just that spray stuff). (300 cals approx)

For dinner I usually have things like stir fries with chicken or prawns or fillet steak. Loads and loads of veg and only a handful of brown rice or 70g of wholemeal pasta. If I’m hungry later on I have those roasted monkey nuts you get in shells at Tesco or another apple. (700 cals approx).

If I cycle in and out of Edinburgh and walk the bridge I’ll burn 4,500 calories and will have lost a pound in a day.

The theory is called food combining (and it’s about managing your blood sugar levels effectively). The book above is magnificent. I swear by it. The Food Doctor Everyday diet by Ian Marber.

Forget the recipes, just read the theory over and over till it sticks.

Do not get in a rut eating the same things every day.

I promise you, you won’t be hungry on this ‘diet’ – although it’s more than a diet, it’s a regime.

The worst bit is the no booze rule but an important principle in the diet is what Marber calls the 80:20 rule in which 20% of the time you relax the regime (for me that means you can have a bev!)

That’s it.

(For the record I lost 64lbs in 138 days last year.  I’ve started it again this year and have lost 11lbs in the first 16 days).  I lost 6 inches round my stomach and 8 from my chest.  My trousers went from size 40/42 to 34 and heading towards a 32  if I keep it up for another month.