Welcome to "52 Weeks to a Healthier You"....

Are you thinking about making changes in your life to become a healthier person but don't quite know how to get started? Perhaps your doctor has suggested eating healthier, exercising and losing weight, but it all seems so overwhelming. Many of us already know what we should be doing, but implementing all of those pieces of information can be quite a challenge. Too often we embark on a new diet or exercise plan only to give up after a few days or weeks because it seems too difficult. Well, worry no more. You have arrived at the ideal place to help you make those changes. We are going to develop new habits, one week at a time. Health, exercise, and nutritional goals have been broken down into small, manageable steps. Each week you will add one new habit and have seven full days to perfect it before moving on to the next one. This is not a traditional diet and exercise plan, but rather a journey towards a permanent healthy lifestyle. The steps may seem small at first, but collectively they add up to major improvements in one's overall well-being. In just 52 short weeks, you will be amazed and proud of the changes you have made. You will look back and see just how far you've come on your quest to be a healthier YOU. Now, scroll down in the archives to January 2011/Week 1 and let's get started.... Then, follow each week's tip to a healthier YOU!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week 2 - Add two glasses of water to your daily fluid intake

How often do we hear and read that we should drink 8 glasses of water per day?  Sounds easy, but how many of us actually drink those 8 glasses?!  And we're talking drinking water in its purest form -- not coffee, tea or soft drinks.  While those beverages do include water, they also contain chemical additives and preservatives that may be harmful to your body.  These drinks contribute to your daily fluid intake but they are not a substitute for pure, clean water.

Who came up with the idea of eight glasses of water, and how do we actually know that's the optimal amount to drink?  The truth is, we don't actually know!!  Most nutritionists and scientists will tell you that the suggestion of eight glasses daily isn't based in any real scientific fact.  It's a combination of urban legend and anecdotal medical advice.  In fact, this unquestioned rule is itself a question mark.  "I can't even tell you that," says Barbara Rolls, a nutrition researcher at Pennsylvania State University, "and I've written a book on water."

Some say the number was derived from fluid intake measurements taken decades ago among hospital patients on IVs; others say it's less a measure of what people need than a convenient reference point, especially for those who are prone to dehydration, such as many elderly people. Many kidney specialists do agree on one thing, however:  that the 8-by-8 rule (8 glasses x 8 ounces) is a gross overestimate of any required minimum. To replace daily losses of water, an average-sized adult with healthy kidneys sitting in a temperate climate needs no more than one liter of fluid, according to Jurgen Schnermann, a kidney physiologist at the National Institutes of Health.  Of course, if you're healthy, and you're laboring over the stair machine, playing basketball, or even gardening in a hot, dry climate, you're going to need a lot more than a liter to keep you hydrated. But you hardly need a nutritionist or a doctor to tell you that. (1)  At the other end of the spectrum, elite athletes and bodybuilders often drink one gallon or more per day!  The huge demands placed on their bodies to grow and maintain muscle simply require a much higher water intake.

Regardless of how much we need, we do know that water carries important nutrients, minerals, dissolved salts and trace elements which are the building blocks of growth and healing energies. It disposes of waste and is constantly cooling, cleansing and purifying itself. Our bodies depend on water as a catalyst, a transport system, to maintain our correct body temperature, and to supply nutrients and electrical impulses. (2)

H20 -- two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen -- seemingly so very basic and simple, yet so complex and complicated that it is the source of all life. Consider these facts:

  • The adult human body is made up of 60-75% water. 
  • The brain is made up of about 85% water. 
  • Blood, which carries nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, is about 90% water. 

Not only is it important to drink water, it is important to spread water intake throughout the day so your body stays well hydrated.  The reason most people fail at developing this new habit of drinking eight glasses per day is because they try to add them all at once.  It is difficult to go from drinking little or no water to drinking eight glasses, so they end up feeling frustrated, slightly nauseous, and fed up with running to the bathroom all day!

We're going to take baby steps and a middle-of-the-road approach and slowly work our way up to six or eight glasses per day.  We will start by adding just two glasses -- preferably one when you first wake up, before your coffee or breakfast, and a second glass just before dinner.  Remember last week when we talked about our bodies being in a fasting state in the morning?  Well, having gone 7-8 hours with no fluid also places your body in a state of mild dehydration.  One of the very best things you can do is drink 8 ounces of water as soon as you get up.  A splash of cranberry juice, lemon juice or any other natural flavoring will add some zip if you simply don't like it plain.  I often fill a pitcher at night with 64 ounces of water and toss in fresh lemon and orange slices.  By morning, the water is chilled and has a delicious citrus flavor. 

The glass before dinner is perfectly timed because by that point in the day many of us are already behind on our water intake.  We may be in a state of mild dehydration and a glass of water is just what the body needs.  Drinking a glass just before dinner has the added benefit of helping to control your appetite so you consume a slightly smaller dinner.

If you are already a water-drinker, great!  Keep on doing what you are doing -- just be mindful of getting those two glasses in at those strategic times -- first thing in the morning and before dinner.  Whether you drink four, six or eight glasses per day, the ultimate goal is to stay well hydrated.  Let your thirst be your guide!

"Water is life's mater and matrix, mother and medium.  There is no life without water."     
        ~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

1. Carey, Benedict. "Hard to Swallow: Do You Really Need Eight Glasses of Water Everyday?"  http://chetday.com/eightglassesofwater.htm#

2. Bartholomew, Alick. "Why is Water So Important?"   Wellness Goods.com

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