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Sober October is almost here, so, our regular NHD columnist, Sarah Howe, RD, considers charity fundrasiing challenges and highlights the positives of joining in and taking part. 

My social media is currently full of the challenges I could be doing over the next few months; mainly walking and running challenges for various charities. There are so many to choose from!

October brings a new challenge for Macmillan Cancer Support – Sober October. Could you give up alcohol for the whole month of October to raise money? For some this would be pretty easy but for others, regular drinkers, a huge challenge! Zero alcohol for 31 days and ask your friends and family to sponsor you doing it.

In the past, I was pretty sceptical about these challenges. I’ve even blogged about it before. My mindset was that wouldn’t it be easier to just forget the challenge and try to drink more sensibly on a long-term basis?

For some people it is very easy to have a couple of beers of an evening or even share a bottle of wine most nights with a partner or friend. So giving up completely could be potentially quite difficult. However, instead of going cold turkey wouldn’t it be better to stick to the recommended 14 units a week for adults, ensuring a few alcohol-free days? And do this long term, not just for a month?

This is what I used to think. It seemed like a quick fix and people wouldn’t stick to it.

I guess the phrase, “Don’t knock it, until you try it” is very relevant for me right now.

For some people a challenge is motivating, a kick-starter and when I signed up myself for a challenge this September, I have had my mind completely changed. I’m currently 45 miles into a two-mile a day running challenge for Cancer Research UK. I have always run on and off but I am doing it with a friend, who has only got into running over the last two months. This is also what I am seeing in the Facebook group I have joined, which has over 20k members. So many people have started this challenge having never ran before. Some have never really exercised. Some are overweight. Some themselves are in the middle of cancer treatment or are recovering. People are finding it very tough, but they are doing it.

The Facebook group is so motivating and inspiring and so many people are talking about loving running, becoming addicted and wanting to continue after the challenge is over. It has introduced them to something new and they want to keep going. For them this may become a whole new lifestyle change and not just a quick monthly fix.

These challenges are very clever. They do encourage people to raise money for charity but they also encourage people to become healthier: walk more, take up running, swimming or even reduce the amount of alcohol they are consuming. Changes that can help with weight loss and weight maintenance, general fitness and help reduce the risk of co-morbidities such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. Exercise is great for mental health and mood and the support in the social media groups is fantastic for motivation, making friends and boosting morale.

I’m now a firm believer that these challenges can be the start of something new for many people. Healthier habits, a healthier lifestyle and a happier you, as well as raising money for a good cause.

So, go sober this October? Don’t knock it until you try it!

Sarah Howe, RD

Sarah is an experienced NHS Dietitian specialising
in the fascinating area of Inherited Metabolic Disorders in adults.
Along with her work colleague, Louise Robertson,
Sarah writes the NHD Dietitian’s Life column, as well as
for their own blog at www.dietitianslife.com

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