It’s snake oil sales upgraded by AI algorithms, unchecked capitalism and super-fast broadband.

Cover photo by KOBU Agency

how I got to
feel better
for free.


You don’t have to look far to find a solution to all your problems.

Career going nowhere? Unhappy with your weight? Unhappy with your love life? Just Unhappy?

A rapid Google search and in you leap to multitudinous promises of untold rewards that will cost you nothing. Well, for the first thirty days. As long as you give us your credit card details now. No quibble money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.


*terms and conditions apply.

I’ve been there, believe me. And, in the spirit of that unity, it’s not only one ‘wonder solution’ I’ve forgotten to cancel only to be hit with an extended subscription. It’s currently four and counting.

It’s snake oil sales upgraded by AI algorithms, unchecked capitalism and super-fast broadband.

In my attempt to begin to rebalance the scale, here’s one thing I can absolutely guarantee (in my experience), will make you feel better and therefore have an impact on all those other challenges you face. It’s free. No credit card required. No thirty days. No T&Cs. And it’s within reach of you right now.

It’s not food, it’s fuel.

Rugby League Legend Denis Betts

Photo by Mark Perkins

Denis Betts, the only man, apart from Bobby Moore, to have captained an England team at Wembley in a World Cup Final (ultimate pub quiz question) once uttered a line that’s always stuck with me about his famously fastidious approach to nutrition:


‘it’s not food, it’s fuel’.

here’s one thing I can absolutely guarantee will make you feel better.

Food burns in our bodies to give us energy. Our digestive system is our combustion engine. What does an engine need as well as fuel? To keep all those moving parts fluid and effective? It needs oil. Particularly when it’s probably been laying idle for around eight hours as we sleep.

What’s the oil for our bodies? I’m guessing you’re ahead of me here and no, it’s not snake oil. It’s water. H20. Only second on our hierarchy of survival needs to air.

For some reason we feel the need to always embellish the most humble and fundamental of our bodies’ intake requirements turning water to coffee, booze, and cans of sugary fizz.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my personal communion with coffee and alcohol. It’s one of life’s pleasures. But I wouldn’t dream of waking up and downing a Jack Daniels (OK maybe at SXSW or Glastonbury). Or crawling across a baking hot desert and then asking for a coffee.

Photo by Laura Mitull

one of my self imposed rules is I only write advice it if I’ve lived it.

And here’s the thing, the trick, the secret.  It’s what you do with water for the first 45 minutes of the day that makes the difference.

One of my self imposed rules is I only write advice it if I’ve lived it. Few things wind me up more than the classic ‘blogscam’ technique of observing someone else then extrapolating whilst claiming the knowledge as your own. You know the type of thing:

“Last night I watched X win the World Series by hitting a homerun.  Imagine the pressure. Look how X composed themselves.  You too can learn how to hit your own World Series winner by, blah, blah, blah”.

It staggers me how many people write about other people and their practices without ever getting up close, personal and uncomfortable themselves. Charlatans one and all.

Sorry, back to making that difference and feeling good for free.

In early 2019, I started drinking 600 ml (just over a pint) of fresh, cool water (tap is fine unless you’re in an area that recommends mineral) at the beginning of my day.  Nothing else then passes my lips for the first 45-120 minutes of each day. No food, no other types of liquid. That’s it. Harder than it sounds but not exactly training for a marathon or learning a new language.

First up, in my experience, you need to give it a couple of weeks to get into the groove and feel the benefits. Don’t be surprised if you have major cravings for the first week or so – you’ve conditioned your body to wake up and tuck into breakfast. What you’ve got to do now is re-tune it. Remember, you’re the boss of you.

And if you normally get up and exercise – believe me, you can do it without food first. Your body will adapt and become more efficient – even if you do a feel bit queasy the first few times. Just be sensible, listen to your body and avoid going hell for leather when you’re in the early days. 

For what it’s worth I used to refuse hard exercise in the morning unless I ate before, during and after the session.

The first few times I worked out on water I thought I was going to throw up several times and felt weak. Within a fortnight I felt fine to push on. After a month I couldn’t imagine eating before working out in the morning. I would argue that my body actually responds better without the food.

I’ve only slipped a couple of times during the entire period: once in a hotel in Manchester, UK, when I woke late and rushed to a meeting than had bottomless coffee on demand, once on holiday when, to be honest, I just fancied breakfast and one time at Christmas when I was so hungover I inhaled a bacon sandwich with a strong coffee (Hey, I never claimed to be a saint).

The premise behind the morning water routine is simple. Flush the system through. Allow everything to turn over without placing excessive demands on the stomach. Get the pistons firing.

The premise is simple. Flush the system through. Get the pistons firing.

Photo by Erda Estremera

Photo by Erda Estremera

there are many claims that this approach to mornings will revolutionise your life. I’m not sure it’s that good but let me tell you about what it’s done for me.

Energy. I have more of it than I used to. Without question. This means I am able to stave of my great enemy tiredness which, in turn, has increased my ability to manage myself better under pressure, balance my moods more effectively and enable better concentration. All this is on the back of often working longer and more testing days than when I used to open my day with caffeine and breakfast.  I also don’t suffer that spike and dip that the more traditional morning kickstart brings.

My skin is clearer, my appetite more in check and I’ve improved my eating habits. Over time, although I still enjoy coffee, I’ve also discovered that whilst drinking the water was once a chore, it’s now often my drink of choice. Which means I drink less coffee. Which means I save money.

Is there a catch? Not that I’ve experienced. Although scientific research doesn’t back me up. Yet.

That said, there is plenty of scientific research that confirms the benefits drinking water (we’ve done our research and you can find some of the links below), but there is very little hard data to support the positive impact of the morning water routine.

Before the lack of research puts you off, why not look at it this way?:

Working on the principle of ‘go big or go home’, I’d put my drinking water in the morning routine up there with Naval Admiral William H. McRavens’ infamous commencement address to the University of Texas class of 2014. His advice to ‘make your bed in the morning’ became a viral sensation. To my knowledge there’s no hard evidence confirming that the benefits of making your bed in the morning will enable you to actually change the world. But we instinctively get it don’t we?

Play Video

It’s the same for me with drinking water first thing: even if the benefits relate more to the discipline of actually doing it rather than a physiological change catalysed by imbibing H20 then I, for one, don’t mind.

After all, it’s free, it’s easy and it’s at my fingertips.  And no shaking of duvets or smoothing of sheets required.

There you have it. So simple it’s almost embarrassing. So easy to access no-one can sell it. So effective it’s a wonder why not everyone does it.

I do. I suggest you try it to.


Always consult a physician before undertaking any new diet or exercise programme.


  • How I Got To Feel Better for Free 00:00

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