Confession time: I do not like the taste of water. It’s tricky to explain what I mean by that. Water is generally considered bland, tasteless, and the absence of flavor. To me, it has an almost metallic, iron taste that feels uncomfortable on my tongue. The unfortunate side effect of my palate’s rejection of water is that I am perpetually dehydrated. Some days I’ll look up from my computer at 5:00 PM and realize I haven’t had a single sip of water. Other times, I actively avoid it, downing cup after cup of black tea and avoiding eye contact with the full water jugs in the refrigerator.
I’m reminded fairly often by the people who love me that this behavior is unhealthy. I don’t need to be convinced; the headaches, chapped lips, and punishing fatigue are proof enough. So what’s the solution? You, well-meaning but misinformed, might be thinking, “Just drink more water.” As a person who has tried on many occasions to “drink more water,” I regret to report that it’s not that simple.
Drinking water is supposedly one of the most basic human actions and yet for some of us (I swear we’re out there!) it can be surprisingly challenging to stop what we’re doing just to drink totally bland, uninteresting liquid, only to have to stop what we’re doing again minutes later to use the bathroom. It can be a frustrating, distracting cycle. People like me, who don’t like the taste of water or find themselves so overwhelmed with work and other responsibilities that they simply forget, need a strategy, a plan of attack to get hydrated in the new year.
This goes double for people who frequently travel. Whether you’re away for work or vacation, you need energy and focus. You can’t waste time being felled by a dehydration-induced headache or find yourself feeling faint minutes before you’re set to embark on your scuba diving excursion. Though it’s easy to overlook it, drinking water is part of a healthy daily routine. I might not like water but I understand its value.
So I’m calling on my perpetually dehydrated brethren, victims of seemingly incurable thirst: In 2020, let’s resolve to turn our bodies into oases. Water won’t pay your bills or fix your relationship, but it is inarguably a simple way to start treating your body well. Here are five methods that have helped me get over my distaste for water, and might help you stay hydrated in 2020, too.
Write it down.
It might feel a little silly, but write yourself reminders to drink water in your daily planner, on the Notes app on your phone, or on your mirror in lipstick. Writing it down removes it from the realm of thought and makes it concrete, a real-world task you can cross off your to-do list and feel accomplished.
When you’re traveling, this practice becomes especially important. You’ll likely be moving a lot, either being shuttled from location to location or roaming around a new city checking out the sights. Add “drink water” to your itinerary or your travel diary so that it becomes part of your travel experience and another activity you have to complete before you head home.
There’s no guarantee that these little reminders will actually get you to drink water. But if you’re scanning your planner, water far from your mind, and you see that note to yourself, then a light bulb might go off and give you the push you need to take that much needed, refreshing sip. For that to work, however, water needs to be within reach. Which leads me to my next point.
Make it a presence in your daily life.
Having working taps isn’t enough. Neither is buying yourself a reusable water bottle to carry around with you. You’ll leave it at home or neglect to fill it up. Water needs to take up space in your life.
One way that I make water as much a presence in my day as my cats are (I have three and they are my constant companions) is by leaving filled water bottles on various surfaces around my apartment. I have three glass water jugs and two reusable water bottles, one of which is always near my desk or sitting on the coffee table in the living room (the rest stay cold in the refrigerator). I also keep stacks of quart containers (the type you get at takeout restaurants) under the sink, and leave one or two filled with ice water within arm’s reach. I work from home, but you can do this at an office too by leaving one or two water bottles at your desk that you can fill throughout your day, and even a spare in a locker or file cabinet nearby if you have one available.
This set-up creates a little more clutter than I would prefer, but it’s generally effective. As I’m going about my day — grabbing a pen or a book, washing the dishes, playing with the cats, taking my lunch break — I run across one of these water containers and absent-mindedly take a drink. I almost have to trick my brain into drinking water by “accidentally” running into water like an old friend at the park.
When you’re traveling this is a little tricky, since there won’t always be space to leave out spare water bottles at your hotel or campground. You can always grab every plastic water bottle you’re offered by tour guides, cab drivers, and hotel concierges, though. I know plastic turns some folks off, but even so, a steady supply of water by your side will make you all the more likely to drink it.
Give it flavor.
One well-meaning piece of advice I get a lot when I gripe about feeling dehydrated is that I should buy one of the appliances that turns regular water into fizzy water, in order to make the drinking experience more bearable. Well, I don’t have an extra $100 or even the space in my apartment for that, but the principle is sound: Modify your water so you actually enjoy drinking it.
In a desperate stretch of several months, I ordered cases of lemon sparkling water, hoping that would make up for the lack of regular water in my parched body. When that got too expensive, I began drinking a minimum of three cups of tea a day. That counts as water right? My electric kettle heats water in two minutes, making it simple to supplement regular water with tea, and I recommend investing in one if you have the resources. If you’re not a hot tea drinker or you want a way to amp up an entire jug of water, a cheap alternative is to flavor your water with fruit infusions.
Cut up cucumber and squeeze lemon for a tangy, citrus twist. If you prefer something sweet, add halved strawberries to your water bottle. Since fruits and vegetables go bad quickly, you’ll have to drink your flavored water the same day you make it, but that’s probably a good thing. If you think water tastes bad or it’s too boring to motivate you to drink it regularly, there’s no shame in spicing things up a bit.
Take timed breaks specifically to drink water. Make it a point to stand up from your desk and walk to the kitchen or the water fountain, fill up your glass or water bottle and stand there for a couple of minutes staring at the wall if you have to, and drink until your vessel of choice is empty.
I know it sounds odd, but periodically, I walk into my kitchen, grab my water bottle, and stand near the window in my kitchen. I focus on some point in the backyard and just drink without thinking about what I’m doing. It feels akin to a brief moment of meditation.
Not only does this method distract from the water drinking itself, it’s an opportunity to clear your mind, move your body, and give your eyes a break from staring at your computer. You need to take occasional breaks from work to stay sane, anyway. Incorporating water into those breaks kills two birds with one stone.
When you’re traveling, there will likely be so much excitement that you’ll have to force yourself to take water breaks, but to avoid burnout and exhaustion, it’s worth it.
Don’t force yourself to enjoy it.
You don’t have to pretend that drinking more water has transformed you into a happy-go-lucky water spirit with clear skin and a peppy attitude. Just because drinking more water will likely clear your head, make you more alert and less tired, doesn’t mean you have to like doing it.
Make drinking water a chore, a necessary but unenviable task, like vacuuming or cleaning the litter box. Think of it as one of your daily duties that you have to complete to keep your body running smoothly. It’s not fun, and there’s not always an immediate reward which might make it hard to justify, but there are many thankless tasks in life that we must trudge through to keep our lives from falling apart. Drinking water is one of those tasks that, if you don’t enjoy it, requires gritting your teeth and getting it over with. But no matter what it takes to keep those water bottles filled and that thirst quenched, 2020 is the year that we’ll make the seemingly simple directive to “drink more water” a reality.