Friday, 29 January 2016

Dry January - concluding with condolences.

Dry January - concluding with condolences.
After another week of work, rugby training, coaching and fizzy water, I reached the penultimate weekend of the challenge.
Another Friday night rugby game resulted in a dead leg which restricted most of my movement on Saturday. It was on Friday when I caught up with the players and found out that not only is Richard, who originally signed up to Dry January, still doing the Challenge, but another three players from the Edwardians Team are also doing Dry January - it’s been great to have the support of the players.
At this stage of the Dry January campaign I was not really missing having a drink, I was more missing being around fellow rugby players and my friends in the social settings of the rugby club or local pubs.
The Sunday morning brought the devastating news that my dad had died suddenly that morning.
As you can probably imagine the rest of week has become a blur and mix of family time, reminiscing, sadness and reflection, and also some smiles thinking back at my dad's life.
Despite the news, I have stuck to the challenge and remained dry for the month, and I will continue for the next three days. And I'm still raising money by staying dry for the Children's Heart Unit Fund at Newcastle Freeman Hospital via my Just Giving page - all donations go to CHUF.
I am grateful for the all the messages and support I have received over the past 29 days, and I will be attending the rugby club mid -season bash this weekend and continuing the challenge with sponsorship forms.
And I'll be thinking of you dad.

Friday, 22 January 2016

News just in! For the first time in ages, I can now fasten up the top button on my shirts.

News just in! For the first time in ages, I can now fasten up the top button on my shirts.

Exciting news – I’ve lost weight!

David in the Public Health team took all my measurements again this morning and, yes, I’ve lost weight, which I am very happy about as this is one of my big goals in Dry January 

I’m feeling better with more energy and, wow, look at me, I can now fasten up the top button on my shirts; something I couldn’t do four weeks ago.

This has been a cracking end but it has also been a challenging week – quite a toughie.

I'm not sure if it’s the dark days, the cold, the snow or the rain, or the post-Christmas January blues, but I was definitely close to going for a drink over the weekend; yes,  an alcoholic one. This was not helped by the number of text messages and invites out I was getting from friends from various pubs.

And after a freezing cold session at rugby on Friday night, I had to resist temptation when I saw my team mates standing there with ‘the beers’ after training. The ‘after training beer’ has always been one of my favourites and, this week, it was tempting. I stuck to my guns though and the barmaid was visibly shocked with my lime and soda order.

I do miss things about alcohol. I’m not sure if it's the taste or if it’s the social side of drinking and, occasionally, I find myself day-dreaming about it. This is quite weird.

I guess, it’s all part of the process – it’s not just the physical thing, it’s the mental side of it.

As part of my drinking habits I would usually be out with either the rugby lads, or friends from school. As I’m staying in more, I’m not having the same number of catch-ups and the social elements that come with a beer and putting worlds to right.  I guess it’s just different and for the past three weeks, I’ve been frequenting the local coffee shops and, hey, coffee’s fine by me.

It’s all food (and drink) for thought.

The weekend had a ‘blue’ feeling to it - very January – and I decided it was best to not go out over the weekend. I ended up being very productive getting a lot of the housework done on Saturday and I then had a wonderfully lazy Sunday, sat on the sofa.

Although the lads from the rugby club like to try and tempt me with pints, and they’re loving the media coverage this past week – and my honest picture - I am getting a lot of support from them as well, including hints, tips and alternatives to beer. Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.

I'm also very grateful for all of the sponsorship which I have raised so far for the CHUF charity.

Today’s weight report is a big boost and I’ve set myself a target of a 10-pound weight loss by the end of the month. I’m monitoring the number of steps I do in a day and I’m currently averaging 4,500 over the past couple of weeks. I’ve now set myself the target of 6000 per day for February as a target to get more active.

I'm powering on with the challenge, remaining strong despite the natural moments of doubt, and I’m planning events in February which are giving me the determination to continue the challenge.

For any music fans among you, I’ve decided to pick a song for this week’s entry; it’s got to be The Eagles and ‘Take it Easy’ in memory of the sadly departed Glen Fry. 

Friday, 15 January 2016

12 Days in – Weighty matters: Why, oh why have I gone dry?

As I got past the second weekend, and more and more people start to notice the blog and the newspaper coverage, and the picture of me on the work intranet, I am starting to think more deeply about why I am doing Dry January and what I hope to achieve from it.

I was persuaded to take the challenge by the public health team at Northumberland County Council, as a way of challenging myself and to see what impact alcohol has on my body.

At the start of last week we took some key measurements: height, weight, blood pressure and pulse as a starting point and we’ll monitor these as I go through the month. I’m sure I’m not alone in making scary self-assessments post-Christmas, but I must admit the initial figure given for my weight was a little scary; we checked and did a further calculation and that was slightly better, but only very slightly.

As well as looking at my vital statistics, I’ve also looked at the number of units I would normally drink in a month. This again was a little shocking given the new government advice on the recommended number of units for alcohol consumption in a week; it’s 14.

Blimey, I usually have 14-16 units just on a Saturday!

And here’s a real shocker: when my usual Saturday intake is converted to calories, I’m often consuming over 2300 calories in one session which is more than a little worrying.

Although it’s not the sole reason for me doing Dry January, I do want to lose weight (please see this week’s very honest rugby gear photo) and I am hopeful that it will be an unexpected side effect.  I’m going to measure this.

I’ve set myself the target of losing 10 pounds this month and while it’s not a large figure in comparison to my overall weight, it is what I consider to be a reasonable/achievable goal.

The weight loss side-effect of not drinking will be beneficial in the long term health-wise, and I am already feeling more awake during the day and I seem to have more energy even after just 12 days.

I have survived two major ‘drinking situations’ over the weekend. The first was after a competitive game of rugby on Saturday where I stuck resolutely to the soft drinks, and then I decided to be a taxi for friends who were out in Newcastle on Monday. It has been a different and a positive experience being the sober one in the group.

Thank you so much for the donations that I’ve already received for the Children’s Heart Foundation(CHUF) at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital; if you would like to sponsor me, please click here

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

New Year's Day to January 5th: Wine and steins... for auld lang syne.

Hi, I'm Stephen Parsons an amateur rugby player and coach, and a big fan of the Newcastle Falcons and I'm giving up alcohol for a month. If you want to join me in a 'Dry January', it's not too late to sign-up and if you're taking part and having a wobble, I hope my posts inspire you to keep going!

So, I know you’re all asking - how did I get on?

Well, after pouring myself one last beverage for 2015 (a double Amarula cream liqueur) at 11.50pm on New Year’s Eve, I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since. Not a drop.

Spending the New Year with family in Liverpool could have been tricky but the folks have been very supportive of my mission to stay off alcohol for a month and be healthier. They all knew I was starting the challenge and from midnight onwards, I was only given soft drinks.

New Year’s Day was quiet. I spent the day keeping the young family members entertained with beachside walks and bowling, meanwhile a feast of a roast dinner was being made by my aunties. 

Later, as we sat down to eat, a wine bottle was doing the rounds and I swiftly passed it on to avoid any temptation to pour a drink; I had coffee instead.

My family’s support really helped and on the drive home from Liverpool, I took some time to reflect on my booze-free mission and my determination to get through the first few days.

The first Saturday was always going to be the toughest day of the challenge. Newcastle Falcons were playing at home and that is a favourite day out for me. I very rarely watch a game at Kingston Park without indulging in a two-pint stein or two of Guinness.

Despite a bit of stick (actually, quite a lot!) from the regulars in the South Stand trying to tempt me to drink, I survived the day by drinking coffee and soft drinks.

Mind, it wasn’t easy. It was a day of celebration with the Falcons winning their first game of the season and just before the final whistle, I could see a hip flask coming along the row and heading towards me. Queue one of the quickest exits from the ground I have ever made - I dashed off delighted to have resisted, only to get stuck in the car park!

Overall, the first five days have been okay. I’ve had a couple of moments but I’ve been focused. 

Quite a few of my teammates and friends have now noticed this blog and are supporting me on with the challenge and it all helps.

I’ll do my best to stick to a Dry January and I’ll keep you posted via the blog.

I’m raising money throughout the month for the Children’s Heart Foundation(CHUF) at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital and I'd really appreciate your support, you can donate to CHUF here.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Week 1: Dry January: How hard can it be to go booze-free for a month!?

Hello and welcome to my blog. My name is Stephen, I am 29 years old, and I have decided to set myself a little challenge for the start of 2016.

The challenge has been proposed by the public health team to me and few of my rugby playing teammates from Morpeth Rugby Club: they asked if we would like to take part in the Dry January campaign.

Dry January is aimed at making people think about the amount of alcohol they consume and the effects that it can have on our bodies, and that is part of the reason why I want to get involved – I want to see what difference it will make.

Before starting on the 1st January I will be doing some basic health checks with the Northumberland Health team including checking my blood pressure, weight and waist line to see what effects, if any, a month without the amber nectar has.

I do not drink every day; however, on a Saturday I would say I generally have at least 3 or 4 pints as a minimum and I generally drink more than that, which is one of the reason I want to do Dry January… after a heavy month celebrating my birthday and Christmas and New Year, my wallet and my body could both do with a break.

I will clarify now that I although I play rugby, I would not call myself a Rugby player. I play for the 3rd and 4th team at Morpeth along with the other ‘social players’; the teams where you are often still trying to get players at 12 noon on a Saturday for a 1pm meet. 

Alongside the playing of the game, there also exists an associated drinking culture – I’m not saying that everyone who plays rugby drinks but there is a strong social culture and I want to tackle my own attitude to it! This is partly why I want to complete Dry January, to prove that not all rugby has to be linked to drinking and laddish behaviour.

It will be a challenge to complete a full month containing five weekends as January 2016 has, mainly because that is the time of the week when I usually have a drink (or 6).

I will be raising money for the Children’s Heart Foundation(CHUF) at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital and details will follow.