Daily Failures In Hydration
December 3, 2013 6:05 PM   Subscribe

I am a grown-ass woman who fails utterly at hydrating herself. I would love any and all suggestions to help me drink more water regularly.

I don't drink enough water. Ever. At all. I almost never feel thirsty, and when I do, 2-3 drinks of water are enough to satisfy me. I think I've gotten into the habit of not drinking enough because I pee a lot (I've been this way my entire life, it's not a new symptom) and I tend to restrict my fluid intake so I'm not in the bathroom all the damn time. I used to be able to get away with this and feel fine, but not so much anymore. Also, I'm trying to get pregnant and I want to breastfeed and I know my one glass of water a day habit is not going to cut it.

I don't love just drinking water. I like juices but I don't really need all that sugar. I like to drink tea and coffee but those are the opposite of hydrating. I hate the taste of Gatorade and Powerade. Part of the reason I don't really drink alcohol is that I just get...tired of drinking liquids and stop. At this point, I'm afraid I'm going to end up like a Fremen with super-coagulating blood and no ability to produce tears.

I know the solution to this problem seems like it should be, "Um. Drink more water, stupid," and I hear that. I just...don't. What are some useful tips or advice to get into the habit of drinking more water? Thanks in advance!
posted by Aquifer to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
What's your work like? Are you at a desk all day? A big glass next to your desk may help.
posted by k8t at 6:08 PM on December 3, 2013

I fill up a 32 ounce Nalgene bottle every morning with ice and water, and my goal is to drink the whole thing by the end of the work day. Doesn't always happen, but I usually get close. I don't mind drinking room-temperature water once the ice has melted but this might not work for you if you're pickier about water temperature.
posted by jabes at 6:09 PM on December 3, 2013

I used to be able to get away with this and feel fine, but not so much anymore.

What are the symptoms you're actually experiencing?
posted by telegraph at 6:11 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had the same issue as you, and this is how I am dealing with it.

I drink a lot of tea during the day - green/black tea in the morning, then herbal in the afternoon.

Make soup for dinner, and make enough for lunch the next day.

It doesn't have to be complicated - tonight I had soup with a couple of mini-potatoes, half a baby bok choy, 1/4 of an onion, some mushroom heads chopped fine, a handful of chopped cabbage, and 6 oz of halibut, cut into pieces. I heated four cups of water, and added that into the pot once it achieved boiling temperature, I threw in a couple of spices, then let simmer the lot for 30 minutes. Oh my goodness it was yummy.

That's my stealthy way of adding more water to my day, and it is healthy, fresh - use the veggies on hand, add a bit of starch, some protein, and you have dinner, and a whole lot of hydration too.

The best part about being well hydrated? I sleep so much better now. I feel more rested upon waking. My skin feels better too. All the best to you.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:14 PM on December 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Do you like sparkling water? I LOVE love love love LOVE my SodaStream. It is not an exaggeration to say it changed my life.

Don't bother with the flavor packs. Sometimes I'll flavor it with a few drops of bitters, or make a ginger simple syrup. Otherwise it's fantastic on its own.

There are other methods of making sparkling water (huge canisters, or other brands) but for a variety of reasons this is the best option for us right now.
posted by barnone at 6:14 PM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

Seems silly, but I bought two of these Camelbak water bottles and I can't NOT drink 3-4 full bottles throughout the day. Something about the straw makes me drink more. I keep one at work and one at home.
posted by rinosaur at 6:14 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Coffee and tea are fine -- caffeine can have a very mild diuretic effect, but the idea that those drinks are dehydrating is a myth. You can basically count coffee/tea intake as you would water.
posted by in a dark glassly at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I promise not to threadsit, but to answer specific questions:

*I do work a desk job. I keep a water bottle on my desk. I drink about 1/3 of it with my lunch and then ignore it. Every now and then I'll remember and take a drink but I almost never actually finish it. I also keep a water bottle on my nightstand. I would knock a glass over instantly because I am clumsy and elbowy.

*I've read that the 8 glasses of water a day thing is a myth, but my daily intake is so far below that that I wasn't sure it applied.

*Symptoms: I sometimes get a nasty headache, or just generally feel ooky and will feel better when I have a Eureka! moment and go get a goddamned glass of water. Is it healthy to just go by that? (I've had my blood sugar checked. It's fine.)
posted by Aquifer at 6:20 PM on December 3, 2013

Best answer: I find using a straw helps with the whole "not in the mood to slurp up more liquids" thing, and adding a squeeze of lime, lemon, a slice of cucumber or kiwi, or whatever, adds enough flavour to make water more palatable to me. I also find varying the temperature helps- sometimes I drink cold water, sometimes lukewarm and sometimes hot. Also, sometimes i have to force myself to slam back half a bottle of water like a frat boy chugging beer, and after I've done that, I feel my thirst and want more.

If I try a little water and find that I don't really want more, trying these variations can often help, and once it's a habit, it's a habit.

You can also add more watery fruits like cucumbers, lettuce, celery and (of course!) watermelon to your diet, and eat your water. This is especially great for us frequent pee-ers.
posted by windykites at 6:21 PM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]

Oh yeah, and try eating something salty.

Your best guide is the colour of your pee, but you should not wait until you have a headache to hydrate yourself. Also, as you get accustomed to taking in more liquids, your bladder should eventually learn to accommodate.
posted by windykites at 6:24 PM on December 3, 2013

+1 to the straw. Something about gulping water out of a bottle, or sipping it from a glass, just isn't that appealing to me. I love drinking from a straw and bought a reusable tumbler with a lid and straw.

Put your sparkling water in there with a dash of lemon, and see if you don't sip away with abandon!
posted by barnone at 6:25 PM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

The article linked by Wordwoman also makes the point that tea and coffee do count as fluid consumption in terms of achieving adequate hydration.

I also often forget to drink water during the day. While breastfeeding, my thirst increased significantly, and I found that my water consumption increased as a result. A bottle with a straw helps me just have regular sips during the day - for some reason more so than having a bottle and a glass of water. If having a bottle of water on your desk isn't prompting you to drink, perhaps you could set yourself a little reminder on your computer or phone to take a couple of sips from your water bottle.
posted by fever-trees at 6:25 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to keep a full camelback on a hook above my bed. That way I wasn't fumbling for a water bottle in the dark. Worked great until we rearranged. Should probably install a new hook.

I also found that using a straw in my water bottle causes me to drink far more water. Probably because I don't have to tip the bottle back and break my concentration on whatever I'm working on/looking at.
posted by tllaya at 6:28 PM on December 3, 2013

It's unlikely that you're significantly dehydrated. If you were chronically dehydrated, there would be symptoms. I had leg and foot cramps in the early morning, among other problems.

Tea and coffee are actually not dehydrating. Yes, the caffeine in them causes you to produce slightly more urine, but it's nowhere near as much as what you're taking in as water.

Do you follow a low sodium diet, even unintentionally? You'll hold onto less water if you eat less salt (and this is totally okay! It just means you pee more).

Lastly, have you ever talked to a doctor about peeing so much, or the feeling that you're constantly dehydrated? Have you ever had kidney function tests done?
posted by WasabiFlux at 6:33 PM on December 3, 2013

I am exactly the same as you with the no thirst thing.

And honestly? The way I deal with it is set an alarm for a few times a day and just chug like 10 or 12 oz of water. I like my water room temp because for me it's easier to drink.
posted by gaspode at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2013

Yep, exactly the same here: rarely thirsty, light "headaches" from dehydration that remind me to drink. Not good.

I do get most of my water from food. Soups, fresh veggies and fruit mostly.
I also started juicing, makes such a difference. It's easy to drink a big glass of freshly squeezed juice.

Another trick that works for me is kind of silly, it's counting gulps. Think of a number, like 18 or whatever and drink as much. Try to increase the number during the day.

I also find that having smaller bottles is less intimidating. It's unlikely that I'll finish a big bottle of water, it's even unlikely for me to handle it. It's easier to finish a small one and then maybe get a refill. Also try to pour your drink into a cup at work, might help if it sits right in front of you.

Sometimes I make a big jug of herbal tea or iced tea and then drink that during the day. Works better for me than drinking pure water.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:43 PM on December 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hey, I'm you! The only thing that helps me is adding Crystal Light peach iced tea flavor packets to my water. Something about it has me reaching for it often because I actually enjoy it so much.
posted by elisebeth at 6:49 PM on December 3, 2013

I also am appallingly terrible at hydrating myself but then I got pregnant and I got thirsty all the time and became a water drinking machine. Rest assured that when you get pregnant, your body will make it very known to you what it needs.
posted by sestaaak at 6:49 PM on December 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Polder makes a $15 timer that is quite small and comes with a cord to wear around your neck.
posted by conrad53 at 7:01 PM on December 3, 2013

I dislike (and thus avoid) both the gulp-y feeling of drinking water* from a glass or wide-mouth bottle AND the sensation of sucking water* through a straw. But I can make water disappear fairly effortlessly from a narrow-mouth Nalgene. I dunno, but it's what works.

I also saw a rather clever so-called "lifehack" of using a Sharpie to mark progress goals on your water bottle labeled with the time of day (e.g. water level for 11 am, 2 pm, 5 pm.)

* These preferences do not extend to other beverages, which I will happily quaff from large mugs or pint glasses or whathaveyou.
posted by desuetude at 7:05 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's an app for this: waterminder. It'll bing every hour, reminding you to drink. I've used it for a while now and it's helped.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 7:24 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

After years of sucking at hydration, my resolution this year was to drink more water. I succeeded!

1 - I use the same bottle as rinosaur. It really makes me drink more water.
2 - I use a good liquid stevia to sweeten the water.
3 - Sometimes (especially when my lips are chapped) I add celtic salt to the water.

Herbal teas are great in the winter. I use them a lot to stay warm AND hydrated.

Caffeinated drinks like coffee or black tea or strong green tea - I don't count them towards or against my water intake. Alcohol I count AGAINST water intake.

I did it as a trial... forced myself to do it for 30 days to see what would happen. The benefits were good enough to keep it up. Maybe you could try the same approach? FYI, it took a few weeks for the constant peeing to go away. 30 days would be a good trial.

Good luck!
posted by icanbreathe at 7:37 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another trick that works for me is kind of silly, it's counting gulps. Think of a number, like 18 or whatever and drink as much. Try to increase the number during the day.

I count gulps too, but I only do about 6-8. Despite my apparently puny number, it still helps with hydration. (18!)
posted by purpleclover at 7:42 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

My New Year's Resolution for 2013 was to drink more water. Two things worked for me:

1) Sharpieing times on the levels of my Nalgene. 32oz is 10AM, 28oz is noon, 24 oz is 2 PM. So if I've skipped a block, I know how much I have to make up.

2) Filling up 5 8-oz containers and lining them up on the counter, then making sure I drink all of them by the end of the day. (I figure my coffee, tea, and food make up the 3 other 8-oz amounts I'm supposed to get.)

Something about making it a series of small goals versus a huge quantity of water to get through just works. I started by getting through 16 oz reliably until March, and then added another quarter of a Nalgene, and at the end of the year I'm working on drinking the whole thing every day (pretty close!) I also tell myself it's OK not to get to 100% every day so long as I'm making an effort.

Also, if you take dietary fiber like psyllium...you pretty much have to drink an entire glass of water with it. That's a motivator and it totally counts to your total.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:42 PM on December 3, 2013

How often do you get up from your desk? Because when I was pregnant and had to drink more water, I forced myself to drink a glass every time I got up. If you're up and about at least once an hour, it doesn't even have to be a big glass, which makes it easier. It wasn't fun- I just don't like to drink water- but it worked.

Everyone is right when they say that pregnancy will make you more thirsty, but as someone who also has a very low thirst drive, it didn't make me thirsty enough. I basically had to consciously force eight glasses day to avoid the horrible constipation that is par for the course with pregnancy. Soup and coffee didn't cut it.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 8:05 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am the same as you, I rarely drink alcohol purely because I get so full of liquid ao quickly.

My trick is to drink 1/3 fruit juice 2/3 water. It goes down much easier!
I just hate plain water.
posted by Youremyworld at 8:07 PM on December 3, 2013

I'm terrible at drinking water. But I'm aces at drinking up 48 oz of a fruit-vegetable smoothie. (Water in fruit and vegetables also counts towards your total.) I'll even do this after exercise, or a salty meal, and it satiates. Maybe buy a blender if you think that might work? Bonus: now you're also including extra fruits/vegetables (particularly if you avoid a "juicer" and go the blender route) in your diet. Double winner!

A squirt of lemon juice also can do the trick. But the smoothie method has been the easiest to keep up with. It doesn't have to be expensive: people go crazy with fresh and/or exotic fruits, hemp protein additives, expensive nut milks, chia seeds, etc., but you can use anything, with a base of chipped ice or water instead of dairy or dairy substitute. Mine right now is romaine, apple, banana, pear, a nub of ginger, and almond milk (or plain water). I could easily see myself doing a banana + a few frozen strawberries + chipped ice.

Note: it just so happens that even though I have an iron gut, I have a terrible sensitivity to sucralose/Splenda (crushing fatigue) so commercial water flavorers are something I've had to avoid--watch labels and how you feel if you try that route.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:08 PM on December 3, 2013

I have a GREAT water bottle. After I got it I started hydrating like a madman.

A friend used to do this: he'd take a permanent marker and mark lines on the bottle and times of the day alongside the lines and he'd be able to look at the 12pm line and know that was how much water he wanted to drink by then. That way he could see where he was falling behind.
posted by mooza at 8:12 PM on December 3, 2013

I have a GREAT water bottle.

[useless without link; citation needed]
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:16 PM on December 3, 2013

Also-- I clicked on your profile just to see if you registered that user name specifically to ask this question. No = one of the finest eponysterical moments ever.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:19 PM on December 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

This is sorta silly, but if you take pills at all, that's a good time to sneak in some more water. Take a few big gulps before your first pill, between pills, and at the end.
posted by radioamy at 8:27 PM on December 3, 2013

Also have you thought of doing Don't Break the Chain? There are webapps and phone apps or you can just cross off on a paper calendar. That might help with the motivation.
posted by radioamy at 8:28 PM on December 3, 2013

Response by poster: blue suede stocking, I was hoping someone would notice that. Purely coincidental!

Thanks, everyone! Everyone's comments have been very helpful. I will, of course, be delighted with any others. I didn't know so many other people had the same hydration issues!
posted by Aquifer at 8:32 PM on December 3, 2013

I've gotten in the habit recently of drinking one full glass of water as soon as I wake up in the morning. I was never thirsty in the mornings before, but oddly enough, now that I've started this habit, I do feel thirsty in the morning if I don't have the water. And I notice I'm more inclined to drink more water throughout the day as well.

Also: if you exercise, you'll naturally drink more water (take a class at the gym and you'll have no choice but to go through a bottle of water during the class).

Herbal tea is great, too - hydration benefits without any caffeine.
posted by sunflower16 at 8:57 PM on December 3, 2013

I was advised to eat my water; you don't pee it out as fast, and it helps moisturize and rehydrate better in many circumstances since your body absorbs it while the fiber surrounding it is being digested. Things like grapes, melon, apples, berries, have all helped me up my hydration game. Soups, too, and other vegetables, like others in the thread have said.

My manicurist also swears by avocado for hydration but I think she may mean appearing hydrated so YMMdefinitelyV on that one.
posted by stellaluna at 9:17 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't really like to drink and if I go on holiday to a hot country I can quite happily dehydrate myself to the point where my blood pressure drops and I become faint and dizzy.

The way I remember is to link my water drinking to meal times. The rule is that I have to drink a pint of water with each of my three meals (that's 1.7 litres together) and then I drink when I feel like it for the rest of the day. I do tend to notice being thirsty a bit more in the evenings so I'll usually have at least one more pint then. This is adequate for me.

When I don't feel like drinking water, it helps me to add slices lemon, switch to sparkling water, add juice of half a lemon or lime, use a tiny bit of squash or cordial or go for herbal tea (I don't drink that by the pint!). As everyone has said above, don't worry about tea and coffee not being hydrating - they give you much more fluid than the caffeine will remove from your body.

I know there's a dearth of evidence of how much water you need to drink per day, but I personally feel better (as in, there are digestive issues, headaches and a drop in blood pressure if I'm significantly under) when I'm having at least 2 litres and usually more. Maybe it would help motivation to pinpoint exactly what issues you are preventing by remembering to drink?
posted by kadia_a at 11:02 PM on December 3, 2013

I find a hot fruit infusion-style drink has the same 'mild treat' feeling as a nice cup of tea. Warming, vaguely tasty, you can sip it while you work, etc.

I like them a lot better when I use two bags of the stuff for one cup. And you can mix different types in one cup to get the flavour you like. But, of course, it remains mostly water. Might be something to add to your arsenal.
posted by danteGideon at 4:22 AM on December 4, 2013

This might not be as useful for you since you're at a desk, but I've been doing a bad job of taking care of myself lately, and have tackled the hydration part by taking a huge bottle of water (two litres) out with me every day. As soon as I've finished it, I can get rid of the bloody bottle, making my bag lighter and less bulky – an incentive that's enough to keep me on track.

(I realise that's environmentally horrible and that refilling a bottle on schedule or marking levels on a large one, as suggested above, would do the same job. I just wasn't drinking it that way, though.)
posted by carbide at 4:38 AM on December 4, 2013

Nthing everyone who said the straw makes the difference. My Camelbak changed my life when it comes to hydration - I fill up my 20 oz bottle in the morning with the goal to finish it by lunch, drink whatever I want for lunch, then another 20 oz bottle for the afternoon. Small enough that I can absent-mindedly sip away, even when I'm using both hands to do something else, and surprise myself when I finish early.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:33 AM on December 4, 2013

I have a color-changing cup with a straw at work, so I can easily see when it's low (or warming up). I find I drink a lot more with this cup than anything else, and it was a freebie at a conference. Looking around, there are plenty of options for these kind of cups (though a number of search results are for bulk items for promotion).

If you want to drink a certain amount per day at work, you can always figure out how many cups you need to reach your goal, then have a series of tick-boxes to mark off throughout your day (or perhaps divide into morning and afternoon, so you don't find yourself in the afternoon with not enough liquid consumed).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2013

I don't see anything to indicate that you're not hydrating enough. If you're not thirsty and you're not working outside in the sun you're probably not dehydrated...
posted by Justinian at 10:17 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Justinian: "I don't see anything to indicate that you're not hydrating enough. If you're not thirsty and you're not working outside in the sun you're probably not dehydrated..."

She gets headaches and malaise that are automagically cured by water and she's trying to get pregnant which will require greater hydration. And she said she feels like she should be drinking more water. Maybe she has symptoms of mild dehydration but, justifiably, didn't feel it necessary to disclose the color of her pee in order to get some advice.
posted by desuetude at 11:45 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah, I see. That wasn't in the question only in the answers section.
posted by Justinian at 12:11 PM on December 4, 2013

I find warm or hot water tastes dramatically better to me. I spent a lot of time finding my perfect water bottle, and bought 4 of them to rotate through and pre-empty their eventual loss. They're narrow enough to fit in a cup holder, BPA fee, dishwasher safe, totally leak proof and have a straw. My 24oz bottle is made by AVEX and I got it at costco here in Australia.

Each day I fill it with 2/3 hot water and 1/3 cold water, and sip it constantly. It's becoming a bit like a security blanket, I carry it wherever I go. I try to finish 3 bottles a day.

Since I've started doing this, I have stopped getting little dehydration headaches, my throat has been better hydrated, and my skin is amazing! I also don't snack half as much.
posted by shazzam! at 5:10 PM on December 4, 2013

Straws have already been mentioned and seconded, but I want to throw in another vote for a straw-based water bottle, like this Camelbak one.

I used to use a Nalgene bottle, and one day I noticed a friend had put a straw inside hers - I tried it, and found that I really liked not getting water all over my upper lip (because that inevitably happens with the wide-mouthed Nalgenes once in a while, no matter how careful you are) and I really liked not having to tip the whole bottle up to drink.

I then asked for that sippy-cup style Camelbak for Christmas, and it has revolutionized how much water I drink. I will happily sip water all day as long as it's out of this bottle. I don't have to worry about knocking it over and spilling it, and it's a narrow-enough bottle that sips are immediately evident water-level-wise, giving you positive feedback that you're actually making a difference in your intake. I would never have thought that the straw-based bottle would have made such a difference, but it totally has for me.
posted by meggan at 6:55 PM on December 6, 2013

Hi. No one else commented or picked up on the needing to pee 'all the damn time'. I have always gone more than others, and then over the course of a couple years it evolved into overactive bladder. I didn't like drinking stuff cause I knew I'd have to go. The aversion was subtle...subconscious. When going got painful, drinking water made me physically ill cause I knew what was coming. All I'm saying is ask your doctor....a little bit of bladder retraining or tiny dose of oxybutynin to take the edge off could really help, esp since being preggo will only make you need to go even more!
Being able to be hydrated and still sleep for multiple hours at a time at night feels prettygood. Going all the damn time is both exhausting and fixable.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:27 PM on December 19, 2013

PS: You might also try tracking what you drink/eat. Tea is a diuretic and even on meds I can't drink black tea AT ALL (maybe a little green or herbal tea now and then, definitely not in the evening). Everything else seems ok. At my low point, drinking straight water was almost impossible - it only meant bad things, and there was no pay off - no 'uppers' to entice my brain - no sugar, no flavor, no caffeine AND pain? Why bother?

If you google 'overactive bladder'... you should know that I'm not an old lady - I'm 31. My nerve endings were always sensitive, and then they got more sensitive (???). If you're in the US, you can get oxybutynin patches over the counter now, although I find the pills more effective and take a little more than what's in the patch (I also thought they itched). I take the pill at night, since I do experience the 'drowsiness' big time. Of course, talk to your doctor... there's a couple different things that can cause this, and you want to make sure you're addressing the right one!

I don't mean to 'harp on' about the wrong thing here... but I waited to go to a doctor until I was really in agony. If someone else can learn from my pain and just go to a doctor when it's just annoying (and it sounds like it is) instead of waiting... then that's great. "All the damn time" isn't normal and sounds frustrating (and IT IS), and you don't have to live like that.

Now that there aren't such severe repercussions to drinking water, I can do it all the time (or at least a lot of the time!) without any issue. Eating a little salty snack helps too - a couple salted almonds or something.

We're trying for a kid too, and I admit... even with the meds it's not perfect, and I'm a little nervous about pregnancy compounding it and being awful. We'll see...
MeMail if you have Q's.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:01 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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