In September 2017 I started a new job as the CEO of the new charity formed from the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK. On my first day, there were obviously millions of things I didn't know, but one thing I knew a little bit about was Dry January, because I had taken part in it myself the year before. In this post, I'm going to be open with you about my personal Dry January story.

My weight had crept up

Where was my life in January 2016? Well, for a start I had no idea that in two years' time I would be in charge of making sure Dry January happens! More to the point, I was 44, I weighed 13 stone 6 lb and I was 5'7" tall. Before Christmas, I had used the NHS online tool to calculate my Body Mass Index (BMI) and I had received quite a shock. Up came the result. My BMI figure was 29.4, at the very top of the "overweight" category. Previously, I'd read the odd article critiquing the simplistic use of BMI figures, but I could no longer use such cunning arguments to feed my denial. The truth was obvious. I wasn't just overweight. I was very overweight. In fact, I was very nearly in the "obese" category. And that was a shock, because although I just didn't see myself as someone who was obese, the numbers were real.

I was drinking too often

I was also aware I'd been drinking alcohol too often. I thought back to the last evening I hadn't had a drink and, shockingly, I couldn't remember when it was. It wasn't during December. It wasn't during November. When was it?

Time to sign up

That was it. I decided there and then to do Dry January, something a friend had done and mentioned to me. I searched for it online. The very last thing I did before shutting down my computer and going home for Christmas was sign up to Dry January. I went home and told my partner, who wished me luck!

Week one

I found week one OK. I had the odd urge, but my motivation levels were high. The first thing I noticed was sleep. I found it harder to get to sleep! That wasn't what they'd promised me! But then I saw a post on the Dry January blog which said this was common at first.

Week two

Week two was trickier. I stayed dry for six days of that week, but one evening there was a work event and I had three glasses of wine. I was really disappointed with myself. I definitely had a fleeting moment of thinking, "I'm no good at this, forget it" - but then I remembered my BMI number which re-motivated me instantly. I decided to start fresh the next day and not beat myself up.

Week three

In week three there was another work function, a leaving do I think. More free wine available. I had one glass, for the speeches, and then - blimey - I stopped. In fact, I politely left the party and just went back to my desk. Previously I might have been the kind of person to be the last one there, enjoying the chat and the wine. I remember walking down the stairs back to my floor and thinking, "One glass is much better than three glasses. I can actually do this". I resolved to add on two more days - taking my Dry January to 2 Feb - to make up for those two slips.

Week four

Week four went well. There were no more work functions to get through. I found Friday evenings harder. I volunteer for a youth group. It's great fun but quite intense, and it comes after a day's work. But I stayed determined and forced myself to be good. I found that drinking herbal teas worked.

The start of something!

By February I had lost four pounds. I was still overweight. But I was now unstoppable. This was not the end of something. It was the start of something.

Alongside Dry January I also started to track my calorie intake using an app and the calories I was burning with a fitness tracker.

From 3 February I added beer and wine back to my diet. I was a bit shocked how many calories I was consuming a day from both food and alcohol! But tracking those calories meant I stayed much more in control. I also started to eat more healthily and I started running again, initially just round the block for 10 minutes.

By June I had run a 5k and lost one stone. By September I was doing a 5k every week with parkrun. By November I had run a 10k and lost two stone and was officially out of the "overweight" BMI category and into "normal". Now, nearly two years later, I've run three half-marathons and have dropped to a steady weight of 10 stone 6 lb - exactly three stone lighter than when I started - where I've been for about six months. I now consume about the same number of calories as I burn. I drink less than I used to, mainly by ensuring I have a least four nights off the booze every week (that method works a treat for me).

How has it impacted my life long-term?

I feel so much better; and much happier about myself. Nothing would make me go back to how I was. That version of me has died completely. I am forever grateful to Dry January for getting me started and making me realise I could take control of my drinking and, as it turned out, other things too.

Sign up for Dry January here, to start your own journey.