“Take this time to concentrate on yourself.” Have you ever had such annoyingly good advice? You may be tired of hearing it, but it’s still true: Singleness is the perfect opportunity to develop healthy habits. Good habits apply to many different disciplines: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial and more. This five-part series narrows it down to five physical habits that will serve you well for the rest of your life — the kind of habits you’ll thank yourself for later.
Part 1 begins with the most crucial habit: staying hydrated.
While you can go without food for weeks, you cannot go without water. Water is required for many of the body’s cellular functions, such as the dissolution of vitamins and minerals and the transportation of these life-giving nutrients throughout the body. Without water, you’d be lucky to make it a week.
Lack of proper hydration affects nearly every aspect of your body, including your brain, complexion, digestion, weight and heart. To stay hydrated and keep everything running smoothly, most health professionals recommend 64 ounces of water daily (the old “eight 8-ounce glasses” rule). This is the minimum amount of water you’ll need on a daily basis. If you exercise regularly or live in a hot, dry climate, you’ll likely need more. More water is better than less; many active people drink closer to a gallon of water (128 ounces) per day. When tracking your daily water intake, be careful not to overestimate the water you receive from other drinks and foods. To avoid this trap, try tracking only the water you drink.
“But I don’t like water!”
Water’s lack of “flavor” is a common complaint among the chronically dehydrated. To make water more palatable, add flavor without adding unwanted additives by infusing your water with lemon, lime, cucumbers or even berries. For a delicious combination, try strawberries and fresh mint.
While these additions certainly add flavor, they don’t add the sweetness we crave. Flavor-enhancers such as Crystal Light add that sweet flavor, but if you struggle to drink plain old water, that’s a good sign that your palate needs some adjusting. You’ve likely been overexposed to sweet drinks and underexposed to flavorless drinks (water). In this case, drinking artificially sweetened water is counterproductive; it will only prolong your taste buds’ preference for sweets! It is possible to adjust your taste buds, but it won’t happen without a little discomfort in the form of bland drinks. You don’t have to ban flavor-enhancers altogether, but be careful not to rely on them.
Drinks to Limit
Certain beverages, called “diuretics,” are working against your hydration efforts. By definition, diuretics dehydrate the body; they increase urine production and extract extra water from the body. Drinks such as coffee, soda and caffeinated tea are all diuretics. If you’re not drinking enough water, it’s a good idea to limit your consumption of dehydrating beverages. At the very least, be sure to drink a glass of water for every glass of dehydrating beverage. For best results, limit your intake of dehydrating beverages as you’re increasing your intake of water.
Benefits of Hydration
Since water affects so many of the body’s functions, proper hydration comes with benefits. Many of these benefits are imperceptible, but many others are noticeable. When you’re fully hydrated, you won’t feel as fatigued. Water transports oxygen and other nutrients to your cells, helping you remain energetic throughout the day. Proper hydration also affects your appearance. When your skin is hydrated from the inside out, your skin cells are fuller and your skin appears smoother. This also has an anti-aging effect, as fuller skin cells leave less room for fine lines and wrinkles. Drinking enough water can also help you to feel fuller longer, which can help maintain a healthy body weight.
One Small Change
It’s possible that the simple act of changing your water bottle will increase your daily water consumption. Many people are surprised to find that they prefer to drink from one type of bottle over another. Experiment with Nalgene bottles, glass bottles, bottles with a straw, large bottles, bottles that fit in your car’s cupholder and more.
Make tracking even easier by choosing a bottle with ounce markers on it. Do the math to discover how many times that bottle needs to be refilled throughout the day, and set your goals from there. Getting into the habit of drinking more water takes time, but any time invested in this goal is time well spent.