It’s ok to not drink. Really, it is.

Tara Viswanathan
It’s ok to not drink. Really, it is.

Warning: This is going to be controversial and uncomfortable, but you need to read this.


In 2013, when I was pitching my idea for a non-alcohol bar, I got laughed out of every room.

Everyone — VCs, classmates, even my best friends — thought I was crazy. (My mission: #disruptPartying. I’m sure I was the butt of a lot of jokes at the time…)

  • “Why would ANYONE go to a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol?”
  • “What are people going to do if they don’t drink?”
  • “Are you going to have boardgames there?”
  • “How are people going to socialize without being tipsy?”

^ literal responses I got. (You know who you are 😂)

Today, non-alcohol bars are suddenly blowing up as the latest wellness trend. The anti-alcohol movement is taking off. It’s about damn time.

Let me preface with — I totally get it. I was alcohol’s #1 fan all throughout college and grad school. And then one day, on a cross-country plane ride home with the world’s worst hangover, I realized nearly every aspect of my life would probably just be better without it.

No, I wasn’t an alcoholic. I wasn’t pregnant, and I didn’t have a socially acceptable “excuse” to not drink while I was out. I just wanted to feel healthy — I wanted to feel 100% alive every day, and even though no doctor, no health blog, no institution would ever acknowledge it — alcohol was getting in my way. I wasn’t feeling great when I was drinking.

This kick-started a 7 year journey of booze exploration — quitting alcohol entirely, testing out “clean alcohol”, experimenting with activated charcoal, reevaluating certain friendships, remembering how to dance while sober, etc.

In the last few years, I got my life back — my ME back — the version that I liked.

Recently, so many friends have approached me (nervously, cautiously, and seeming almost embarrassed) about wanting to start drinking less, and I want to say this loud and clear — You are not alone.

It’s finally time to have this conversation.

Alcohol is (obviously) a subject I’m uber passionate about, but especially so as the founder of a healthcare company. It is the elephant in the room when it comes to our health. It’s the thing we know is really bad for us, but we convince ourselves it’s fine — even healthy. It’s the most widely abused, socially acceptable drug.

No one else will say it outright, so here it is: Alcohol is really, really, REALLY bad for you. End of story.

There is NO conclusive research that any health benefits of alcohol outweigh the risks. Period.

“It’s clear that no one should begin drinking alcohol or drink more often on the basis of potential health benefits.” — Mayo Clinic, 2018

You deserve the truth. So let’s dive into a few things.

☢️️ Alcohol is a Class 1 Carcinogen

Yes, it causes cancer. Here’s the facts — It’s a Class 1 Carcinogen as determined by the World Health Organization — at ANY quantity consumed. It’s in the same category as arsenic, asbestos, and Hepatitis B.😓

What does that mean? Drinking even 1 drink per day can increase your risk of mouth and throat cancers by 20%. (PubMed) Ladies — even 3 drinks per WEEK can increase your changes of getting breast cancer by 15%.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. There’s no good news when it comes to alcohol and cancer.

😭 And it’s not just cancer.

Excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and problems like: mental health problems, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, dementia…the list goes on. (CDC)

“There is abundant evidence that patients with mood and anxiety disorders should abstain from even moderate ethanol use.” (PubMed, 1996)

With 60% of Americans suffering from at least 1 chronic illness & 90% of our entire healthcare expenses ($3.3 trillion, CDC, 2019) spent on treating chronic & mental health conditions, why are we not taking a more serious look at alcohol’s role? (CDC 2019)

🍷 You’d need to drink 111 glasses to get the famed benefit.

Your glass of wine isn’t helping your heart via antioxidants, sorry. Let’s set the record straight. To get the supposed benefit of resveratrol — the “healthy antioxidant” wine is famed for — you’d need to drink 111 glasses of red wine at a time. On top of that, per glass of wine, ethanol is more than 100,000 times more potent than resveratrol. So you get 100,000x the carcinogenic load over the antioxidants. (PubMed, 2014)

“Commercial information about cancer-preventive or -protective effects of resveratrol in wine is misleading and must be prohibited.” — NIH, 2014

🤨 Bottled water is required to have a nutrition label, but alcohol isn’t.

Alcoholic beverages aren’t regulated by the FDA. Nope. It’s regulated by it’s own agency that doesn’t have to comply with FDA rules & requirements. In 1990, when the FDA required modern nutrition labels on all packaged foods became required by the FDA, alcohol slipped through the cracks. So you almost wouldn’t realize alcohol has virtually zero nutrition. (Most calories come from the alcohol itself, not carbs, which is a common misconception. Even in beer.)

🤨 Our government allows 62 different additives in wine alone.

Modern alcohol is not what our ancestors drank. Let’s look at wine. Today in the US, wine producers can use 62 different additives (just a few years ago it was 76), without disclosing any of them on the bottle. It’s not just fermented grapes anymore. Preservatives, pesticides, sugar, defoaming agents, artificial coloring, and more. And they can do this without disclosing any of it on the label. And it’s not just wine. (Even organic vodkais popping up now to address these issues.)

🥂 Alcohol abuse and dependence has increased 84% among women.

We’re drinking more than we realize. And it feels normal because everyone is doing it. So called “safe consumption” is 1 serving a day for women and 2 for men. But is anyone really stopping there? I don’t remember a single time in college I drank just 1 5oz serving of wine. Among women, alcohol abuse and dependence has increased by 84% percent (from 2001–2012, JAMA). High risk drinking overall increased 30%. It’s become socially acceptable to drink SO much more than generations past. What will the health effects be?

And you know what’s crazy?

(No, not my alcohol-free bar idea, haters!)

No health professional, no doctor, NO ONE will tell you to stop drinking. Which I find absolutely bananas. 🍌

“It’s fine in moderation.” “You don’t have to quit.” “One glass of wine a day is good for you!” Healthcare practitioners tend to shy away from talking about just how bad alcohol really is. I’m sure there are many (psychological, societal, emotional) reasons why — but evidence (and science) isn’t one of them, sadly.

Here’s the thing — we’re told to do a lot of things to “improve our health”.

STOP eating gluten. sugar. carbs. fat. meat. Stop smoking, stop drinking unfiltered water, using toothpaste with fluoride, stop letting bad spirits invade your space, stop using shampoo with SLS. Stop sitting.

But no one will advise you to stop drinking. It’s taboo to say so.

Except me. Please stop drinking so much.💙🙏

Here’s the irony:

We demand organic foods, pay $40 for spin class, scoff at the idea of drinking unfiltered water, take 20 supplements a day, go on juice cleanses, spend hours in infrared saunas detoxifying…and then knowingly put a highly toxic substance in our bodies without thinking twice.

…I’m not (uncomfortably) laughing, you are. 😂

So what can we do from here?

🔥 Test run life without booze.

  • Join a community for support: One Year No Beer
  • Create an “excuse” to not drink: sign up for a half marathon so you have an “excuse” to not drink when you’re out. “I can’t, I need to be up early to train!”
  • Work with a health coach or therapist to figure out a healthy relationship with alcohol.
  • Head to a non-alcohol bar or tea lounge to hang out at night.
  • Check out my spots for sober date ideas in SF :)

👩‍🌾 Try “clean alcohol”

  • For wine, try Dry Farm Wines. I’ve personally driven to Napa to hang out with Todd, the founder, consumed an entire bottle of wine by myself, and woke up with zero hangover…no joke.

🤮 Try supplements when you do drink. (I still love you, don’t worry!)

What do you think? Would you ever quit alcohol or go to a non-alcohol bar?

If you want to test out going alcohol free, feel free to personally email me and I’ll answer any questions you have or help how ever I can. 💙


P.S. Inspo: Steve Jobs toasting with water at President Obama’s Technology Summit dinner. 🙌🏽

other ppl.jpeg

Other people who’ve quit drinking (or never drank) → Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tyra Banks, Calvin Harris, Blake Lively, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, Jim Carrey, 50 Cent, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Bradley Cooper…and so many more. You’re in great company. 🙌🏽

p.s. This was adapted from one of the emails I sent out to our Rupa Healthcommunity. If you want to join our list and get a personal, bi-weekly email from me, sign up here!

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Tara Viswanathan
CEO & Co-Founder, Rupa Health.
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