A word from the National Director of febfast

As the National Director for febfast – the annual challenge that asks people to send grog on holiday for a month – March now has a different meaning for me.

First and foremost, it’s my birthday month. Yes, I know, that sounds like I’m all of 8 years old counting down the days to my birthday party, chocolate cake and ice-cream. But, hopefully, you, like me, never lose that tiny bit of excitement that comes with the month your birthday lands on. And with it being my birthday, there’s a certain ‘free pass’ from normal rules: in other words, I can eat and drink as much as I want coz, y’know, it’s my birthday and I’ll stamp my feet if I don’t get my own way.

But, hold onto the horses…my birthday comes quickly off the back of febfast and that, ladies and gentleman, changes things.  Febfast is all about creating space for change. I, alongside thousands of others, have had the luxury for 29 days of a clear head, a good night sleep, and not feeling bloated or sluggish. And more than the physical benefits, I’ve had the strangest sensation: that despite all previous evidence, there is a degree of self-control and willpower that remains in my brain cells. Who knew?  More than anything, this slightly fluffy, intangible benefit of febfast is what I hear most from participants. There is sense of relief, pride and confidence that comes from completing the challenge.  In a world of diet disappointments, failed New Year’s resolutions and missed deadlines at work and home, the ability to “STICK TO MY GUNS” for just 29 days comes with a satisfying sense of wellbeing.

Some people say ‘surely you can give up the drink for just 29 days?’ and in a sense they are right.  It’s not an impossible challenge like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. Only people like Brian Blessed with an enormous beard can attempt that kind of thing. But the comment  misses the point. Yes, we can give up the grog for 29 days, but more often than not, we don’t!  Our routines and daily habits are imbedded and ingrained, fine-tuned by years of trial and error in how best to get through a busy week.  Doing anything different for 29 days is a challenge.

The only difference with febfast is that not only are you changing long-standing habits for a month, you’re also giving up the thing that many of us use to reward ourselves. The ‘I’ve worked hard today, I need to unwind fast, pass the wine bottle’ is a tough little mental conversation on a Thursday night.

But once that conversation is mastered, and once the benefits start to become apparent, suddenly the sense of personal satisfaction starts to grow.  As VicHealth summarised, participation in febfast becomes a “highly beneficial experience”. And now I’m not so sure I want to unstitch all that good work.

So, March is changing for me. Drinking as much as I can get away just coz it’s my birthday is now sounding a bit, err, lame.   That said, I still want a truck-load of chocolate cake though. I’m not all grown-up just yet.

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Howard Ralley

With a background in marketing, Howard asked every man, women and their dog to spend all their money exploring the world with Lonely Planet, and then, at Save the Children, to instead give that money to some very clever people who, well, save children for a living.

Now, as National Director for febfast, Howard is at pains to point out that he is not the Bar Man’s enemy. Indeed, some of his best friends have worked behind the bar pulling pots and sharing their wisdom.

But now with a young family, busy lifestyle and a metabolism that is no longer 30 years old, Howard is starting to realise that having a drink at the end of a long day is not always the right answer. Whilst this ‘realisation’ is something of a slow learning curve, Howard is braving a whole, new world of abstinence during February.

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