What if you were fairly certain that making just one single lifestyle change could lead to better sleep, energy and focus within days. And brighter skin, less bloating and improved anxiety in just one week. Would you do it?

How about if we threw in an average loss of 4 pounds of body fat, a 13-point reduction in cholesterol, a 28-point drop in triglycerides and an 8-point improvement in systolic blood pressure over the next six weeks?

All of these are truly possible — and they’re just a few of the whole-body benefits that people experience when they go alcohol-free for 40 days as part of Ochsner Eat Fit team’s annual Alcohol Free For 40 Challenge.

The Alcohol Free For 40 Challenge is quite possibly the most rewarding community-focused project I’ve ever been involved in. The feedback from participants, the habits that are reshaped, the lives that are changed — every year it transcends my expectations and motivates us to make it even bigger and better the following year.

This year’s challenge starts March 2 (Ash Wednesday). Don’t wait till Wednesday to sign up though. Registration closes at midnight Sunday, Feb. 27.

The Alcohol Free For 40 challenge provides participants with resources, education and support to successfully abstain from alcohol and reap the full benefits of this six-week wellness spring cleaning, including weekly sessions with guest motivational speakers, a virtual zero-proof cocktail demo and access to drink recipes and tips.

The challenge: Stop drinking alcohol completely for 40 days — from March 2 (Ash Wednesday) until April 17 (Easter Sunday). Make it your own self-experiment by doing a series of labs and physical metrics at the beginning of the challenge, and again at the end.

The Ochsner Eat Fit team makes this easier than ever by hosting kickoff events in six cities across the state, including New Orleans, Covington, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport and Monroe.

How to join: Sign up for just $35 at AlcoholFreeFor40.com. Click on the button for your city or region to register; deadline to sign up is Sunday.

What’s included: You’ll receive comprehensive pre- and post-challenge metrics including labs, body composition analysis, weight, blood pressure and before-and-after photos (a $400 value) to get a clear picture of just how alcohol is impacting your body, inside and out. The lab panel includes a variety of tests that aren’t routine, so even if you have annual blood work done it’s likely that many of these are not included.

In New Orleans, participants have the option to donate blood as well, receiving a bit of thank-you swag in return.

If you’re not in Louisiana or you choose to do the Challenge on your own, here’s a summary of suggested metrics to capture, below. And you can still join the #AlcoholFreeFor40 Facebook group for social support and comradery, to follow the journey of others, and to share experiences, inspiration, challenges and successes.

  • Metrics to capture pre- and post-challenge:
  • Weight (and body composition if possible)
  • Blood pressure
  • Close-up photo of your face so that you can see the details of your eyes and skin.

The following labs are indicators of overall health and/or specific markers of inflammation, liver health or alcohol toxicity:

  • CBC (complete blood count)
  • CMP (comprehensive metabolic panel)
  • Lipid panel, GGT (Gamma glutamyl transferase)
  • Vitamin B12 and folate panel
  • hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein)
  • ESR (sedimentation rate)

Visit www.AlcoholFreeFor40.com today for more information and to join the challenge.

Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian in New Orleans. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD.