The Drinking Habit That’s Good for You
You’ve heard all the wisdom: Get at least eight glasses of water a day. Drink even before you feel thirsty. Hydrate more during hot weather. Don’t forget your water when you work out!
And that’s all good advice. There’s simply no question that water is essential. After all, we have more water in our human bodies than any other single substance. On average, 50% or more of an adult’s total mass comes from water alone. Water is a major component of every type of body cell, and it’s also in the fluid that surrounds, moves, and cushions those cells.
Because our body systems use so much water, it must be constantly replaced. There are obvious losses, like when you “visit the ladies room,” work up a good sweat in the gym, or just go about your usual business on a sweltering summer day. But even when you’re still and cool, your skin and respiratory systems are slowly releasing water. In fact, each of us loses a pound or more of water—that’s at least eight ounces—overnight while we do nothing more strenuous than sleep! (That explains early morning thirst, all right.)
We must replenish lost water content if we want to keep our bodies functioning at their best. Everyday complaints like headaches, irritability, foggy thinking, constipation, lack of energy, cravings, or general achiness can all result from not drinking enough water.
Clearly, it’s in our best interest to get plenty of life-sustaining water. But for many, the question is: How? And is this another thing you have to keep track of?
- Think in portions, not big picture.
You know that saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It’s the same with drinking water—it may be overwhelming to think about your daily water intake ideal as eight full cups (or, worse, 64 ounces), a goal that can seem impossible.
Small, attainable goals are so much less daunting. So instead of setting yourself up for failure by lugging around that giant bottle with you all day, pack yourself a cup to keep filled. I like a small Dixie cup myself. I make it my practice to get up, stretch, and drink just that little Dixie cup of water each half-hour. Totally doable—and sure enough, by the end of the day, the bottle I filled my cup from is empty.
- Take away the “blah” factor.
Are you a person who just doesn’t care for water that’s plain? That’s easy! Turn “just water” into a more interesting refreshment by jazzing it up, easily and naturally, as spa water. Simply add a few slices of fresh cucumber, orange, or lime to your water bottle before you chill it. You may be surprised how much that little burst of flavor satisfies you—even though it adds none of the processed sugar, caffeine, or colorings that typically come with soda or other beverages. Experiment to find the subtle flavor combinations you like best in your spa water. A handful of berries, or a few chunks of melon, or a sprig of fresh mint…
- Eat well to hydrate well.
Tomatoes, strawberries, radishes, spinach, celery, zucchini—what do all these colorful, delicious foods have in common?Besides packing plenty of vitamins and fiber, they’re all very high in water content. In fact, the same can be said of many seasonal fruits and veggies. Go ahead, indulge in summer’s finest fresh produce—and you’ll be helping yourself drink up, too.
- Drink before you eat?
If you’ve ever heard me talk about smart celebration, event, or restaurant eating, the tip “Eat before you eat” will sound familiar. It’s my way of saying that when you know indulgent, heavy food is on the way, you should prepare yourself by having a healthful snack beforehand. That nips cravings so you’re not tempted to eat out of control.
Simple, right? Well, “Drink before you eat” is an ordinary, everyday meal version of that tip. Try to make a habit of getting a glass of water in before you sit down to your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s an easy way to rehydrate since you’re already thinking about putting good things in your mouth, but it can also prevent you from misinterpreting your body’s thirst signals as hunger—a common mistake that can easily lead to overeating and the discomfort, bloating, and other symptoms of indigestion that follow along with eating too much.
- Address “it slipped my mind.”
Let’s face it: Life is busy. Sometimes we don’t do the things that are best for us simply because we’re focused on other matters. For some people, drinking enough water comes down to nothing but…well, remembering to do it.
One classic memory trick is to link the new, desired action—drinking water—with a habit you already have in place.(That’s what you saw above: For me, getting up to move every half-hour and drinking water are joined habits.) So, finish a glass before you sit down to take the first bite of each meal. Or follow up your morning tooth-brushing with your first long drink of water. You get the idea.
If habit linking isn’t enough, technology can help. Set up an alarm app on your phone, tablet, or computer to remind you to rehydrate your body frequently.
I hope you’re convinced just how important getting enough hydration each and every day is. As you can see, you can easily do lots of things to make that happen, completely painlessly. Now that’s what I like—a practice that’s so very beneficial for your whole being yet so very simple. Healthful habits like drinking more water don’t have to in any way slow you down from getting out there and living your energetic best, most vibrant life!