Baby steps

baby steps | hydrate or die

Yes, hydrate: this is step one in our Baby Steps to Health series for 2022. It may sound overly simple—bear with me.

My daughter and I have a saying, “Hydrate or die.” Yes, we’re the ones dragging around a water bottle everywhere, rain or shine, heat or cold.

And with good reason.

why hydrate?

Did you know…

  • … that we can go 3–4 weeks without food but only 3 days without water?
  • … that as much as 65% of our bodies is water—well, ideally speaking, that is?

Plain old H2O is vital to the proper functioning of our bodies because it performs a lot of tasks for us, such as:

  • Keeps all your mucous membranes moist and healthy—eyes, nose, mouth, digestive, vaginal
  • Protects organs and tissues from damage
  • Prevents constipation
  • Dissolves minerals for use in all your bodily systems
  • Regulates body temperature through perspiration and respiration
  • Lubricates joints
  • Forms an important component of the blood that carries nutrients and oxygen throughout your body
  • Forms a vital component of saliva, which is vital for digestion
  • Is required for production of hormones and neurotransmitters
  • Reduces burden on liver and kidneys by flushing out toxins and other waste products

where do we get water?

  • Well (haha), from water. Plain water is the best source—in most of our country, tap water is fine, and filtered is even better. I highly recommend you not buy bottled water, especially not in plastic containers, as they can leach hormone disrupters into the water and into your body. Goddess knows our hormones need all the help they can get! And they’re terrible for the environment.
  • Still water is best (meaning water without bubbles, not “Still, water is best”—commas save lives, people!), and if you can’t stand it, try adding pieces of fruit and/or some fresh herbs: citrus fruits, berries, cucumbers, mint, parsley, and basil are all good ones to try.
  • Carbonated water is a close second—again, try flavoring it yourself since “natural flavors” doesn’t always mean what you think it does. Try not to exclusively drink carbonated water, though: for some people, it can apparently cause pancreas issues.
  • Unsweetened herbal tea (hot or cold) is another good source of hydration.
  • Whole fruits + veggies (raw or cooked) are good sources of water, too, and because they also contain fiber, your digestion will be even smoother! No blushing, everybody poops.

try to avoid

The following beverages are not great if you want to hydrate.

  • Caffeinated beverages: these act as diuretics, meaning that they cause us to excrete more water as urine. So if you drink coffee, tea, energy drinks, or soft drinks (a whole ‘nother topic!), make sure you add more water to your day. And those fancy coffee drinks so many of us are addicted to are not only not hydrating—they’re really dessert masquerading as a drink.
  • Juices contain a LOT of sugar and should be kept to 4 oz a day. Think about how many oranges it takes to make a glass of juice: if you squeeze them, yes, you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals, and you’re getting all the sugar without the benefit of the fiber that mediates how our body processes that sugar. Best to stick to a whole orange and a glass of plain water.
  • Sports drinks are really not necessary unless you’re training for a marathon or other extreme sport: again, the store-bought ones contain a LOT of artificial additives that your body won’t thank you for. If you really think your electrolytes are off, talk to your primary care provider and maybe try a homemade sports drink—they’re easy to make, and you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
  • Large quantities of milk—dairy or alternative. Dairy milk contains a lot of natural sugar, and alternative milks, unless they are made at home, are often full of artificial ingredients.
  • Alcoholic beverages—high in sugar, low in nutrition, diuretic. If you participate in “dry January,” really pay attention to how you feel better this month (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually/energetically). Then put your learnings to use!

how much is the right amount?

We are bio-individual, meaning that our needs are unique. Experiment with how much water you’re drinking to find the perfect amount for you, remembering that hot weather and increased physical activity will increase your need to hydrate.

If you don’t drink a lot of water right now, don’t jump in and increase that by a huge amount per day: increase it slowly, perhaps by adding a glass first thing in the morning—maybe with half a lemon squeezed in—then adding a glass about 20 minutes before each meal.

And because I’m a strong advocate for the messy middle, don’t feel like you must try on the “I drank a gallon of water a day and here’s what happened” fad. Remember the ice bucket challenge? Yeah, I think that’s the same puddle the gallon of water is headed for.

If you dislike ambiguity (as in, you hate recipes that don’t give you precise measurements), here are three ways to estimate your daily hydration goal—and remember, this is what you’re working up to, not what you try for on the first day:

  • Aim for 8 x 8-oz glasses per day.
  • Drink enough that when you empty a full bladder, the urine in the toilet is a very pale, almost non-existent yellow—think lemonade.
  • Take your weight in pounds and divide that by two. That number is how many ounces to aim for per day. (I weigh 135 lbs, so 135/2 = 67.5 ounces per day.)

From there, experiment until you get to the Goldilocks principle: just right!

  • Your lips will look and feel moist.
  • You will have regular bowel movements (we’re aiming for at least one a day, preferably more).
  • Your eyes are bright and without bags below/dark circles around them.
  • You’re more clear-headed.
  • Your joints ache less.
  • You just feel better: this will look different for each individual.

Once you’re there, find a way to keep yourself accountable:

  • Carry a reusable water bottle (I prefer stainless steel to plastic) that helps you know how much you’re drinking.
  • Set a reminder on your phone so you get up and get a glass of water every so often (and don’t forget to stretch, too).
  • Keep a pitcher on your desk, and when one glass is finished, pour the next one right away.
  • Make a habit of drinking a glass of water every time you switch tasks.

hydrate or die

Wherever you are on your hydration journey, kick it up one tiny notch: figure out how much you want to be drinking using the starter tips above, or simply increase the amount of water you have by 1–3 glasses per day until you feel great!

Want more accountability? Set up a free GroupMe account, and join the Baby Steps 2022 group chat! Why am I not running a Facebook group but asking you to use yet another platform? I’d like to keep this discussion focused—and I feel that most social media platforms are black holes of distraction.

make the connection

This is the first challenge in a 12-part series that will run for all of 2022: every month, I’ll share a small, simple, sustainable shift to make on your way to healthier food and lifestyle choices. By the end of the year, you’ll be amazed at the difference in your health!

“A YEAR?!? But that’s so long,” you may be thinking. Remember: a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.

Let me ask you this: how long have you been making poor food and lifestyle choices? I’ll bet it’s been more than a year, maybe even more than a decade….

And those poor choices have resulted in poor health.

The good news is that you can reverse the downward trend by making better choices, and the only way those will stick is if you make them one baby step at a time.

Hydrate or die—for the month of January and beyond—then come back for February’s baby step! Want to make sure you don’t miss a single challenge? Join my email list.