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Gary’s challenge: drink more water, less soda

Focused on Health - June 2013

by Adelina Espat

Take this challenge in the Healthy Bites series. Gary Bradshaw did it. And, so can you!

“Take it easy,” says Gary Bradshaw, a 32-year-old first-time father to a baby boy. “Changes that matter don’t manifest overnight.”

Gary waterGary offers this advice after taking the Healthy Bites challenge.

“My son was my motivation for joining Healthy Bites,” Gary says. “As he gets older, he’ll want me to play with him. He'll have lots of energy. And I won’t be able keep up unless I change my lifestyle, lose weight and get in shape.”

Drink less soda

“When I met Gary, I learned he was a heavy soda drinker,” says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson and the Healthy Bites challenge coach.

Many drinks, especially sodas and juices, have a lot of sugar and calories. Over time, that can add up to unwanted weight gain, which can put you at risk for diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Water, on the other hand, has no calories. It also helps you stay full longer so you eat less and maintain a healthy weight.

READ ALSO: Your water guide and journal

Gary takes the challenge

Mary Ellen water“For the next month, I challenged Gary to drink one less soda or sugary drink and one more glass of water each day,” Mary Ellen says. “I told him to aim for at least 64 ounces of water. That’s about eight to 10 daily glasses.”

Gary accepted this challenge. 

“One of my biggest obstacles has been my general lack of knowledge,” Gary says. “I didn’t know what to eat because there’s so much contradicting information out there. Now, I’ve learned a few simple food rules from Healthy Bites that have helped me make healthy changes in my diet.”

READ ALSO: Healthy Bites: Why join this food challenge?

What worked for Gary

drink water“I was surprised that drinking more water filled me up so I ate less,” Gary says. “At the end of my one-month challenge, my doctor actually told me I’d lost weight.  I’m not sure if it had to do with the water. But I can say that overall I felt better and less parched.”

Gary offers this advice:

  • Pace yourself: “The first day I tried this challenge, I made too much of a change. I forced myself to drink more liquids than I needed and almost made myself sick. After that, I just replaced what I was drinking with water instead of drinking water on top of my usual soda.”
  • Try flavored water: “When I craved a flavored drink, I drank unsweetened tea. Mary Ellen told me this counts toward my daily 64 oz. You can also try water with lemon or fruit.”
  • Add ice to soda: “I still drink an occasional soda but now I find them too sweet. When I do, I pour my soda in a glass with a lot of ice – that way I drink less.”
  • Carry filtered water with you: “If you’re on the go, buying bottled water all day can get costly. So, I’d suggest you carry filtered water from home with you.”

“My goal isn’t to eat to be thin but to be healthier,” Gary says. “I would like to live to see my kid graduate from college, have a family of his own—and see the Texans play in the Super Bowl.”

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