February is an interesting month for us! When Feb rolls in it feels like the end of a long holiday, the party is officially over and it’s time to rein in a few things, reassess the diet, the lifestyle etc.

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Why Feb? Well for the past 9 years, it’s been the busiest month of our working lives. In the fitness industry, February in Australia was crazy – schools went back, holidays are over and everyone is back into routine and looking to get fit and healthy after indulging during the festive season and beyond! So every year, we signed up for Febfast, a charity event where you give up alcohol.They’ve expanded on this now and you can also give up sugar, coffee, technology etc. We always do no booze – 28 days is perfect!

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This year we did not sign up, but we did our own Febfast anyway and banished the booze. I had a night off mid-way and called it a day on the 27th: Jacks gone right through – he’s always all or nothing, and I’m a sucker for really good Prosecco!

We kind of know what to expect now, after doing this for a few years, it’s about changing habits created throughout the year and especially over the festive season. I would not even say (now) that I’m a big drinker, as the sad part of getting older is that I really, really have to pace myself now and drink heaps of water in-between drinks, otherwise the next day is a write-off. 

We love wine and beer and having a glass of something almost every day! Nothing wrong with that, but of course, the more you do this, the more your body adapts and gets used to it and wants more! So Feb is like a reset button for our liver, kidneys and the benefits really are fantastic.

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We are super productive and do things we would not normally do, because usually we would be sitting have a drink, so it takes us out of our comfort zone. We sleep really well and get to bed at least an hour earlier than normal; we watch less TV, drink less coffee, drink more water and herbal tea; make better food choices and eat less because our blood sugars are more level; our skin and our eyes are brighter – bonus! We know all of this, but still the biggest challenge is convincing our minds of this when every Friday night a little voice inside says, ‘Ah go on, have a drink, it’s Friday and you deserve it, you can get back to Febfast tomorrow!’ or ‘You are hardly a big drinker, some of the longest living people in the world drink red wine everyday!’. 

There are so many little scenarios, excuses, stories that pop into your brain during Feb and it’s having the willpower to divert these and / or ignore these and focus on one day at a time. The more you do it, the easier it gets, but it still takes you a week or two to re-adjust and there’s always some feeling of sorrow or loss on a Friday night when all you really want is a big glass of red wine!    

Now, for an extra challenge, I did a little extra detox of my own. I thought what the hell, I’m giving up the booze, I might as well do a ‘3 day detox’ which is based on the alkaline diet and is aimed at reducing inflammation in the body (puffy face, bloating, puffy ankles and hands etc.). I did this last year with about 30 other people, who were doing my annual 30 day challenge, so we were in it together. This year I convinced my mum to do it with me and we could support each other. The three day detox shrinks your stomach so you want to eat less afterwards, flattens it a bit too, makes your skin glow and overall you feel lighter, but you have to give up coffee: oh my!.

Now giving up alcohol for a month is tough (for us anyway) but giving up coffee, well I’d rather run a marathon, pump out 100 burpees, do hill sprints or pull my toe nails out one at a time.  It’s that bad! My coffee addiction consists of two cups of coffee a day – strong ones though. I was feeling anxious a few days before the detox and worried, and maybe a tad sad and depressed if I’m really honest, which is ridiculous – but then it’s addictive stuff. Last year, my first day without coffee was hell, there was nausea, headaches and dizziness! Day two was worse, it was like the second day of muscle soreness – a delayed reaction, and I could hardly function! Thankfully my fellow challengers were not much better, so I did not feel so bad or toxic! We were all in it together! You kind of wonder why I went back to the stuff, but I do love it!

This year, I’ve read up a bit on the whole thing – done my research, got prepared and got my head around it, but still I was nervous because I remember the side effects of caffeine withdrawal from last year. So this time, I made sure I sweated: the quicker you get it out of your system, the better. I had a sauna every-day, did hot yoga and drank tea infused with lemon, celery seed and parsley – all good diuretics to help flush out the toxins. My headache lasted for five days, but was not severe, just a bit like my head was getting compressed – it was worse in the afternoon. Other than that I was fine, but ready for bed at 8pm on day 1. I’m staying off it for now and see how I go!

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I can understand why athletes use coffee or caffeine as a boost. When you are not used to it and you are eating pretty clean, half a cup gives you a massive boost of energy and you can really feel it hit your system – you are fired up! Yep coffee is potent stuff, which I love and loathe with equal measure. I loathe it when I’ve drank too much and it has the opposite effect on me and makes me more tired and I love it when it wakes me up!

I do like to analyse why these things challenge us so much: eating unprocessed and wholefoods, giving up coffee, booze or sugar and changing habits. For us both, exercise is something we do every-day and thankfully we are at that stage where we don’t need much motivation to move (it’s taken a long time to achieve that!) but take away the treats, the rewards, the ‘fun stuff’ then the going gets tough and our minds become our biggest challenge. We could go for a 10km run, but tell us we can’t have coffee or a beer at the end of the day, well that’s harder for us than going for a run! That’s why most people try to change their habits through exercise, it’s easier, but often you end up flogging yourself silly in the process and getting injured.

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It can often take such a lot of willpower to just go to an exercise class, when working on the mental stuff, the bad habits, the things we know need addressing is of more merit in the long run than a workout. Exercise is the best medicine in the world and if you can do it alongside any healthy changes, then that’s fantastic, especially if it keeps you focussed, but if you are doing exercise alone and self medicating with all the bad stuff, nothing much is going to change. We’ve both been there-honest!

Merry March, Cheers!