A Follow Up: The One Month Water Project

A month ago I shared with you my one-month water projectThe goal would be to drink nothing but water for one month.  I failed…miserably!  Along the way I did learn a few lessons and I’ll share them here.  Of course anything I report is merely anecdotal evidence, and beverages consumed may not affect everyone in the same way.  However, I do believe the results yielded some good information about how the things we drink may affect everything from our mood to our weight.  And of course there are financial implications of drinking too much soda.

Got Milk?

I figured out very quickly that I love few things in life more than a cold glass of milk.  I also figured out that it isn’t that bad if consumed in moderation (it does have some sugar content).  Milk is a great source of protein and other essential vitamins.  I mentioned in my original article that drinking milk elicits a sweet-tooth craving, and one of the benefits of this month-long exercise is that I seemed to have broken that habit.  Now I can simply enjoy milk alone, or have ice water with a sweet snack.

Stress and Soft Drinks

The last two weeks at my full time job have been the busiest of the year.  I worked on Sunday afternoons just to keep my head above water, and often resorted to grabbing something fast to eat because I didn’t have time to prepare a lunch.  Not only was June a busy month, it was stressful.  I discovered that when I’m stressed I like to grab a cold Coca Cola – it is my alcohol!  I’m actually quite annoyed with myself that this is the case.  I am proud of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, and don’t have to have a morning cup of coffee to function, but I still have intense cravings for soft drinks.  I guess everyone has a weakness!

Weight Loss

For the first week or so in June I did only consume water, and occasionally added some flavoring such as Crystal Light.  Without changing much else about my diet I dropped a couple pounds.  I suspected some of this was water weight because I had probably been retaining water from the high-sodium drinks I had been consuming.  However, I lost another couple pounds the next week.  The reduced calorie intake from skipping sugary soft drinks was probably paying off.  Unfortunately, I gained back those few pounds by the end of the month to wind up with a net loss of only a half-pound or so.

Lessons Learned

The main lesson learned from this experience is that I am much more disciplined with my dollars than I am with my calories.   This hasn’t always been true.  In fact, I used to be in great shape, physically, but in terrible shape, financially.  It appears the pendulum has swung to far in the opposite direction, which brings me back to a question I asked here a few months ago:  Is it harder to lose weight or payoff debt?  I think they are equally difficult, and nearly impossible to do at the same time.  While there is a correlation between weight gain and the accumulation of debt, it is difficult to produce results in the opposite direction.  Not sure why that is.

In my case I just don’t seem to have the mental energy to devote to both plans – at least not enough to be successful at both.  Does this mean I should try to lose weight and tread water financially, or payoff debt and continue being out of shape? Neither, it means I need to work on my self-discipline.  I need to dig deep and find the will power to work on both aspects of improving my life.

Have you also struggled with getting your finances in order while trying to get into better shape?  Any nuggets of wisdom to share that would help me?

acai burn


  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you did great! Failure is just one step on the path to success and I think you made a great first step. These kind of revolutionary changes in your life sometimes take a while to really sink in.

    Congrats on trying and good luck on moving forward with training your self-discipline. (Heaven knows I need to do the same!)

  2. I have to say my two drinks of choice and my weakness would be coffee and tea. I could drink both all day long. I live in the south, so sweet tea is a favorite past time.

    My habit goal for this month is to excersise three to four times a week, have we been successful, no we haven’t. We two are trying to pay off debt and to be stable financially. I don’t relate the excersise and loosing weight to our finances though. I don’t have any real tips other than, you have to force yourself to do it. My husband and I are forcing ourselves with our finances and debt, it’s not easy, but we know it can be done.

    I wish you luck and don’t be to critical of yourself about it. We all have our weaknesses and drinking just water straight, is a hard thing to do!

  3. Hey FrugalDad, I feel for ya’ and I know how real life tends to lay waste to the best plans. However, as one who has been where you are and who has a fair amount of experience with “bulking up and ripping down”, I can offer you some additional advice.

    1. Drinking water only is a good goal, but it ge5ts boring awfully fast. Still, consuming water as your main beverage does have great benefits. The biggest is taht it fills you in a non-caloric manner, and it helps to regulate the amount of water your body carries at any given time.

    2. The best thing I ever did to motiate my weight losses was to kep a written record. If you eat it, write it down, if it’s anything other than water that I drink, write it down. get into the habit of tracking what you eat, and make it a priority to not slip.

    3. Make a pre-determined game plan when it comes to your meals, whether it be to make large batches of food and freeze it for work (which I do) or have the fixings for food items in your drawer at your desk (which I also do 🙂 ). the point is, do all you can to put the food you eat and the stuf you drink entirely under your control, no matter where you are.

    Last year, I dropped 52 pounds in six months (unfortunately, I gained 30 of it back over the ensuing 12 months. However, right now I am 16 pounds down from when I started my recent cycle (five weeks ago) and I am aiming to drop another 20 in the next three months. I know how touch it can be to keep your motivation going over a long period, but it’s doable if you give yourself the right tools.

    As to financial focus and physical focus, I believe that they *can* go hand in hand, but they need to use the same management skills and techniques. Just as you budget your money, you shouold budget your food planning, spend every calorie every day, write it down, on paper, on purpose (to borrow a Ramseyism 🙂 ), *before* you start your day… then do all you can to stick to it and hold yourself accountable to it. sadly, there’s no real equivalent to a “debt snowball” when it comes to weight loss, but if you are patient and you burn more than you consume, you will get the results you are after. Give it time, though; the *maximum* you should aim for would be to lose two pounds in any given week. If you can do that on a sustained basis, you are doing gangbuster progress when it comes to weight loss, and you should be applauded.

  4. I too try to consume mostly water. At home I have to have a glass of sweet tea with my dinner and allow myself a few Cokes a week with my lunches. I do also drink a glass of cold milk just before bedtime (I love milk!), but any other drinks are only water — at work and when out and about.

    @FrugalDad, I know you said that you run but a good tip is to also do strength/bulk training. This will usually not give you weight-loss gains immediately as the muscle gain will probably equal the fat loss in weight (muscle weighs more than fat). After a while though, if you maintain the same calorie intake you should see a net body-fat reduction and potentially a weight loss (if you had a high body-fat percentage to begin with). This is due to the fact that most of our daily calories are used in maintaining our body temperature. Fat acts as an insulator and muscles don’t (as much). Also, larger muscles burn more calories than smaller ones. With less insulation and larger muscles, you can burn more calories sitting around than you used to. Maintaining the same caloric intake, this will end up as a negative net calorie total at the end of the day which means overall weight loss. It will take time but we all know it is worth it.

  5. @David: Thanks for your comments! Actually, I don’t run that much (mostly walk/eliptical). I was blessed with flat feet and a bad back, so running isn’t a great option. However, I love to lift weights, and recently discovered a great site called StrongLifts.com. It’s a blog dedicated to strength training.

  6. I can identify with your comparison. I lost 100lbs. in one year, I had the worst time when I started a second job to pay off debt. For me the issuese I found were when dealing with debt reduction or weight it is the retraining of your unconcious decisions and concentrating on each decision until some point you retrain yourself. Example, you want a snack normally you get up go to the vending machine and look over the options until your inner voice says THAT ONE , I WANT …. chocolate, salt, crunchy, chips, whatever. When you focus on weight the consideration comes into play before you even get up from the desk. You want a snack, you should think to yourself…Why ? am I hungry or bored? How long until I am going to eat a meal? can I wait?
    This same conversation will take place with spending. You want to grab something to eat, you go through the thought process for food. Where will I go? what will I get? NOW you have to decide should I even go? Financially am I making the best choice?
    The energy required to focus on one is tremendous. One thing I learned from reading “Living the Seven Habits” By Steven Covey is you have to put first things first. You have to decide which one you are going to you put first. So when you think about eating out you can ask the important question first. Am I going to spend money and then on what?

  7. @David: Great point! Strength training has helped me a great deal. You don’t have to become a beefcake. A simple routine of compound exercises that target your chest, back and legs goes a long way.

    @FrugalDad: It’s more important that your overall month is a success. You have lost some battles, but you are winning the war on debt and hazardous waist.

  8. Hey, FD 🙂

    I’m glad you took the plunge and gave it your best! I no longer buy any other beverages other than milk (and tap water, technically), because soda is SO BAD for you, and juices are often loaded with artificial sugars. Unless I get those items for absolute free, they’re just not worth it to me and my health.

    I’ve felt far better keeping up with my calcium consumption and hydrating properly than I have in years. A quick tip for water is to drop a little citrus into it – limes are in season right now, and you can easily get 5 for $1. Just slice into quarters, squeeze a quarter into your water or slide it into your water bottle, and you’re all set.

    Lemons come out in the fall, and oranges are usually out first thing in spring 🙂

  9. I drink *lots* of water anyway, always more than a gallon per day (I used to track that but I know now that I easily surpass it), but I could never go with ONLY water. My biggest thing would be coffee. That is part of my daily routine and I’m not willing to give it up.

    I think a better experiment would be 1 month without sodas. I think that is probably one of American’s worst addictions, in general.

  10. @Eden and others:
    As good as water is for you, please make sure to not take it to extremes. There have been cases where some people drink too much water. There is such a thing as “water poisoning” if you drink so much water you reduce the natural salts in your body to dangerously low levels. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-348917/Aquaholics-Addicted-drinking-water.html)
    Unless you are doing heavy activity or are outside for most of the day, you should not need to drink more than one gallon of water a day. Also, as good as people think distilled/extremely filtered water is, it does not have any vitamins, minerals or salts in it so it does not replenish your body as it should if you were drinking it from a river or stream or something like that.
    An interesting fact is that Andy Warhol actually died from water poisoning or “hyponatraemia”. It’s true, look it up.

    As an interesting side note, it is a little-known fact that your body can manage its own salt levels as long as you drink enough water for it to evacuate the excess. It has long been said that excess salt leads to hypertension, high blood pressure and other ailments. If you drink enough water, your body will manage itself and help to ease or prevent these sorts of problems. No need to cut salt from your diet — just drink more water! (This also means that you shouldn’t go salting everything in sight!)

    As I always say, “Everything in moderation.”

  11. For me the cash vs. health issue comes down to buying cheap, carb-loaded foods or spending the extra $ to buy healthier fare.

    For example, it’s always cheaper to buy a $2.50 slice of pizza for lunch than an $8.50 salad.

    A beans and rice diet involves a lot of carbs!

  12. Interesting post. I did this same experiment in November of 2007. I started improving my health before my finances, but only by about 6 months. I just paid off all my debt last month. I still exercise regularly.
    My vice was coca-cola. I would drink 2-3 12 oz. cans per day for years. I did not think it would be that hard, but I was wrong. There were times that I really craved a coke, especially on pizza night. I actually thought quitting smoking was easier than not drinking soft drinks. I made it though, 30 days and did not falter. After the 30 days, I opened a can a coke that I had earned and have been wanting. I took a sip and it tasted horrible! I kept drinking and it tasted worse and worse. It tasted like awful medicine mixed with chemicals. It was void of the taste that I vividly remember and craved. I couldn’t even finish it. My craving for soft drinks died with that one can. Before I started this, I had read some stories how your “taste” can change. I didn’t think it was possible, but it was. Seven months later, water is my main drink. I can count on one hand the number of soft drinks I have had since November 2007. They all have not tasted like I remember they once did. I still will try a friends coke from time to time and still tastes like chemicals to me.

    Some things I noted after the 30 days:
    – I lost approx. 5 pounds. (7 months later, I lost a few more pounds and my weight is steady)
    – I noticed that I was thirsty to very thirsty at random times throughout the day during the experiment. (that has mostly subsided, but I drink water at regular intervals throughout the day now)
    – I thought about soft drinks every day for the 30 days, but once I tried one again and it tasted awful, the cravings and thoughts subsided.

    The only tips I have is to keep busy and always have water accessible to you all day long. I found it easier when I always had a glass of water on my desk or near me. I agree that it is very hard to do both at once, but it is possible. I hope you give it another try and good luck!

  13. Hey FD,
    Do you think it would have been easier for you if you had a water bottle? I use a Camelbak bottle (it has a spout that flips up so you can drink w/o taking off the cap) and I think it makes it easier to drink more water. Also, as for Tea, try adding Splenda to it. Tastes great.

    Also, I suggest Trent’s article on the cost of a soda addiction at thesimpledollar.com.

  14. I love the idea of drinking nothing but water for a month. Well, maybe a week would be more realistic?

    I can relate to a lot of what you are saying – I have an affinity for cocacola. I try not to drink it at all, because if I have a few, I’m instantly addicted again.

    Anyhow, I really enjoy your blog and thank it’s one of the better frugal reads out there. Best of luck with the weightloss. 🙂

  15. After several attempts over the past decade and a half I have finally been successful in giving up soft drinks (Australian equivalent of Soda). I used to buy two cans a day at work, and a bottle and a can each day on the weekend. I have been free of soft drinks for 466 consecutive days and during this time the money I haven’t wasted is $1722.20 (I have a spreadsheet that tracks the days and money). This money has instead been used to pay off a verandah that was added to the rear of my house.

    Why this attempt has been successful is three fold. 1) I set up a spreadsheet to track my commitment to being soft drink free, 2) I uesd the financial implications of continuing to waste money on soft drink as further mental leverage and 3) I mentally reinforce just how bad the soft drink would taste if I had one now (during previous attempts I noticed that soft drink would taste pretty nasty after at least five days of not having a soft drink).

    @Dave: I totally agree about the chemical taste of Coca-Cola if you haven’t had one for quite a while.

    One thing that I have had to be mindful of is that in Australia, flavoured waters, iced teas and off the shelf milk drinks are sugar laden like soft drinks. There is a range of Vitamin Waters and when I checked the ingredients label, Sugar was the second main ingredient after filtered water.

    I am using the same tracking technique to reduce my consumption of “treat” foods with a fair degree of success. If I want something sweet I usually have a piece of fruit – I allow myself to only have “treat” foods on a Sunday and I have a written document outlining the amount I can have.

    Giving up soft drinks is one of the best things I have ever done. It took several attempts but I was finally successful.

    Finally don’t feel that you have failed miserably. You have learnt some lessons that will stand you in good stead if you have another attempt.

  16. It’s WAY easier to payoff debt than to lose weight… at least that’s my experience. LOL!
    The debt is all paid off, but the weight sure won’t go away.
    Maybe I can just look at it as my investment in case I get sick and can’t eat and need to live off body fat? haha!

    Good post!

    And what a great suggestion – the spreadsheet to log the cost of pop… That might do the trick! The water where I work is not drinkable – literally – so I use that as an excuse to drink pop when I could just as easily fill my water bottles up from my home tap… It’s just remembering to do it! 🙁

  17. You rule for admitting defeat (even though it sounds like you did pretty good, actually). The best thing for me about cutting my sodas (ahhh… Pepsi) to a minimum is that they’ve become highly coveted treats. When I finally give in, it feels so deliciously indulgent! The same is true of financial splurges. They’re rare, but feel great when they happen.

    I know you’ve got the will to accomplish both of your goals, but it’s okay to focus on just one thing at a time.

  18. My biggest recommendation is set small goals in increments for your big goals. I spend a lot of time counseling clients on finances and debt management and I often make analogies to dieting so they can relate to ideas of financial “dieting”. The two are very similar- hard to maintain, hard to start, and hard to find the right balance. If your goal is to lose 50 lbs or bench press 300 lbs (or any other physical fitness goal), you don’t start out succeeding at your goal immediately. Instead, if you are able to benchmark 2 lbs of weight loss or a small increment of any goal, the feeling of success in reaching that goal increases your motivation to succeed at the next small benchmark. If goals or the bar is set too high, the goal will seem out of reach or unattainable. If these feelings of doubt set in, you could end up in the worse case scenario of giving up on your health or financial stability. Middle ground is stopping and restarting dieting or changing financial habits, the so-called yo-yo dieting phenomenon.

    I also notice with cutting yourself off from habits too quickly with dieting or spending results in a higher incidence of bingeing (in the form of shopping sprees or eating). As you posted earlier, you still have to have financial freedom and spend in moderation. It is more realistic and has a better sense of sustainability. It works the same with weight loss and fitness goals. If there is an allowance of flexibility, there is a higher chance of sustaining the good habits and not going back to bad habits on a full-time basis.

    Good luck!

  19. One week with just water sounds like cause for a celebration given your previous habits! So hats off to you. You know, the best thing is to never get into the soda habit at all. So for your kids sake you might not want it in your house at least so they don’t get addicted to it! (I never had it in my house growing up and don’t have it now – my kids are allowed to drink it at bday parties and that’s it.) 2-3 glasses of milk per week is just fine! I have a daily Constant Comment hot tea habit that gives me satisfaction in the mornings – try that! No calories but oh so good and soothing. I do have to whiten my teeth periodically though.

  20. I was going to blog about this very subject…I’m desperately trying to drop 20 lbs and stay financially fit (no credit card use. When I switch my focus to one i.e. losing weight, my checkbook takes a nosedive. And vice versa. Not sure why. If you find a way, please let me know! 🙂

  21. My boyfriend taught me a great tip for kicking sodas. It’s been a year now since I had one (regular or diet). The tip is to put seltzer water in juice. It still gives you that bubbly sensation and it is sweet. Not to mention it’s healthy. I love this more than I ever loved juice. A few additional things to note are to make sure the juice doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup or some other fake sugar, look for 100% juice. Also you will have to start off slow on the seltzer and increase gradually. I generally go for grape juice with orange seltzer and mix 50/50. Hope it works for some of you too!

  22. I wanted to add some additional thoughts from someone who gave up coffee four years ago and rarely drinks soda (and if at all, is diet which while artificial lacks the carbs).

    About a year ago, I fell in love with the Teastea brand of bottled iced tea. I’m talking about 1-liter plastic bottles of green tea, green-white tea, or green-jasmine tea. The ingredients are only purified water and tea so 100% organic and no sugars. Every few months, I buy about 6 bottles at Target for about $4 a bottle.

    I like milk, too, especially chocolate milk. I recently switched to organic chocolate milk that has sugar, but is naturally-occurring cane sugar and not artificial high fructose corn syrup.

  23. I love water. My husband installed an RO filter years ago, but never seemed to stay up on changing the filters. I got tired of asking (and was too lazy to do it myself) that I ordered a water service. It didn’t make my husband change the filters – instead he loves the water, my kids love the water, I love the water. It just doesn’t make sense to buy water when trying to save money, but we laugh and joke about, “would you like the $23/month water or the city water?”

    There is nothing better than a tall glass of great tasting water after a glass of boxed wine. Good luck with your water.