Don't Drink Enough Water?

Most people probably don't drink as much water as they should. I know I didn't... for 99% of my life.

Until July 2018, I did not drink water at all unless I absolutely had to (it was hot outside, there was nothing else available, etc.). I drank a lot of sugary drinks like juice and soda and even Kool-Aid. I felt tired a lot of the time and, especially after I had my second child, I felt like I couldn't make it through the day without a nap... and even then, it was a major struggle.

If I wasn't feeling well or had a headache, people would always say "You should drink extra water," and I'd just nod and agree... but never actually do it. I knew drinking water would be helpful and much healthier than what I was drinking on a regular basis, I just... hated water. I hated the taste, and it always felt like it just made me more thirsty. In reality, I was probably craving the sugar or the flavors of what I normally drank, not actual hydration.

People say "Water doesn't have a taste. How can you hate it?" Water definitely has a taste, especially for me as a super-taster. I could tell the difference between restaurant water and fountain water and bottled water and tap water and filtered water. They all tasted different and were varying degrees of terrible, in my opinion. So I would just avoid it and drink other things.

At one point, I decided to start drinking water, but I still didn't really want to. A friend suggested an app called Plant Nanny, which is used to help you keep track of how much water you drink during the day and reach a specific goal. You keep an adorable digital plant alive by "watering it" (entering how much water you drank), and it levels up as you keep up with your goals.

At the time, I hadn't really committed to making a change and drinking water, so I would just choke down a little bit, then go back to drinking milk or sugary drinks. I'd just enter it into the app as slightly less than if I had drank a cup of straight water (cheating, I know), but it wasn't enough to keep my plant alive. I killed a couple plants, then decided to just delete the app because it clearly wasn't helping.

It wasn't until months or a year later that I decided that drinking Kool-Aid and soda all day was something that really needed to end. I just felt terrible most of the time and I was so exhausted. I was at a breaking point and needed something to change. I don't remember exactly what gave me the idea to start drinking water, but this time I was committed.

I decided that for one month straight, I would drink nothing but water and no more than 1 glass of milk a day (for variety's sake). I researched how much to drink, and it seemed like the consensus was 'half of your body weight, converted to ounces,' or something close to that (so if you weigh 150lbs, you'd drink 75oz of water a day). That seemed like too much in the beginning because I literally never drank water, so I decided to start smaller.

I got a cup from the dollar store so I'd have a special cup specifically for water, hoping it would be a good motivator. I started out with 64oz, or 8 glasses of water, which used to be the universal recommendation. I was able to keep that up for a few days straight, and I was so proud of myself. I documented my water journey on Facebook, telling people about how I felt at the end of each day and how well I had done or what struggles I had had that day.

On the third or fourth day, a friend suggested the Plant Nanny app, which I had completely forgotten about. I decided that would be a good way to keep track of my water intake now that I was actually doing it and was actually committed to making a change.

After 4-5 days, I upped my water intake from 64oz to 70, then 84, and eventually 96. It was hard in the beginning because I still didn't like the taste of water, and I'd get tired of it and want something different, but I pushed through. I took my water with me everywhere so I could keep track of how much I was drinking (and so I wouldn't get stuck having to drink water from somewhere else that might taste worse). Sometimes it was really hard to resist getting a soda when I was out somewhere with friends... but I did it.

I told people about what I was doing and how I planned to cut out sugary drinks for at least a month, and after that not have more than one a day or one every few days. It was partly for accountability, and partly just... to be heard. I received so much encouragement from friends and anyone I told about my challenge for myself, and that definitely helped. My journey even inspired a few friends to join me and start setting goals for themselves to increase their water intake. I started a small Facebook group for those friends so we could encourage each other and talk about our struggles. It felt so good to be making a difference in other people's lives simply by making a change for myself.

It got much easier much faster than I expected. It was really only the first few days that I had a hard time resisting sugary drinks. I had expected the whole month to be a constant struggle since I never drank water before that, and since I was completely cutting out those sugary drinks that I had previously been drinking all day long. I honestly didn't really think I'd make it through that whole month, but once I started, it was a lot easier than I expected.

I still didn't really like the taste of water, but I could tolerate it better. Somewhere in the middle of that month, I even stopped drinking milk more than once a week or so. I just didn't have the desire to. I'd drink water all day and not really feel like I was missing out on anything. It was nice. I felt so proud of myself, and I felt so much better physically! I wasn't exhausted all the time anymore. I didn't nap more than once a week maybe, as opposed to before when I was napping every day. I didn't feel completely worn out by dinnertime. I had energy. I was happier. I didn't feel so overwhelmed.

I had secretly been hoping that by cutting out all the sugar in my drinks and replacing them with water, I'd lose weight without having to exercise or anything, but I only lost a pound or so. I think part of it was because while I had cut out sugary drinks, I was still eating sugary foods and candies to help satisfy my cravings. I think I was consuming less sugar overall, and all the water was probably helping my body get rid of it better than previously, but I still wasn't necessarily eating healthy. So if you decide to do a water challenge like mine, don't go into it thinking that it'll help you effortlessly lose weight, because that's probably not what will happen. Instead, go into it thinking "This is the first step in my journey to become more healthy," and use it as a stepping stone to keep making changes.

I started drinking water 8 months ago, and I was drinking 96oz a day for while, but that got to be too much, so I decreased it back to 84 ounces, then to 64. I asked my doctor about how much I should drink because I had read varying amounts online. She said it's less based on a specific number of ounces and more based on how much your body needs. She said to monitor the color of your urine, rather than the number of ounces you drink (though tracking ounces can be good in the beginning so you can have specific goals). The urine should be faint yellow, or straw-colored. If it's darker than that, you need to drink more, and if it's completely clear, you're drinking too much and can throw off your electrolyte levels, which can be dangerous.

Until this past month, I was still keeping track of my water intake and putting it into the Plant Nanny app. Eventually I realized that it was just making it too much of a chore to have to remember to enter it in the app so I could keep my streak going. I knew that I was meeting my goal each and every day, but it would stress me out when I realized that I had fallen asleep without entering my last cup of water into the app, thus it didn't show my streak of 200+ days of meeting my goal. Since I had been successful for that long, and it had clearly become a habit, I decided to stop using the app and stop keeping track. It was so much simpler, and I could just drink water like a normal person and not have to calculate how much I had drank or stress about chugging a certain amount before bedtime because I had gotten behind that day.

Now I just drink water and try to make sure I fill my water bottle at least twice a day, but I don't keep track and I don't stress about it. Rather than tracking ounces, I just follow what my doctor said and pay attention to the color of my urine to be sure I'm drinking enough. I generally don't drink more than one cup of juice or one soda a day, and sometimes go days without drinking anything but water. When I do drink soda, I go for a small cup instead of the large, and I pace myself more.

If you are looking to start drinking more water or cut out sugary drinks, here are my tips for success -

You don't need to completely cut out drinks you enjoy, just be more mindful of how much you consume. Drink less of them, and less often, and you'll learn to appreciate them more instead of chugging a 32oz soda in an hour.

Make realistic, attainable goals and build up from there. Don't feel like you have to go straight to drinking half your body weight in ounces. Just start small and increase the goal once you've met it several days in a row.

Don't be too hard on yourself if you don't make it one day or you slip up. The point is to improve, not to be perfect.

It's never too late to get started. No matter how much or how little you replace of your regular drinks, it'll be an improvement over what you were doing before.

Don't forget that anything you drink contributes to your water intake, but things besides water also add things like sugar or calories, so just be mindful of that, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Water is definitely the healthiest thing you can drink, but that doesn't mean it has to be the only thing you drink. Just find a balance that works for you. And if you need an accountability/support buddy, don't be afraid to ask me! I would love to help you on your journey.

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