Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cutting out coffee

Every summer, I try to cut back on my caffeine. When I don't have to work at 7 in the morning, suddenly going without coffee seems like a much less onerous task. I can enjoy a cup of tea, or just have water or orange juice in the morning, and I can still get through my much simpler day. I have never set it a goal to give up coffee entirely, as it is something I really enjoy, but I don't make a pot of coffee every morning and guzzle it by 9. I maybe make a cup in the afternoon and sit on the porch and enjoy it while reading a good book (a perfect afternoon if you ask me). I might go out with friends to a coffee shop at night and get a cup of coffee (definitely worth the price for the time out - I just try to avoid the fruity mocha-latte-double-espresso nonsense that racks up the cost and the calories).

Doing this allows me to kind of give my body a rest from the stress put on it by drinking so much caffeine and helps me to really get a feel for what my body needs in terms of food and sleep. It does save me money, I've noticed, as I glance at the can of coffee in my cabinet which is still almost full, and when I do drink coffee I can drink higher quality coffee and really appreciate it because I don't drink it often enought for the cost to be prohibitive. It also helps me to readujust to the effects of caffeine; by the end of the school year, I'm slurping 4-5 cups of coffee a day just to ward off exhaustion, and hardly feeling the results. After a light summer, when I start again in the fall, a cup of coffee really does the trick.

But this summer I've had the hardest time cutting out coffee. I don't know if it was because I had such a difficult end of the year, because I'm getting older, or simply because I had tipped my caffeine levels over the top, but I had the worst headaches and cravings. Because of this and the health worries it brought up for me, for the first time, I really felt the need to completely cut out caffeinated coffee, for at least short detox periods, instead of just to cut back.

Here are some of the strategies I've been enacting:

1. Drink more water. A lot of times my exhaustion is caused by dehydration, and when I try to fix the exhaustion with dehydrating coffee, I make it worse. The key here is to fix the problem while replacing the coffee habit with a water habit.

2. Switch to tea, then to herbal tea. I can assuage some of my caffeine cravings with a cup of green tea. If the inclination is not as strong then I have a cup of herbal tea, enjoying the experience of tea without the buzz.

3. Decaf coffee. For the first time, I've started getting decaf coffee when I go out with my friends at night. I really do like it almost as much as coffee, and there's no reason for me to be drinking caffeine at night. I'm trying to get my sleep schedule back on kilter here and rest up for the coming year.

4. Indulge. While I am consciously letting my body go through periods of detox, I am still enjoying a good cup of high quality coffee from time to time. When I simply forbid the coffee, I find myself stopping at coffee shops on my way places because I so desperately need the buzz - this definitely does NOT save me money, nor does it help my health. Rather, I keep some quality ground coffee in the apartment and every so often (not so often now), I brew up a cup in the afternoon and enjoy that perfect afternoon on the porch. Coffee should be something I associate with that one, relaxing cup that I enjoy as a treat, not with a giant paper cup that I am slurping down because I need it to survive.

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