I am on my final sips of a lukewarm mug of tea that I started almost an hour ago. During an interview once, the woman I was meeting with looked down at her takeaway cup of coffee and announced “Ah, these are just props anyway.” Each time I reach for my mug, I remember I’m just using a stand-in for what I really want: strong, hot, caffeine-laden coffee.I’ve gone through so many dietary phases that, sometimes, I get embarrassed about it. It feels fickle and nitpicky; it’s definitely a privilege to be able to choose what and where to eat. Yet I also firmly believe that diet and nutrition are at the center of feeling well. I tend to be very sensitive to how my body responds to different foods. (I know the anxiety I feel post-vacation is so often triggered by a week long feast on gluten.)
This past week, I decided to wean myself off coffee. Again. I had my first sip of the stuff when I was a kid. I remember getting a small cup of coffee at the diner when I was around seven or eight and loading it up with sugar and cream. When I had my first espresso, my parents laughed thinking I’d get one taste and spit it out. What did I do? I downed the whole thing like a seventy year old Neapolitan man instead of a seven year old kid. I loved it.
In the past, I gave up coffee after going to an Ayurvedic doctor who recommended cutting all acidic foods out of my diet. (I’m very pitta, what can I say?) It helped, so much. At the time I had a chronic inflammation that just wouldn’t go away until I followed her advice to a T. I’ve never had the issue again.
Recently, I found out that I have uterine fibroids, in addition to terrible sleep habits and hormonal issues. Coffee, of course, can contribute to all of these factors due to the effect it has on the body’s hormonal processes. Even more importantly, for me, is that coffee keeps me awake when I should be resting. I’m a terrible sleeper. When I feel tired, I don’t rest – I push. More than anything, the lack of good sleep hinders my ability to recover, especially from the intense training I’m doing, not to mention recovery from plain ol’ day to day living.
It’s fascinating because each time I go through the process, I remember how miserable I am the first week. I can’t stay awake. I have a perpetual headache. I’m cranky, sad, angry, hungry. I feel like a baby. Yet it also forces me to take better care of myself. If I feel so tired, I have to sleep more. The more I sleep, the less cranky I feel, the more I do more relaxing activities because everything else sounds terrible. It reminds me just how much I have this monstrous crutch in my life that prevents me from doing the actual things I need to do for myself. It forces me into more self-care.
I’m honestly hoping this change is more long-lasting than the other times I’ve stopped drinking coffee and caffeine in general. I’ll never be able to resist the warm, embracing smell of an espresso, but I can take it in moderation. In the meantime, I’ll just keep sipping my tea until I can break this habit. Or until I need a nap.