Last week I announced that I wanted to do a mini-series on loving your health. The first area we focused on was our mind and you can read all about it here. But now I want to focus on how to love your body. The area of health that we tend to first think of, but it’s often the last we take care of.
Our bodies are amazing creations. Fashioned in the image of God and able to withstand the stresses and abuses of life. Made up of multiple systems that all work in harmony to keep us alive, moving, thinking, and healthy. It is truly a miracle that we can take our next breath and yet our bodies have the ability to even heal themselves in many circumstances. Wow!
And when you put into perspective just how detailed and intricate our bodies are, it seems daunting to think about taking care and supporting each of these many systems, organs and parts. This is one reason I absolutely love a holistic approach to health. It looks at the total of our being, not just one area. And more and more, science is showing that when we support one area it positively impacts other areas as well.
That is why this week I want to look at two key areas that support multiple areas of the body yet are severely deficit in our society today. Our fluid (specifically water) intake and the amount of rest we get.
Love your body through water.
So how much water should you drink each day? That is a very common question with no straightforward or simple answer. It really is different for each person depending on their health, lifestyle, and even living environment. Just another reason to know and love your body.
First, let’s dig into why water is so important. Everything in our body is made of cells. And those cells are primarily made of water. That means that every cell, organ or system of our body needs water to just survive. But that’s not all. Your body uses water to rid itself of toxins and wastes-think peeing, pooping, and sweating. Water is also necessary for proper body temperature control as well as keeping joints healthy and cushioned. As you can see, water is pretty important.
Now that we know why every human must have water to just survive, we can begin to calculate how much each one should drink. You have probably heard that a good number to aim for is eight 8 oz glasses of water a day. Or more recently, you may have read that you should consume half of your body weight in ounces. And both of those seem to be good estimates. For many people, especially women, those numbers could be fairly close.
But those numbers are not set in stone. Each of us are different, live different lives, and have different activity levels. All of this means we each need different amounts of water intake. For some people, less than eight 8 oz glasses are adequate. But many people will need more. So what makes these differences?
Factors that contribute to daily water intake.
Environment-The weather and climate of where you live can affect how much water you need. It’s obvious that during hot summer months we need more water because we lose so much while sweating. But during the dry, cold months of winter it’s equally as important to stay hydrated. While we do not usually require as much during the winter, both summer and winter are times to be intentional about our water intake.
Health-During times of sickness, we need more water. Our bodies need water to rid itself of toxins, even the bacteria or viruses that cause sickness. And if that sickness has symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea causing fluid loss, even more water must be consumed to replace the loss. Other infections, like those of the kidney and bladder, that result in more fluid loss also require extra water intake.
Activity-Those who exercise regularly, have active lifestyles or work jobs that require manual labor or physical exertion will require more water intake. Hopefully, we all are active or at least find time to get in some form of exercise. And it’s not enough to replenish fluid intake after exercise. To get the most out of your exercise and be in the best health, you should hydrate before, during, and after exercise.
Pregnant-Women who are pregnant can be at an even greater risk of getting dehydrated. Growing a baby will zap your energy and nutrients and can also deplete your fluid levels. And it doesn’t stop after giving birth. Breastfeeding also requires added water intake. Did you know that the main component of breastmilk is water? So mama’s drink (water) for your baby’s and your health!
How to tell you’re dehydrated.
If you’re reading through the list above and are beginning to wonder if you’re drinking enough water or if you’re dehydrated, you’re not alone. As I began paying attention to how much water I consumed in a day in relation to my activity, health and environment, I wondered the same thing. Just how do you know if you are getting enough?
Not all the signs of dehydration are obvious, like thirst. Other symptoms of dehydration include headaches, weight gain, lack of energy, suppressed immune system, and brain fog. Since these can also be symptoms of many things, it is not always easy to recognize dehydration. Even hunger can be a sign of dehydration. So next time you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water before your meal. Especially if you’re experiencing hunger when you should still be full. Often our body will mistake dehydration for hunger.
All of this shows that most of us are at least somewhat dehydrated and should boost our water intake. And while our body can pull water from fruits, veggies and other drinks, the majority of our fluid intake should be water. Adding fruit like lemon, lime, orange or even berries are great and even adds some extra detoxing action as long as it’s real fruit not added powder, chemicals or flavoring. Even veggies like cucumbers or cayenne can be added. The main point is to drink more water!
Not all water is created equal.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the quality of water you drink is of utmost importance. Most of our water today is treated with fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals which can actually do more harm than good to our bodies. Bottled water isn’t better. The chemicals in the plastic (like BPA) can leech into the water and then be ingested leading to a whole host of issues. You can read more about the potential hazards of our drinking water here and here
While I don’t want to go into all the details of the toxicity of our water, it is necessary to say a good water filter is a must. Remember we are mostly water and are consuming half our body weight in water. We ingest more water than any other substance; therefore, it must be clean and pure! Finding a good water filter that will filter out normal contaminants but also fluoride, chlorine, lead, mercury, VOC’s and more is essential.
Unfortunately, the cheaper pitcher filters or faucet filters won’t catch all of these. To get really pure water, a more effective filter like the Berkey filters are necessary. Yes, they are an investment, but it is one that will pay for itself. These filters are actually more economical then purchasing bottled water and even more economical than smaller filters over the long run. They last longer, the filters need to be replaced less often and they provide cleaner, more pure water.
We saved up and purchased our Berkey several years back and have not been disappointed. We have traveled with it and use it as our primary source of drinking water at home. And yes, we can taste the difference. My kiddos are a bit of water snobs. When we eat out and the water is not filtered or taste bad, our kiddos let us know. And I have peace of mind knowing they are consuming pure, healthy water. This Berkey filter is the one we love.
The next area that we should pay more attention to loving our health is through rest.
Love your body through rest.
Did you know that not all rest is created equal. What do I mean that by that? Most of us, when talking about rest, only think of sleep. But sleep is only a small part of resting. Yes, it is a critical part, but still it is only part. I want to encompass all of what it means to rest, so let’s define it. Webster’s dictionary defines rest as
freedom from activity or labor; a state of motionless or inactivity; peace of mind or spirit
Wow! That covers quite a bit more than just sleeping. But since most of us automatically think of sleep, let’s focus on it first. Adequate, quality sleep is critical to staying healthy. Sleep is when our body does most of it’s repair and healing. Without a sufficient amount of sleep AND good quality sleep, our bodies can’t repair properly.
Does your sleep leave you rested?
Most people require between six to eight hours of sleep each night, but there is no hard and fast rule for how much is enough. Each of us are different, our chemical makeup is different, our backgrounds are different and our lifestyles are different. So we each need to determine how much is enough for us. And this can even vary as we age or during different seasons of life.
The best way to determine how much is enough is to keep a journal for several weeks to a month. Keep track of how much sleep you get each night and how rested you feel each morning and how much energy you have each day. But the time you go to bed and wake up also play a role, so be sure to keep track of that also. After a couple of weeks you should see a pattern to your amount of rest and how you feel.
Hopefully you noticed that I also said the quality of your sleep plays a role in how well you’re resting too. It does no good to get nine hours of sleep if your mattress hurts your back, you get woke up several times (mamas of littles- I know you’re just surviving right now), or there are other things that prevent you from truly resting. I can attest to this. This week we have been on vacation-woohoo! But the beds were anything but comfortable. So even though I got to sleep in, I didn’t feel rested and my back hurt later that day. The truth is, your health is worth the investment in a good mattress.
Another aspect of getting quality sleep is breathing. We have learned so much about proper breathing and how it impacts your sleep (and your overall health) as we’ve progressed through the kiddos natural braces. (An in-depth post on that to come soon.) I have been a mouth breather, especially at night, for as long as I can remember. But learning to breathe through my nose, even at night, has allowed me to feel much more rested in the morning.
Resting without sleeping.
While sleeping is huge, that is not the only aspect of resting. We need to learn how to rest while awake. To have a day of rest. There once was a time when people exercised a day of rest. (Ha! Did you get what I did there?) But it is true. We see as far back as when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He commanded them to have a day of rest. (Exodus 20:8) And we see Jesus later commenting that this was for man’s sake-for our benefit. (Mark 2:27) He knew that just as work is good for us, we also need a day of rest.
But even looking back into the nearer past, there once was a time when most stores closed on Sunday. While this may have been mostly for religious reasons, it still allowed everyone a day of rest. Saturday was the day of working around the house, getting caught up on chores and housework, or even getting in some extra overtime work. But Sunday. Sunday was the day to go to church, spend with family, head to the lake. You get the idea. Whether it was actually not working and just having a lazy day or having some fun with the family, it was a day of rest.
No, life wasn’t easier back in the day. But there was a slower pace to life. People worked hard but still had time to enjoy life. Today we seem to fill our schedules with so many things that we are constantly rushing from one thing to the next. I get it. I’m there with ya! We even claim these things are fun and add meaning and value to our life. Sports, music, haircuts, and appointments squeezed in between. And yes, many of these do add to our life. But often they add more stress because we overextend ourselves and stretch ourselves too thin.
The point is that we really don’t know how to rest. We often fake rest. In our modern, high speed world we have lost the art of resting-slowing down, taking life in, each moment at a time. But it is something we desperately need. To truly love our body we must carve out time to rest-to find freedom from labor and have peace of mind.
Finding time to rest.
This could possibly be one of the hardest ways to love your body. But it is possible. Look at your schedule. Choose a day that is already your slowest. For many that may still be Sunday. But it could possibly be Tuesday or another weekday. Then choose a few “activities” that are restful and will actually fill you up instead of draining you. This doesn’t need to be something that will take all day or even all evening. Start by carving out thirty minutes to an hour. Remember the point is to rest not add more to the stress.
Once you have your day chosen and have figured out how much time you can devote to resting, schedule it into your week. Make it a priority. And don’t budge on it. You will be surprised at how much more you can accomplish once you start really resting.
If you’re a do-er like me, the idea of resting might be hard at first. You may even be thinking, “What am I going to do during that thirty minutes or so?” But remember, resting doesn’t have to mean sitting and staring at a wall. Resting can take on many forms. To get you resting, I have some ideas for you:
- reading a book
- studying your Bible or doing a Bible study or devotional
- drawing, coloring, or some other art
- listening to music or a podcast
- enjoying a warm cup of herbal tea or an iced water infused with fruit or veggies
- doing your nails
- enjoying a DIY at home facial
- playing cards or a game with your kids
- enjoying a good movie
- talking with and just enjoying your spouse or kids
- decorating your planner
- taking a nap (yep, sometimes resting does mean sleep)
- sitting outside and enjoying nature
- going for a “Sunday drive”
As you can see, resting can encompass many things. The point is to make sure that you are pouring into your health-doing things that, once finished, will leave you full, rested and ready to accomplish your goals. And yes, sometimes that could mean taking a nap. But even if not napping, it is something that requires little energy-physically or mentally. This is the time for us to be restored -both in mind and body.
Loving your body is simple but not often easy. Yet getting enough water and rest are two of the most basic and essential things we can do for ourselves. There is no excuse. It doesn’t require special equipment, tons of money, or even a lot of time. It does require us to be intentional, but your health is worth it!
Read the first post in this series Love your Health through Relationship here.
Get my friend Tracy’s health journal here.
Read more on resting here.