Water: Something So Simple Yet So Easy To Forget

How many glasses of water have you drunk since waking up this morning? I'm asking about just plain water - no teas, sodas, juices or monster drinks. These beverages don't count.  Are you straining to recall drinking more than one or two glasses? Maybe you are having trouble remembering even one? If so, you are not alone.

Three-quarters of Americans drink well below the recommended amount of water and are left chronically dehydrated. Since dehydration contributes to a long list of medical conditions from respiratory and circulation problems to headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure and kidney disease, water is a fundamental issue to address when considering adopting healthier habits, and that's exactly what we are doing in this series on basic healthy habits.  It starts with water.

If you think in terms of the human body as a machine, water is the oil that keeps the machine running.  Since every cell in our body needs water, dehydration can occur easily. So when you recognize the feeling of thirst, compare it to seeing warning lights on your dashboard. Your machine is sending you the signal that dehydration has already begun to occur.

The human body is over 70 percent water, so staying hydrated is important to help muscles work more efficiently and help your kidneys and liver function properly. In order for our bodies to function at an optimum level, our brain, organs, and tissues must be replenished adequately. Water transports such things as hormones, chemicals, and nutrients which are vital to efficient organ function. Without water, we would not be able to digest or absorb minerals or nutrients and our kidneys would fail from toxic overload.  Proper hydration is important for the general health of everything from your hair and skin to your immune system.

So why is drinking water so hard to remember? Obviously, each one of us comes with a unique set of factors as to why we do or do not do certain things, but typically in the mix are:

  • A conditioned habit of drinking other types of beverages instead of water throughout the day. (i.e. My bladder is full of Redbull)

  • A habit of filling the day with non-stop activity and responsibilities which neglect the time necessary to listen to the body needs.  (i.e. I don’t have time to pee)

  • Lack of availability to easily accessible water throughout the day. (i.e. Water bottles are annoying to carry)

Whatever the reason, dehydration is one of the easiest conditions to reverse.  

Let's establish how much water you need.  Every person is different so your goal should be set according to your body.  A good formula to follow is: take half of your total body weight and drink this number in ounces per day. For example: if you weigh 140 lbs, you should drink 70 ounces of water. Considering most cups hold 12 ounces of water that is about 5-6 glasses a day.

Remember, when you are chronically dehydrated, going from 0 to 100 is not possible. Be patient with yourself. Do not expect to drink your goal amount of h2o starting tomorrow. Just as a sudden rainfall can trigger flash floods in a parched desert, offering your body a flood of water when it has not grown accustomed to absorbing it will feel uncomfortable. As you begin to increase your water intake, you may experience a feeling of fullness maybe even nausea or flu-like symptoms. If you start out slow and increase your normal water intake by a half a glass every few days, you will reach your desired goal in a month’s time and it will be easier to maintain.

The following suggestions can help you get started:

  • Keep a glass of water by the bathroom sink.  Each time you find yourself at the sink, drink at least 8 ounces of water.

  • Fill up two or three water bottles in the morning and place them in different areas where you spend time. That water will be waiting and ready for you on your office desk or when you walk into your kitchen. Drink Up! Make it a point to take a drink each time you enter that space.

  • Always keep a filled water bottle in the car (aluminum or glass bottle only as heat from a sunny day can cause plastic to leach chemicals). Whether it’s your commute, carpooling, or running errands, this can be an easy way to slip in some extra hydration.

  • Make it a habit of taking a drink of water each time you pass a drinking fountain.

  • Each night fill up a glass of water and set it next to your bed. When you wake in the morning, drink the full glass upon waking and before you stand up!  

  • A big glass of water three times a day will chip away at a lot of your water needs, as well as curb the tendency to overeat due to dehydration.

ONE MORE TIP:  

Drinking water thirty minutes before a meal will help your body recognize the difference between feeling thirsty and feeling hungry. The sensations of thirst and hunger generate simultaneously, and most people mistake a thirst pain for hunger. As your body adapts to drinking more water, you will better discern the difference, and thus eat less when it’s water your body is really asking for.

Jen King