Friday, July 18, 2008

Drinking Water

One of the frugal blogs I try to keep up with (I've Paid Twice for this Already - see related articles in the sidebar) brought up the question of whether or not anyone drinks tap water anymore. Good question!

Since water is one of the three legs on the footstool of changing to and then maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and since we are all getting more and more worried about paying for everything, I thought it would be a good time to discuss water. If you check out the "I've paid twice for this already" blog, you'll see many of these comments already mentioned in my comments there.

A few years ago, I was a member of a team of MBA students doing a consulting project that dealt with water fountains. Our research steered into the marketing area and we looked at how people (target audience) were viewing water. At that time (2002), water was just beginning to replace sodas as the money maker for the soda manufacturers, and its price was beginning to equal that of soda. As an international team, we took a worldview of the market, but also were pinpointing the US which was where the manufacturer we were working for was located.

The water that you buy in bottles is not strictly tap water, but is tap water with some flavor additives (such as sodium) added in. Given the cost of transporting water, most sodas are postponed in their manufacturing so that the major liquid element is added to the soda closer to its intended audience. In other words, water is obtained and added to the soda mixture very close to home - i.e., it's the stuff that you get out of your tap, too.

Some areas of the country will have hardened water naturally, and most homeowners deal with that by adding a water softener if they can, at least to their drinking and cooking water (who wants to scrub out a lime deposit from their pans? Or think about that stuff going into their stomach?) Bottling plants will also adjust the tap water to a palatable mixture of their own choosing, but nothing that is added tends to add those unwanted things like extra sugars, sodium or calories, and if they do, it is noted on the bottle. So be sure to become a label reader!!!

Other than that, I think one's like or dislikes of tap water are based on what they are most used to - we can pretty much adapt to anything, but decreasing our luxury level from necessity to nice-to-have is harder than increasing it in the other direction. You will have to go through a little pain to make that gain and be happy with less than what you could have (a sugary caffeinated soda that has you zipping around the office for a few hours before you hit that afternoon "lull" that is probably caused from the sugar high from lunch (sugars, carbs ingested there) suddenly being depleted.

This is why I like Atkins: Atkins avoids that by limiting those and increasing the proteins ingested because they take longer to digest (6 versus 4 hours, generally) and will keep you feeling "not hungry" longer. Using water to "fill in the gaps" in your stomach and in your mind is a great way to bridge some of those moments, but cannot overcome a sugar/carb low period. You just have to suffer through those - like a hangover - and vow not to do it to yourself again!!

So, start drinking the tap water and treat it like both a vitamin pill ordered by the doctor (in huge quantities and throughout the day), and be glad it also helps you on your pocketbook. Few restaurants charge for water, and you'll be glad for the extra $1-2 per day if you've been paying for soda. Try it iced, chilled, and straight up (sans ice) to see which works best for you. Good restaurants will suggest, but many can also provide this if you ask, adding a lemon slice to it. This might help you in your transition.

Remember that this is a transition. Your taste buds will need to change, and your bladder will also be undergoing changes. In addition, your body becomes accustomed to the increase in water, which it desperately wants, and will initially hoard the water (increasing weight temporarily, and perhaps bloating) until it accepts the fact that you are going to give it more water regularly.

Your body will then stop hoarding what you give it and release the increased water and weight. If you start to decrease later, you may be able to pick up on this when you start craving salty foods. This is a sign your body is wanting more water (salt retains water). So, drink about 8-16 oz of water within the next hour and see if the salty craving has passed yet before repeating.

If you still crave salty foods after 4 hours, then you might give in and find something healthy but with salt. The salt will affect your blood pressure, though, so it might be best to resist it completely if you can. If not, at least you tried to decrease the craving by increasing the water content of your body.

Cheers! Chug-chug-chug

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