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Cut down on drinking! Time for a post-holiday detox

Cut down on drinking! Time for a post-holiday detox

It is all too easy to overindulge during the holidays, one too many toasts over Thanksgiving, an excess of eggnog at Christmas and far too much Champagne to see in the New Year. It is something that most of us are guilty of, for example in a recent survey by Harris Interactive it was found that 96% of people surveyed returned to work hungover after a holiday party and that 40% of us use the holidays as an excuse to drink.

So what can you do once the holidays are over? You may feel that the time is right for a post-holiday detox to rid your system of all the excess.

The Effects of Alcohol

There is no real issue with the consumption of alcohol, in moderation, however as we increase intake over the holidays we can start to see some of the negative effects.

Drinks glasses

    Alcohol can affect how you look through dehydration. In particular, your skin becomes dehydrated, depriving it of nutrients it needs. This can lead to wrinkles and aging as well as unsightly spots.

    Alcohol also contains a lot of calories, there are 7 calories per gram of alcohol which is almost the same caloric value as butter. To put this into perspective, a pint of beer has as many calories as a chocolate bar and a glass of wine is equivalent to an ice cream cone. You can soon find that the extra calories show themselves as unwelcome weight which, along with increased cellulite and bloating, is enough to make most of us want to think twice about having another drink.

    Over time, if you increase your drinking or regularly drink in excess, you can cause permanent damage to your body which can lead to infertility, sexual dysfunction or serious conditions such as liver disease.

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    Your liver is responsible for breaking down harmful substances in your body and when you drink this includes alcohol. Excessive drinking can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, jaundice and scarring of the liver which can cause the liver fail at breaking down harmful substances. These then build up in your body and it can be fatal. Moderate drinking will not do any permanent harm, but you can still help your body and make yourself feel great by giving yourself a break from booze!

    Taking a Break From Drinking

    Something which is popular in Europe is the idea of a ‘dry’ month, this was an idea which was first created in Finland when the government created ‘Sober January’ in 1942 as part of its war effort. Today in the United Kingdom the charity Alcohol Concern runs a campaign called ‘Dry January’ where people are encouraged to give up alcohol for a month.

    There are people who doubt that this is effective, however, the University of Sussex found that six months following January 2014, 72% out of 900 surveyed participants had “kept harmful drinking episodes down” and 4% were still not drinking. It may be a good way to break the habit after all if you feel that it is time for you to review your intake.

    Of course, you don’t have to go for a full month, you will start to notice effects after a 7-10 day detox. After which an ongoing reduction of your drinking will have a major benefit on your health.

    If you have been a little excessive over the holiday period you can plan a short detox to help your body recover from the effects of alcohol.

    The One Week Detox

    Here is a simple set of steps you can take to undergo a short detox program.

    What is detox?

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    A detox – is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. It is a time when you will remove alcohol from your diet, in this case for one week. It will give your body time to flush any toxic substances from your body and allow organs such as your liver to recover. It can be especially good following a time like the holidays when you may have indulged just a little too much!

    There are a number of detox programs you can follow and lots of products to help you if you wish. This is a very simple method. You should, of course, seek medical advice before you detox if you are pregnant or unwell.

    Lemon water - great for detox
      1. Set aside a week when you will carry out your detox – make sure your friends and family are aware that you are trying to stop drinking for a week so that they do not encourage you to break your program!
      2. You will be avoiding all alcohol – if you slip and have a drink, make sure it is just one and then carry on. Remember, you are only cheating yourself!
      3. Eat healthy – boost your diet with lots of fruit and vegetables which will supercharge your body with essential vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy raw foods and salads and avoid heavily processed foods. For just one week forgo the takeaways and processed foods, fresh fruit and veg will kick start your immune system.
      4. Drink lots – but ensure it is water or juice! Alcohol will dehydrate your body so look to replace your lost fluid with lots of fresh water or juice. It will help you flush toxins from your body and plump up your skin making you look great! Try slicing a lemon and adding it to a water bottle in your fridge. You will have delicious flavored water to sip all day. Try it with any of your favorite fruit or even cucumber which makes a delicious drink. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks where you can.
      5. Enjoy exercise – if you don’t regularly exercise you should start to move your body. If you do exercise, see if you can extend what you are doing. Go slow, if you are unused to physical exercise take it easy at first, a gentle walk or swim is a good start, just slowly start to build up what you are doing to get your body moving.
      6. Try a mental detox too – take time to clear your mind, there are lots of meditation programs you can follow for example, 5 Minutes to find happiness. At least ensure you find some ‘me’ time for you during your detox week. Read a book, enjoy some music, do whatever helps you relax and clear your mind.

      There may be times when you will struggle but if you persevere you will find that the benefits will be worth the effort. Even a short period of detox will make you feel better, your skin should be brighter, and you may have more energy. Your body and especially your liver will certainly thank you!

      The best thing you can do is, keep it simple. Think of a detox as a treat to yourself and your body.

      Keeping the Good Times Flowing

      Once you have completed your detox (and no doubt feel great!) don’t use it as an excuse to immediately open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. Why not build on the good practice and use this, instead, as a great excuse to build on your good practice.

      There is nothing wrong in a social drink, however, try to consider what you are drinking and if you can cut down. It doesn’t have to be hard work. For example, if only for your waistline, why not drink a spritzer instead of a full glass of wine? A 5 oz glass of dry white wine contains approximately 105 calories whereas a 5 oz spritzer made with soda water is just 50 calories – less than half! Importantly you have a longer drink and therefore more time between alcoholic drinks – fewer units per night!

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      Remember that beer has calories not only from the alcohol but also the carbohydrates, a light beer could save approximately 50 calories per bottle. Reduced strength need not affect the flavor of a well-chilled beer!

      Avoid drinks such as coolers made from sugary flavors mixed with vodka or rum. Most contain at least 250 calories and may contain more than 300 calories, plus more than 8 teaspoons of sugar in each serving.  Try a rum and Diet Coke instead.

      If you enjoy a cocktail, why not enjoy some delicious alcohol-free cocktails. You can still be the life and soul of the party even without lots of alcohol.

      Alcohol free cocktail - part of a great detox

        When is a Detox Not Right?

        For most people, a short detox where you abstain from alcohol will be a positive move and it will help you greatly. However, you need to be aware if you are alcohol dependent you should not suddenly stop drinking.

        If you are a regular and heavy drinker your body will be compensating for the depressive effect of alcohol by increasing production of hormones and brain chemicals such as serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. If you were to suddenly stop drinking alcohol, your body would become flooded with abnormally high levels of these chemicals, causing your brain to undergo rapid changes in an attempt to maintain normal function. Severe complications include dehydration, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms.

        How do I Know if I am Alcohol Dependent?

        Sadly, it has never been easier to become alcohol dependent, there is a wide range of alcohol available and social drinking is seen to be more acceptable than ever. Coming home after a hard day at work and reaching for a ‘glass of wine’ can rapidly turn into regularly ‘finishing the bottle’. If you feel that you may be struggling with alcohol, ask yourself some questions:

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        • Do I need to have a drink? – you need alcohol, your desire for a drink has become a powerful need for alcohol.
        • You need to drink more to get the same buzz – having a glass of wine of a bottle of beer just doesn’t ‘hit the spot’ and you need more and more to get the same effect. It is showing that your body is becoming more tolerant of alcohol.
        • You are drinking most days – your drinking has become regular, this could show the signs of an addiction forming
        • You drink alone – whereas there is nothing wrong with enjoying a drink alone if this becomes the norm you should take notice.

        Alcohol consumption is measured in ‘units.’ One unit is equivalent to a measure of spirits (a bar measure as opposed to a home measure), half a pint of lager or a small glass of wine.

        When you are drinking you should take note of how many units you are consuming in one session:

        • 1 – 2 units are referred to as moderate
        • 8 – 9 units is heavy drinking
        • 10+ units is considered to be excessive

        The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that men should not exceed 4 drinks per day or a total of 14 per week and women should not exceed 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 per week. The American Heart Association suggest even lower levels.

        If you find that you are at risk of being alcohol dependent you should take professional advice before you attempt to cut down on your alcohol intake to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms which can include anxiety, visual and auditory hallucinations, convulsions, whole body tremor, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, profuse sweating, shakiness, convulsions, DTs, hypertension and even heart failure.  Approximately 50% of people with alcohol dependence experience withdrawal symptoms.

        Featured Photo Credit: Feature ImageDrinking GlassesLemon Water, Cocktail via Pixabay

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        Published on July 18, 2019

        11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

        11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

        No matter where you are in your fitness journey, chances are you wouldn’t mind a little more definition in your midsection.

        Whether you have a six pack or a beer belly, those abs could probably be a little bit sharper. Not to mention developing better core strength is hugely important when it comes to improving your overall strength and athleticism, as well as protecting you from injuries.[1]

        The good news? Your abs and core muscles can handle a lot of training.

        While most of your muscle groups do best with just two training sessions per week,[2] you can hit your abs every other day to great effect. You don’t even have to leave the house!

        Here’s my guide to the 11 best core strengthening exercises you can do at home with no equipment.

        1. Planks

        Let’s start with the mother of all core-strengtheners, the plank.

        Planks not only work your abs and obliques, they challenge those core muscles deep inside your body that help promote stability and power. They can also reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture.

        Get down into pushup position, feet behind you, hands under your shoulders. Lock out your arms and legs, squeeze your core muscles, and hold your body stiff (like a plank!) for as long as you can.

        For a more challenging variation, try a forearm plank with your arms out in front you. Lay your forearms on the ground for support, with your elbows under your face rather than aligned with your shoulders.

        2. Side Planks

        To hit your obliques even harder, try this challenging variation: the side plank.

        From plank position, rotate onto one side. Prop yourself up on your elbow and one foot with your body straight and stiff.

        Don’t forget to squeeze your core as you hold this position for as long as you can.

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        Switch sides and repeat to avoid creating muscle imbalances.

        3. Reverse Crunches

        The regular stomach crunch is a fine exercise, but when it comes to abs and core strength, you’ll want to opt for moves that are a lot more challenging.

        When you can crank out 50 crunches without a problem, it’s probably time for something new.

        The reverse crunch packs a wallop for your lower abs and can be done anywhere, anytime, just like the standard crunch.

        Lay on your back with knees bent in crunch position. Place your hands flat on the ground by your side and lift your pelvis, bringing your knees up toward your face, then back down again.

        Engage your lower ab muscles to do the work, not your back. Repeat for a few sets of 12-20 reps.

        4. Flutter Kicks

        The lower abs are a problem area for a lot of people, so we’ll want to work them hard.

        If that sounds like you, flutter kicks are just what the doctor ordered.

        Lay flat on your back in leg raise position, hands at your sides or pressed into the floor. Raise your legs together about 6 inches off the floor, then alternate lowering one and raising one a few inches in rapid succession.

        It should look like you’re kicking the air, and it should give you quite a burn in your abdominal area.

        5. Arms High Sit-Ups

        Imagine a crunch, but way harder!

        Lay down on the ground in sit-up position, knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of you.

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        Raise your arms up to the sky and keep them elevated as you perform a few sets of sit-ups.

        Engaging your arms in this way makes the move extraordinarily difficult and taxing. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this move versus traditional crunches.

        6. L-Sits

        The L-Sit is outrageously difficult to perform well, but if you can build your strength here, the benefits are phenomenal.

        To perform an L-Sit, you’ll need a stable surface to press off of. You can do them on the floor, but it’s a little easier if you can elevate yourself on a pair of dumbbells, two sturdy chairs, or a similar apparatus.

        Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lock your arms in place at your sides, palms on the ground or surface, and press. Bring your legs into the air, perpendicular to your upper body, using the tension from your locked arms.

        Hold this position as long as possible for an intense strength building workout.

        7. Stomach Vacuums

        And now for something different!

        It’s easy to work your front-facing abdominal muscles, but there is another muscle group in your core that’s frequently overlooked: The transverse abdominis.

        This muscle isn’t visible through your skin, but it’s incredibly important in stabilizing your body, creating good posture, and holding your belly in tight to your spine.

        To strengthen this muscle and get a flatter stomach, try stomach vacuums.[3]

        Standing straight and tall. Exhale all of the air out of your body and simultaneously pull your belly in tight. Imagine sucking your belly button back into your spine.

        You’ll feel the transverse abdominis engage. Hold as long as possible, rest and then repeat.

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        8. Star Planks

        Planks are too effective to not utilize multiple variations of them in your routine.

        The star plank engaged similar muscles to the traditional plank, but is a lot harder to hold for time.

        From the push-up or standard plank position, walk your feet out wide and your hands, as well.

        Your body should form an X position. Elevate your core off the ground, squeeze tight, and hold for as long as possible.

        9. Boat Pose

        Yogis know all about core strength, so if you want a tighter tummy, you should take a page out of their playbook.

        Boat pose is an extremely difficult isometric hold that builds exceptional balance and core power.

        Star in sit-up position. Crunch yourself up toward your knees, then lift your feet off the floor until they’re about level with your face. Balance on your butt, squeeze your core, and hold this position as long as you can.

        Your body should form a V with the only point of contact being your butt on the ground. Holding boat pose should be extraordinarily challenging!

        10. Mountain Climbers

        Ab work alone won’t shred stomach fat. But when you combine abs and cardio, that’s when you’re onto something magical.

        Mountain climbers fit the bill if you’re looking to blast your core and also work up a good sweat.

        Get down into plank position. With your arms locked and your body tight, drive one knee at a time off the floor, up toward your chest, and then back to its original position. Repeat in quick succession.

        It should look like you’re climbing a hill, and it should exhaust you in a matter of seconds!

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        11. Russian Twists

        Finally, let’s give the obliques a little more love.

        Get down into sit-up position and perform a crunch toward your knees. From here, lean back so your torso is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, clasp your hands in front of you, and twist side to side in rapid succession.

        You’ll feel your obliques engage after just a few reps.

        For a more difficult variation, lift your feet off the floor similar to boat pose while perform the move, or perform the twist using a heavy medicine ball for added resistance.

        The Bottom Line

        The biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage. That’s best accomplished by sticking to a smart diet and building your fully body strength.

        However, if you want to improve your athleticism, overall strength, or even your longevity, you can afford to work your abs a bit more frequently — 3-4 times per week is perfect.

        If you hit them hard enough, you’ll probably see some great improvement in definition as well!

        Cranking out endless crunches is one way to go about core training, but there are so many better and more challenging moves you can try without ever having to leave your living room.

        Give them a shot!

        Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via unsplash.com

        Reference

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