One Year No Beer Podcast Episode 084 – Spice of Life with Kanchan Koya
Is alcohol especially problematic for women? What exactly are the effects of alcohol on women’s health? That’s one of the subjects that today’s guest is going to address.
Kanchan Koya has a PhD in Molecular Biology from Harvard Medical School. She’s also a certified health coach, an author, and the founder of the online platform Spice Spice Baby. Kanchan has also recently completed One Year No Beer’s 90 Day Challenge.
Not only is it preventing our body from detoxifying estrogen efficiently, but the estrogen that’s accumulating is then making the alcohol more irresistible. So, you get stuck in this loop.
Kanchan grew up in India and considers herself to be a health and wellness educator. One of her areas of interest is the science of spices. She’s studied the health benefits of spices and their value as preventative medicine. She explains that many medicines have their roots in plants and that it’s worthwhile to consider both traditional medicine and pharmaceuticals as parts of a whole wellness solution.
In today’s interview, Kanchan also speaks about alcohol, specifically about the different effects that alcohol has on men and women. She explains that alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to detoxify estrogen, which is why even moderate alcohol consumption can lead to an increased risk of certain health problems, like breast cancer, in women.
Kanchan also discusses her own journey with alcohol. She grew up seeing moderate alcohol consumption as a source of relaxation for her own father and started drinking herself for the same reasons. She describes her own typical alcohol consumption as moderate as well, but she began to feel concerned that even that moderate amount of alcohol was an addiction for her, and that it wasn’t serving her highest health needs.
Kanchan discovered One Year No Beer through a podcast interview that she was listening to, and the program appealed to her because she felt it was geared toward alcohol users like herself – those who weren’t addicts in the typically accepted sense of the word, but who wanted to create some distance between themselves and a potentially harmful habit.
Kanchan discusses her experiences with the 90 Day Challenge and how she’s handling alcohol consumption now that she’s completed the challenges. She also shares her thoughts about mindfulness and being part of a group like One Year No Beer, as well as some tips for people who might be just starting their first alcohol-free challenge.
OYNB Website: https://www.oneyearnobeer.com/
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Email: [email protected]
KANCHAN KOYA’S LINKS & RESOURCES:
Spice Spice Baby: https://www.spicespicebaby.com/
The Momlight Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/momlight/id1457407033
Kanchan Koya on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chiefspicemama/?hl=en
Kanchan Koya on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kkoya?lang=en
Jen: Hi guys, this is Jen on the One Year No Beer podcast. Welcome to today’s episode, where I’ll be speaking to Kanchan Koya, who is a food-as-medicine practitioner and health coach, working with clients to help them achieve optimal health, manage and prevent disease with Science-based food and lifestyle changes.Armed with her training from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and her PhD in Molecular Biology from Harvard Medical School. She elevates the health of families with science and flavor.
She recently completed her 90-Day Alcohol-Free Challenge with us. Today, she will share her experience, shed light on the science behind why alcohol can be particularly problematic for women, and generally why she decided to reset her relationship with alcohol, given what she knows of her health and longevity.
Without further ado, Kanchan Koya.
Jen: Welcome, Kanchan. Thank you so much for taking your time to come on this call with me.
Kanchan: Thank you for having me, it’s really an honor. I’ve listened to a bunch of your podcast, I’m a huge fan, and it’s a bit of a pinch-me moment to be on myself.
Jen: That is very exciting to hear. I’ve obviously done a bit of research on you as well. You are quite a personality, and I’m very excited to be on this call with you. I’m not going to be talking too much, I’m just going to try and throw some questions your way, and hopefully you can take over. You have experience with health, food and stuff, but you also want to be challenged personally. So much to pick your brain with.
I like to introduce my guests to our audience a little bit more. How about we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, like where in the world can we find you right now?
Kanchan: Right now I live in New York City in Brooklyn (I love it), but I’m originally from India. I grew up in India for the first 18 years of my life. I came over to the US to study for undergrad and grad school, and I stayed here ever since. I’ve been now in the US longer than I lived in India, so I have two homes and my heart is in two places.
I consider myself a health and wellness educator. I have a PhD which is really wonderful, but so much of the interesting science that’s done in the world of research never sees the light of day when it comes to the common man, so I really see all women. So, I really see my job as being a translator of exciting cutting-edge science and research, and helping people leverage that information for optimal health.
Jen: Wow. You said you have a PhD. Kanchan has a PhD for no less than the Harvard Medical School. She knows what she’s talking about here, so we’re going to get some really good information and intel. When you got involved, when you studied the science of spices and stuff, when did that catch your interest at the very first for yourself?
Kanchan: I grew up in India where spices are part and parcel of everyday life. Every Indian family has a spice box. We put it in everything, three meals a day. We don’t even think about it. It turns out that if you look ancestrally, even in the Indian culture, spices were revered as medicine, food as medicine for centuries. Every Indian family uses them and knows at the back of their mind that they have these incredibly powerful health benefits. I grew up with that wisdom, just imparted to me by my grandmother, my aunts, my mom, my family.
Then, I came to the US and I went to Harvard Medical School, like you said, to do my PhD in DNA repair and cancer biology. My lab started studying the health-enhancing effects, particularly the cancer-fighting effects of turmeric and the compound curcumin in turmeric.
That was one of those “Aha!” moments for me where everything connected, and I was like, “Whoa,” like all these ancient wisdom around Ayurveda and traditional medicine is now coming to fruition in the modern scientific realm. That planted a seed for me that maybe there’s a room to educate and inspire people to really look at these natural ingredients as prevention, as medicine.
Then fast-forward, I became a mother, started giving my sons spices to add flavor and health benefits to his food, and that’s when platform Spice Spice Baby was born.
Jen: Wow. Like you say, people are more and more interested these days in the alternative or maybe known as the medical roots. So people are looking into the healthier. I know that turmeric exploded. It’s everywhere. You can even go to the local coffee shops here in Edinburgh and get a turmeric latte.
Kanchan: That’s wild.
Jen: Probably you have to have a lot of turmeric lattes for you to have some profound effect, but it’s a starting point, isn’t it? People are curious about alternative medicines and ways of feeling better. So even here in Edinburgh, we’ve got them.
Kanchan: Yeah. I’ll just say this. Most pharmaceutical drugs that we take as prescription medications, many of their origins are in the plant kingdom. So plants provide these compounds which are starting points for drug discovery and pharmaceutical drug development. So, really when you look at a lot of medicine, whether it’s traditional medicals or pharmaceuticals, or alternative, the plants really seem to be the source of a lot of the magic. I just wanted to say that it’s not that different really if you think of medicine as a whole.
Jen: I guess the medical business is so big, the thing that they put together is bigger and quicker, but if we take our time, do our research, and look into it, there’s a lot we can do coming from the plant kingdom.
Jen: So you have a platform, but you also have written a cookbook called Spice Spice Baby Cookbook?
Kanchan: Yeah. I wrote a book called Spice Spice Baby, which I really think of as a spice resource plus a cookbook. The first 50 pages are dedicated to helping people understand the health benefits of spices as evidenced by modern science. The rest of the book is what to do with it now in your kitchen.
Jen: Amazing. I tried to look for it here in the UK, so for UK listeners, there isn’t any way of getting a hold of it right now, but for our American and Canadian listeners, you can get it on Amazon or probably on the outlets there.
Kanchan: You can get it at spicespicebaby.com and there’s actually a discount code, SPICYLOVE on at the moment which gives you 10% off plus free shipping for any listeners.
Jen: Amazing. You have a beautiful life. You’re a mom, you got your own business, and all that. What led you to signing up to the One Year No Beer Challenge? How did you find us? How did you come across us? And what led you to search for us, if you like.
Kanchan: I love it. Let’s get to the really good stuff.
I consider myself a health and wellness educator and really a health and wellness warrior. I’m really passionate about helping people find their best self and unleash health and vitality, but in reality was that I myself, I’m not going to say I had a drinking problem, but I’m going to say that I started drinking alcohol very, very young, as a teenager. Probably not that atypical, so in high school and then in college.
I grew up seeing alcohol as a source of relaxation for my dad. He’s incredibly healthy and well-balanced. He was very moderate with his alcohol, but he would come home from work, have a whiskey on the rocks or whatever, and in my mind that just became integrated with this idea of if I’ve had a long day, this is my way of unwinding and relaxing.
I took that with me into my adulthood, so I started drinking. I don’t know how much I was relaxing from it. I was a typical college student probably drinking, partying on the weekends.
Jen: That’s what we do because you’ve seen that. That’s what people usually do.
Kanchan: Right, so nothing out of the ordinary. I was a very good student, I was highly functioning, I was dedicated to school, but I would go out on the weekends and I would drink. I really like the taste of alcohol. I like the way it made me feel. It made me feel relaxed, uninhibited, all those things.
I continued in grad school and I started drinking wine regularly. I would work in a lab, do research, come home, and have a glass of wine, sometimes two. I thought nothing of it. I never thought it was something that was inhibiting my health or my vitality.
In fact, back then, it was early 2000s, there was still this idea that a glass of wine a day is good for you, it will help you live longer. It’s very French, it’s very European, it’s very cool, it’s sophisticated. So, all of these associations were very very front and center in my mind, and I really thought I was a very healthy person.
As I went deeper into this work as a health coach, as a health educator, in my 30s I became a mom. Perhaps it was also a function of just getting older, wiser, my body becoming more sensitive to things, me becoming more connected to what my body was telling me. I really started to feel, I’m just going to call it addiction to moderate drinking of wine, wasn’t necessarily serving my highest health goals.
I actually came across One Year No Beer because I listened to a podcast by Rich Roll, it’s an amazing podcast, and I believe one of your founders, Andy, was on there. His journey sounded similar to mine. He loved wine, he worked, he went off for dinner, he had wine. Maybe sometimes it was a little bit too much, but he was still a very highly functioning member of society. This idea that we can be addicted to things that aren’t serving our highest health (even in moderation) really stuck with me, and that there may be an opportunity to grow even further in our health journey; in our journey of self-mastery really, if we take an honest look at some of these addictions.
It just planted a seed again for me like, “Oh, One Year No Beer. Interesting.” It’s a program that helps people who aren’t necessarily alcoholics—that is a real issue and there’s a lot of support for that group of people—but what about people like me who feel the need to have that glass of wine after a stressful day? Or if my kids are driving me nuts? Or I’m out for a celebration? What if I could do some program that allows me to just create some space from this habit that has become so ingrained that I don’t even think about it, but that the research tells me has some detrimental consequences on my health? That was really how I came to One Year No Beer.
Jen: Amazing. You did the 90-day just put up by […]. You did the 90-day […]?
Kanchan: Yeah I did the 90-day challenge. There were enough occasions where I had a little bit too much wine, so I was pretty moderate, but there would be the weekend, dinner out, and suddenly it was not just one or two glasses, it was four glasses. Then, my sleep was completely shot, I woke up foggy-headed, and half a day was wasted, ¾ of a day was wasted.
It would happen often enough that I remember somebody asked me a question, “What was the one thing that you think you could completely give up that would completely transform your health and your life? What would that one thing be?” I’ve given up so many things already. I had given up sugar, I had given up processed food, I was eating really healthily, I was exercising, I was meditating, and it was alcohol. The idea of giving it up was so scary, but I knew I had to do it. The fact that it is so scary means I have to do it. There was a four-month lag between when I listened to Andy on Rich Roll’s podcast and when I signed up for the 90-day challenge. But I did.
Jen: It was amazing what you said. That’s why a lot of feedback we get from my members is that it’s such a scary idea, like what am I going to do? It’s what people do, what am I going to do? What are my friends going to say? Everyone gets a word. It’s so deeply ingrained in our DNA because that’s what we’ve seen. You said it yourself. Growing up that’s what people did to relax, unwind, or mommy time and all that stuff.
But then, it’s taking that leap. What we always say is that what if? What if you could feel amazing? It’s amazing. You took that leap of faith and you enjoyed it. Would you say you feel you transformed your relationship with alcohol long-term after having that break and getting some space?
Kanchan: 500%. Absolutely. I would love to just share a few things about why the research led me to sign-up for this challenge. Alcohol affects women and men differently. It affects everyone, somewhat detrimentally, depending on what your relationship with it is, how often you drink, how much you drink, what you drink and whatnot. It is really something that women need to look at closely.
Alcohol affects a woman’s ability to detoxify estrogen. We need estrogen, but when we have too much estrogen it can be a negative thing, particularly in the context of breast cancer and other hormone-dependent cancers. People may have seen studies saying alcohol increases cancer risk and that’s why it does that because it inhibits our body’s ability to detoxify estrogen.
I’m 40 now and I have friends who have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, early-onset breast cancer, and I’ve just started to think about things that increase my risk or decrease my risk. I couldn’t be a health educator and not pay attention to the fact that regular, even moderate alcohol consumption was increasing my risk for breast cancer. So that’s one.
The second is, interestingly, if you take the population and you put them into two groups, some people are very strong responders to the beneficial, relaxation, or happy effects of alcohol, where some people are genetically programmed to not care less, which is why some people tend to become addicted even moderately to alcohol and some people don’t. I can say that I am a strong responder. I really am drawn to the seductive power of something like a glass of wine to help me unwind, feel less anxious, take the edge off, all that good stuff.
But there’s a cost, and the cost is like I mentioned, things like increased risk for breast cancer. Also, women who are drawn to alcohol, like me, who are genetically maybe more susceptible to the high reward factor of alcohol, it’s like this interesting circular thing that happens with estrogen. Especially in the second half of our female cycle when estrogen is elevated, we’re actually more seduced by alcohol.
So not only is it preventing our body from detoxifying estrogen efficiently, but the estrogen that’s accumulating is then making the alcohol more irresistible. So, you get stuck in this loop. That’s why many women will say, “Oh, I’m PMS, and I really want a glass of wine and chocolate.” There is actually a biochemical underpinning to that. I wanted to break myself free of this cycle. I just wanted to see how I feel when I’m not in the clutches of that addictive cycle. So that was a big motivation for me.
Also—many of your members I’m sure experienced this—you lose weight when you stop drinking, and it’s not just the calories. Obviously, alcohol has sugar, it has excess calories. You cut those out, you lose some weight, it’s great. But alcohol affects your body’s ability to break down carbohydrates and fats. When your liver is busy detoxifying alcohol, it’s not able to do its normal metabolic functioning as optimally, which is why people start to say, “Oh. I have all this energy. I feel just so refreshed, like ready to go.” There’s biochemical reasons for that.
I knew all that in theory, but addiction (even in moderation) is a really interesting thing. It will tell you all kinds of stories as to why you shouldn’t stop the thing that you’re addicted to. There are some really powerful reasons to get out of your comfort zone, do the scary thing, and take the break especially if you’re someone that has never taken a break. I had never taken a break from alcohol since I was 18 years old except for the two times I was pregnant.
Jen: That sounds a lot like me. I was the same, and for a long time, I would say I wasn’t addicted, but I had that little devil in me. I liked the way it made me feel and all that. It was so easy for me to reach. It wasn’t until I completely changed my mindset and realized the benefits of it. That is not completely broken, but it doesn’t really have a stronghold.
I remember for a long time it really had that stronghold, and it can be very hard to break out of that. But once you start dissecting and putting down your whys—why are you interested, why are you looking to break this vicious circle of drinking—for me it was health. I want to be an amazing, healthy mom. I want to be an amazing, healthy grandma, eventually.
Also, as we get older, it’s a bigger risk to get ill, like yourself, what you said about the whole cancer. All of that comes into your mind. You’re like, “I’m going to do everything I can to be healthy. I want to be all these things.” That can be enough of a why.
Kanchan: Absolutely. And sleep. The last thing I wanted to say is we have a lot of research suggesting alcohol affects our ability to sleep well. The quality of our sleep, the quantity of our sleep, our ability to get into REM sleep. All of these deeply restorative sleep phases.
For so many reasons, if you want to be your best self from a healthy perspective, it’s really hard to reconcile that with regular alcohol consumption. Unless, I don’t know, you live in Sardinia and you drink half a glass of Cannonau wine every day (which they happen to do, which is very disciplined), most people drinking alcohol regularly are not drinking half a glass of wine a day, let’s be honest.
Jen: No, absolutely not. The thing is, some people are just fine with all of this. They’re just happy to have a glass of wine, and they don’t need us. for example. They might not want to be interested, want to hear what we’re doing. Everyone who drinks regularly and has that what-if and, “Could I feel better?”
Prevention is a big thing. People tend to think that you don’t need to stop drinking or have a break until you actually get in trouble or have problems. But you don’t have to have alcohol problems for it to cause problems in your life. People should be brave and just take that chance, leap of faith, and go, “Hang on, can I feel better?”
That’s why it’s so interesting to hear from yourself, who is so educated within the health field, to hear it from you. Hearing about this, that’s just amazing. That’s part of the information that I never thought of, actually.
Kanchan: Yeah because like you said, society doesn’t talk about these things. We still glorify drinking to some sense, despite the headlines that say no amount of alcohol is safe and alcohol increases cancer risk. We still think it’s totally acceptable. It’s the most acceptable legal drug out there.
Jen: But then people say, “Well hang on a minute, I just read this article that said that it’s good for you. It’s actually good for you. You should drink X amount of wine because of this reason or have a beer because of this reason. It’s good for your hair, it’s good for your heart.” You’re always going to find that. There’s always going to be another side battling. We can’t look bad, we need to make it look good. Studying left or right, like looking into it, generally isn’t good for you, especially if you have a healthy relationship with it.
Kanchan: Yeah. I think there were some studies that showed moderate alcohol consumption resulted in longevity. But now, when people have looked back at a meta-analysis format—a meta-analysis is where you look at lots of different studies, so it’s a study of studies—what they found was that alcohol […] no health benefit. That’s just the scientific truth. You’ll always find small studies, associations studies, or observational studies that say some amount of drinking results in reduced heart attack risk. That’s all been debunked.
Now, I will say this, eating sugar is not the best thing, but does that mean I never eat sugar? No, I do. There is a place for very mindful moderate alcohol consumption because it brings you genuine joy, because it helps you connect to people. There are longevity-enjoying cultures in the world, like I mentioned the Sardinians, the Greek, Ikarians […] that have been studied very extensively by Dan Buettner.
They do enjoy moderate alcohol consumption (particularly red wine) on a daily basis, but you have to put it into context. Their life is very different from our life. They are extremely physically active, their stress level is low, they have a very strong sense of community. When they drink that glass of Cannonau wine, they’re sitting with friends and family over a very nourishing whole-food plant-based meal. They’re not at the pub pounding pints. It’s very different.
It’s all about context and I do think in the context of a very healthy life, mindful, moderate alcohol could be an acceptable risk that people want to take. I still think it’s adding risk. So it’s up to you. Like I eat a doughnut once in a while because I’m okay with that risk. I’m mitigating that risk in many different ways.
In the same way now that I’m done with the One Year No Beer Challenge, I am drinking wine again much, much more mindfully, much, much less than before. I’m okay with the risk that controls my life, but you see that it’s good for me. It’s just cherry-picking the science. The science clearly says there really is no benefit, probably.
Jen: No, and like you say, everything in moderation is great. I eat healthy, I train, but then I also It’s no big deal. But for me, alcohol just doesn’t do much for me anymore. It used to have a big part of my life. Now it doesn’t really because I’ve swapped it for something else. I train, I compete, I run. For people who are able to go back in moderation, it’s great. They’ve achieved the goal coming after our challenge, especially we encourage people to explore themselves. We’re not telling them, “You’re doing our challenges and that’s it.”
People come in to do our challenges for various reasons. Most people who do our challenge end up going, “Actually I don’t need that in my life,” because people who found us really needed to find us. So, they’ve achieved something that for them, it would be a detrimental waste of time for themselves, to go back to […] that. Some people go on to moderate successfully, so everyone needs to make their own choice. At the end of the day, it’s up to you […] of your life, but at least you’re taking these steps towards finding a good, healthy balance.
Let’s be honest, no one can live a completely healthy life, whether you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or whatever you might be, drinking or not drinking, sugar or no sugar. There’s going to be an imbalance somewhere because that is the world. It’s up to you to find that good balance. The most important thing is to try eliminating things that are actually wearing you down.
Kanchan: Absolutely. I will say that even moderation is work. For somebody like myself who drank for two-plus decades without mindfulness, the One Year No Beer challenge really gave me a lot of tools around mindfulness and awareness. Now that I’ve gone back to moderate mindful drinking, it’s constant work. It’s vigilance. It’s actually easier to be completely abstinent. It’s more work but it’s worth the work to me because I genuinely do love the taste of red wine, for example. I’m willing to do the work to allow some room for it in my life, but I’m also very aware of how it can be a very slippery slope for someone like me.
I still go back to some of the modules and the videos from the challenge, and some of the tips that I learned. The other thing I’ve realized is taking breaks from alcohol, whether it’s a 10-day break, whether it’s another 30-day challenge is really, really powerful as well. It’s like people who are addicted to sugar. There’s a huge benefit and there’s a biochemical reason why it works.
When you drink alcohol, your brain perceives it as a pleasurable substance. You release dopamine, and that’s why it feels so good. The more you drink, the more dopamine you release. That may sound like a good thing and a happy thing, but what happens is your dopamine receptors—proteins that bind to dopamine—get down-regulated, which means they reduce in number. So now, things that normally would make you feel happy and spike dopamine—a hug from your kids or a beautiful sunrise—actually have a less rewarding effect.
I don’t know if your One Year No Beer Challengers finds this, but what I found is one I had cut away the alcohol for 10 or 15 days, everything started to look brighter and happier. Small things seemed much more extraordinary, and that’s not just your imagination. It’s because when you take away the substance that is constantly promoting a dopamine rush, you now give your dopamine receptors a chance to come back. So now, small things become much more pleasurable.
This was actually one of the most beautiful things I experienced. I just started to feel happier at baseline, if that makes sense. If people have found that, that's probably the biochemical reason for why that's happening. You need to give it a few weeks. Some people say 30 days minimum. I really started to feel that within two weeks. That's why taking a break from these things that are highly rewarding is really important, because you don't want to become reliant on that for happiness. There's so many sources of happiness in our daily lives if we're sensitive enough to pick them up.
Jen: Yeah, that's a very interesting insight, especially what you're saying that things lit up and felt a bit lighter, but in general, positivity, you get that cloud cleared from your mind, then you see, “Hang on a minute, what have I been missing out on?” That’s how I felt. I can totally relate to that.
Kanchan: Yeah, and something your program talks about a lot, which I really appreciated, was this idea of how alcohol becomes a crutch. Even one glass of wine, two glasses of wine can become an emotional crutch. When you take that crutch away, you're forced at first and it can feel very uncomfortable to find this inner resilience, this inner strength. Everyone's melting down, it's witching hour, it's dinner hour and normally you would have the glass of wine to take the edge off. Now you don't have a glass of wine, so what do you do?
Suddenly, you learn to lean into the chaos. You learn to be more present. You learn to connect with your kids rather than zoning out with the wine. I just found that I was able to discover this inner resiliency that had been sidelined because I had this crutch, and that's a really empowering thing.
Jen: I've heard from so many people when it came to that wine o’clock, mommy wine time, or whatever they called it, all they could focus for a couple hours was just that was the end goal, that was the reward, that glass of wine. Literally, that was all they could focus on. Once they have that wine or whatever drink of choice, that's all they cared about. After that nothing else matters. It was just there and it felt good, so it became more than just like a glass of wine, it became hours of obsessing about […] but it really isn't.
Kanchan: That's the thing about addiction, even moderate addiction. Of course, addiction is a spectrum, and we’re all at different levels on that spectrum. Some might not think they're addicted to even moderate drinking. I would say I was because the fact that I was afraid to give it up suggests that I was addicted.
The thing about addiction is, at some point, it becomes less about the pleasure and more about chasing the high. The anticipation of that wine o’clock or mommy wine moment is so all-consuming. It's really hard to accommodate that and also be 100% present with yourself and your children. So, when you take away that option, suddenly it's like all you're left with is pure presence. It is really the biggest gift.
Now that I experienced it because of the 90-day challenge, I can sense when I need it again and then I'll just make up arbitrary rules, like I'm not drinking for 10 days now because the weekend happened, maybe I went out to dinner and I had a little bit extra, so now I'm just going to take a complete break. I also created structures for myself like no wine on weekdays, so I pretty much don't drink on weekdays now. With my kids, I want to be super present with them. I try to drink as part of a celebration where other people are drinking and it's a community thing.
Like I said, it’s vigilance, it's mindfulness, and I'm just super appreciative for the challenge and the program that you guys have created for moderate drinkers like myself, where I wouldn't really know where to turn for help because I'm not the classical addicted alcoholic.
Jen: Yeah. Well, it's amazing that provided and that's just amazing to hear because what you discovered is that you’ve transformed your relationship and you know now. You have a choice. You can just say, “I choose to drink or I choose to not drink. I'm choosing not to drink for 10 days now because I, myself, no one else, nothing else, has the power, I choose.” Nothing else matters and you're making that choice of like, “Now, I'm choosing to have a drink,” or, “Now, I'm choosing to have a little break.” You’ve managed to achieve that. What more can you ask for, right? It’s amazing.
Kanchan: Thank you and thank you, guys for the program really. It's been completely transformational for me.
Jen: Good to hear. It's like I said, it's so good to have an OYNB member who is also so educated and so qualified to answer and educate us all of this. With all your experience and everything, what was your biggest realization as part of being part of the members area, the Facebook group or the Slack group, wherever you were involved in, what was your experience there? Tell us a little bit what was your biggest realization in there with all these people? We have people from all over the world.
Kanchan: That we are all human, we're all imperfectly perfect, and we all struggle with very similar demons. I found a lot of comfort and reassurance in the group. Obviously, people have different levels, but everybody’s struggling to break free of this crutch that had just been there for so long and everybody being very brave, fearless, and really going out of their comfort zone to transform themselves, to really see what they're capable of.
I found the stories that were shared on the Facebook group to be just so powerful, so motivating, so inspiring. I found the challenge overall, the first 28 days, I really found to be the most transformational (in a sense) because it's when lots of things started to happen. At a molecular level, like I was saying earlier, we were talking about things that started to just look brighter and more exciting. I realized I could do it. I found the inner strength.
But I have this one moment where I was doing a work event. I was teaching this cooking educational class and it was my first big event since I embarked on the challenge. I realized how much I used that glass of wine to take the edge off when I was super anxious about being in front of people, sharing, talking, or teaching, but I didn't cave, I didn't do it, and I really found the Facebook group to be so, so helpful. On that particular day (I remember) I literally went into the group and I said, “I need some help today,” because the old habitual patterns are rearing their ugly head and I just really don't want to succumb.
The other thing I will say is while I do think the 28 days is really helpful, there is something incredibly powerful about going longer. There's a lot of research that suggests when you're trying to break a habit loop, there is something very powerful about 90 days, and maybe that's why you guys did the 90-day as an option. Twenty-eight days is great to get started, to get confident, to know you can do it, but 90 days is really where something magical happens in terms of those habit loops, getting rewired, where you can take control in the driver's seat versus the habit loop being in charge.
For me, the realizations were I'm not alone, there's a lot of support out there, and it's really worth doing the 90-day challenge to really cut through some of these habituated behavioral tendencies.
Jen: Yes. Usually that's what we say is, most people would ask us, the 90 days is really where the magic does happen. Now, 28 days is great and it's a great way to start, like you say yourself, you started feeling the benefits quite early on, but then the profound changes tend to happen when you do the 90-day challenge. That's just amazing.
What would your tips be to members who are listening to this podcast now, who might be on the challenge, they might have reset their challenge, they might be struggling, and they might feel like this is the biggest Mount Everest they've ever seen? Any tips for them?
Kanchan: Yeah. It's hard when you embark, the mind will tell you all kinds of stories about why this is such a bad idea and so scary and not worth it. I'm going to share a tip that I got from the addiction recovery world. When you think about addiction (I'm using it loosely), even addiction to regular alcohol consumption—which is why it's scary to give it up for 90 days, for example—that addictive tendency is a part of you but it's not you. It's a part of your brain. It's a part of your neural network, your neurons, your mental wiring, but it's not you.
You are bigger than that. You are this observer, your consciousness, whatever you want to call it. Now, if you realize that that addictive loop or that addictive wiring, it's literally there because it seeks momentary pleasure, and it's decided that its source of momentary pleasure is a drink. It's going to do everything in its power to make sure it gets that hit of momentary pleasure, but ultimately once you see it as just a part of you but not you, you have a lot of power. You have a lot more power than you think.
You can actually talk to this part of you and people do that in the addiction recovery world. You can almost call it your little wine dragon or wine demon, you'll give it a sweet name, make it your pet. You don't have to hate it and try to shove it to the side. You just have to see it for what it is. It's a habit loop, it's a neural network, it's brain circuitry that just seeks pleasure. It will do anything to get that momentary hit, even if it's against your best interest in the long run, whether it comes to your health, productivity, happiness, whatever.
Once you see it for what it is, you talk to it and you like, “Listen, I know you really like to drink and you really want me to drink, so you can get your hit, but we're going to take a bit of a break. I want to see what happens,” and the wine dragon is going to say, “Oh, but that is so unnecessary,” it’s going to tell you every story in the book to get you to not do this thing that you need to do for your transformation. You tell it, “If you think you have so much power, go ahead and move my pinky finger,” and you realize that it's just this pleasure-seeking slightly gone rogue habit loop in your brain and actually you are really the one in charge. When you see it that way, it just takes away a lot of its power.
My biggest tips would be to enter the challenge with curiosity, an open mind, no judgment. The program is designed to accommodate “slip-ups.” If you happen to have a glass of champagne at a wedding, you feel bad, whatever, you could reset, you don't have to reset. I love that, that's a part of the program.
The idea isn't to make it like nothing or everything. It's about transforming your relationship. The videos are so short, to the point, powerful, and impactful with these tangible tips like surfing the urge. I love that video about the waves.
My tips would be just go into it with a curious mindset. Any time you want to transform yourself, you're going to face resistance. Internal resistance in a very powerful way from your wine dragon, your gin dragon, whatever it is. We're here because we know something has to change. You just go into it knowing you're imperfectly perfect, knowing that there's something really powerful on the other side, and just enjoying the discomfort of the journey which will ultimately transform into this insane amount of empowered self-resilience, that you can then take into so many different aspects of your life.
Kanchan: I will say, just a very tangible tip that works for me is, I realize for me so much of that wine o’clock, mommy wine moment had to do with self-care and this idea of taking care of myself in rituals. Now I have a really nice glass, I pour sparkling water into it, a squeeze of lime, and it feels like my moment. I play some jazz. Sometimes it's really not about the wine. It's about giving yourself space, holding space for yourself. You can do that in so many beautiful ways.
Jen: I agree 100%. That's my thing. People go, “What do you drink now that you don't drink alcohol?” Honestly, my favorite thing is my sparkling water. I make my own sparkling water at home and I make it really fizzy. It almost tingles my nose. I put lime in it in a nice glass. It’s this celebration of it, if anything. I feel like I'm treating myself. It's not what's inside. It’s about I'm having that moment. Me and my moment, I'm doing something nice for myself that’s making me feel good.
That's the thing, change this. If this wasn’t your way of rewarding yourself, what can you do to reward yourself? That's a good tip. Self-care is so important. Replace it, what is it? Smelly candles? Whatever it might be.
Kanchan: Yeah and the level of connection that comes when you're 100% present and not distracted by the wine, the next glass or whatever. Present with your kids, the deep connection. Anytime you have a small win like that as part of the challenge where you go to dinner, you don't drink the wine, you drink the sparkling water, and you just have a deep conversation with the person you're having dinner with that you haven't had before when you were just zoned out or tuned out, that is such a powerful win. I kept leaning into those moments and really using them as fuel to keep going.
Jen: Yeah. Amazing. I love that. Kanchan, this has been amazing. I feel like I could sit here and talk to you for another couple of hours, to be honest.
Kanchan: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I just feel so strongly about the fact, especially, we're moms. I really see a lot of moms in my health coaching practice as part of my platform and education work that I do, and I really do think these crutches have become a thing. I don't want to make them bad.
Like I said, if you can have a mindful relationship with wine, go for it, but for many people, it's no longer mindful, and they are detrimental consequences to health. I really was passionate about helping more people realize there were programs One Year No Beer, the power of taking a challenge, the power of taking a break, recalibrating your relationship, reestablishing your relationship with alcohol, maybe just deciding it doesn't serve a purpose in your life at all. Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience.
Jen: I have so much to take away from this conversation with you, but the one thing that I knew before that really has highlighted this whole thing, the word of the day for me is self-care. That is what this is all about, self-care. Are you doing your absolute best to feel the best you can? I'm not talking about having a square of chocolate, or a cheeky chocolate, but in general, are you working towards the best self, yourself, no one else? Being and feeling the very best you can. Self-care is so important. We can never be reminded about that too many times. That’s amazing.
Jen: Before we hang up on each other here, I would like to highlight your website. Your website is spicespicebaby.com.
Kanchan: Yes, it’s spicespicebaby.com where you can get the book. Like I said, if you use the code SPICYLOVE in the US, it's free shipping, and it's 10% off.
I also recently launched a podcast called Momlight, which is all about helping moms find more health, vitality, vibrancy despite the challenges of mom life. That's on iTunes and everywhere you listen to podcasts.
Finally, I run health coaching programs, digital virtual health coaching programs, working with mothers around the world, and some non-mothers, mostly women, helping them find their healthiest most vitality fueled self. I do actually recommend the One Year No Beer challenge as part of that. Lots of exciting stuff going on.
Jen: For those who like a bit about Instagram food inspiration, check out her Instagram page which is chiefspicemama. I tell you what, I dare you to look at her Instagram page, and not salivate.
Kanchan: I'm such a foodie. All the parts of my brain that respond to food reward, wine reward, they are alive and well, so I decided to channel all that towards healthy delicious food.
Jen: I was actually looking at this last night. I was just doing some research. This is what I do right before bed time. I don’t know why, but I like to look into my day, what's coming ahead tomorrow, and I looked at your Instagram, and I got so hungry. I was going to bed, I was like, “No.” […]. There was so much to choose from.
Kanchan: Yes, very planned forward recipes.
Jen: For those who use Twitter, your Twitter profile is kkoya?
Kanchan: Yes, kkoya, my first initial and my last name.
Jen: Amazing. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on. I would love to touch base with you a bit further ahead. I'd love to reach out with you whenever I need some good qualified intel on what you're doing.
Kanchan: Yeah, absolutely.
Jen: We do talk so much about general health, which is so important. I would definitely reach out to you again to touch base.
Kanchan: Anytime. It was such a pleasure. Thank you.
Jen: I appreciate this so much, and we’ll speak soon.
Kanchan: Okay, have a great day. Bye.