Train yourself to drink water

Terrie Todd, Out of My Mind

Of all my failures, I excel at this one: I've been a lousy water drinker all my life. My argument was, if I truly needed all the water experts say I do, wouldn't I feel thirsty? Besides, I never enjoyed drinking water. Tasteless at best, it hurt my teeth if too cold. Where's the appeal?

Then I planned a conference trip to Denver. The organizers warned us to drink lots of water leading up to the event to avoid altitude sickness in "Mile High City." I tried. I worked myself up to three or four glasses a day. Once there, it was easier because water stations appeared every few feet and the dry air actually made me thirsty.

But it was too late. I spent my first night in a flu-like stupor I hope to never repeat.

When I returned for the same conference a year later, I weathered the weekend without a smidgeon of altitude sickness. I know you're dying to know how.

As little as I love water, I have a love affair with charts. Just ask my children (also known as "Adult Children of Obsessive Chart Keepers"), who survived years of job charts posted on the fridge, each carefully crafted to include daily age-appropriate tasks for each child - including checking off their chart. (I admit that last one may cross the line into the compulsive category).

Why not apply my chart-checking strength to my water-drinking weakness? Highly motivated the second time around, I developed what I proudly call "The System." Creating a chart starting a month prior to my departure for Denver, I determined that each time I managed to get myself on the outside of a glass of water, I would check off a box on my chart. (Hey, an accomplishment is

an accomplishment.)

Week One's chart featured the days of the week down the side and the numbers one through five across the top. Five glasses a day wasn't too difficult. Week Two's Chart displayed six numbers across the top, and so on, until the week before the conference when I pushed it up to eight.

I quickly discovered three things. First, I can swallow a lot more room temperature water than water straight out of the fridge. Second, I couldn't think about it too hard. Staring down a dauntingly full glass only intimidated me. "Just pick 'er up, and down the hatch she goes" became my new mantra. Third, unless I wanted to be downing a liter of water right before bed, I needed to start early. New rule: must force down a glass first thing in the morning before allowing myself a cup of coffee.

By my final week, I was consuming an additional 500 mL bottle (which I counted for two checkmarks) by mid-morning and another by lunch. All I had to do then was drink one with lunch, one with supper, and one in the evening. My reward was threefold: a neatly checked off chart, no altitude sickness, and the pride of accomplishment. The more frequent trips to the little girls' room seemed a small price to pay.

If you're a lover of charts like I am, "The System" is sure to work for you, too. Just keep your chart out of sight of your adult kids. I take no responsibility for flashback trauma.

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