I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I think I even laughed a bit. My wife, Ava, had just asked for a bottle of water to go with her carryout meal. I couldn’t remember that ever happening before. Ava usually drinks ice tea or Powerade with a meal. On rare occasions she might get a soda, but NEVER water.
Ava hates water.
And, she’s not alone. Drinking water may be the hardest habit to create and sustain. Hydration is one of the most important things we can do for our health, but the best source is one of our least favorite things to drink.
I believe there are two reasons for this. Drinking water is boring and the benefits feel non-existent.
For example, consider why we make changes in other areas of our health. We change our nutrition when we want to lose weight. It’s not an instant benefit, but it is tangible and a real motivator to adjust what we eat. We start exercising to get stronger and look better. Again, it takes time, but for those who stay with it the results are real. When we’re tired we sleep more. That’s an instant benefit.
But, the benefit of drinking more water? You pee more. Wow. That’s really compelling.
And, it’s not like we’re getting zero hydration from drinking other things. Even when we drink coffee there are some hydration benefits. And, it’s way more fun than a glass of water in the morning.
So, why do we keep hearing from experts that we need to drink more water? For starters, those other drinks that give us some hydration also come with a cost. There’s sugar, chemicals, fat, and, with some, a potential long term negative impact on vital organs. In other words, for a little bit of hydration and fun today we are paying with our long term health.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that water is the ONLY thing you should drink. There are other liquids that have health benefits in addition to hydration. I love research that tells me coffee is good for me. It’s all the stuff we add to it that makes it not so good. Tea is good. Even red wine has proven benefits. My wife needs sports drink for the electrolytes when she runs.
That said, as a pure source of hydration with almost no negatives water is the clear winner. But, that probably changes nothing if you don’t like water…or better said, you like other drinks far more.
I’ve been on my fitness journey for about a dozen years. In that time I’ve established an exercise habit that has real momentum. I’ve been changing my nutrition so I’m making healthier choices now. I’ve become disciplined about my bedtime which has led to improved sleep. But, the thing I’m most proud of is how much water I drink now. In addition to two cups of black coffee in the morning and a glass of red wine at night I drink about 60 ounces of water through the day.
And, like Ava…I was not a fan of water. I loved soda…especially Root Beer and Cherry Pepsi. They were my drink of choice after a morning cup of tea. There was no water in my daily habits. So how did I go from lots of soda to no soda and 60 ounces of water?
I found a compelling WHY.
It started with my voice. I work in radio and developed voice problems a while back. In trying to figure out a solution I learned that drinking water was the best way to keep my voice hydrated…which was foundational to solving the problem allowing me to stay on the radio. That’s a pretty compelling “why”.
But, that’s not all.
At the risk of getting too close to TMI…water is great for the digestive system. It keeps things moving, if you know what I mean. This is also a compelling “why”. In fact, I noticed a few years ago that while I was on vacation I almost stopped drinking my water because I didn’t have the first compelling reason of keeping my voice hydrated. That’s when I discovered my digestive system why.
I’ve also read that water is great for our skin. I get really dry skin in the winter. Well, now I have another strong why for drinking more water.
Other real life benefits of water are for people who struggle with kidney stones, headaches, and weight control. Swapping calorie laden drinks for zero calorie water can be a huge why for people trying to lose weight.
Even after you find your compelling “water why” is can still be a difficult habit to establish and maintain. Here are three suggestions:
ADD A FLAVOR
One of the ways to make water a little less boring is to add a flavor. A common suggestion is a twist of lemon or lime. That’s a natural way to add flavor without needing chemicals or processed sugars.
I add a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar to my water. I started doing that because I read it helps with digestion and can also eliminate bloating. Science is iffy on both of those results, but it seems to work for me. But, even more important I enjoy the taste of my water with a little apple cider vinegar. I look forward to drinking it instead of feeling like I have to.
CARRY A BOTTLE
Some people create a habit of drinking water by filling a large bottle with how much they need to drink in a day and then carry it with them wherever they go. It’s a constant reminder to drink water and when the bottle is empty you have consumed exactly how much water you’re supposed to drink that day.
Which begs the question…how much water are we supposed to drink? The answers from experts are all over the place. Harvard says 4 to 6 cups a day, but doesn’t quantify how big the cups should be. The Mayo Clinic sorta says eight cups a day. Healthline recommends about 13 cups for men and 9 for women every day.
The reality is, unless you already have a habit of drinking water, it’s not very realistic to start with a huge bottle of water. For most of us, this is not the best way to start a new habit…ll at once. Instead consider it a victory to swap a single sugared drink for a glass of water each day. From there you can build up to the massive bottle you carry with you.
MAKE IT A GAME
Did you know your Fitbit not only tracks your steps, heart rate, sleep, and calories, but also your water intake? Every time you drink some water you can enter it into your Fitbit and it keeps track of your daily total.
I love competing with myself and my Fitbit has allowed me to turn my fitness into a game. Obviously, it’s a game with serious results, but the gamification of fitness is motivating for me…and lots of people. I believe that’s one of the biggest reasons people buy Fitbits. How many steps can I get today?
How can I improve my sleep score tonight? How can I get my resting heart rate even lower? How can I drink more water and less soda?
You can use the water tracking feature on your Fitbit to create a new habit by competing with yourself. Fitbit allows you to set your own daily goal and then record your progress. Even if drinking water isn’t fun, reaching your goal is! You can also compare day to day your progress.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
Fitness is more than just exercise. It also includes what we eat, how much we sleep, and how hydrated we are. Water is the best, most efficient source for hydration with almost no negative side effects. (You can drink too much water which is a dangerous thing. But, most of us aren’t even close to that possibility)
If you want to make a change in what you drink and up your water game start slow. Don’t try and change everything at once. It’ll likely not succeed once you lose interest and motivation. Start with one glass of water a day and after that becomes a habit add another.
You can also create an exercise habit the same way. Start small and think long. Fitness is a crockpot, not a microwave. I’ve created The 30 Day Fitness Challenge to help guide you through the critical first 30 days of building a new habit of exercise.
If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.
(By the way…if you use the link above to buy a Fitbit Inspire HR this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)
Lastly, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. It’s sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions.
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