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How Quitting Alcohol Helped Today’s Guest Lose 30 Pounds, Make More Money, Attract Better Friends And Lovers, And Got A Job Hosting SportsCenter on ESPN (And Your Formula For Reducing or Quitting Alcohol).

jamesswanwick

In recent podcasts, I've talked a lot lately about alcohol, and what it does to the body, both good and bad.

My friend James Swanwick, who wrote the article below and is the host of the Alpha Male Club podcast, has a very interesting take on alcohol. So in today's podcast, you're going to learn how quitting alcohol helped James lose 30 pounds of fat, make more money, attract better friends and lovers, and got him a job hosting SportsCenter on ESPN – and get a formula for reducing or quitting alcohol.

You'll learn:

-Why James quit alcohol…

-What happens to your body when you stop drinking, physically and mentally…

-The biggest challenges that happen when you stop or reduce drinking…

-What to do when you’re at a party or bar if you're not going to order a drink…

-If James turned to any other vices as a replacement…

-Why James doesn't just use a “one glass of wine a day” approach…

-And much more!

———————————–

“I am four years alcohol-free today.

What started as a 30-day challenge, turned into a four-year lifestyle change. Friends often ask me about this so I figure I’ll quickly share my story, assuming others may be interested.

I was never a big drinker. I’d enjoy a few quiet beers during the week.  Most weekends I’d go a little harder and get a good “buzz”. On a handful of occasions over many years, I would say I got “drunk”.

It was all good fun. There was no drinking to excess. I never had a drinking problem.

But I awoke with a shocking hangover one morning four years ago at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas after a particularly fun night. I walked into an International House of Pancakes for a hangover breakfast.

The IHOP menus have photos of the food you can choose – big, bright, bold colors. The sight of those scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes on the menu and big, fat, overweight people sitting at tables next to me made me ill.

I decided then and there to see if I could go 30 days alcohol-free. It was simply a personal bet with myself to test my self-discipline. I didn’t plan to go more than 30 days. But I eventually would.

The first two weeks were hard. I went out with friends and ordered water or diet coke and they’d give me a hard time. “You’re un-Australian!” they’d say to me.

But I got through those two weeks and I was off to the races. I felt better, slept better and had much more mental clarity.

After 30 days, I’d lost an incredible 13lbs (5.9kg) of fat around my stomach. Just from stopping drinking. I had more money in the bank balance, my skin looked considerably better and I actually enjoyed getting out of bed early morning to exercise.

James (left) a few years before he quit drinking at 218lbs (98kg) and James (right), today, alcohol free, at 180lbs (82kg)

So I said to myself, “Bugger it. I feel great. I’ll just keep going and see how far I can go.” Little did I know just how far I would go.

After 60 days, I craved a cold beer. Or a red wine. Or a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic with a dash of lime.

When it was hot outside, I started dreaming, “I would smash an ice cold beer right now!” But I breathed deeply, downed a diet coke or water and the feeling passed.

After three months, I felt terrific. I’d dropped a few more pounds of fat and was starting to put on some lean muscle in the gym. People were complimenting me on how good I looked.

I also realized that despite not drinking, I was still managing to have wildly entertaining nights out – even with my drunken friends slurring their words around me. Conversations with women became much more interesting.

When I told women I wasn’t drinking, far from them thinking I was an alcoholic in recovery, they actually told me they were impressed with my self-discipline.

You don’t need alcohol to have a good time

“Beautiful,” I thought. “I can stop drinking and still be fun, entertaining and attractive to women.”

Guys were always suspicious of my story, though. They always thought I was a recovering alcoholic who “obviously” had a problem. I just smiled.

Between three and six months I was in the zone. I felt energetic and healthy and I actually started to thrive on telling people I had temporarily stopped drinking.

But many people – particularly guys – still challenged me. They called me a “Pussy!” Or said to me, “Just have one!” Or “An Aussie that doesn’t drink?!?! F$%k off!”

I just laughed, pointed to my head and gave them my stock response, “I’m too strong in mind!” Some idiots even tried to secretly slip vodka into my soda. I had to make a point of always sniffing before drinking if they’d ordered for me.

Six to 12 months was fairly easy to be honest. And this is where I noticed the most dramatic changes.

I found that my relationships were considerably better – romantic and platonic. For example, I was constantly thinking about how I could help my friends rather than how they could help me.

I was more inclined to help people generally and was more considerate. I was calmer and noticed I made better decisions.

My work productivity soared. My business made more money.

More opportunities – like an ESPN audition to host SportsCenter – came my way. When it did, I was clear in mind, energetic, and seized the opportunity. I ended up getting that gig and hosted SportsCenter for two years.

I did, however, find I got tired at night time and went to sleep earlier. Listen, I could still burn the midnight oil until 5am during my sobriety. But I found I didn’t really want to. I felt like nothing that good really happened after 1am anyway.

So I would party hard – alcohol-free – until 1am. Most people who just met me weren’t even ever aware I wasn’t drinking. I could still be the life of the party with nobody even knowing. Then I headed home to be asleep most Friday and Saturday nights by no later than 2am.

James still James partying late  – alcohol free

I was up at 8am or 9am on weekends to hit the gym, showered, had breakfast and was ready to tackle the day by 11am when my mates were just dragging their lazy hungover backsides out of bed.

When I reached the personal milestone of one year without drinking, I found myself back in Austin at South by Southwest. I went to a pub, ordered a Budweiser, and put it to my mouth.

For James, no alcohol means more energy for exercise

It smelled good.

I had every intention of drinking that beer. But something stopped me from taking a sip. I paused and thought about it for a minute.

I decided that all the pros of not drinking outnumbered the cons. So I said to myself, “I’ll just keep going.”

So I did. I put the Budweiser down and haven’t picked up a drink since.

March 12, 2014, is four years to the day since I gave myself that initial 30-day challenge.

I’m 20lbs (9kg) lighter today than I was when I started on March 12, 2010. I’m 38lbs (17kg) lighter than when I was at my porkiest (See fat face photo above). Drinking definitely kept fat around my waist. Stopping drinking eliminated it.

This is likely due to three main things: 1. Alcohol contains a lot of carbs 2. Drinking makes you eat a lot more food, especially bad food like fries and desserts 3. Quitting drinking gives you more energy which turns you into a fat-burning machine.

I’m not for one moment suggesting you should quit drinking entirely like I did. Obviously, I am an extreme case. But my story clearly shows some of the positive benefits you can get if you do quit. Even just reducing your alcohol consumption by a few drinks a week, I believe only positive things can happen.

If I have a drink today, no worries. I’ve accomplished my goal. But I just don’t feel like having a drink.

In summary:

PROS: I feel better, look better, work better, act better, am better, have more money, have better quality of friends, really enjoy a nice ice cold water, don’t miss alcohol, realize I CAN party like a rock star WITHOUT alcohol, friends who’ve known me a long time say I’m a considerably nicer and more agreeable person

CONS: It is sometimes awkward explaining to new friends or business associates why you don’t drink. BUT…that initial awkwardness is mostly felt by THEM, not by you. And you can’t control how they feel.

If you decide you want to give it a try, trust that the pros will likely outweigh the cons. Set yourself a 30-day-goal. Or a two or three-month goal. Test it. See how you feel. See if it works for you. Or go for a year.

Or don’t do it at all. If you’re happy drinking, keep drinking! I love drinking! I love to drink a six-pack of beer and a bottle of red with the best of them.

I’m sure I’ll do it again one day. But for now, I’m happy with water and soda and feel like I am the best version of me.”

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about the health of alcohol, quitting alcohol, reducing alcohol or anything else related to today's podcast? Leave your thoughts below and either James or I will reply!

34 thoughts on “How Quitting Alcohol Helped Today’s Guest Lose 30 Pounds, Make More Money, Attract Better Friends And Lovers, And Got A Job Hosting SportsCenter on ESPN (And Your Formula For Reducing or Quitting Alcohol).

  1. I quit drinking on 11/12/13, figured good day to start. Work is great. Family life is great. But….Can’t stop thinking about beer. Can’t get motivated for the gym. Where does one clear their mind and find motivation?

    1. I'd suggest yoga/meditation to clear your mind and it sounds like you'll have to build a habit of going to the gym again, which means go everyday for 21 days. Let us know how you go!

  2. Ben,

    Such a powerhouse effort – all power to James from a fellow Aussie feeling just how strange it is to be the only non-drinker in the room. Strange – indeed – but unreal and such clarity it’s amazing!

    Thanks

  3. I am so scared. My life is falling apart because of alcohol. I don’t know where to begin to stop drinking. I cried out to Jesus to heal me this morning. I feel like I have a leprosy and is not clean. I am waiting on Jesus to say, You are healed my child. I know he is the only one who can give me strength to fight this leprosy. I believe my healing is on its way. Today, I choose to be sober for the rest of my life

  4. I quit drinking 5 years ago. I'm currently 46 and in the best shape of my life. In my youth I ran / lettered in cross-county and in track (I'd actually like to pole vault again but that's another story) and in college participated in rock / sport climbing and mountain biking. Drank that whole time (since around 16 actually). Youth gave way to middle age and the activities fell by the wayside, drinking did not. After quitting I promptly lost 20 lbs. I took up road cycling and switched my diet to a quasi-paleo / whole food diet (my weakness being artisan pizza, but I do live in Oregon…) I went from mid 190's then, to a today of 157-159lb (I'm 5'10"). Sleep better, feel better, lean, have more energy, on and on. Mine was a problem, but I fixed it. If yours insnt a problem, so much easier to fix. It is all possible – some days easy possible, some days hard possible, but always possible.

  5. Awesome show! I’ve learned a lot. I will be taking this challenge on quite possibly for a full year. I am very interested if you are still looking for subjects and I’ll keep an eye on the facebook page for more information. Thank you for every thing you do.

  6. Are you still looking for subjects? I'd be interested in getting blood work done. I usually drink at least a beer or 2 a night but have cut back in the past couple weeks while I train for a marathon.

  7. This episode really resonated with me. I've been looking for a good reason to stop drinking for some time, with a drinking background that sounds very similar to James's, though perhaps with a bit more exercise than his former 3 days/wk. I am a 37 yr old male, cross country skier, cyclist, former citizen triathlete. I'd guess I average 12 – 16 drinks a week and have for at least 10 years. I'm also a fully accredited data geek with experience managing sensitive information, so if you need somebody to collaborate with on data management/analysis, I'd be happy to help out.Thanks for the podcast – it's a great, positive presence in my life. Lets make this thing happen!!!

  8. I would definitely be interested as a test subject. Let me know. [email protected]

  9. I know a couple of people have already chimed in about wanting to be test subjects for a no drinking and blood test results experiment. I am very interested as well. I'm a 27 year old endurance runner and musician. I drink anywhere from 2ish to 10ish+ drinks a week, but will intermittently lay off the booze in preparation for a big event or race. I'm very interested to see how no drinking would improve my fitness and energy, especially working long and late night hours as a jazz musician.

  10. I can really resonate with this story. Thanks for posting Ben! I too recently cut back to 1-2 glassed of wine on the weekends max; down from 1-2 glasses per night. My productivity and thinking is at an all time high and I'm as lean as I've ever been. Thanks for sharing this great post!

  11. I would love to be one of the guinea pigs for your no booze experiment if it flies. Formerly 210 lbs., 50 year old post-menopausal woman. I swear I haven't slept more than 5 hours a night since my hormones got the best of me and I started using red wine to get to sleep, but never stay asleep. I'm 5'2" tall and struggling to maintain a weight about 135 or less. Hashimoto's, but medicated. About 3 glasses of wine a day…more days than not. Contact me if you're interested.

  12. I finished a 35 day break from wine recently. Now, I want to enjoy wine but in balance. How much per week is healthy for women? Thank you.

  13. I find a man who is master of his life and chooses of his own will to forego alcohol extreemly attractive. What an inspiration to other men and women. As a woman who does not drink or smoke, its easier to be alone rather than to compromise.

  14. Hi Ben,
    I’ve got a little adrenal fatigue going on (I think – I’ve been think of contacting you about this for a while). I am trying to get to the bottom of it and have a pretty comprehensive blood test history. I drink limited alcohol at the moment but I am about to go alcohol free. So if you need a test subject, I am super keen.
    Cheers
    Richard

  15. Tomorrow is my 45th birthday. I am going to take on the 30 day challenge of ‘no alcohol’.

    I have been a party girl for 30 years. These days I at least consume a bottle of wine a day.

    I did give up alcohol for 2 pregnancies, one year sobiety 10 years ago n 30 days last summer. I know that alcohol destroys my body fat content, my waistline, n my state of mind. So, cheers! Tonight, I am celebrating my birthday with friends (and wine) and tomorrow I will give myself the gift of being alcohol free for a birthday present. Start with the 30 day challenge. THANK YOU!

  16. Ben – if you are serious about looking for subjects to test blood work before and after quitting alcohol I would be interested. [email protected]

      1. I have been following your podcast for some time, this is the first time I felt the need to post. I would also be interested in being a subject for this experiment.

      2. Hi Ben! I just finished listening to your podcast while on my morning/afternoon fasted walk in lovely San Diego :) I've learned a lot from you already!

        I would love to be a subject if you are looking for one. I am a woman who loves red wine but have been toying with the idea of not drinking and I think this would be a great motivator and I would love to help. Please contact me if you would like another guinea pig Thanks!

  17. I think this is a fantastic topic – I've been "paleo" for many years now, and have tried different flavors of strictness, adjusting across all sorts of dimensions (Weston Price-ish approach, super low carb ketogenic, following circadian cycles for fruit / carb load, so on and so forth). Not to mention more biohacker-type tweaks than I can count.

    The one thing I've found universally true for me is that there is a GIANT step function in perceived wellness between sustained ZERO alcohol and a small amount of alcohol. (And when I say I'm drinking, that means at most four glasses of wine a week, spread over days not all at once.)

    I've always made the no-alcohol shift along with other adjustments, so I don't have an isolated measurement of the impact on various lab metrics. But so far 100% of the adjustments I've made which included zero alcohol as one of the changes resulted in much lower inflammation.

    The thing that makes me very suspicious about the benefits of alcohol is the sheer difficulty I have in actually making the shift stick when going from a small amount all the way to zero. It feels exactly the same as when I went paleo way back when, the sort of cravings I would get for bread and grains. It took about 6-12 months for those to vanish completely.

    The more biohacks I try and measure, the more I see a very consistent pattern that things that make me feel subtly less "sharp" or less "on" will invariably show up as big changes in my labs.

    So alcohol seem to be one of the things where the early guys like Art DeVany were dead on, and we might benefit from a back to basics approach.

  18. I am extremely inspired by this post….Please, please, can I acquire the plan you started, because I catch myself….still drinking at least one 24 oz. beer a day. I want to stop, I want help. I want a plan. I want You and Mr. Greenfields lifestyle….I can feel it, I know what I want, however, I admit…..I need help. Thank you, and hope my words find you both. Sincerely, Robert W Hunter ([email protected])

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