I like a gadget me. Be it something physical or an app, I feel hopeful and aspirational when I buy something that promises to make my life perfect. I know, I know. You actually have to use the things to get the full benefit. No good if they end up in that drawer, you know the one with all the dongles in …..But as it happened, in the first few months of giving up drinking, gadgets were my ally! Here’s why…
1 . It superpowers your alternative/distraction activity. When you change your drinking, you are taking something away that you used socially or habitually. It creates a gap. We recommend that in its place you put another goal. For Club Soda members the most common reason for changing their drinking is to get fitter. So it’s natural that getting to the gym, losing weight, running a mile may be a target. A gadget helps you track your progress on these things.
2. It magnifies the subtle changes. It may be you have another health issue you want to address. It may be your mood, sleep or even calorie intake. These things might not be noticeable if you take a snapshot of just one day – but they will begin to show a pattern if you record them every day, especially if you start before the date you make the change. For example, before I quit, my blood sugar level and waist circumference was slipping into the pre-diabetic zone. Using a blood sugar monitor I could see that after 3 months my blood glucose was in the healthy range.
3. It zones in on underlying problems that you may still need help to fix. Without alcohol, you will notice a lot more about your body. When you are hungry, what you crave, when you are happy, sad, stressed, out of breath or in pain. Keeping track of those things will help you have better conversations with your doctor about your health. Some may have been underlying the reason you drank, and others may have been masked by the alcohol and the hangovers.
With pen and paper, or in the space on your Club Soda profile, you can note down what you plan to do, how you feel, and the obstacles you come across. It may be low tech, but it’s cheap and effective! Review your progress and what you have learnt at the end of each week and add it to your progress in Club Soda.
Dust off the scales in your bathroom and begin to monitor your weight. You can upgrade this a little by finding scales that measure your hydration levels, BMI, visceral fat and other bits. Withings scales link with an app (and other devices too) for the ultimate in a data driven you!
Or you could download an app. Spruce helps you take 3 days off booze to give your liver a rest. Drinkaware’s app can help you track your drinks and their calories. It is also free as it is paid for by the alcohol industry – so it only seems fair!
And don’t forget your pearly whites. If you have been a big red wine drinker, a good clean at the dentist and an electric toothbrush will mean your teeth will look amazing and you can stave off any more decay from the sugar in booze. I recommend the Philips Sonicare.
There are some apps that link with wearable devices like a Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, or a Misfit shine (this is not an exhaustive list but go to Amazon and search for activity tracker and you can see all the options. As well as counting steps, you can join most of them to an app like myfitnesspal or linking to a service like Nutracheck which has an app and links to a Fitbit.
More important than monitoring your moving is the ability to monitor your sleep. The change in my sleep patterns was amazing. I went from a majority of light sleep to big wonderful patches of deep sleep. It was great seeing the improvement. For those of you for whom sleep may be a problem, your wearable will link to online CBT programmes like Sleepio, so you can begin to tackle the issue without the aid of alcohol.
Whatever you want to measure, my advice is to get it and start monitoring in advance of the date you start to cut down, do a month off booze, or quit. Using a device for a week or so will help you establish your patterns before you make the change – you can then begin to see a range of subtle and not-so subtle impacts of changing your drinking.
Other useful tools, depending on your age and other health complaints, are things like blood pressure monitors and blood glucose checks. Don’t go overboard, but if you have an underlying health complaint (like fellow member Julian did), then there may be something out there to help you measure the impact.
Exposing problems you are worried about? Then go to your doctor and take the data you have collected from your devices and discuss it with them. This is your health, so take control in the surgery armed with your information.
The chances are if you are over 40, you have been asked in for a heath-check (if not phone and book one). Your doctor will test a range of things from weight to diabetes risk. Do it and get the results.
In fact any time you go to the doctor ask to see your data. It is yours. You can use it to help you make decisions about your own health. I always sit with my doctor and look at the data they are inputting, and ask questions and make my own notes. I will write on this in more detail soon.
So there you go. Use your data and see the improvements!