If you've been watching my youtube videos/reading my blogs, we've been talking about food and hunger cues, but what about water and thirst cues, right?
And I've got quite a few questions on this recently like, "How should I approach water? Should it be the same as food? How much water did you drink in recovery? How much water should I be drinking?"
Some people are feeling extremely dehydrated. Other people are experiencing extreme thirst.
So there's all kinds of different things about water and thirst. So it's not just about food and hunger cues.
We can often become just as disordered around water as we become around food and exercise!
I had a disordered relationship with water at certain points:
At one point at an attempt to suppress my hunger I used to "abuse" water by drinking more water to "curb" my appetite (didn't work).
At another point, I used to restrict water, to dehydrate myself for photoshoots or even bikini competitions.
There were plenty of other points where I didn't just drink properly but did so in a disordered unnatural way.
We often hear the suggestion when we’re truly hungry to “just drink water and then see if you’re still hungry”... or “a lot of the time when you think you’re hungry you’re actually just thirsty” or people ignoring their mental hunger and drink water to distract from their hunger instead... when really people just need to eat if they’re thinking about food!
And those theories, they all made sense to me in theory, and I tried them. I tried everything else, even in my recovery, I tried them but I had to end up listening to my body in the end. So that's the whole goal and I hope that you'll do the same as well. So I started to feel overly dehydrated when I just started eating more, in general, overall. And quite specifically, when I started to eat more grains after cutting grains for so long and just drier foods, so not just cooked foods, but baking foods rather than steaming foods or eating grains rather than just high water fruit and raw fruits and vegetables. So I was eating cooked fruits and vegetables, you know, more convenience foods rather than just whole foods, right? So things like that.
But then as time went on, my body did readjust, the dehydration and so my body adjusted and adapted, and balanced out the energy deficit and the hydration aspect. As my metabolism started to heal, and ran back up, and work properly, and efficiently, and up to proper speed again, and it happened from the consistent energy coming in, the consistent salt coming in, consistent balance of all the macronutrients, carbs, fats, sugars, proteins amongst other things and the water and salt coming in. And so I talked about how to raise your metabolism or fix your metabolism in another video, so I'll link that above one of these places 'cause I don't wanna get back into the nitty-gritty of that. So if this is you, too, then maybe this just is a relief that things do balance out and adjust in this department as well, and to know that you're not alone if you experience this.
So restriction in and of itself is dehydrating as well as depleting along with being nutritionally and energetically depleting. So it could be dehydrating and depleting. But so typically, when you're coming from an energy deficit and you start eating more, you may need more water as well, just like you need more energy to make up for the loss for every many years or months that you were in that deficit, your body may need a lot of water just like it needs a lot of food and a lot of rest. And this will all just depend on your body, and where you're coming from, and where you're at right now, and it may adjust, and it may fluctuate. It may be all over the place.
And so your body may communicate this to you or you may not even know what a thirst cue even feels like just like some people don't know what a hunger cue feels like anymore. So I can't know what that'll be for you, but I know that I tried a recovery approach where I tried to really cut back on my water intake. Because they're saying that you don't need that much water in various different ways like I did it in the restrictive days where it's like, "You should only get water from fresh fruits and vegetables." And then in recovery it was like, no, in recovery like you should not drink so much. We don't need that much water.
So I've tried it in multiple different areas, and so I let my pee get yellow, and this just wasn't for me, and I'll explain why. Maybe for you, though, right? I'm not saying that but I personally found that I require a lot of water just like I require a lot of food now. If I get below a certain point my body's gotten used to having enough food and enough water, that if I don't have enough, then I start to not feel so good, so both food and water. My body has become really resistant to not having enough food and water, so I'm really sensitive now, almost hypersensitive. If my body senses anything that resembles not enough food or water coming in, similar to restriction, my body's like, "No, give me the water. Give me the food. Give me a lot of it."
And obviously, I don't eat as much as I did in recovery, and I don't drink as much as I did in recovery, but I still require more than the average person I'd say, because it seems like the average person doesn't drink hardly any water, maybe like a glass of water a day. And they are typically on some sort of diet, right? So if my body goes too long without sufficient energy or water intake, then I start to get moody. I get low energy. I'm not able to think clearly or focus or think properly. My digestion starts to get sluggish including constipation. I can't sleep and my skin may also start to break out. So yeah, this all happens if I don't have enough water and I know that about my body and I've tried it.
And so, for example, with eating, sometimes I may not even feel necessarily either a physical hunger cue or a mental hunger cue, but I know that I need to eat or I don't even feel like a particular craving for any type of food. I'm just like I know based off of how the way I'm feeling that I know I need to eat, so if I start to get irritable or again, I can't think or focus properly, or clearly on my work or at the project at hand, or with who I'm with and my energy starts to drop a bit and I just feel like low blood sugar, things like this that I know about my body, then I know just that I am hungry even if I don't have a particular craving, a hunger physical cue, or a mental hunger cue even. And so this is actually the same with water just like it is for food for me as well. So after my body got used to having abundant water supply coming in, then my body can't function without it, just like after my body got used to abundant food coming in, I can't handle any kind of not enough calories per day, low calorie diets, calorie deficit, I can't handle it. I don't know how I made it through all those years of being on all those crazy diets and restrictive diets and stuff. I didn't that's why my health was suffering, but I couldn't do that anymore. So it's the same with my thirst cues. I don't necessarily always feel physical or even mental thirst cues necessarily, I more often just feel that I need water.
I feel my energy dropping, I feel my body overheating because I run a high temperature, I sweat a lot very easily, I even have hyperhidrosis they've diagnosed me with, I just sweat for no reason, so that was weird that my body got so depleted that I was cold all the time and didn't sweat anymore, so that's crazy for me 'cause I sweat a lot and I run hot on the hotter end of the temperature. So if I feel too overheated, my lips get a bit dry and cracky and if I haven't gotten hungry in a while. And I know that that one's weird and random but I've just noticed this about myself that drinking enough water actually in turn helps my hunger cues be present and my appetite normalized. I don't know why, I've just noticed it. So it's similar to how I know when I need food, it's similar to how I know I need water but I know if I need water, or if I need food, I can tell the difference by how I feel. It's really subtle but I've come to just know the difference with my body. I don't know, it's hard to explain and I don't want to sound complicated, I don't want this to be over-complicated. You don't wanna get in that rut of overthinking things, you'll just figure it out on your own.
So you just gotta be patient with your body and the process. You know, at first they got me getting used to having to pee more throughout the day but it's worth it. And this is a different having to pee more throughout the day than when I was in the lowered metabolic state and I had to pee constantly throughout the night, or pee when I wasn't even drinking that much water 'cause some people in a lowered metabolic rate or when they're highly restricting or underweight or just over-exercising, or in the cyclical weight cycling and yo-yo dieting, they may not even be drinking that much water but they have to just constantly pee throughout the day. That's not how it should be. If you put in you're gonna get more out but if you're not putting more in and you're getting more out, there is a problem. And it's typically because of a lowered metabolism from restriction in your diet. So this may or it may not be for you, once again, but I just wanna share my experience so that you could make a decision for yourself, based off of your body's biofeedback if you've been trying the low water thing.
And so obviously I don't drink as much water as I did in the bodybuilding days where I would carry around a gallon of water with me everywhere I went, and drink like 1.5 to 2 gallons a day. I'd say now depending on the season, I drink 3.5 mason jars of water per day give or take and it may fluctuate like if it's winter, I'll drink less and if it's summer, then I'll drink more. So I may even drink a gallon in the summer or it depends on how much I'm sweating and how active I am, you know what I mean? And so, the thirst cues fluctuate just like the hunger cues fluctuate. And so in recovery, I honestly don't remember how much I was drinking in recovery, but I know that I was drinking even more than I do now. I was drinking a lot of water in recovery, I was just really thirsty and I also had different symptoms that would only ease if I drink more water. And yes, I was already so bloated to where I felt like I was nine months pregnant all the time, and I was retaining a lot of water, and I felt full, so full all of the time because of my extreme hunger and my huge appetites and also from the damage from my gut from all the dieting and restrictions and elimination diets. But I still drink regardless. I didn't think like, "Oh, I already feel this way. I shouldn't be drinking more water." No, I kept drinking.
And even when I was drinking like a gallon-and-a-half or more per day when I was restricting in my diet, I was still internally dehydrated and just flushing out and throwing off my electrolyte balance because I wasn't eating hardly any salt if any., I was hardly eating enough carbs, so my body wasn't able to hold on to or properly hydrate internally my cells properly or efficiently, even though I was having so much water per day. Because sufficient salt and carbohydrate intake plays a key role in proper hydration, and so eventually you won't swell as much any more, eventually. The more that you're consistent with your salt intake and your carbohydrate intake. And then also your water intake as a result. The worst thing you could do to try to decrease swelling and bloating if you're coming from a passive restriction or dieting of any kind or over-exercising or bulimia is to cut salt and carbohydrates. This is only perpetuating the cycle. So that only perpetuates the cycle of swelling and bloating and water retention long term. So you want the water but you also need the salt and the carbohydrates and a balanced diet.
This could also be a reason why you're retaining water amongst other things. A lot of people who come from a past of dieting and then they gain weight, it's actually because they're retaining a lot of water rather than just gaining fat. But I'll talk about that in another video. I wanted to talk about this in specific: Water, salt, and carbohydrates, that this could be a reason why we retain water after we restrict or go on a diet or we over-exercise which is purging calories via exercise or even people that have bulimia. Because we dehydrate our body and throw our electrolytes out of balance and out of whack and therefore, we damage our heart and our kidneys. And so when we go into recovery and we're eating a lot more and perhaps, drinking more, our body holds on to it for dear life. Our body holds on to the water just like it holds on to fat, but even moreso, it holds on to water for dear life as a conservation mechanism. So the water retention that you experience after dieting from chronic dehydration and also from energy depletion and all that you put your body through, all the stress that you put your body through when you diet. The water becomes this protective mechanism. Your body starts to replace the weight gain that you may have lost on you diet, all of the imbalance of electrolytes and all of that stuff, it replaces the water when it has a chance with the weight, the fat that was lost or the muscle that was lost.
So it takes a while for our body's metabolism to rise, both for energy, so carbs, fats, proteins, sugars, blah, blah, blah, as well as metabolizing water properly and efficiently, and going towards proper hydration, and going towards healing and all that. So it can begin to metabolize water efficiently and properly with the salt, with the carbs, with enough carbs, with enough calories and for a long enough time. So this begins to happen as the body slowly starts to raise the heart rate again, raise the thyroid and the thyroid hormone production again. The kidneys start to function properly again, slowly And so overall, the metabolism rises again. Okay, so I won't get too much into detail with that, but I wanted to say it's kind of like how we've talked about before. Some people may have to force-feed themselves in the beginning if their appetite isn't present, or they're coming from a past of caloric restriction and meal plans and whatever. And so, they don't really know how much they actually need to be eating. They're used to a low-calorie diet and they need to be eating actually a lot more, or just eating a lot more carbs than they think they need to be. Or their appetite just isn't present from being in energy deficit. The body turns off ghrelin production, your hunger hormone and all of that.
And so, just like how these people need to be force-feeding themselves to eat more than they think they should be eating or more than they may be physically hungry for, if their physical hunger cues have disappeared, but they may still have mental hunger, and then their hunger cues eventually return. Some people may need to drink extra water beyond what their physical thirst cues are until their thirst cues adjust. And they're more in touch with their body and their subtle thirst cues. Now, I'm not saying you have to go drink a gallon-and-a-half or two gallons of water or even a gallon of water a day. I'm just saying perhaps, if your body is retaining water, that it's been chronically dehydrated or chronically depleted and therefore, chronically dehydrated or who knows what the body is actually using the water for after coming from a period of dieting and restricting of any kind. So you don't wanna skip on the water nor do you wanna skip on the energy or the foods that you're actually craving. It's getting kinda bright, huh? Okay, is that better? Okay, I'm almost done here, stick with me.
So there may be more things going on, more reasons why, more explanations, but this is just what I'm thinking about right now that I wanted to share with you. So if this resonates with you, then drink up just like you are eating more and eating up. So keep doing that so your body can heal and give it enough time and consistency, and then it is yo-yo-ing. Your body's never gonna heal with all the yo-yo-ing. Just commit to recovery and stick with it and it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. Your human body is designed like my human body. Yes, we have different things and needs, and it's gonna look different, but our bodies are all designed to deal with this after a period of restriction. It's just the biology of it. If you haven't yet, look into the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. But at the end of the day, this whole process, everything I'm talking about is just to get you to listen to and trust your body, finally. Not to pick up a new cookie cutter regime to follow strictly and get a meal plan, and get a water plan, and following exactly what they did.
This applies to recovery, too. Obviously, there are the foundations of recovery, obviously, like eating to hunger, resting the foundations. How it's gonna look for you is gonna be different from someone else. What you're gonna be facing, the symptoms you're gonna be facing are gonna be different from the symptoms that someone else may be facing. We all have weird different symptoms. So if I'm talking about this and it doesn't apply to you, then that's okay. You have your own set of symptoms that makes it you good enough for this recovery approach. You know what I mean?
So I had a couple great resources that helped me understand the fundamentals of recovery, but there were some suggestions that I personally had to leave out for the sake of my full recovery, if I was to really, truly tune in and listen and trust my body and what it was saying in order to fully recover.
I had to take pieces. I left out waiting 'til my water was yellow, dark yellow to drink water. And I needed to leave out exercise completely. And I couldn't be vegan in my recovery.
So different things and that's how I was able to find full recovery for myself. And so, that's what I want for you, too.
Make recovery your own but don't cater to the disordered thoughts, the brainwashed thoughts, the fear-based thoughts. Absolutely not. I mean, hold yourself accountable to a higher standard of recovery, full recovery, but just cater to true health and healing, and well-being, and your body, mind and soul. Shifting your mindset from weight loss to how can I get my body to trust me again so my body can release this excess water or not feel the need to be so extremely demanding of a lot of calories on its own? And it can if you go through this process and just surrender and trust it 100%.
So not gonna get too far off on a tangent, so I hope that this article has helped you in some way, to clear things up.
Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear from you :)
P.S. I’m hosting a free masterclass specifically for people who want to stop feeling obsessed around food and truly heal their metabolism and you’re invited! Click here to sign up.