Coffee - Part 1
In mid-January, I decided to try and keep off the coffee for a bit and see what happened. I did and some of you have been asking me about it. I wanted to share my experience with you because I know there are a lot of you out there who enjoy your cup or two of coffee, but can you live without it? I couldn’t...
Coffee is in my blood, my father is Italian and my first part-time jobs were handling a coffee machine and making Italian style espresso and cappuccino in the days when a cappuccino was still been passed off as a filter coffee with whipped cream on top.
During my university days, I was drinking about 2-3 espressos a day to help keep up with the studying, working, late nights and parties. It was still hard to find a good coffee but if you knew where to go you could sniff them out. Coffee was very much a part of my life through my twenties and things only changed when I went to live on a farm where a good coffee was hard to come by.
And then 16 years ago I went off to study nutritional therapy, back then coffee was evil, we called it an anti-nutrient and was best to be avoided if you valued your health. Now a lot of those reasons I think are still valid but what was starting to happen at the same time was the birth of the Coffee Culture.
Suddenly good proper coffee was coming into the mainstream, the days of the filter machine and instant coffee were starting to fade and coffee shops started popping up all over the show offering espresso, cappuccino, latte, flat white, more variations that we knew existed and making it easy for us to meet for a coffee.
It was all around us, trendy coffee shops selling carefully roasted coffee and let’s face it’s hard to resist. But resist I did, at that point I still believed it wasn’t good for my health. I would occasional have the guilty one or two a week.
Then I opened my health shop and a special treat on some mornings would be to stop on my way through to work and grab a coffee and enjoy the sea air before plunging into the concrete. It was a reward, a great way to start the day. It gave me a buzz I felt like I had more energy and I felt more positive and upbeat and engaged with my customers.
More great coffee shops opened, places to hang out, chat to strangers or grab a coffee on the way. It became a habit and a ritual but I made sure to never have it every day. Then information started to emerge that coffee was healthy. There were actual health benefits to having coffee, this is the only reason I needed.
And so over the past 2 years I started to have coffee every day. But I also started to feel like I needed a coffee to get me through the day. I began to feel how my mood would be really low if I didn’t have a coffee, it became my go-to anti-depressant.
Then it became two-a-day, the first one would wear off I would feel tired and drained so the only way to get through the rest of the day was to have a second one after lunch.
Then towards the end of last year, I noticed that the first thing I would think about when I woke up was my coffee. I would walk the dogs and couldn’t wait to get home for my coffee. Then another one mid-morning because the first one hadn’t done anything. All the energy and motivation and the good mood that coffee had given me didn’t seem to be working anymore. I even began to feel that I couldn’t do a big walk unless I had a coffee to get me going.
So when we came back from holiday at the beginning of the year I decided it was time to give the body a break and do a bit of a cleanse. I decided to kick the coffee habit and see what happened. The first few days were hell but I knew they would be, by day three I was tired and had a horrible headache. I felt tired really really tired and then by the 5th day I started to feel good, really good. I had more energy, I could think more clearly and felt like I had some of my old motivation back.
What felt really amazing was to be off my coffee crutch the feeling that I needed it, that the day would be too hard or unenjoyable without it. I broke the habit and I felt great for doing that.
I had my first coffee on day 6, at my favourite spot, it was delicious and I enjoyed it but it was just a coffee I knew my day would be just as good without it. I felt a bit spacey, my face flushed (like it does sometimes with coffee) I felt like I had some inner tension. But the best part was that I knew I didn’t need it anymore. If I wanted a coffee I could have it but it no longer ruled my life. And to be honest it felt like a relief.
Addictions can come in many shapes and forms but it is the more socially accepted ones that are harder to turn our backs on or even to admit that we have a bit of an addiction going. Because so often it just feels like a ritual, a reward and we don’t always see it for the habit it has become.
The real change for me was this past Sunday, I had gone out and had a coffee on Saturday morning and was in a good space on Sunday and I wanted to carry on working. Mike was going for a coffee and asked if I was keen to come, yes of course, always. But then as we were walking out the door I thought no, I had a great coffee yesterday I hadn’t planned to have one today, in fact, I had a better plan and so he went off and I stayed home. Wow what a shift, me turning down a coffee.
Yes, I still have the occasional coffee (one or two a week) because I enjoy it, the smell, the taste, the familiarity of a place where people know my name. I will never give up coffee completely because that would feel like punishing myself. For me health is all about balance, finding the pleasure in having coffee but also feeling OK without it.
So what is your relationship to coffee? All this talk of coffee making you feel like you want one? Does some of this resonate with you? Are you curious to discover how your life would feel without coffee every day? Watch out for my next coffee instalment, what I did to get off it, why it may not be that good for you and how to keep living in this coffee crazy world (it’s not as hard as you think)