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Would my life be better if I started every day with water and lemon?
I know, “life” is a bold word choice there in my quandary, but if you flip through any magazine or scroll through any blog focused on health and wellness, you’ll quickly get the impression that you’re the outlier if you’re not starting your day with freshly squeezed lemon juice in your (preferably warm) water. In fact, a quick internet search pulled up millions of results for “starting your day with water and lemon,” so that basically confirms that I’m the only one not living my best life.
There are a couple of things that have been holding me back, though:
I have a strong, irrational resistance to following trends. One example: I never watched the television show Lost because everyone talked about how good it was, you had to see it, etc., etc. I’m sure they were probably right, but here it is, nearly a decade after the show is over and I’m still stubbornly refusing to cave. (To be clear, this does not make me a trendsetter in my own right, merely a trend-resistor.)
I don’t really like water. (Love lemons though.)
The first one I can work through: I can get on board with most trends, if not immediately, then eventually (cases in point: I own multiple pairs of high-rise jeans and I watch This Is Us). That second one, drinking more water, though, is more of a challenge.
My ideal daily progression of liquids would be coffee, sparkling water, wine. And, in truth, my reality is often very close to that ideal: The first liquid to hit my lips in the morning is usually coffee, probably much to the dismay of my internal organs, and once I make my way through all of the coffee in our French press, I switch to a La Croix or two in the afternoon (the wine is not an everyday occurrence). I know regular water should make an appearance in that list, but of all of the personal wellness things I know I should be doing, I think drinking regular water, with or without lemons, is the hardest, for a few reasons:
64 ounces is a lot of liquid
Have you heard how much water you’re supposed to be drinking every day?! Recommendations vary pretty widely (based on your sex, age, activity level, and who knows what else), but F52er Anne Danahy MS RDN (a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant who specializes in women's health and healthy aging) confirms that the classic eight 8-ounce glasses is easy and covers most people.
Okay, great I don't need a formula to figure out how much to drink—but eight cups is still a lot! And it’s not just the drinking that’s the problem, it’s (TMI alert) the impact on my bladder—I might as well as well set up my office in the bathroom. Though, if you’re there, it’s an easy spot to tell if you’re hydrated, no calculations required, as Danahy notes: “Urine color is a great way to know if you're appropriately hydrated too: dark = dehydrated, light = perfect.” (Sorry. Moving on…)
Tiny Bubbles, make me happy, make me feel fine
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but in case it’s not completely obvious: bubbles > no bubbles, so sparkling water > tap water. On the upside, at least my sparkling water addiction is still keeping me hydrated and counting towards my lofty eight-glass goal. Danahy says that sparkling water absolutely delivers as much hydration as flat water, and adds: “Really, any beverage, or food that's liquid at room temperature (ice cream, sorbet) is hydrating.” (Please note that was in no way an endorsement of meeting your daily hydration needs through ice cream alone.)
Flavorless is no fun
Yeah, yeah, fresh clean water is delicious in its own right, blah blah blah. Is it, though? I beg to differ. For me, the subtle flavor of tangerine (or coconut, or grapefruit) often found in sparkling water easily trumps the absence of any flavor. So plain water is an especially big challenge, but at least water with lemon has some fruity flavor going for it.
By the time I typed all of these complaints out, I realized that it sounded a little whiny (which it is), so I decided to ask around to see if I was off base. Lo and behold, nearly everyone I asked starts their day with a glass of water, some with lemon and some without. Nearly convinced—but not quite ready to throw in the towel—I shared my disdain for water with my husband and his reaction was incredulous: “What?! Water’s refreshing and it’s good for you.”
I caved; he was right. It is good for me. Though I don’t think warm water with lemon holds any special magical powers—first thing in the morning or otherwise—and Danahy concurs, saying, “if it were that easy, we'd all be the perfect picture of health!” She notes that the practice does have a few points in its favor though:
- "Drinking some warm lemon water can have a mild diuretic/laxative effect which can be helpful for some people in the A.M." I'm going to let that one stand without further comment.
- "The fragrant oils from lemon peel can definitely be a mood booster, and they have some purifying properties." See! I'm claiming this as proof that flavored water is superior to unflavored water.
- "Drinking a clean and refreshing glass of lemon water first thing in the morning may very well set the tone for your day, and help you make healthier choices throughout the rest of the day." I'm not sure that this is going to stop me from reaching for gummy candies during my mid-afternoon slump... but maybe?
Danahy’s only caution is that “lemon is very acidic and can cause tooth enamel erosion, so don't go overboard, and swish your mouth with plain water or brush your teeth afterward!”
So warm water and lemon has some benefits, if not an end-all-and-be-all approach to healthy living. If it’s a more enjoyable way for you to get that first glass of water in, then keep it up—as for me, I started my day with a plain glass of water today and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m reminding myself that some positive habits take time to feel good rather than like a chore, so I’m counting on repetition to help make my new water routine stick (and continuing to revel in the fact that a can of bubbly water counts toward my eight glasses).
Who’s with me? Is it hard for you to drink as much water as you’re supposed to, too? Spill in the comments.