It is hard to believe that I started this journey 21 days ago. Honestly, it has been a truly amazing journey. If you were to tell me a month ago that I would have reduced my sugary beverage intake and increased the amount of water I consumed, I would have thought you were crazy. At first, it seemed like I was climbing a mountain that never ended. Each obstacle was filled with desires to drink iced tea or lemonade. But every step along the way was a reminder of how far I had come. With each passing day, I came closer to achieving my goal.
This past week came with a lot of reflection. 21 days ago this health behavior change was more about winning a challenge than improving my health. I admit I had good intentions but they became clouded with the desire to prove myself wrong. I can see now that my previous attitude cannot sustain life long change because as the weeks progressed, the need to win quickly faded and all I was left with was a glass of water and no idea how to change my habit. That is when I started making small daily goals for myself to boost motivation. Anytime I craved a sweet drink, I made myself go outside for a walk and list the reasons why drinking more water and reducing my sugar intake was important. I remind myself of all the benefits I have gained so far in this journey such as clearer skin and less headaches. After my walks, I would drink a glass of water and it always hit the spot. My desire to drink other beverages quickly dissipated and I started to feel better mentally because my thoughts were not consumed with drinking lemonade and iced tea. This last week I did not drink a single sugary beverage. I only drank water! Now, this may not seem like a big accomplishment but for me this shows that perseverance and the right attitude leads to success.
This experience has taught me a lot about myself. It has also given me the motivation to change other areas of my life like cutting back on sugary foods altogether and making better diet options. This one small step has opened many doors to improve my overall health. Soon you might be reading a blog about my first half-marathon. Haha! We still have a long way to go before you see Belinda running any marathons but I know with the right mindset and proper goals, I can achieve any health change!
I never truly realized how much I love lemonade and iced tea until I had to limit how much I drank of it. Scratch that. I am fully addicted. There is no denying it. My thirst for those sugary drinks was so strong that I had a dream this past week that I was surrounded by pitchers of lemonade and bottles of Snapple raspberry iced tea. I think I have a problem!
I have been sticking to my new plan of breaking up my water consumption into small increments throughout the day. I drink 16 oz when I wake up, at lunchtime, 16 oz or more at dinner, and in between meals I drink 16 oz as well. As you can see that adds up to be about 80 ounces of water a day, which is well above the recommended amount. This is because I am an overachiever. I have set reminders on my phone to tell when it is time to drink water. This has been helpful especially on busy days.
At the beginning of the second week it seemed that my cravings were getting stronger and the desire to change was slowly diminishing. With each sip of water I became more bitter towards this process. I began to lose sight of why I am doing this in the first place: to become a healthier version of myself. It is very difficult to remember our goals when we face adversity. I can understand know why people resort back to their old behavior. It is easy to do so. It does not require change or growth. But that is the sad part. I want to be healthier and make better decision when it comes to my diet and exercise but I am so comfortable with the status quo that it can sometimes be scary to quit. Before this change, I consumed so much iced tea and lemonade that my body is noticing a difference without it. With the increase in water consumption I have definitely noticed less headaches and more energy. Also, my skin is retaining more moisture and, not to be gross, my urine is actually clear! I know. I am a very weird individual. The cravings are still there and will be for awhile. But seeing these benefits increases my motivation to reduce my sugary beverage consumption. Now that it is the end of week three, the desire to drink lemonade has been replace with the motivation that I can do this.
Albarracin, Spain is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Just when I thought Spain could not get anymore wonderful, I arrived at Albarracin and my breath was instantly taken away. As soon as I entered this small village I imagined being back in Spain during its ancient times. It has been beautifully restored back to its pre-Spanish Civil War era. The orange-red walls of the buildings give the village a nice contrast to the mountainous terrain. As soon as we arrived we trekked up the mountain to see the various components of the city. Now, for a girl with asthma the hike up the very steep stairs literally took my breath away so I am not kidding when I said this earlier. Even though there were many tourists, Albarracin seemed very peaceful. We took a tour of the village. We went into one of the historic homes and admired a different way of life. The ceilings were short and the rooms were small but the architecture and decor were simply amazing. The tour guide told us how the rich families imported their furniture from China. The tour was in Spanish and since I do not know any Spanish I mostly just nodded my head and smiled.
After the tour, we had free time to explore Albarracin for ourselves. Most of the group went to the castle that sits on top of the mountain but I stayed behind due to a fear of heights. So I passed the time wandering the village and snapping pictures of the beautiful scenery. It is hard to imagine that people live here because I did not see anyone in their homes. It almost seemed like I was frozen in time. After my exploration, I went to the park at the base of the village to relax for a bit before we left to go to our next destination.
Teruel is remote city in eastern Spain. It is regarded as the “town of mudejar” due to many of its buildings having Moorish-influenced architecture. We took a tour of San Pedro which is a notable church museum that houses the mummified remains of Isabel de Segura and Diego de Marcilla. These two individuals are the main characters of an infamous love story known throughout Spain. Their love story is similar to that of Romeo and Juliet. See, Diego was a man who came from a very poor family and he wanted to marry Isabel, a maiden who came from a wealthy family. You can probably figure out what happens next. Isabel’s father refused the marriage proposal due to a lack of funds from Diego and Isabel went to marry someone else. Through another series of events which I did not understand because the story was told in Spanish, the star-crossed lovers died and now are buried in this museum. We were able to see their remains but the interesting part of the display was that Isabel and Diego were facing each other! Talk about true love.
After the tour of San Pedro it was time to head back to Valencia but there was one issue. There was a bull run happening at the city center of Teruel. Now, I do not know about you but I was not about to be caught in the street with two bulls angrily running towards me. Some people in my group wanted to participate but our professors said otherwise. Since we could not go through the center of the city to get to our bus we have to take many detours. It was amazing to see so many people crowding the streets to watch the bull run. You can feel the sense of community these people have for one another and their city. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the run. It was such a nice ending to a day filled with beauty and awe!
Eight- 8oz. glasses of water equals 64 ounces of water. 64 oz = 1892.71 mL = 1.9 L. The person who decided that drinking eight glasses of water a day is good for your health hasn’t truly tried drinking eight glasses of water a day. Let me tell you, it is hard work for someone who is not used to drinking that much water a day. Now, 64 oz of water is a little over five 12 oz cans of your favorite soda. This may not seem like much especially considering that fact that I drink about 32-40 oz. of iced tea everyday but the main difference is that iced tea tastes like sweet goodness in a cup while water is a flavorless substance that doesn’t excite my taste buds. So, deciding to drink eight glasses of water a day was no easy feat but I wanted to do this for the sake of my health and I love a good challenge.
Since Valencia, Spain is a walking city, I decided before I left that walking everywhere could jump kick my goal of becoming a healthier person and what better way to help with this goal than to reduce the amount of sugary drinks I consume and increase my water intake. So, I bought one of those 1000 mL water bottles and set a plan to drink two of those a day so that I can meet my goal. Also, I am limiting myself to only drinking any beverage besides water twice a week. This way I had to force myself to drink only water. For those who know me know that I LOVE me some iced tea and lemonade. Anytime I go out to eat, I always order one of those drinks. I cannot stand to eat a meal without a flavored drink, but I was excited about this change. Little did I know what I was signing up for.
The first couple of days have been the hardest so far. Every time I could a sip of water I would imagine that I was drinking a tall glass of raspberry iced tea (my favorite all-time drink). To my disappointment it was just a glass of clear, tasteless water. One of the motivating aspects of using a water bottle with milliliter markings is that I can visually see how much water I am consuming. I love the feeling of taking a sip of water and afterwards seeing the water line closer to the zero milliliter line than the previous drink. It is the little victories that keep me going.
One struggle of this health behavior change is lugging around a massive water bottle. One day, I made the mistake of leaving it at my host mom’s house and forgot to drink water all day except at dinner when I realized that I did not meet my requirements of the day. Mind you, in Spanish culture dinner usually starts at 9 or 10 PM. So, what did I do? I started chugging glass after glass after glass so that way I did not fail that day. HUGE mistake. I woke every two hours that night to go use the restroom. My host mom woke up thinking that I had gotten sick. Nope, just Belinda and her pride going down the toilet drain. So, part of my morning routine is making sure I bring a smaller water bottle with me to school that will not weigh as much as a small dog. Remember how I said that I am going to limit the amount of other beverages that I will drink to only twice a week. Well, that did not happen because the thirst for juice and lemonade is so strong. I have had a glass of orange juice every day this week but it has some water in it, right? It is very difficult to let go of drinking those beverages that I am used to drinking everyday. I never realized how strong the urge is to revert back to old behaviors. Making this change is proving to be more difficult than I expected and some days I want to stop. Hopefully next week I will be more successful. I have made a new plan to sticking to this new routine but you have to tune in next week to see if I succeed or remain on the “struggle bus” that is water dependency.