Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Healthy Habits in 2013 - Habit #2: Drink More Water!

Ahh, water.

We all know our bodies are made up mostly of water.  And yes, it's salt water as someone pointed out in a conversation I had recently.  The salt is drawn from what we eat.  The water, from what we drink and from wet things we eat.  Those wet things include fruits, vegetables, soups, and anything else that has a runny consistency.  So what do we do with that?

Habit #2: Drink More Water

We've all heard the advice to drink 8 8oz glasses a day.  This is a general guideline and a good starting point and/or general rule to follow.   We do get liquid from what we eat and anything else that we drink so it's nice to think of this as a guideline.

The upshot of all this is that most of us don't drink as much water as we need to.  Some estimates even say that 80% or better of the population are walking around each day in a state of mild dehydration.  Who knew?

We don't like the taste of it.  Or coffee, tea, soda pop, or whatever are more readily available (in the break room at work for example).  Or we just aren't in the habit.  Or we don't like running to the rest room that often.  Or....

In any case we talk ourselves out of it or we just don't get in the habit.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dry skin, brain fog, headaches, sore muscles, bladder infections, and our bodies not having the reserve they need, among other things.  So drinking enough water is very important. 

Here are some easy ways to make drinking water more of a habit:

* Set times to drink a glass of water.  Drink a glass of water when you first get up in the morning (this also is better at waking you up than drinking coffee or another caffeinated beverage).  Drink a glass with each meal.  Do just those two things and you're halfway to that 8 glass quota!  Drink a glass on your morning and afternoon break or during snack time or whatever you want to call it and you're up to 6 glasses!

Flavor it up.  Drinking those flavored store-bought waters don't count in my opinion because they usually use sweeteners of some kind.  That adds calories and your body starts to process it differently than water.  So what do you do if you don't like the taste of water?  Add lemon or lime slices, add mint or other fruit (raspberries, strawberries, mango, etc.).  Freeze in an ice cube or just add to the water in a pitcher.  Believe me, it does help!  If you like herbal teas, they are also a great way to get your water in.  Just steer clear of the caffeine and creamers and sugar.  My favorites are peppermint (if I need a pick-me-up) and chamomile (if I need to relax). 

* Make it handy.  Carry a water bottle. Keep a water bottle in your locker or desk at work.  Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge.  Keep a glass handy by the kitchen sink.  I usually carry a water bottle/travel mug around with me all day.  If I feel like cold water, I'll fill it up whenever I walk by the drinking fountain.  If I want hot, I'll fill it up from my electric kettle.  I prefer to carry a travel mug due to the spill-proof-ness (is that a word?) and no straw.  My husband and my parents all prefer water bottles.  Do what works for you.

*  Keep it cold (or hot).  In the summer nothing is better than a big glass of cold water (with ice of course).  In the winter, not so much!  I live in Minnesota and winters get mighty gold here (our high on Sunday was 5F - just sayin').  I keep an electric tea kettle on my desk at work and drink hot water in the winter.  Sometimes I'll add an herbal tea bag, but most of the time it's just hot water.

 * Drink when you exercise.  When we exercise we typically sweat.  That sweat is water being removed from our bodies in an attempt to cool us down so we need to make sure we replace it.  The guideline I use is 1 8oz glass of water for every hour of activity under normal temperatures.  Excessive temperatures change things (either hot or cold temperatures) and I would suggest talking to your doctor about those times.  I also drink some water before and some during my activity so that I don't feel like I have a belly full of water while I'm exercising.  Since I tend to exercise inside, I stick with the 8oz for one workout.  If I'm thirsty, I drink more but not all at once.

Also, just a quick note to let you know that you can drink too much water.  Most people never get to that point, but keep that in mind too.   My personal opinion is that sticking with the 8 8oz glasses per day plus fluids from food and when exercising is quite safe.  Check with your medical provider to be sure as each person has their own needs. 

Please note that these are just ideas that work for me and others I have known over the years and are not intended to take the place of the advice of a licensed medical professional.

How do you make sure you drink enough water?  I'd love to hear!

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