Dry January, month without tobacco or meat... What happens then to these habits?

Dry January, month without tobacco or meat… What happens then to these habits?

Dry January, month without tobacco, without meat… At this rate, each time of the year could experience its well-being challenge! It remains to be seen whether the habits adopted are sustainable.

Can you become “addicted” to Dry January (“dry January” in French)? This movement from the United Kingdom advocating the cessation of alcohol consumption during the month of January has in any case gained the loyalty of many followers. Sarah, 27, has just completed the experience for the third year in a row. “When I started two years ago, I first wanted to be in better health,” she confides. Today, I find another advantage: participating in the Dry January is an easy excuse to refuse drinks in the evening. »

Thousands of people play the game across the world. In France, nearly one in three French people have decided or considered participating in the 2024 edition*, a figure that is constantly increasing. A craze which is not unrelated to the awareness of the risks that alcohol, the second cause of avoidable deaths per year (49,000 deaths in 2023), poses to health. Stopping the consumption of alcohol or products derived from animal exploitation (Veganuary) giving up cigarettes (No Tobacco Month) or hair removal (Januhairy) , the injunctions are numerous and multiplying. All these time-limited bets have in common that they highlight habits that are harmful to our well-being or that of others and claim their singularity. Some are easier to adopt than others. “In 2021, I followed the Veggie November, Sarah continues. It’s a challenge that encourages you not to eat meat for a month. In my case, it was much easier to give up than alcohol. » To give themselves courage and persist over time, some participants download a mobile application where they note their days of abstinence in a calendar.

But these restrictions are far from convincing everyone. “There is a difference between what happens in big cities and in rural France,” underlines Laurence Cottet, instigator and president of Janvier sobre, a French citizens’ initiative launched in 2019 in response to the Dry January . “During sidewalk microphones in small towns, I realized to what extent people did not want to hear about “the dry thing”, as they say. You have to be aware that this is a Parisian fashion phenomenon. » Used to giving conferences in universities, this former alcoholic feels that these “months without” can also be quickly perceived as liberticidal by young people.

A way to question

This resistance to the multiplication of prohibitions pushed her to propose a formula a little different from Dry January . Sober January advocates a month of limiting alcohol consumption, where the Dry January is campaigning for a total stop. Whether partial or total, reducing a dose of addictive products for a month is a consensus among health professionals. “It’s a good way to question our consumption and evaluate ourselves,” enthuses Christelle Peybernard, addiction psychiatrist at the Barthélemy-Durand Public Health Establishment, in Étampes (Essonne). But the specialist finds one thing to complain about: reducing the consumption of an addictive substance must be done gradually for the most dependent to avoid delirium, a state of confusion linked to withdrawal. Beware of these people experiencing wild withdrawal.

Another warning: “Too much is the enemy of good,” Christelle Peybernard would like to point out. It’s a trivial remark, but multiplying the months without this or that, without always giving meaning to your approach can make them less effective. » Because once the time of the challenge has passed, good resolutions do not always last over time. Florence Cottet is under no illusion: some of the participants will continue to question their consumption, but many will start drinking again in February.

The silence of public authorities

These initiatives actually lack major support: that of the public authorities. In a forum at World on January 3, a collective from the French Society of Public Health called on them to get involved. If the British charity Alcohol Change UK, behind the Dry January, was able to count on the support of the British authorities, the campaign is still not supported by the French state. Here, only No Tobacco Month has official support. Isabelle, 59, has already tried it twice. The operation did not trigger her desire to stop smoking at the time, but it gave rise to the desire to achieve this thanks to a support kit distributed on occasion: “At the pharmacy, I I was given a packet with documents giving advice on how to quit. » After three months of weaning without smoking since November, she hopes that this attempt will be the right one.

Let’s not be naive: unsupervised “months without” sometimes respond to self-interested intentions. In France, the challenge Veggie November advocated the adoption of a vegetarian diet two autumns in a row: it was launched by the company Mazette!, a brand of organic condiments made from vegetables. “I have no illusions about the commercial side of certain initiatives,” Sarah rationalizes. But all actions that raise awareness of the environmental impact of meat consumption seem welcome to me. » When they are not at the origin, brands know very well how to reappropriate them. This is evidenced by the proliferation of alcohol-free products launched in recent years by spirits companies. So, glass half full or half empty, the “months without”? A special moment in any case: “Stopping alcohol or reducing your consumption for several weeks allows you to identify your vulnerabilities,” comments Christelle Peybernard. And to question the longer term. »

* OpinionWay 2023 survey for non-alcoholic spirits brand JNPR.

Why Brits love Dry January

There is not enough data to assess the impact of cutting out alcohol for a month. Those we have are British. After the launch across the Channel of Dry January, in 2013, the University of Sussex began a series of studies. The first, conducted in 2014, showed that 70% of people who downloaded the official application of the Dry January in Britain drank more moderately over the next six months. According to another 2019 study of 6,000 people, 84% of participants said they saved money thanks to this alcohol-free month, 71% felt they slept better, 65% felt like they had more energy and nearly One in two abstainers thought they had lost weight. So many reasons which have increased the number of registrations on the British site of the Dry January from 4,000 to 175,000 in ten years.

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