Once we accept that we need to create change in our life, where, and how, do we find the motivation, strength, and perseverance to take on the challenge of restoring our health? When the desert of dehydration and “dis-ease” stretches out in all directions, which direction do we point ourselves in? Often it feels easier to continue to suffer than to take that first step. Believe me, you are not alone in your confusion and overwhelm!
As a society we have come to value grand gestures, unrealistic expectations, sleepless nights, and overwhelming stress as measures of how hard we’re working, our level of success, and how full and important our lives are, rather than as pillagers of health. We forget that we cannot walk a mile without taking that first step. If we want to be successful in whatever it is we’re hoping to accomplish, we have to set ourselves up for success right from the start. That requires setting realistic goals that are attainable so we get the win…every single day…even if these goals seem too insignificant at first to amount to anything.
We are bombarded with so much information, from so many sources, instructing us on the “best” ways to lose weight, “how to be healthier in just 10 days”, what to, and NOT to, eat. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about how WE should go about achieving our goals. Often it is contradictory and confusing, and what’s missing? YOU, and the fact that YOU are not everyone! So let’s start with the basics…WATER. It is imperative that we are hydrated, and implementing just THAT into our daily lives can often, all by itself, have amazing results.
Why do we need water? Our body is comprised of up to 60% water, our brain and heart over 70%! Water is a vital component of every bodily process, from aiding in digestion and bowel function, to lubrication for our joints, cushioning for our brain and spinal cord, elimination of waste products through our kidneys, synthesizing hormones and neurotransmitters, regulation of body temperature, improving circulation and delivering oxygen to our cells, enabling all the body’s cells to grow, reproduce and function optimally, and maintaining the integrity of our skin (the body’s largest organ).
The human body can’t make its own water so we are responsible for replenishing its supply every day. People often overestimate the amount of water they drink, so it’s helpful to measure your daily water intake in order to have an accurate starting point. You may be surprised by how little water you actually drink, but that’s OK. Start where you are! If we wait to drink until we feel thirsty we are already dehydrated, and then we need to play catch up, so don’t rely on thirst to remind you to drink. Set an hourly reminder on your phone if you have to!
Signs/symptoms of dehydration are common, and can often be over looked, or attributed to other causes:
- dry eyes
- dry skin/poor elasticity
- concentrated urine
- bad breath
- your body overheating
- muscle cramps/joint pains
How many of these symptoms have you considered “normal” for you, and treated with various over-the-counter medications? If these symptoms are related to inadequate hydration, simply drinking enough water every day can resolve them…how easy is that?!
How much water should you drink every day? A general guideline for adults is half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. Most adults should drink a minimum of 64oz/day, up to a gallon/day. High temps, low humidity, excessive exercise (sweating), and caffeine consumption all increase the amount of water you need to drink. Caffeine is a diuretic, as is alcohol, so, if you consume these beverages (beer, wine, hard alcohol, coffee, certain teas, sodas), you will require more water daily than someone who does not. It is possible to drink too much water so listen to, and observe, your body since everyone is different! If you’re well hydrated your urine should be pale, clear yellow, and you should be urinating every couple of hours.
How do you get from where you are today to where you need to be? Start slowly, and measurably, and cheer yourself on! Don’t minimize the significance of the task you’re undertaking, and be proud of yourself for starting. Once or twice a week, increase the amount of water you drink every day by 2-4oz. Start drinking first thing in the morning, and try to reach your goal for the day several hours before you go to bed so you don’t have to use the bathroom frequently during the night. This isn’t a race and there’s no sense making yourself miserable with multiple trips to the bathroom. Uninterrupted sleep is important for health too!
Not all water is created equal. First, there is NO substitute for water…not juice, not “clear” soda, not canned bubble water. Just drink plain, filtered water. Avoid water in plastic bottles, as the toxins in the plastic can leech into the water when the plastic is warmed (and who knows how long the palettes of water are left sitting in the sun on loading docks or how hot the delivery trucks get? In the summer, my grocery store stacks them outside in the sun!) These toxins can cause all sorts of problems, including increasing your risk for various cancers. Use a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle—good for you, good for the environment! You can also have fun with your water by infusing it with fresh herbs and fruit. You can buy glass counter-top water dispensers, or individual infusing water bottles, and use organic herbs, like basil and mint, and slices of organic citrus or berries. Playing with your water allows you to be creative and it and adds fresh flavor and color, not to mention vitamins and minerals, to the water. It’s eye candy in a bottle.
Remember, restoring health is a journey and requires time, patience, and commitment. It took a long time to get to this point and turning things around isn’t going to happen overnight. There are no short cuts. One small, positive change begets another, and another. If we only focus on the end result, the distance to be covered getting there may be daunting, so focus on each small step as a step in the right direction. Enjoy the added benefits that come from deciding to make yourself a priority, and start walking yourself out of that desert sip by sip today!