You’ve seen the TikTok trend that goes something like, “What’s a scam that’s become so normalized that we don’t even realize it’s a scam anymore?” …right?
One night as I scrolled my fyp, I came across a stitch that responded with “alcohol.” Interesting…but wait. Is that true?!
What I hadn’t come across on my fyp YET was #sobercurious. But it wasn’t long after that night that I learned just how the idea of ditching (or at least becoming more mindful about) alcohol is not only finally becoming a more normalized lifestyle change, but it’s trending.
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What does it mean to be sober curious?
I asked Jordan Grainger, who started sharing her own sober curiosity journey on TikTok early this year. Since then, she’s become a well known advocate and educator for the lifestyle.
“The idea behind it is that you’re starting to get curious about the way that alcohol shows up in your life.”
When she read Sober Curious, Jordan said something just clicked. She hadn’t been happy about her relationship with alcohol for a long time, reflecting on intensified mental health struggles and hangovers that would emotionally “take her out” for a week. So she took on Warrington’s 100-Day Sober Curious Reset and treated it like “an extended dry January.”
In the end, she said the break from alcohol gave her space and permission to really explore and understand her relationship with alcohol.
Jordan describes sober curiosity as part of a spectrum, ranging from frequent drinking to a damp lifestyle, mindful or intentional drinking, sober curiosity, and teetotal sobriety.
“I think one of the things that makes it very approachable is it’s also very personal to each person. The theme is getting curious and really understanding why and how you’re drinking and how you can kind of change your relationship with alcohol.”
She also wanted to be clear that voluntarily exploring sobriety is not at all the same as sobriety for someone addicted to alcohol. Anyone experiencing symptoms of alcohol addiction should seek help from a medical provider.
@jordan_grainger Changing your relationship with alcohol might not fix all of your problems… but it will fix alot of them 💗 #sobercurious #sober #alcoholfree #soberinseattle #sobercuriousmovement #sobercuriousjourney #sobercurioustiktok ♬ original sound – AnxietyGangOfficial
Why people are breaking up with alcohol (kinda)
On the surface, I get why people decide to ditch alcohol, especially now that I’m in my 30’s and for me, hangovers last no less than 3 days. But why NOW, and why does this seem to be really taking off among the Gen-Z crowd?
When I briefly discussed this with the team at Blogilates HQ, there were some good hypotheses: Maybe after COVID, we’re all a little more health-conscious? Or maybe it’s part of a bigger movement to improve mental health.
I brought this up with Jordan too. The first thing she pointed out was that sober curiosity has probably always been a thing. The difference is now, people are actually talking about it.
As we were chatting, she glanced at the sober curious hashtag on TikTok and told me it had 40 million views when she first started posting about her journey this spring. The day we were talking, it had grown to nearly 153 million views. Now a few weeks later, it’s still growing at nearly 189 million views.
This is important because it NORMALIZES something that is often socially isolating.
@heatherhiilani Where are all my sober curious people at? #sobercurious #soberlife #sobercuriousjourney #alcoholfree #alcoholfreejourney #zeroproof #kineuphorics #mocktails #fyp #PrimeDayDreamDeals ♬ original sound – athena
The sober curious post-COVID theory
Jordan’s take on this theory was less about COVID making us health-conscious, and more about COVID forcing us face the root of why we drink.
“COVID took our friends away. It used to be that I would go to the local bar and have four drinks on a Wednesday night. And that was completely normal. Now I want to have four drinks on a Wednesday night, but I’m sitting in my house alone in the middle of quarantine. So I think a lot of people started to realize that their drinking was a little bit more problematic or they were drinking to cope or they were drinking to fill holes in kind of in negative ways.”
Quitting alcohol also gives you the gift of time.
Not only does a night out drinking often mean you’re going to bed late, but alcohol actually disrupts your sleep. This leaves you feeling sluggish and less productive the next day, or even for a few days after a night of heavy drinking.
This was one of the major things Jordan noticed during her challenge. “I was able to get into a consistent workout routine and take my dog for a walk. And I started a podcast with my friend and I started incorporating hobbies back into my life. And so like, it literally felt like my week doubled. It was crazy.”
Then there’s the mental health aspect.
Obviously having more time to get things done is a big help for mental health, but simply cutting back on alcohol is major too. Jordan noted in one of her most-viewed TikTok videos that now that she isn’t drinking, she’s noticed her anxiety is gone. And while alcohol alone isn’t a cause for anxiety, it definitely exacerbates it.
There’s science to back this up too, since drinking alcohol literally alters your brain chemistry.
Alcohol really is a (health) scam
I’ll never forget learning the science about what alcohol does in your body when I was in college. Learning the ins and outs of how the body metabolizes alcohol highlighted exactly how it causes so much damage. We all know the obvious effects of alcohol like fewer inhibitions, poor judgement and maybe feeling sick by the end of the night. But there are some other effects that you may not notice until you take a break from alcohol.
Short-term health effects of drinking alcohol
Nausea and vomiting
Vision and hearing disruption
Loss of consciousness (blacking out)
Long-term effects of drinking alcohol
Long-term mood changes
Memory and concentration problems
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The non-alcoholic beverage industry is exploding
We’re not the only ones noticing that more people are talking about ditching alcohol. Brands are noticing, too. In fact, the inspiration from this article was born when someone at Blogilates HQ noticed alcohol alternative brands in her IG ads. It seems like a new non-alcoholic bevvie is popping up every day. Non-alcoholic wine shops are popping up everywhere too – even where I live in Indiana, where it feels like we’re normally behind the trend.
I spoke with Marcus Sakey, Co-Founder of Ritual Zero-Proof to learn more about the growth of non-alcoholic drinking.
“Non-alcoholic drinking isn’t a moment, it’s a movement. This isn’t a niche product or consumer we’re talking about. A non-alcoholic cocktail is for anyone who is dieting, training, making a baby, already had a couple drinks, is doing Dry January, has to work in the morning, or is simply trying to be healthy and wants a clean cocktail.
And by no means is it an all-or-nothing proposition. 78% of people who drink non-alcoholic cocktails also drink alcohol. For us, it’s about balance, and Ritual offers a tool for each of us to find our own sense of balance.”
This completely aligns with the premise of sober curiosity, but also serves as an important reminder that there’s a place for these products beyond actively cutting back on alcohol.
Oh, and the marketing of these products is absolutely stunning. Everything from the packaging to the social media aesthetic to the promise to make you feel “euphoric” or “focused.” But of course I had to wonder…
Are these drinks healthier than alcohol?
If you’re wondering why a dietitian is writing this article…. this is why. Obviously drinking less alcohol is going to be a healthy change all around. But are there any downsides to replacing alcohol with non-alcoholic products?
I assumed that most of these products would remind me of mixers, mainly in terms of sugar content. However, I was surprised to learn that most of the popular products out there actually aren’t high in added sugar. Obviously the non-alcoholic spirits like Ritual Zero-Proof aren’t sweetened at all, because they’re most often combined with some kind of mixer. But even the products meant to be consumed on their own like Vybes use little to no sugar. Most are light sweetened with monk fruit or stevia.
What about ‘mood enhancers?’
If you’re wondering why you wouldn’t just drink a Sprite or some kombucha to replace alcohol, I had the same question. However, some non-alcoholic brands found a way to “take the edge off,” even without alcohol. Here are some common ingredients, often referred to as nootropics, and how they claim to boost your mood:
CBD – Many people use CBD to manage anxiety, help with sleep, and to alleviate chronic pain. The amount and type in non-alcoholic beverages varies, so this may benefit some more than others. Also, research on these claims is still ongoing.Adaptogenic mushrooms – Several types exist that may help with focus, mental clarity, energy, stress, and anxiety. Although these mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, more research is needed to back these claims up.L-theanine – An amino acid used to boost mental function, increase feelings of calm, and boost creativity. However, only a few small studies have found this to be effective.Caffeine – This one’s nothing new, and helps with energy and concentration. Pay attention to the amount of caffeine in a product, as some people need to be careful not to consume too much. Caffeine could also induce anxiety or make you feel jittery.Melatonin – To help you relax. However, if you’re sensitive to melatonin or not used to taking it, this could just make you sleepy.
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Health is about more than the nutrition label
If you replace alcohol with a beverage that doesn’t have textbook “healthy” nutrition label, it could still benefit your overall wellbeing. So keep that in mind if you embark on a sober curiosity journey.
At the end of the day, it’s about finding the most sustainable healthy lifestyle FOR YOU. Maybe you’ll have fewer drinks at social events, or you’ll set a limit for how often you want to drink. Maybe you’ll experiment with sobriety for a while to see how you feel. Or maybe nothing is changing about alcohol in your life.
Stay tuned for a sober curious taste test!
If you want to learn more about non-alcoholic products to try, STAY TUNED! Obviously we had to try some, right?! I’m currently taste-testing some brands and mixing up some non-alcoholic mocktails and so far I am looooving them. Once I’m done testing, I’ll write up a full review so you can try some too!