Last week, after the official launch of the magazine’s new healthy-living app, I decided to use the “101 Ways to Be Healthy” to help me improve my own life. Because the last few weeks have been challenging for me for several reasons, I decided that, rather than using the “Surprise Me!” option, I would consciously choose one of the 101 Ways that would be easy for me to integrate into my life. With that in mind, I figured, what could be easier than #40: Drink a lot of H20?
Or so I thought. The first thing I did was read “How to Hydrate,” from our December 2007 issue, to find out exactly how much was “a lot of water.” The article states that the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., recommends at least 91 ounces a day for women and 125 ounces for men. It sure seemed like a lot, almost 50 percent more than the typical “eight 8-ounce glasses a day” that everybody seems to know. But if an organization as official-sounding as the Institute of Medicine is recommending it, who am I to second-guess? (Note: one of our editors checked their Web site a few weeks ago and, while the original article is four years old, the Institute still stands by those recommendations.)
I’m into my second week, and I have to admit that it’s been difficult. The most that I drank during the first week was 44 ounces. That was on the first day, and the numbers decreased every day from there. And I even like water! It’s really all I drink, and I carry a water bottle with me wherever I go. But I realized that I only reach for that bottle when I feel thirsty, and at that point I’m probably already pretty dehydrated, according to what I’ve been reading. I knew that I would have to make more a conscious effort to drink regularly throughout the day, rather than relying of physical clues.
So, I decided first thing Monday morning to give myself a hydration head start: I drank 24 ounces of water right after I woke up. Within my first hour at work, I had drunk probably another 12 ounces. I was feeling pretty good about my progress so far and continued that way throughout the day. But even by late morning, I was seeing drawbacks from such a drastic spike in my water intake: by 11:15, I had already used the bathroom three times (I joked with my coworkers that I might be more productive if I moved my desk in there), I swear I felt like I had water in my ears, and not only was I not hungry, my stomach was so full that I even felt a little sick. I did nothing but snack all day long.
But I was determined to finish the day out meeting my goal, and I did. By that evening I had reached 91 ounces and, weirdly enough, later that night I felt thirsty and probably drank another six ounces. But yesterday I was practically aquaphobic — I’d be surprised if I drank even eight ounces for the day.
I think I’ve taken away two things from this first revolutionary attempt to be healthy: Lasting change, like many things, is often a lot easier and more manageable in small chunks. For somebody who drinks and average of 24-30 ounces of water a day, 44 ounces last week was a substantial improvement. I need to take the time to celebrate that success instead of pushing myself to double that amount and turn myself off water altogether.
Also, I need to remember to listen to my body more. I tend to take recommended amounts and measurements very literally, never accounting for individual factors. From what I understand, that’s why I’ll never be a fabulous cook, but I could be an amazing baker if I wanted. I find it hard to believe that anything that makes you feel sick is good. Apparently, 91 ounces of water was too much for me, at least at this point. As I increase the amount of water I drink gradually, I need to be cognizant of that tipping point where I go from feeling healthier to feeling nauseated. And if that amount is 91 ounces or more, so be it. But if it’s less, I need to trust that my body is serving me correctly.
If you’ve downloaded the app and have been (or are planning to) use it to make healthy changes, I would love to hear how it’s working for you!