Every year, after a booze drenched summer, thousands of Aussies sign up for a month of tea-totaling, begging their livers for forgiveness for their summer of debauchery.

As February graces our doorstep, we thought it best to chat with an expert before leaping into a month going dry, for FebFast. Kathryn Hawkins is an accredited dietitian and nutritionist and knows a thing or two about what we should and shouldn’t be putting in our bodies. She helps women optimize their health and with women through a mindful approach to fueling the body.

Have a read of our chat with her and check out our top 5 tips for nailing Febfast.

So, firstly, how bad is alcohol for the body? Do we really need to take a month off booze?

Like everything – the key is moderation. I know that sounds so boring, but having a few glasses of wine a week is actually not too bad and can, in some instances, be advantages. Heavy drinking, however, is not at all good for us and can lead to a multitude of health issues.

Firstly, the poor old liver metabolises alcohol. Frequent and heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to increased fat inside liver cells, and eventually liver diseases.  When it comes to brain function – chronic alcohol abuse can impair brain function permanently, however, moderate drinking may have benefits for brain health, especially among elderly people. When it comes to managing our weight, the evidence on alcohol and weight gain is mixed. Heavy drinking and beer are linked to increased weight gain, while moderate drinking and wine are linked to reduced weight gain.

Again, when it comes to cardiovascular health, moderate alcohol consumption is linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, but heavy drinking appears to increase the risk. Can you see a pattern emerging?!”

How does having a month off alcohol affect your body and mind? What are some of the tangible health benefits?

One of the big benefits to having some time away from alcohol consumption can be improved sleep. Because we tend to drink in the evenings and then go to bed, we can often become dehydrated in the night and not sleep as soundly. Better quality sleep can lead to more energy, better appetite, clarity of thought and clearer skin – all the things attributed to some time away from alcohol.”

What advice do you have for someone who is a glass o wine erry night drinker, or someone who only drinks socially?

I think that if you are drinking because you enjoy it, then there is no real issue. The guidelines are for two alcohol free days a week at least! I think the issue comes when you either can’t manage an alcohol-free day, and or, you can’t just have one drink. My advice is to choose your drink and then savour it.”

How long does it take for your body to repair from the damage of alcohol?

How long is a piece of string?! It really depends on how much alcohol is consumed and over what time, but the body is very clever and will commence repairing itself as soon it can.”

Do you believe Australian culture is obsessed with drinking? If so, how can women shift their mindset?

“I do! I think it’s awful. I really don’t like some of the references to alcohol and being drunk in our culture and I feel uncomfortable about the way we glorify drunken behaviour. I like to think the culture is shifting.”

What are the risks to taking a month off drinking, for say a heavier drinker?

For a very heavy drinker, it can be very dangerous to stop drinking cold turkey without medical supervision. Withdrawal from alcohol can cause sweats, hallucinations and, in some cases, seizures. The best thing to do is be supervised and advised whilst detoxing to make sure your body is supported.”

If someone is thinking about doing FebFast or Dry July what things should they consider health wise before kicking off?

“Firstly, recognise the type of drinker you are (heavy, social etc) and if at all in doubt, discuss it with your GP. For most people, it is a simple matter of replacing alcohol with mineral water and enjoying the health benefits of month without drinking!”

Our favourite tips for surviving a month off the sauce:

  1. If you know your pals are going to give you a ribbing, why not keep your sobriety on the downlow? Order a soda water with lime to keep your pals off your back and trick them into thinking you’re knocking back your fav gin and tonic.
  2. Be aware of your reduced enthusiasm for an evening on the town and sling a coffee before you head out with the girls.
  3. Reduce the temptation and switch your dinner and dancing dates for breaky or brunch dates.
  4. Plan a hiking date for Saturday or Sunday morning to take advantage of waking up feeling fresh.
  5. Celebrate your AFD with our fave summer mocktail recipes:

If you’re ready to take a break from booze this February, check out FebFast and remember if you slip up, tomorrow is a fresh start. Don’t blow the whole month because of one day.