Why Going Dry May Be Your Superpower and Tips for A (Very Fun) Non-Alcoholic Lifestyle
Why Going Dry May Be Your Superpower and Tips for A (Very Fun) Non-Alcoholic Lifestyle

This week, Elizabeth welcomes lifestyle journalist and author of The Dry Challenge, Hilary Sheinbaum. Hilary talks about her fun career path covering Hollywood’s biggest stars to founding Going Dry and freelance writing for publications like The New York Times. Hilary shares her experience completing Dry January after making a New Year's bet and how it upleveled her life and showed her you don’t need alcohol to thrive. She provides tips for reducing or abstaining from alcohol and discusses her book Journal for Bad Days. Hilary and Elizabeth also discuss the power of getting 1% better every day and how taking a month off alcohol can prove that you really can do the hard things in life.

  • PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

    Elizabeth Stein 00:00
    Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder, and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey. This week's guest is Hilary Sheinbaum, a lifestyle journalist and the author of The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month. Hilary has contributed to national publications including the New York Times, USA Today, Marie Claire, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, and more. She's also the founder of goingdry.co where she advises on N.A. Events, menu curation, and partnerships. In this episode, we talked about Hilary's path as a freelance writer and red-carpet reporter. Yes, we even talked about her interviewing Brad Pitt, to her transition to writing for the New York Times, and making a New Year's Eve bet to go dry for January. Hilary shares tips about abstaining from alcohol and the health implications of consuming it, as well as the difficulties of serving non-alcoholic wines in restaurants and bars. Hilary also talks about her recent book A Journal for Bad Days, which aims to help people become more present, live their lives, and manage negative emotions. It was so great to catch up with Hilary. Keep listening to learn more.

    Hilary, welcome to the podcast. I'm so excited to reconnect.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 01:30
    It's so great to see you again. So good to see you. Thank you so much for having me.

    Elizabeth Stein 01:35
    So Hilary and I met back in January through Brooke, my amazing PR girl and I was midway through my dry January, which I can't wait to talk to you about. But it was so much fun to connect with you there. You fill us in on some entertaining stories you might have some of them today. So I can't wait to pick your brain and have you share with our community.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 02:00
    Yeah, and it was so fun meeting you guys. I ate so much cookie granola that day and those cookies. I texted Brooke and I was like, “I ate like three of them in a row.” I was like take them away from me. They're so good.

    Elizabeth Stein 02:15
    Those cookies were… you have to keep this on the menu.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 02:20
    Oh, please. They're dangerous.

    Elizabeth Stein 02:22
    So let's start with your journey. Because you have not always been writing about dry January, certainly quite the opposite. First of all, what did you study in school? Did you study communications journalism?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 02:36
    So I started college at Florida State University. And they don't have a journalism program. I was planning on being a PR major. Around the beginning of my sophomore year, I started looking into other journalism schools. I ended up transferring to the University of Florida and I still majored in PR, but I was able to take reporting classes and that was amazing. But I also wrote for the school newspaper, both at Florida State and the University of Florida. So I got a lot of experience interviewing people. And it was fun. I feel like I'm much more extroverted now. But definitely in college, it made me come out of my shell a little bit more, because I was forced to talk to strangers. So that was fun.

    Elizabeth Stein 03:27
    So you knew at a young age what you wanted to do, which I feel is so rare.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 03:33
    Yeah, I always wanted to be a writer. And I figured I would write books for a living, but I ended up being able to do so. But I don't think that I intended to necessarily be a journalist. However, I realized that I needed more writing experience. So yeah, it kind of all worked out.

    Elizabeth Stein 03:59
    Did you ever have a vision of what that book was going to be about? Or what you would write about?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 04:22
    Yeah, it's so funny. It's because it wasn't the dry challenge book. It was not a dry challenge. I always thought I was gonna write a novel and I still might. I still have the same idea that's just like, been in my head for 10 years, but maybe one day. I never thought I was gonna write a book about not drinking.

    Elizabeth Stein 04:18
    Love that. Okay, so what were some of your first jobs out of school because you've had such a fun career path?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 04:30
    Yeah, so my first job out of college was actually as a freelancer for Us Weekly. And I had randomly applied on a site called Ed2010 that listed internships and your first job kind of positions, and they were looking for somebody out of Miami. At the time, I was still in school. I was at UF, but they called right after graduation, and they asked me to interview the cast of the Jersey Shore. So my very first assignment was in Miami with the cast and I spent two days with them. The first day was at their home at the Metropole Hotel, and the second was at a nightclub. It was called Space. And it was all in between. I don't know if you remember this, but there was an Enrique Iglesias video that Cass was part of so I was there before and after that shoot. It was such a great experience. They are kind of the same age. And I watched them throughout my junior and senior years of college. And they were the biggest thing then. It was an experience for sure. That kicked off my career in journalism. And then I moved to New York, I worked in PR for a little less than two years, maybe a year and a half. And then when I quit my PR job, I applied to another celebrity focus gig, which I thought I wanted to be like an in-house editor and writing for magazines. But it ended up being this contract role that I kept for four and a half years. And then I spent one year again with Us Weekly. But my four-and-a-half-year contract was with Life & Style and In Touch Magazines. And it was as a red-carpet reporter. So the heyday of gossip, in my 20s it was a dream job. I had so much fun. I would check in at the red carpet at 5-5:30. The carpets would start at maybe 6:30-ish, 7. I would work until eight on the red carpet interviewing the Kardashian Jenners, every housewife, Brad Pitt, and Selena Gomez. It's so funny because sometimes I get those notifications on my phone like you 10 years ago, and Ed Sheeran, and I'm like, oh my gosh, like, we've aged so well. But it was the best time of my career then. And I just had so much fun with it. So afterward, I would go to the movie premiere, maybe sit in the movie, sometimes I would write up my file, and then I would go to the after-work parties. Then I would wake up the next day, and I would write about many different things, food, beverage, fitness, and a lot of that coverage was about booze. I would do it all over again. It was a really fun time. Sometimes I'm just like, oh, yeah, that happened. Like I forget. It wasn't like this one moment where you see a celebrity and you're like, oh, yeah, that one time I suck. Kylie Jenner. It's like, oh, yeah. I interviewed her when she had green hair. And there were swarms of fans screaming. It's just like, not normal life, but it was the best.

    Elizabeth Stein 08:10
    Okay, well, I know we could, in theory, have a whole conversation, a whole podcast just about this. But I need to ask just a couple of questions. One, I'm sure, as you said, you got used to it. But were you nervous? What was that experience? How were they for the most part? Nice? Tell us a little bit about it.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 08:26
    Yeah, so funny. I think that for the most part, celebrities understand that I'm showing up to work. And they are too, especially if it is on a red carpet, and they are promoting something actively. The only time that I freaked out was when I interviewed Brad Pitt. I like forgot my name. Usually, I'm like, “Hi, I'm Hilary.” It was crazy. And it was during the World War Z movie premiere, if you like Google those images, literally the carpet was in the shape of a Z through Times Square. So there are screaming fans. This is pre-COVID days, like screaming fans, there's like so much going on. And I just blurted out my questions to get it out there real quick. But that was really fun. And there have been some not-so-nice interactions. But everybody has a bad day now and then.

    Elizabeth Stein 09:27
    Totally, you never know what people are going through. But I'm sure that it taught you so much that you've carried into your career. Like what were some of those bass lessons through that time for you?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 09:37
    Oh, for sure. I think that it's definitely humanized, I don't know if that's a word, people a little bit more. I realized that everybody is doing their best and you might not catch them in their absolute best every single time you interview them. I think that is a really big one. But I also think that you can't be afraid to ask the question. And so many times where I've felt like oh my gosh, maybe this is not appropriate or whatever it is, people are happy to answer. I think there's definitely this need for connection. And people want to express themselves. And sometimes it's great to give them the opportunity to clear the air about something, or they can always say that they kindly pass. So I think it's always worth asking the question.

    Elizabeth Stein 10:29
    Yeah, that's a great one. So you took those lessons, and you moved on from the celebrity world and moved on to the New York Times. And tell us a little bit about what was next.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 10:39
    I started contributing to the New York Times, I think it was 2017, I want to say, and the first piece I wrote was about how people like to name their Wi-Fi networks because I was literally in LA and just asking my brother in his new place, like, what is your Wi-Fi network called it? What's your password? And it was something so ridiculous, that I ended up writing a story about That was my first pitch. That was my introduction to the New York Times Style section. And then since then, I've written just like a number of really unique stories. And as we discussed, I wrote a piece about people getting married naked, which I hope my parents are so proud of.

    Elizabeth Stein 11:22
    But how did you even think about that idea?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 11:24
    My cousin was getting married, and I couldn't find a bridesmaids dress. I joked to her that I was going to show up to her wedding naked because I just had run out of ideas. And we laughed about it. But then in the back of my head, I was thinking to myself, like, I wonder if people actually do that. Like, first of all, I grew up in Florida. I know it's a wild place sometimes. So I was like, maybe there's something here. But as it turns out, people who live as nudists, choose to spend the most memorable day of their lives the way that they live, which is without clothes. So it was definitely an eye-opening experience. And I learned a lot. Like there are certain rules for certain venues. And at some of these weddings, like even the vendors have to be naked. Some of them will have children, and some of them won't. But it's a very interesting topic that I never really would have thought about. But it was great to interview people who are living that lifestyle.

    Elizabeth Stein 12:31
    Totally, definitely getting to see all parts of people and the world. So you were also writing about alcohol at some point, right?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 12:48
    Yes. So while I was doing red carpets, I was freelancing during the day and covering a number of topics, but a good majority was food and beverage. Of that, I was writing about the newest wine, beers, cocktails, bar openings, beverage directors, and whatever the trends were at the time. And around this time, I decided to make a bet with my friend who could do a dry January. So our bet started basically right before midnight, I kind of dared him and we agreed that the loser was going to pay for dinner for the winner. Basically, dinner would have been anywhere in New York, and obviously, New York is not cheap. So on that list were Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and Momofuku Ko.

    Elizabeth Stein 13:39
    All right, so there's a real prize at the end.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 13:44
    Exactly. Those dinners are not cheap. So, we ended up going to Momofuku Ko as my friend lost and I won. And to this day, he has not bet me anything again. But I dedicated my book to him. So I say that we both won. And we're still friends. He finally completed his first strike January I think like two January's ago. So it all worked out in the end. But we both I think learned a lot during that month. And I certainly took with me so many amazing benefits, like better sleep and clearer skin and just having a more upbeat attitude and more energy. I've now continued to do dry January every year since and certainly a lot of months in between. And I ended up writing a book about it. I think those memes are really accurate when they talk about friends who are doing dry January, and they just won't shut up about it. I was in that camp. So I compiled everything I learned and did a lot of research too and just produced a book so that I am not that person who is constantly preaching all that I know about dry months.

    Elizabeth Stein 15:00
    I love it. As I said, when we met, I was halfway through my first dry January, and completed it, which I did not think I was gonna be able to complete. It was really amazing. As I said, when we saw each other, I was in New York, I was there for the week for press meetings. And New York, I lived there for 12 years never did I think coming back into town and going to all these great restaurants, I knew I wanted to drink wine. And then the following week, I had a trade show in Vegas. It was like the hardest time that I could have tried, and I did and I felt all the things that you did, I felt amazing. I slept better. My aura ring told me I was sleeping better, and had more energy, it was so nice to wake up at a trade show and not be hungover at all and just felt so wonderful. Also, I feel like it taught me that you can do hard things. And like if you could do this one hard thing, you can do other hard things in your life. So I feel like there are so many amazing lessons from it. I am still having some wine now. But certainly far last I went back to drink wine, I almost felt like it didn't even taste good. It really was a lot more of a turn-off than I had anticipated. So we'd love to hear from your perspective, some of the tips that you say to help people get through whether it's dry January, dry mouth or just drinking less in general.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 16:34
    Yeah, so in terms of tips, I have a few. One, I always say recruit a friend, because there's strength in numbers, I think, especially when you have that best friend or even a partner who is not drinking with you, you can plan activities. You also don't feel pressured if they're ordering a beverage and you're not. But you can also vent to them about how hard it is. And you can also cheer each other on. So I think it's really good to have a support system so that you don't feel so alone. I know that a lot more people are lessening their alcohol consumption now. But certainly, eight years ago, when I started my journey, I was the solo person explaining everything and I think that sometimes that can take a lot of energy and can be a little bit of negativity there. So that's my first one is a recruited friend. The second one I would say is to try nonalcoholic alternatives. There are amazing nonalcoholic wines, beers, and spirits now, one of those brands is Curious Elixirs. It's so easy, just pop the top and their non-alcoholic cocktails. You can you can find them online. They're in some bars and restaurants. There are also spirits like Damrak 00 and Fluère. Damrak is a nonalcoholic gin and Fluère has a gin, a tequila alternative, more like a Mezcal alternative, a Rum alternative. So if you like making drinks, then you have those at your fingertips.

    Elizabeth Stein 18:07
    What about a favorite wine alternative? What's your one alternative?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 18:13
    Oh, it kind of depends. I think if you're into sparkling wine, I would definitely recommend Mionetto. They have an alcohol-removed sparkling wine. And then for the full range, Giesen wines are really good. They are out of New Zealand and they make an alcohol-removed version as well. I would also just remind yourself to be kind to yourself, that's a really big tip of mine. Because I think that a lot of times people think it's this all-or-nothing month if you mess up, then it's over. And I think that if you have one drink where you have a night of drinking, that's okay. Just start again the next day. And that's it. It's so hard to give up alcohol in our culture. It's part of sports games, it's part of celebrations, it's part of breathing. I think that it's part of dating. It's so hard to ignore. So if you end up having a drink, just be kind to yourself. Don't feel like all is lost.

    Elizabeth Stein 19:19
    I love that. And it is so it's part of everything. I'm thinking about going to a trade show this week. And it's there's networking, there's any these sorts of events that you go to after work are all centered around drinking. 1first of all, you were so ahead of your time, eight years ago coming out with this. But for you now, do you drink? What is your kind of routine around that?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 19:45
    Yeah, I think it's definitely evolved. The first year I did dry January on February 1, I drank. And I did not feel well at all the next day. My tolerance was so much lower. Do not recommend going full force back in. And these days, it depends. I still drink, I'm not sober, I'm not in recovery. A lot of the time, I actually like to compare the nonalcoholic versions to the foolproof versions. So I will sample both at the same time. But if I am just hanging out with friends or going to a party, maybe I'll have like one glass of wine. And that kind of does a lot at the moment because don't drink that often. So, it definitely depends. But I've attended weddings now without drinking, and certainly on my own birthdays and other people's birthdays, too. I just got engaged in December. But when I was dating, I was like, I'm not drinking on dates, and I felt like it made it more of a better experience being able to connect without alcohol. I think it just depends on the month, but at this point, maybe I'll have like, one or two drinks per month, which is not a lot.

    Elizabeth Stein 21:04
    And I think once you've done it, and you've not had a drink during those hard milestones or times, then it also makes it certainly easier to be like, okay, I didn't drink when I was in Vegas. I know that I can do XYZ and not do it here, here and here, to really help your mindset shift, because so much of it is that. From a health perspective, I also started to think about it like, this glass of wine is mostly sugar. And I sit down at a restaurant and order, like a piece of cake at the beginning of my dinner? No, that perspective of it too, which I think is really interesting that we're just so accustomed to ordering that. And that's how you start a meal. But is that really how you want to start a meal?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 22:05
    It's so like, ritualistic. And what's funny is whenever I teach cocktail classes for nonalcoholic beverages, I always like to bring up calories, and not for any particular reason. For some people, their goal is weight loss when they give up alcohol, for some people they want to sleep better, or whatever the case may be. But recently, I did a cocktail-making class at a gym. And there were about 30 people in attendance. Somebody asked, “How many calories are in this cocktail? It seems like I'm putting fruit juice in here. And that's a lot of sugar.” And I said, “We are making a margarita.” I tallied up everything. I said, “The spirit in here is zero to five calories, the fruit juice is…” whatever it was. The other mixers, the simple serve business, I think totaled maybe 90 calories at most. And they were like, “Wow, I don't know if I want to drink that.” And I said, “Do you know how many calories are in a traditional Margarita?” And they're like, “I don't know, around the same.” And I was like, “About 400.” And nobody's having one Margarita. So if you are trying to lose weight, or watch your calories or whatever it is, it's so eye-opening because obviously, nutrition labels are not on alcoholic products. So a glass of wine is maybe 120 calories, whereas a nonalcoholic wine might be between 5 to 25 per glass. And the sugar. There's a lot of sugar.

    Elizabeth Stein 23:48
    Yeah, there needs to be nutrition labels on alcohol. Is that ever gonna happen?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 23:55
    Probably not. We can hope but unlikely.

    Elizabeth Stein 23:59
    Well, you could just educate ourselves around it then. So the book was eight years ago. And now this is certainly morphed into the community, people are now so much more into this so much more accepting, restaurants, going into a gym and showing this. So tell us a little bit about how you are working with people today to help bring this message and help people on this journey.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 24:38
    So eight years ago, I made that. Seven years ago, I wrote my first story about going without alcohol for a month, and that got a lot of reactions. Then the book ended up publishing in 2020. And I think it was perfect timing because a lot of people were drinking a lot during the pandemic. And so I think that it definitely took on a life of its own as people were looking for resources. And now that we are in happier times, I would say, I do a lot of education events and collaborations to bring nonalcoholic options to menus to hotels, and just to get products into people's hands so that they have a better understanding and can experience it for themselves. Because I think a lot of times people are like, well, why would I drink that? Or I'm not going to order that, I'm not going to try it on my own. But I think when you see something on a menu, it gives you permission to water it rather than asking a bartender to make something up. So yeah, I throw events. I actually have one this week at Barry's boot camp, we're going to be serving Celsius. And we're also going to be serving IPAs by a brand called Good Time Brewing. And just to showcase that we're here, we're socializing, we're networking. We're having a good time. And now we have this nonalcoholic happy hour. You don't have to drink booze afterward, or, I guess before maybe. Anytime. But yeah, been fun. And I've helped some local restaurants. On the Lower East Side, there is a rooftop bar called Unlisted. And they have both Fluere and free spirits on the menu, Free Spirits makes nonalcoholic bourbon and tequila and a Milano and a gin and vermouth. They have everything too. But it's just about like really opening people's eyes to other opportunities and not drinking or enjoying themselves. So that's what I've been working on.

    Elizabeth Stein 26:53
    That's so fun. And so great. I feel like that was one of the things for me, where wine is my favorite versus having a cocktail. And it's the taste of it that I certainly like. And going out, there's a lot of mocktails on restaurant menus, but not a lot of wine. So where have you seen the challenge in getting that onto menus?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 27:12
    So in terms of wines on menus, I think a big disadvantage is opening the bottle. And then you have this product that if one person is drinking it, the rest of it might go bad. So what I've seen for nonalcoholic wines, is they either offer it by the bottle, usually not by the glass in restaurants and bars, or there are some brands that have single-serving smaller bottles, which I think is nice. So hopefully we'll see more of that. But it's just a little bit more difficult with wines in terms of fiberglass, just because it might not be ordered as often. But I think that's hopefully going to change.

    Elizabeth Stein 27:59
    Yeah, how amazing would it be to see a great wine list with a great nonalcoholic mine on there? Because to me, it's at home, it's easy to not have the alcohol. It's when you're out.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 28:14
    Right. I've seen it in a few restaurants. That's the hard thing. So more to come definitely.

    Elizabeth Stein 28:20
    And it's so hard to make. I think great nonalcoholic wine tastes like wine.

    Hilary Sheinbaum 28:25
    Yeah, I think wine is like the final frontier especially reds are really hard to replicate but beer they've been doing it for a while so they kind of have the system going. Cocktails, you can mix fruit juices you can mix bitters, that sort of thing wise, I think it's easier to maybe mask imperfections when you have bubbles in your glass but like I said, I think reds are going to be the hardest to replicate but they definitely are getting better year after year. There are more brands there are more skews and so there's hope.

    Elizabeth Stein 29:09
    Yeah, it's sort of like vegan cheese when it started out. Pizza cheese tastes like regular cheese. So you definitely hope. In addition to now focusing on alcohol, you're still writing and also recently came out with your book journal for bad days. What was the inspiration behind that?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 29:38
    So A Journal for Bad Days is a journal prompt to really like help people get more present in their lives and express gratitude but also take you through what it is that you're feeling and have the opportunity to move through it and analyze it and come out with a brighter outlook if you will. It's really not like, everything is like flowery and fluffy kind of journal. It's definitely not that, but it was inspired by a lot of my own, and also my co-author's daily lives. Life isn't always easy or roses. And so I think it's important to have these tools that help you manage those not-so-flowery moments in life because they happen.

    Elizabeth Stein 30:34
    Yeah, they happen for all of us. Any favorite prompts are ones that you go to on a regular basis to help you when you're not having the best days?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 30:40
    Um, it's funny, not necessarily, I think it just depends on what it is that's going on in my life or I should say, what's not going my way. But I think that for me most recently, movement is really helpful. I think that just getting out of my head sometimes and letting things process, I think, like a lot of New Yorkers, we want things instantaneously and life doesn't happen that way. So for me, it's about patience, and also just giving things room to breathe. So sometimes, going on a run for 30 minutes is good. So I'm not staring at my phone, refreshing my inbox, waiting for an answer, or, like I said, just depends on what is going on.

    Elizabeth Stein 31:30
    So walk us through a typical day for you. How do you feel your best and like any rituals that you have in the morning? The evening?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 31:42
    Yeah, so there's no typical day, I will say that. However, I tried to work out in the mornings just to like, get movement into my day. I think that a lot of times, I will crash at 3 pm. So anything after that, I'm probably not gonna make it to a workout class.

    Elizabeth Stein 32:00
    What's your favorite workout right now?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 32:03
    Yeah, I had my running era for a couple of months and ran the marathon in November. So I've been running maybe once a week since then no more than three miles, which is crazy. Like, I think about it a lot. I'm like, wow.

    Elizabeth Stein 32:17
    How was at experience? Did you love it or hate it?

    Hilary Sheinbaum 32:19
    Both. It was wonderful. It was such an amazing moment. And I'm so proud of that accomplishment. And I liked that I knew every day what my workout was or kind of had to rest and that sort of thing. It was very like, regimented. But I don't know, it’s a lot of work. And I spent a lot of time napping and a lot of time in those recovery boots, just to get my muscles to a good place. But typically, I'll wake up, have coffee, eat breakfast, usually oatmeal, I'll go work out. Then the rest of my day is up in the air. I’ll sometimes have a big writing assignment, or I'll be planning an event, or I will just be in my inbox for the next three hours, coordinating different things, scheduling interviews meeting with people, or going to events, it just depends. It's there's never like, I should have more of a schedule at this point. But things just happen. And so I kind of feel like as long as I go and work out, I have that one sta

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