When I first decided to give up the juices and soft drinks, I almost felt like I didn’t have any other options.

“What the hell am I supposed to drink? Water?!”

I mean, you learn the hard way that, like a lot of things in fitness, some sacrifices hurt but sacrifice is vital. If I used to put an unnecessary priority on having the gallon jug of [insert juice brand] in my house, of course it’s going to hurt to give up that “flavor” and begin drinking water.

Now, when it comes to sheer hydration, any liquid will suffice. Contrary to the popular understanding that a soft drink/juice/coffee cannot hydrate you, the truth is that they can. But this isn’t about the basics. This is about the fact that those drinks carry an awful lot with them beyond simply water. Unnecessary calories, teaspoon after teaspoon of sugar, and a complete lack of nutritional value? Can you say those calories are worth it?

I couldn’t.

What benefits does water have to offer you?

Water is an appetite suppressant. The body often doesn’t properly relay the message to you that you are, in fact, hungry or full. It doesn’t properly relay the message to you that you are, even, eating food or drinking water to fill up. That being said, you could drink a nice tall glass of water during a meal and fill yourself up faster, or you could drink tall glasses of water frequently throughout your day to help stave off hunger as well as help prevent overeating.

And these aren’t little glasses, here. We’re talking big gulp status. I’ve got a 32oz cup sitting beside me right as I type this.

Water flushes your digestive system. As often as we talk about the importance of fiber, here… water is the second half of that equation. Water travels through the digestive tract and helps carry the fibrous materials through, aiding in the collection and expulsion of waste. In other words, if you want to poop regularly and often, you’ve got to drink water as well as eat your fibrous foods.

Water clears your skin. I look younger than I did in high school, mainly because of the amount of water I drink and how it flushes my skin. With the incorporation of more water into my daily habits, I rarely – if ever – experience skin problems on either my face or the rest of my body. Blemishes started to clear up and fade. I mean, it flushes out any toxins. That’s clearly going to help your skin.

Water can aid in curing headaches. Most of my headaches come from the fact that I haven’t stayed on top of my water drinking, and they almost always fade after I’ve downed a nice tall glass.

Now, there are tons of posts on the Internet that talk about how “the benefits of water are overblown,” and some of them are. Reading about how “water is linked with a reduction in cancer occurrences” doesn’t sound like a benefit of drinking water – it sounds more like a benefit of drinking less of something else. It’s also uncertain where the average recommendation comes from in regards to how much water one should drink. Some people shoot for a gallon, some people use the “ounces in half your weight” method and some shoot for 8 8oz glasses. I know that I drink a lot, but a lot is required to receive the benefits that I’ve shared, here.

It was a bit of a struggle, in the beginning, to develop “a water habit.”At first, I was dying for flavor, and the urge to do the “flavor packet” thing was far too high. However, if the goal is to drink less of the harmful stuff and more of the pure and innocent stuff, then you simply cannot do it. I, personally, didn’t bother trying to make a slow conversion to drinking water because the rationale was simple – as a neophyte calorie counter, the more of this stuff I drank, the less food I could eat if I wanted to stay under my calorie budget. It was an easy decision to simply accept the reality of water, and it’s most important benefit – feeling satiated without calories.

Then, it became a matter of doing what I could to prevent the excuses – buying bottled water and then complaining that it’s too expensive (although soft drinks or juices are often much more expensive), not having a water fountain around and not carrying change, being too lazy to get up and get myself another glass of water (because water doesn’t compel you to get up and move the way a glass of juice might) – and just sucking it up and investing in a couple of quality water containers. One big 32oz insulated glass, and one stainless steel container to keep in my jogging stroller when we’re on the go. To really make things easy, I need to get one of those discount water filters that I keep hearing about. That way I can get a pure, uncontaminated glass of water directly from my refrigerator. Now… the only thing left to address… is time.

The best – and fastest – way for me to start developing my new habit was to set the alarm on my cell phone to go off very few hours. That way, on top of drinking water with each meal, I’d drink it in between, as well. Helps keep me from overeating, binging on calories, kept my hunger in control and kept me focused on my goal – avoiding hunger pangs and eating properly – throughout the day. Needless to say, I’m a devout water drinker.

What about you? How do you manage to get in your water?