(health) Don't get hangry, do start brunching, and do invest in Tupperware: How to detox without ruining your social life

What goes up, must come down. And so, having spent the last four weeks living it up around Europe in the name of work, play, and the most E.P.I.C Ibiza hen do it’s now time to give my body a bit of TLC.

This month I have embarked on a thirty day challenge to lay off the drink, eat clean and workout every day, kicking off proceedings with a one week full detox from Patrick Holford’s book, The Optimum Nutrition Bible.

I’ve been here before, giving up booze and doing the clean eating thing in the month of January for the last few years, and the results have always been great: I've been more positive, productive and creative, had better skin and more energy, slept better and even rediscovered cheek and hip bones.

But it’s easy to be good in January when a) you start the year at a health retreat (Kamalaya in Koh Samui is my favourite place to reset in the sun) and b) everyone else is staying in/being boring/on the wagon too.

What is much MUCH harder is trying to be good when all your friends are carrying on as normal and the sun is shining. I don’t find reigning in the eating too tough. But having tried giving up the booze for the odd two/three/four week stints at various times throughout the year I’ve aways ended up hiding out at home, staring wistfully at my cocktail trolley and living vicariously through Facebook updates as I counted the days until I could be happy at happy hour again.

A very 'clean' menu AND Instagram fodder everywhere: Date night last Saturday was a dream detox dinner at Farmacy in Notting Hill

A very 'clean' menu AND Instagram fodder everywhere: Date night last Saturday was a dream detox dinner at Farmacy in Notting Hill

Previously a booze ban has meant a (self-inflicted) fun ban, which has resulted in me associating being super good to myself with deprivation and no life, and often me going OUT out and undoing all the good work with one mega weekend as soon as the ban is lifted. Which is obviously not very balanced and definitely not how I want my relationship with alcohol and health to be long-term.

I love being sociable and going out, and my friends love going out too... that’s why I love them! Trying new restaurants, rampaging around town on a Friday night, dancing on tables or in fields and people-watching is how we like to spend our downtime. And how sad is it to miss out on time with your favourite people just because you are trying to be kind to your body? 

So for this detox I have been determined to live my social life to the full at the same time as giving my body a much-deserved reset and hopefully learning to be a more mindful socialiser in the future. 

Two weeks in (one week of a full detox and one week of clean eating/no drinking) and instead of hiding at home I have said 'yes' to everything I would normally say yes to, including Friday night drinks in the City, networking events, catch-up drinks with an old friend, date night with the husband, date night with the BF and a banging pool party with FREE drinks (the irony!).

And guess what, it IS doable. And almost fun :)

If, like me, you are used to using alcohol to give you confidence in social situations it is tough at first. But it gets easier with practice, and it's true that you don't need booze/drugs/fags/food to have a good time (all of the time).  As a result of still going out but staying on the wagon I'm having some brilliant quality time with friends, saving a fortune (and some brain cells no doubt) and still getting loads of shit done the morning after. I'm sorry to be smug, but it's life-changing!

Here's whatI have learned...




1. Out for dinner?

Make sure you choose the restaurant. Going to a pizza place or macaroni pop-up on a detox is pointless and frustrating. Take control of the plans and pick somewhere that offers something for everyone. I managed to persuade the husband and friends to dine at healthy restaurants Farmacy and the Hemsley and Hemsley cafe in Selfridges (and fyi they both serve wine), but if not everyone in your group is down with having a worthy dinner then brasserie style places or restaurants with good veggie and vegan options are your best choice. 

2. Out for drinks? 

Arrive early and leave early. Arriving early (even on those nights when you are off the wagon) means you get some QT with the important people before everyone else and the wine arrives. Once the chat turns repetitive/ridiculous/boring/very very LOUD and your personal space is being invaded it’s time to move on. This will mean you leave on a high, save a fortune in cabs and still like your friends the morning after. 

Mung bean dip, flax seed crackers and biodynamic wine for the BF at the Hemsley and Hemsley Cafe in Selfridges

Mung bean dip, flax seed crackers and biodynamic wine for the BF at the Hemsley and Hemsley Cafe in Selfridges

3. Don’t get hangry, always be prepared

Eat before you go out if you know it’s a drinks only thing or an event at a restaurant with nothing suitable on the menu. And take snack packs with you to nibble on the go on so that you are never starving and likely to give in to the bread basket. I have been taking mini tupperware mixes of red grapes, blueberries and nuts everywhere with me. It’s not glamorous to be scoffing almonds in the ladies loos at Shoreditch House but it’s much better than having to leave a great party just because you are hungry.

4. Do brunch

There are usually lots of healthy food options on breakfast menus and even if others are drinking it’s unlikely to be more than a couple of bloody marys which are a lot easier to ignore than litres of chilled white lining the table.

Pool party time. I'm sure these guys would have had just as much fun if they had swapped their Spritz for lime and soda. Maybe.

Pool party time. I'm sure these guys would have had just as much fun if they had swapped their Spritz for lime and soda. Maybe.

5. Make friends with soda and (fresh) lime

Not the most exciting drink but this is the failsafe clean drinking option at any bar/restaurant because most soft drinks and ‘mocktails’ are full of sugar. The bonus is that the fizzy water will make you feel full and also it looks like a ‘proper’ drink so people won’t keep trying to ply you with booze.

6. Don’t get caught in rounds

Unless you are a very rich and/or generous person, spending £40 on a single sparkling water for yourself and fun drinks for everyone else is going to hurt.

7. Make friends with Jason Vale

The Juice Master’s first book was actually a book on giving up booze (How to Kick The Drink... Easily!) and while I have no intention of stopping drinking entirely, reading this definitely shifted my relationship with alcohol. Ex-drinker Jason's approach is not to tell us why drinking is bad for us (we all know that) but to debunk the conditioning around any benefits of drinking the stuff. There are none, he says, none at all, and his straightforward approach will have you agreeing with him on most points (although he's obviously not been to an after after party with my brilliant-when-drunk friends and I).  Download it onto your kindle and dip in before a big night out for encouragement on abstaining while everyone about you is losing their head.

Straight-talking on giving up the booze from someone who has been there

Straight-talking on giving up the booze from someone who has been there

8. Make fitness fun

That sounds like a tagline for an awful sports centre. What I mean is: round up your mates for an evening class instead of going to the pub. This is the best way I know to be sociable without drinking. Or even thinking about drinking. Make it interesting enough and most people will be glad to try something new with their gang. Tonight eight of my party-loving friends and I will be donning face paints and animal print Lycra for a Jungle Fit class in Covent Garden. Of course we will probably go to the pub after (more lime and soda anyone?!) BUT we won't get there until 9pm (saving us money as well as several hours of after work units), we will have got our endorphins flowing AND we will have done something good for our bodies ahead of the weekend.

9. Write a list of the reasons you are doing this

Detoxing and/or going on the wagon are often not just about losing weight. For me, it's a chance to reset my body and brain as well as wanting to be more productive as work ramps up a gear, and ultimately it's about liking myself a bit more. Whatever your reasons, a list is a good reminder and keeping it in your wallet/on your phone is good motivation to resist that first glass on a night out.

10. Don’t bore on about it

Nobody wants to be reminded that they are pouring poison into their bodies in the middle of a soul-affirming Jagerbomb session. Or that cigarettes give them wrinkles when smurting with the hotties outside the pub. Remember you have made this choice for your own reasons. You should always be your biggest and best support. If you can stick it out it's a brilliant achievement and your future self will thank you. But your current friends don't want to hear it right now.