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These Wellness Influencers Gave Up Water & Uh, Please Don’t Do That?

In the wacky and ever-grifting world of wellness there is almost always a new head-scratching trend that reads as totally counterintuitive to the goal of staying healthy. As so-called “clean” eating continues its meteoric rise as the favorite (and often-disordered — hello, orthorexia) dietary choice of instagram models encouraging folks to drink activated charcoal and diarrhea-inducing tummy teas, the trend has expanded even deeper for some wellness personalities — especially for these influencers that, as Vice UK reported earlier this week, have literally given up drinking water.

Basically, these influencers say that instead of drinking what they call “empty water” (from taps, bottles) they instead stay hydrated from what they call “living water” — meaning fruits with a lot of water in them, smoothies and freshly-squeezed juices. The idea of abstaining from water and instead eating your hydration has been supported by a small number of people in the medical community, including UCLA professor Dr. Howard Murad who wrote the book The Water Secret all about eating foods with tons of water in them instead of just drinking it.

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No water for me since 4 months now. Since I start to heal my kidneys through dry fasting, which helps them to filter more efficiently, I stopped drinking „empty“ water. Water from the tap is highly congested with all kinds of toxins from old pipes, agriculture and pollution. Bottled water is stored in (mostly plastic) bottles for months or years, which makes this water to an empty liquid for our body. Fresh mountain water or volcanic mineralized water might be a different story but when it comes to regular drinking water I try to stay away from it. I now even cut tea out of my list. What I drink? I hydrate from living water, freshly squeezed lemon juice, orange juice, smoothies or simply high-water content fruits like melons 🍉. Since I do this, I feel less and less thirsty, no cravings for water or sodas at all. Even during #dryfasting I feel hydrated for the first 17hours. I even practice hot yoga without drinking. How to explain this? Hydrating the body on cellular level is the only form to stay hydrated. Drinking „empty“ water keeps your kidneys busy but not healing. Introduce more coconut water, juices, melons and berries into your life and see how your whole system will benefit from it 🍉🍅🥒🍇🍓 #fruits#fruitjuices#fruitjuicediet#dryfastingdetox#detox#detoxsmoothie#detoxjuice#detoxyourbody#nutritionalcleansing#weightlossmotivation#weightlossupport#weightlosshelp#tonedbodyfood#highrawvegan#juiceforhealth#juiceforlife#saftkur#juicefasting#juicingforenergy#juicingforhealing

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The influencers, including Alise Miksta and Sophie Prana, swear by this fruit-based approach to hydration (paired with a raw vegan diet) with occasional bouts of dry fasting in the mix. For the uninitiated, dry fasting is when you not only avoid food for a length of time but also liquids. And, understandably, this can be a pretty dangerous activity for people to regularly partake in because you run the risk of uncomfortable symptoms like irritability, headaches and poor focus (because you’re friggin’ hungry) and more serious complications like dehydration, fainting, kidney/urinary issues and, of course, falling into patterns of disordered eating.

In one post, Miksta writes “I can’t believe it took my dad one year to convince me that food is just another attachment and conditioning and that there are people living without water and food… crazy right?!… I’m not saying I’m quitting food and drinking water… NOT YET! but I’m working on it.”

But, No Really, Please Keep Drinking Water

Plenty of doctors and nutritionists told Vice about the concerns around this weird movement in “wellness” spaces. Noting that not drinking water goes against the guidance of most health organizations, Haleh Moravej, senior lecturer in nutritional sciences at Manchester Metropolitan University, told Vice she “would highly discourage people from giving up on water.” 

“Our whole body is 70 percent water… this is a recipe for disaster,” Moravej said. “Hydration is important for concentration, mood and wellbeing, as well as physical activity. We need water to break down all the nutrients, we need it for our metabolism […] There’s so much more to suggest that dehydration isn’t good for you.”

Even if certain influencers seem fine and happy with their diet/lifestyle choices, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics writes that “Proper hydration is one of the most important aspects of healthy physical activity. Drinking the right amount of fluids before, during and after physical activity is vital to providing your body the fluids it needs to perform properly.” They note that “the overall goal is to minimize dehydration without over-drinking.” (Because, yes, there is such thing as too much water.)

“Just last year a study came out indicating 90% of social media influencers are giving false nutrition advice, and this right here is the perfect example of that,” Angie Asche MS, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian and owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition (@eleatnutrition) tells SheKnows. “Influencers want to increase their following, and rather than state factual, evidence-based information, many resort to stating bold opinions as facts, thinking they’ve discovered something that goes against all science, to gain more attention (like one of the influencers referring to tap water as ‘toxic’.)”

Particularly for athletes and people who are going to be sweating, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises drinking your water as the most effective way to get the benefits of hydration: “Drink water rather than pouring it over your head. Drinking is the only way to rehydrate and cool your body from the inside out.”

“Another sad and scary part of this is that hashtags on these posts included #marathonrunner and #ultrarunner. As a sports dietitian who works with endurance athletes, I can’t stress enough the importance of drinking water. Relying on food sources alone to replenish sweat losses is incredibly dangerous,” Asche adds. “This whole water fasting trend screams elitism to me. Yes, Americans need to increase their intakes of vegetables and fruits, but to suggest people only drink organically grown coconut water and fresh squeezed fruits and vegetables to meet their daily fluids? This is just all around terrible, terrible advice.”

Help Your Kids Call B.S. on Influencer Culture Too!

Donna Fish,  L.C.S.W.-R., author of Take the Fight Out of Food and expert on disordered eating tells SheKnows that the idea of encouraging people to eat their water instead of drinking it is “basically nuts” and represents some damaging attitudes some people in extreme wellness culture have about nutrition.

“While it is true that you can get a lot of hydration from foods, the idea that drinking water is ’empty’ — as though every single thing has to be purposeful — and you can’t just enjoy it?” Fish asks. “What kind of bizarre concept is that even?”

This is a very extreme case of an instagram diet trend oddity that hasn’t spread into the mainstream (the way intermittent fasting or just so-called “clean eating” have) — but it speaks to a lot of the same restrictive tendencies that a lot of wellness influencers still subscribe to and that make up an insidious part of diet culture.

For the most part, it’s probably pretty much guaranteed that your teens, older kids know that it’s not something to copy (for a whole host of reasons), unless they are already very vulnerable and entrenched in disordered behaviors. However, the fact that many wellness influencers can (and do) spread the gospels of whatever bizarro, non evidence-based fad diet/wellness trend they’re into to their hundreds of thousands of followers is a worrying one that definitely makes it harder to navigate Internet spaces in an informed way as your kids grow.

“Because this defies any kind of science, sound rational science, it’s actually dangerous,” Fish said. “‘Don’t drink water and you’ll look like me and have a rich lifestyle and cut abs.’ This influencer culture is extreme and it’s terrifyingly dangerous.”

Her advice for helping kids fine-tune their B.S. detectors when it comes to problematic influencers recommending nonsense? Help them learn to be strong decision makers who aren’t blind followers.

“You want them to be able to make their own decisions for themselves. You want to inquire a little bit about it but [talk some sense into them] if they’re going to be that vulnerable,” she says. “Kids are vulnerable to extremes and that’s why you’ve got to know your kid and help them figure out how to make decisions so they’re not the follower, the lemming running off the cliff.”

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