In today’s society, it seems like there is no escaping the social pressures of drinking alcohol. But cutting drinking from your daily life, it can play a major role in increasing performance and energy. In this episode of the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by founder of ‘One Year No Beer’, Andy Ramage, who changed his life via a unique personal challenge.
Tana Amen: Well today we have a very special guest, Andy Ramage, and he's actually joining us from Across the Pond, right? So from London. And this is really fun. This is called One Year No Beer. And Andy Ramage is a former professional athlete turned oil broker. Sort of interesting. And he is a former, what we would call soccer player, what they call football. Currently runs Alpha Energy, part of the OTC global holdings, the largest independent commodities brokerage in the world, and he's also a master practitioner of NLP, something very near and dear to my heart, which I absolutely love, a mindfulness based awareness coach, currently studying for a master's degree in positive psychology and coaching psychology. He has a love of wellbeing and peak performance. And this led Any to stop drinking alcohol in the face of massive social pressure, as you might imagine. He runs a brokerage in the city, so not drinking is almost unheard of.
But from this experience, he realized that there were probably millions of others out there that were desperate for a break from alcohol who could not overcome this pressure. So he wrote a book and co-founded a movement with, hopefully I say this correctly, Ruari Fairbairns, very Scottish, called One Year No Beer, a 30/90 or 365 day alcohol-free challenge, to change people's perception of alcohol. So this unique background, education, experience of running One Year No Beer make him one of the world's leading habit change experts, and we are so blessed to have you with us today. So welcome, Andy.
Andy Ramage: Thank you for that lovely introduction. Delighted to be here and see how sunny it is over there.
Tana Amen: You probably don't see quite as much sun where you're at so-
Andy Ramage: You're right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Which means vitamin D is less in England-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: For sure. We love this topic, and you know, the podcast's called the Brain Warriors Way because we know you're in a war for the health of your brain-
Andy Ramage: Exactly. What-
Dr Daniel Amen: And your body. And this is part of the war, which is alcohol. People think of it as a health food. It's if you're not drinking, there's something the matter with you. Tell us your story. How did this evolve for you?
Andy Ramage: Yeah, really, it probably starts when I fell into the city. As you mentioned, I started out life as a professional soccer player, and I played till I was about 23 years old, and unfortunately, as happens to many young men, injury cut my career short, and I loved it. It was my passion. It was my everything in life. And then I found myself bumming around, traveling, meeting new people, experiencing new things, and eventually ended up in the city of London in a broken job, in oil specifically. And that culture, that community is very much a social environment, and that, being social, involves alcohol. It's how you entertain.
And at that stage in my life, I built this persona around me. It's how I met my friends, how I met my wife. Basically, everywhere in my life, this whole thing called alcohol. And it really started to take over. But I hadn't really noticed it at this point. I was outwardly very successful, like lots of people are in the city, and I had all these trappings of that success, but something was missing. So it was 6 out of 10, when really I wanted it to be an 8 or a 9 out of 10.
That sort of led me on an adventure really, to look at all things wellbeing, from mindfulness to NLP. I started to look at my diet. I started to look at exercise. But nothing would really stick, because I'd go out on a Wednesday lunchtime or a Thursday night, and go and drink too much, and wake up the following morning hung over, lethargic, tired. And all those great plans would go out the window. So I just couldn't get a good run of anything.
And then one day it just dawned on me. I thought, "I've got to address the elephant in the room, which was alcohol," and that scared the life out of me.
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:04:05]
Dr Daniel Amen: How much were you drinking when you decided it was a problem?
Andy Ramage: Yeah, I mean, not excessively compared to my peers or most people in the city, and I think that's an important message to get across here, that there was no problem as it were. This was me actually taking a proactive stance, because I think there's so much mythology around alcohol, especially that anyone who wants to stop, there's an association. They must have a problem, when that's actually not the case at all. Especially for me. I didn't have that classic problem. I just wanted to fitter faster, better at my job, healthier, and more productive, more dynamic and it made me realize-
Dr Daniel Amen: And alcohol wasn't helping you.
Dr Daniel Amen: I mean, you came to the realization it wasn't helping you. So how many drinks were you having in a week?
Tana Amen: Like a week or a day?
Andy Ramage: Yeah, so on a daily basis, four or five drinks during the week.
Dr Daniel Amen: Four or five [crosstalk 00:05:05]
Andy Ramage: Yeah, and then on the weekend [crosstalk 00:05:07]
Dr Daniel Amen: So not a lot.
Tana Amen: Yeah, that's not considered technically a lot of alcohol, but you noticed it really slowing you down.
Andy Ramage: Oh yeah. And then obviously that could blow out the weekends. But it's just that constant grind of lack of sleep, lethargy, tiredness that was actually holding me back, and the bigger problem was the psychological problem, of actually taking that away. My character of losing that, that power over me. I was that guy that-
Tana Amen: That social guy.
Andy Ramage: [crosstalk 00:05:35] In the bars, yeah. And to take that away is huge. It's not only your business. It was my ... I'm looking at my wife thinking, "Is she still going to love me if I'm not that guy, you know." And I think that's where people find it so difficult because it's actually ... It's so endemic of everything they do.
Tana Amen: Yeah. I think so. I mean, socially we think of it as ... It's become the social message of, "We're entitled to go and enjoy a glass of wine or enjoy a drink," or it's sort of the social message of what we're entitled to.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and some people actually feel more social when they drink. It decreases their anxiety. It decreases their-
Tana Amen: They're relaxed.
Dr Daniel Amen: Inhibitions. And so they are less self-conscious. Was that the case for you or not really?
Andy Ramage: Oh, no. Very, very much. It's only recently I think I've realized that I'm quite introverted in many ways. I used alcohol ... Was this sort of superman cape to turn me into this-
Tana Amen: Almost like a social lubricant?
Andy Ramage: Yeah. It would turn me into this flamboyant extrovert.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Andy Ramage: Which really helped. Again, I'm not going to point fingers and say that it didn't, because actually it did at that time. But the problem is, and I think that happens to so many people, actually you must find yourself self-medicating in some ways to get over that social anxiety. And then actually that becomes the problem eventually.
Dr Daniel Amen: What I really want to know, is what was the event or series of events that led you to the decision to stop?
Tana Amen: Like the actual very specific thing. Like, was there something specifically?
Andy Ramage: Yeah. In truth, there wasn't. It was a slow ... And that's again another point I want to get across. There wasn't this wonderful epiphany moment where the gods were singing, and I thought, "Halleluia, I'm going to stop drinking." Because that was really important to me. It was a quite slow event over time of experimenting and actually testing whatever it was that ... The alcohol that was holding me back. And I think that's another myth that lots of people fall into, is they're waiting for this moment, this perfect, almost rock bottom-
Dr Daniel Amen: Now you're an athlete, and athletes at a professional level are all about performance and optimizing their performance. And so were you feeling your performance was not what it could be and you're looking, it sounds like you're searching for a way to really elevate your game.
Andy Ramage: Yeah, 100%. That's really the angle that I came at this from. It was again ... So there wasn't an epiphany. It was more of, "I want to be better, I want to be fitter faster. How can I achieve that?" And I started to look again at diet and exercise, but it was the alcohol really, was the gateway, was the key, the cornerstone to unlocking all of these different things, because suddenly, without hangovers, I could train more. I wasn't phoning in sick like so many of us do to the personal trainer or making up those embarrassing excuses at the last minute.
Dr Daniel Amen: Why one year?
Andy Ramage: Because it rhymed with beer.
Tana Amen: Because it rhymed with beer.
Andy Ramage: As silly as that sounds, I just needed something big enough that would get people off my back. Again, for me ... And this is the same for so many people. If you walk into a room and you say you don't want to drink alcohol, their reaction is normally one of, "What? You know, you can't do that." If I went out with a client and said I'm not drinking tonight, that's just not acceptable. So I needed an excuse to be able to say, "Look, I'm just doing a challenge, and this is what I'm doing-"
Tana Amen: Oh that's great.
Andy Ramage: One year no beer. And that would get everyone's attention. And that's really ... Sort of spawned the idea for the whole movement. And it worked really well because it was a challenge, and people, I think, admire a challenge and they like a challenge. So my clients then, instead of twisting my arm to drink, were actually quite supportive, because they couldn't believe that me, knowing my background and my history, could ever survive even two weeks, let alone a year. So it sort of snowballed from there.
Tana Amen: So the question I have is - did it influence anyone else to make that same change, just because you modeled that behavior?
Andy Ramage: Yeah, exactly, 100%. And the whole reason we're here now is because Ruari Fairbairns, who you touched on earlier, bumped into me six months into my challenge, and we haven't spoken about this yet, but I lost about three stone, which is 42 pounds of weight-
Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh. Just from stopping the beer?
Andy Ramage: Well, again, we can dive into this, but not just from the calories of beer, but because I was able to train again. I wasn't again [crosstalk 00:10:30]
Tana Amen: Ah!
Andy Ramage: And it's all those different things that-
Tana Amen: That snowball.
Andy Ramage: The marginal gains.
Dr Daniel Amen: One of the secrets to success ... It reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld, the American comedian?
Andy Ramage: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: And he wanted to be a great comedic writer. But he didn't have the discipline. And so what he did is he said, "I have to write for 30 minutes a day." He challenged himself. And every day he did that, he would go to the calendar, you know when we had paper calendars, and circle the date and put a line through it - "I did it." And after doing it for three weeks, he said, "I'm never going to break the streak." So it's that challenge that motivates people to stay with it. I'm not going to break it. This is important to me. And then that becomes more important than the social pressure or what else. So One Year No Beer ... When we come back, we are going to talk about habit change, and what Andy has learned in helping thousands of people change their behavior. One Year No Beer. Stay with us.