Monday, May 12, 2008

Your meds, your beverages, and your weight

As beautiful as the weather is here in Phoenix right now, it's clear, summer is just around the corner. It always catches me off guard in the spring, when it's so beautiful outside and I want to spend as much time as possible out there...but it's not warm enough for me to be aware of the fact that I'm losing water to the atmosphere. It's only when my eyes start to burn that I realize I've allowed myself to become dehydrated.

This past week I worked with a client who learned the same lesson the hard way. In the month since I'd seen her, despite following a very healthy diet, she gained weight instead of losing the weight she'd wanted to. As we chatted, it became clear that the problem was not in what she was eating, it was in what she was drinking. With our record low humidity readings, it would have been a challenge for anyone to stay hydrated. But in her case, she is also on medications that were increasing her thirst. And she was coping with it by heading to the refrigerator and drinking as much as she could of anything she could find that would quench her insatiable thirst.

Her experience is not unusual. Many psychiatric medications increase thirst. If you compound that with a change in weather, you've got to really be smart about your choices.

Here are some of the rules we discussed, which I hope are helpful to you all as well.

1. Read your labels! Many beverages are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which adds calories and can promote the development of diabetes. You've already got more of that risk if you're on many psychiatric meds, so don't double the trouble.

2. Watch out for fruit juices. Even though they've got vitamins, antioxidants, etc., they also have calories. Read the serving size on the label and stick to one serving at a time. I like to freeze fruit juice into ice cubes and then use those cubes in mineral water. I also throw a shot of fruit juice into a smoothie to help intensify the flavor. You can also add juices to marinades and salad dressings if you like to cook and feel creative. It's just not the best idea to drink large quantities right out of the bottle.

3. Look for mineral waters and waters flavored with essences. One of my current favorites is Metro Mint, which tastes like a liquid mint candy. Essences are calorie free, and it's a great way to get flavor in what you're drinking without calories, sugar, or artificial sweeteners.

4. Have fun with herbal teas! There are dozens of flavors, and you can mix and match to create your own concoctions. Here in Arizona a favorite is sun tea. If you have a big glass jar, fill it to the top, add some tea bags, and let the sun brew it over the course of a day.

5. Green tea is one of my favorites. It's full of antioxidants, and it also helps to increase blood flow to the brain. Be sure to look for the decaffeinated version to be sure hydration and sleep don't interfere with each other.

6. Get creative! Just before I sat down to write this blog, I took some decaf green tea I'd brewed in my coffee maker earlier today and then refrigerated, and poured a shot of Metro Mint water in it to wake it up a bit. Mmmmmmm.....!

7. Beware of caffeinated drinks. Caffeine not only makes it hard to sleep, it can promote insulin resistance. And both insulin resistance AND caffeine can promote weight gain. That's a double whammy you absolutely don't want on your plate.

8. Decaf ice coffees, as long as they're not Frappabinos with extra whipped cream, are ok...but remember, even decaffeinated coffee has a little bit of caffeine in it. If you are an all-or-nothing kind of person and tend to go over the top with things you perceive to be "good", then you still might overdo it in the caffeine department.

9. Be sure to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. They are high in water content and can help to keep you hydrated.

10. Drink lots of smoothies and eat lots of soups. Again, it doesn't matter if you "eat" or drink your liquids, it matters that liquids get into you!

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