I did Sober October and was so impressed by how I looked – and felt – that I may veto a NYE glass of bubbly (although my friends think I’m boring)

  • Read more: What REALLY happens to your body if you ditch alcohol for a month: Experts reveal the health changes you’ll see each week… 

It’s been said that within a few weeks of giving up alcohol, you’ll notice clearer and smoother skin, increased energy and a boosted mood.

But while that might be the experts’ verdict, what’s it like to actually go through with being free of booze for an extended period of time? And just how easy is it when you’re used to enjoying a tipple or two at any occasion?

Millions of Britons take part in Sober October annually, and this year Ellie McKay, who hosts the On a Mission podcast, tried her hand at ditching alcohol for 31 days.

The British broadcaster documented her alcohol-free month by taking a selfie a day – and has shared how abstaining left her feeling and looking better. 

So much so, she now doubts if she’ll even have a glass of bubbly to mark New Year’s Eve.

Podcaster Ellie McKay ditched booze for the entire month of October…find out how it affected her mental and physical health and her relationships below

But it wasn’t without its difficulties – work events became almost awkward as most lacked an alcohol-free option, she says, and friends and family members stopped sharing invitations to booze-filled occasions.

Here, Ellie gives FEMAIL her full verdict after trying Sober October… 

Going on a mission to be sober is a mixed bag – it’s sometimes easy and sometimes hard, depending on a variety of factors. 

I don’t have a ‘problem’ with alcohol by any stretch of the imagination, but I had identified that I was at a point in my life where it wasn’t serving me well. 

A cocktail by the pool on holiday was once an occasional treat, but I’d noticed that this kind of drinking was becoming a daily occurrence. ‘Just one,’ my husband and I would say to ourselves. 

And so it began…Ellie McKay pictured on October 1st, the first day she abstained from booze. She made the decision to try Sober October after cocktails started to become a daily treat

A lot of the time, it’s more of out of habit than anything else. Drinking is just something I’ve been brought up with in my Scottish family to associate with every occasion, whether it’s a celebration, a way to decompress, or a commiseration – whatever it is: weddings, funerals, anything. 

I run a podcast and I encounter many successful people who don’t drink and they say they’re sharper, smarter and healthier for it. And I’m a fan of a healthier lifestyle; I feel happier when I’m doing my 7am ice baths and brain tapping exercises. 

A half-term holiday in Northumberland might normally have equalled a glass of wine in the hot tub – but not this year. By day 13, Ellie says she was beginning to focus on enjoying the great outdoors, rather than a glass of vino

During October, I made an effort to get outdoors, often meeting a friend for an evening walk and the half-term holiday – when I’d normally look forward to a drink – was centered around fresh air and activities. 

We booked a nice luxury lodge in the Northumberland forest. The hot tub would usually be a prime spot for a glass of bubbly, but it’s amazing how, when alcohol is off the table, you quickly you forget about it. 

Not having a glass of wine doesn’t impact spending quality time with the family.

Solutions – stylish mocktails or hot chocolates meant it was still easy to be sociable, says Ellie

Ellie says the biggest improvement she’s noticed since giving up alcohol are with energy levels and motivation

Another challenge? The weather wasn’t amazing during our half-term break, so we did spend quite a lot of time in the on-site pub, which has a play area next to it. 

But it was just a matter of replacing the glass of red wine with hot chocolates or soft drinks.

I can now see the difference 100 per cent. My skin looks so much better. Not only does my complexion look fresher and clearer, but my eyes also look brighter, probably because I am sleeping better. 

I noticed a massive difference in the quality of my sleep when I stopped drinking. However, the biggest change was in my energy levels and motivation. 

For this reason, I am a strong believer that alcohol abstinence isn’t about ruining fun; it’s about enhancing performance. My connections were also strengthened, and I am surprisingly much more creative.

The broadcaster says she feels rejuvenated by not drinking and may well try and extend it. Society makes it harder for people who don’t drink though – with a welcoming tipple still standard at many work events

It can feel daunting to think going alcohol-free for an extended period of time, but I have learnt to dip my toes into the water briefly in the past and not put the pressure on myself. Now the instant rejuvenating effects can override any urge to have a cheeky glass of wine.

I’ve recently become hyper-aware of how unaccommodating the majority of events are for those of us who choose not to drink. 

I attended several business events in October that highlighted how as a culture and society we are still behind when it comes to catering for people who make different choices. 

As she neared the end of the Sober October challenge, Ellie says she noticed less people asking her to socialise with them

There is often no welcome drink upon arrival except for champagne, with wine on all the tables, and limited alcohol-free options at the bar. 

Non-drinkers don’t want to be seen as unappreciative by asking for a soft drink option, but it’s easy to feel like you’re inconveniencing the organisers. 

Not that they don’t want to be accommodating to my request but when there are hundreds of people in a room and only a handful of staff trying to keep everyone happy, I can see why my question might be seen as a hassle. 

It became apparent to me that the vast majority of work-related events still revolve around drinking and, as an employer myself, it’s something I know I’ve been guilty of in the past too.

The biggest difference Sober October resulted in, both at work and in my social life, was that I have definitely noticed a decline in invites. It’s nothing new, I’ve noticed this before whenever I’ve been on a mission to not drink. I think people assume if you’re not drinking you are no fun. 

An achievement! And Ellie says she may well see in the New Year next month with an alcohol-free drink

Friends, family and colleagues don’t mean it in a nasty way, it’s just how many of us have been brought up. 

At one event, a friend said to me “I didn’t expect you to be the life and soul of the party”. I  thought that kind of says it all – that you can’t be outgoing without a drink. I’ll be honest, I had a better time without drinking!

There may be many reasons why someone chooses not to drink, they could be recovering from addiction and haven’t wanted to disclose it or perhaps, like me, they’re just trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Either way, nobody should feel left out or be made to feel different or uncomfortable.

I strongly believe that we need to create a more inclusive environment and stop promoting the narrative that we require alcohol to enjoy ourselves. 

Will I stick to my sober lifestyle? Well, let’s just say I’m not sure if I’ll have a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve now…

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