3 Surprising Observations I Learned From Giving Up Alcohol for Lent

I don't think I'll be giving up drinking for Lent again anytime soon.

I realize I’ve talked about Lent a lot, and so as not to beleaguer the point, this will be my last post on the matter … at least for this year anyway.

If drinking is part of your culture, you may have a better appreciation for how difficult it was for me to abstain from all alcohol for Lent. I didn’t meet my specific goal of all 46 days without alcohol, but I did go 40 days without alcohol, just not consecutively. More on that in a few.

Before Lent, I was eager to take on this challenge because I wanted to see what benefits not drinking would provide me. How much weight would I lose? How much more energy would I have? Would my concentration improve?

I was rather shocked, a little disappointed and simultaneously relieved to discover what happened when I quit drinking for Lent:

Quitting Drinking Did Not Make Me Lose Weight

I was sure that by cutting out all the extra calories I consume from wine, beer and/or the occasional mixed drink, the pounds would fall off me. That’s anywhere from 500 to 1,000 fewer calories per week; what an easy way to diet!

Sadly, at Lent’s end, I had only lost two pounds. Two pounds is insignificant; it could have been water weight. I was expecting to have lost anywhere from five to 10 pounds.

The lesson I took away: My body likes calories from alcohol. No need to test that again.

Quitting Drinking Did Not Improve My Energy or Concentration

Again, I was positive that I would have a surplus of energy every day when I stopped drinking.

Again, I was wrong.

Getting out of bed every morning was just as painful as it is any other morning. I did not have an extra spring in my step nor did I experience increased concentration abilities at work.

The lesson I took away: Alcohol doesn’t destroy my brain as much as I thought.

Speaking in Absolutes Dooms You to Failure

I found it interesting that once I declared I would abstain from all alcohol, the forces of the universe created two extremely rare events to ensure I would drink.

The first was my friend Wendy’s visit. She flew around the world from Australia to surprise me. Yes, of course, I could have continued not to drink, but it wouldn’t have allowed me to properly celebrate with Wendy.

The second event was the unexpected death of my brother who died of a heart attack at age 49. (This post is in his memory.) When I was back home, I did not drink for most of the week, but after the funeral and wake when I was back at my dad’s house with Mr. Man, he told us the story about why martinis became his signature drink.

My dad — affectionately referred to by me as THB because of his enthusiasm for monogramming his initials on just about anything and everything — was so excited about telling the story that evolved into the history of the drink itself, that when he offered to make us an “original intent martini,” I couldn’t resist.

We stayed up until the middle of the night drinking martinis and sharing stories. It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had with THB.

After that night, I acquiesced to the drinking culture of my family. I toasted to the memory of my brother, and I eased into afternoon happy hours.

Bonding over drinks is what we do, and I’m glad I was there to do it.

The lesson I took away: Sometimes being with friends and/or family and living in the moment is more important than an exercise in self-denial.

Morals and ethics are all about choices and the ability to explain and support why you made the decisions you did. That’s why in my book, I still count this year’s Lent as a success.

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7 Responses to 3 Surprising Observations I Learned From Giving Up Alcohol for Lent

  1. OK, whew, I was going to give up alcohol for Lent and I never did…So I’m glad I can live through you. Looks like I didn’t miss much:) I’ve often wondered if not drinking would help me lose weight, but I feel like I would just counter the drink with some food vice. Moderate drinking of alcohol seems to be more helpful than hurtful for me. I agree that living in the moment can be more important than self-denial.

    But anyway, props to you for trying this out! I still would like to give it a shot sometime, just because I think periods of abstinence from anything can be good for you. Or maybe that’s just my Catholic upbringing talking.

  2. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Thanks, Ellie! Yeah, I think subconsciously I might have been eating more or treating myself more with food to compensate for the lack of alcohol calories. Still, it’s not like I was treating myself every day or anything, so I still don’t know how that worked.

    By all means, I say go for it. Periods of abstinence from your favorite things can definitely be beneficial. I know I have a renewed appreciation for the caramel-y taste of a Sam Adam’s Double Bock. I notice too that now I can taste the lemon zest in the Summer Ale version.

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  4. Timory says:

    Hi Laura,

    I had no idea about your brother’s passing. I send my sympathy thoughts to you now and am trying to be available to talk whenever you need it. My prayers are with you and your family. It was nice texting today. Miss you! Keep up the posts; reading them is a great part of my day!

  5. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Thank you so much, Timory. We’ll catch up eventually!

  6. kevin says:

    it’s funny to me that you estimated 500-1000 calories per week and were disappointed with 2 pounds of weight loss. Even the high end at 1000 would put you right around 2 pounds for 7 weeks!

  7. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Hey Kevin,
    Hmm, I never looked at it that way before. You’re probably right. I’m not trying it again this year. For 2011, I’m giving up television.

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