It’s October, and for some people, that means giving up the bottle but not the fun. With many participating in the Sober October challenge, known as Ocsober, this month-long challenge encourages people to give up alcohol for 31 days. It’s a chance to break bad habits, support a good cause, and maybe even have some fun along the way with mocktails.
According to the cooking dietitian, Reabetjoe Mokoko from Midrand in Gauteng, abstaining from alcohol is a good decision, as alcohol has no real nutritional benefits but instead high intake of it actually increases the risk of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, and permanent damage to organs such as the liver and gut.
A good time to take a break
Participating in Ocsober and hoping not to end the journey in October, Nina Moletsana from Cape Town says she realised that she has been drinking excessively lately and has decided to take a break.
“My goal during this break is to really reflect on my relationship with alcohol. In the past, I used it as a coping mechanism, and I found that I could do nothing without it present. I want to improve my health and not wake up with a hangover every Saturday morning. I don’t think I necessarily want to quit drinking but rather reduce my alcohol intake significantly,” she says.
“In social situations, I plan to drink mocktails. I also plan to support others by creating a safe space to talk about alcohol abuse in our lives and community and to not judge myself or others if we slip up and drink during Ocsober.”
For Thato Nate from Randburg, Johannesburg, being off alcohol has helped him reflect and realign himself and his future plans. Although his fridge and cupboards are still stocked with alcohol, he mentions how good it feels to make a healthier choice when looking for something to drink.
“I’ve decided to challenge myself and see if I could abstain for the month. A friend of mine texted me recently to check on me since we are on the same journey. We chatted and compared notes on how it’s going thus far.
“So right now, the two-man support group is helping. I guess all this is a step closer for me to start illuminating alcohol out of my life completely. I already see the health and financial benefits thereof,” he says.
To manage cravings or withdrawal symptoms during this time, Mokoko says that one of the best ways is to limit or avoid having alcohol in your living space.
“I always say healthy food choices start with what you have in your fridge and in your cupboard. You cannot eat or drink what you do not have.
“Also, try to avoid spaces and people that would tempt you to want to consume alcohol until you start being more in control of your cravings. Another great, easy alternative is the alcohol-free version of alcoholic drinks. The only thing to consider is that if one of your aims for the alcohol breaks is weight loss, then the alcohol-free version may not be a suitable option as some drinks have the same calories or just slightly less than the alcoholic version,” she adds.
Mokoko suggests that an alcohol-free version such as still water, infused water, sparkling water, or flavoured or plain slushed fruit drinks may be suitable alternatives if there is no aim of weight loss associated with the break.
She also advises trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle beyond Sober October and continuing to make mindful choices regarding alcohol consumption.
“When it comes to alcohol, I always say that just because beers or ciders come in a six-pack does not mean one needs to finish the whole pack in one day. We need to be conscious of the damage a high alcohol intake can cause.
Moreover, Mokoko states that the best way to support those who are doing Ocsober, especially those recovering from alcohol addiction, would be to not make them feel like they are ‘weird’ for not drinking alcohol or not ‘cool enough’.
“Try to avoid pushing those taking a break or recovering into spaces or situations that would tempt them into a relapse. Create healthy, fun environments that do not require alcohol for people to have fun and be entertained.”
One way to cut back on alcohol is by turning to mocktails, non-alcoholic beer or wine, or other non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy during social occasions. Thus, Chef Lefika Ledwaba from Limpopo shares a healthy mocktail recipe for people to try out during their alcohol break.
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- Mint leaves
- Lime juice
- Soda or sparkling water
Into a glass with ice, add 1 tsp of sugar, and 3 tsp of lime juice, add some mint leaves, then pour soda or sparkling water over it all.
Mix lightly, place a lemon wedge on the glass, and enjoy!