Water ~ Natural Resource or Natural Diet-Aid?

Okay.  I’ll admit it.  I’m addicted to water.  I don’t drink coffee or soda (maybe once a month; if I’m ready to face the gut-churning consequences of the caffeine).  I rarely drink milk and can’t really stand most fruit juices (I’d rather eat fruit than drink it!).  But I LOVE the feel of cool water passing my lips and smoothly slipping down my throat.  I have one of those large water bottles (700ml) that I fill and empty about 3 times a day while at work.  I love to have the bottle near at hand to take a sip. 

Part of this obsession comes as a trained behavior taken from all those years of crazy diets and even crazier diet tips; one of which is ALWAYS to drink water all day long to “stave off hunger” and “avoid empty calories” (although with all those carrots and cough drops doing me in I’m not sure why I bothered).  Another part comes from my oral fixation.  As a child I used to chew gum non-stop.  When dieting I would try to avoid gum (to save those measly 5 calories) and would substitute sips of water to appease my urge to use my mouth to chew SOMETHING.*

I have found myself really pondering this wet obsession of mine.  Feel free to join along in my meandering quest.

Water is necessary to survival.  Without some form of liquid to drink the human body is not capable of maintaining its proper function beyond around 2 and 10 days.  We are always told that 8 glasses of water a day is the minimum requirement for our bodies’ needs.  Water is everywhere (even if not drinkable).  And we are obsessed with it’s supposedly magical ability to make us lose weight.

There are even “Water Diets” out there, looking to take advantage of this basic human need for liquid by passing off the “8 glasses of water” as a revolutionary new way to lose weight.  But now there is some fairly well publicized anecdotal evidence to support the scientific research which indicates that too MUCH water can be bad for you! Like so many of the common sense nutrition norms we try to follow; the 8 x 8 rule for water is as founded in science as “Breaking a Mirror will bring 7 years bad luck”.  And yet, while some may go directly over-board and try to abuse inner organs hoping that this basic liquid of life will change them forever for the better; it is still a fact of life that we all need water to survive and to function correctly.

And there are those who are unable to access clean water on a regular basis, or at all, in our world.  So while on the one hand I feel the privilege of having such ample access to this liquid gold; I still do wonder how much our modern world’s obsession with drinking SO MUCH of it is affecting our health (physical as well as mental) as a world. 

Yet, at the same time, this obsession with water (especially fresh, clean water) is nothing new.

In sweet water there is a pleasure ungrudged by anyone.
~Ovid, 13 A.D.

8×8 has been around for centuries.  Water drinking tips prevail at any diet-meeting.  Throughout history water has been a major, life-shaping force.  Wars are fought over this magical liquid as readily as we fight over oil.  It is such a fantastic substance that we even spend untold amounts of money looking for any other place in the universe which might hold this same, precious, life-creating commodity: water.

Only 2.5% of the world’s water is not salty, and two-thirds of that is trapped in the icecaps and glaciers. Of what is left, about 20% is in remote areas and most of the rest comes at the wrong time and in the wrong place, as with monsoons and floods. The amount of fresh water available for human use is less than 0.08% of all the water on the planet. About 70% of the fresh water is already used for agriculture, and the report says the demands of industry and energy will grow rapidly. The World Water Council report estimates that in the next two decades the use of water by humans will increase by about 40%, and that 17% more water than is available will be needed to grow the world’s food… The commission concludes that “only rapid and imaginative institutional and technological innovation can avoid the crisis”.

-BBC News, “Water arithmetic ‘doesn’t add up’,” 13 Mar 2000  
(Emphasis Mine)

With such a global need and growing concern for water, how humbling is it to think that we have the privileged position to sit and wonder if we really need that 8th glass of water.  We worry about “Flushing out those calories” while the world worries about having enough water to survive.  It is a strange world in which we live these days. 

Water is fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights.

~The United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights
Environment News Service, 27 Nov 02 
(Emphasis Mine)

I’d say we’d all do a lot better if we added a bit of “human dignity” to our own definitions of self-health. 

My apologies if you’ve come to the end of this rambling thought-stream with no huge thunderclap “Ah-HA!” moment.  But maybe you’ve had one of those “Ooooh” kind of humbling moments like I did by writing this post; starting my thoughts at water diets and ending with global concern over a natural resource.  Time to head off for now though.  My water bottle is empty.

The noblest of the elements is water
Pindar, 476 B.C.

 

*As a strange side-note; even when in middle school I noticed a DISTINCTLY direct correlation between how much I bit my nails and how much I was dieting.  As in; the more rigorously I was dieting; the worse off my poor little fingernails became from nervous munching.  Since I stopped dieting I’ve actually had to CUT my nails and file them to keep them from growing too LONG!

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3 thoughts on “Water ~ Natural Resource or Natural Diet-Aid?

  1. Really nice post. I’ve actually been wondering why environmental groups have been slow to jump on the water cosumption that goes with dieting.

  2. What I find amazing is that here in the US, we flush our toilets with potable, treated, water.

    That’s 1.6 gallons (minimum) per flush. For urine, feces, dead fish. We don’t realize how incomprehensible that is to pretty much everyone else in the world.

  3. I can see being concerned about the environmental impact of the energy that goes into treating water, and certainly the waste from throwing away water bottles, but not so much the implications of drinking so much water in and of itself. In this country we have very good wastewater treatment and drinking water treatment such that, eventually, the drinking water we pee out should end up becoming high-quality drinking water for someone else pretty easily. Just my opinion.

    However, water really is a huge global issue and not only do we not appreciate how good we have it, we don’t appreciate how precarious our position is. Water is only going to become scarcer and more fought over as the global population increases. I agree with you that as with all the narcissistic stuff that goes along with dieting (drowning yourself with water, only eating certain types and tiny amounts of foods, 100-calorie packs, staring at yourself in the mirror at the gym as you log endless miles on the treadmill), it is healthy to step back and take a larger view as you have done with water. So many times these actions benefit nobody–not even ourselves, certainly not others.

    It does seem like people in other countries, even wealthy countries, are much less obsessed with drinking water than we are here. I’m used to drinking maybe 100-150 oz. per day (just like you, I got started on this when dieting and even though I know it’s not really necessary to drink as much as we do, I like water and never got out of the habit) so I was absolutely parched in Paris, where it seemed like it was not that common to drink tap water and all the beverages come in tiny bottles. My friend noticed similar things when she traveled to the UK. Could be we just had a wrong impression, but it didn’t seem like the US where everybody totes around gigantic Nalgene bottles.

    I agree with the other commenters–great post and interesting perspectives.

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