I Caved In to My Caffeine Craving… And I Don’t Regret It!

I share a life-lesson learned each day. Today is an update on my experiment to give up caffeine for six months.

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I gave up caffeine for six months starting about five months ago. I didn’t quite make it. I broke for a latte while in the middle of moving to a new apartment. I was exhausted physically and mentally but I knew I needed energy to make it through the day.

Since giving up caffeine was more of an experiment on a lark anyway, I discussed it at length with Nicole (who gave up caffeine with me even though she did not have to) and we decided to stop at Kahwa Coffee. I had a Vanilla Pumpkin Spice latte with Soy, and it was amazing. Everything I remembered about my morning lattes. Warm, sweet, and satisfying.

Giving up caffeine, for me, has been a fairly useless experiment over the past five months. I have not gained or lost a pound. I do not sleep any better or worse. I have no more or less energy than before. Other than the four days of minor headaches when I gave up caffeine, its absence has had no discernible impact on my life. I didn’t even save money by giving up my expensive Starbucks addiction. The money just went elsewhere to presumably equally wasteful vices.

The way caffeine works is once you have established a routine dosage, its positive effects even out and you are mostly just staving off withdrawal symptoms after that. In other words, caffeine has a smaller and smaller effect on most people the more they consume it (like most drugs).

That being said, my latte on moving day was like having my first beer–one drink and I was lit. Because I have not had caffeine in so long, the latte was like a super dose and in no time I had the energy needed to make it through the day. It was like having a shot of adrenaline that lasted four hours–I plowed ahead and felt awake and alert.

The lesson I learned about caffeine is the same lesson I learned from minimalism: Less is More.

That was the only latte I had and I have not had another one since but now I know if you stay away from caffeine it won’t make much difference to your life. Except that when you really need that sugary dose of espresso… it can be like super charging your battery. I like the idea of using caffeine sparingly. If it does not do me good all the time, then I do not need to have it all the time.

Waking up with a nice herbal tea blend is not that bad either.

 

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My Current Experiments

Today’s Lesson: Try, try, and try again.

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I have written before about the importance of living “an experimental life“. I think one of the best things we can do to experience the most life has to offer is to be curious and experiment. You can experiment with big stuff or easy stuff. It doesn’t matter. The point is to change your life around, turn it upside down now and then, and find out who you really are. You might find what is necessary in your life by distilling what is unnecessary. I thought you might like to know 3 of my current life experiments, just for fun. I have a lot of experiments going on but here are three that revolve around better sleep (something many of us struggle with):

 

1. Giving up caffeine. I still have mixed feelings about this one but I can definitely say there have been advantages. I think this is only week three but I have had no lattes (my daily habit for the last 6 years or so), no soda, no caffeinated teas. I drink water, herbal teas, mineral water, and sometimes club soda, kombucha, or tonic water.

So far, I have lost two pounds over three weeks (nothing to do with the caffeine, I know, but the sugar in the lattes) and I am sleeping a little better, but to be honest, I have not noticed a dramatic difference. Still, a little better is still better. I have slightly more energy throughout the day (but again, probably not the caffeine so much as the missing sugar crash). Stupid Starbucks. I’ll stay caffeine free indefinitely but the results, I would say, are out so far on this one.

2. No screens for at least 30 minutes before bed, and no screens in the bedroom. This has been a tough one. Not only do I typically check my social media and email before bed, but also it is how I like to wind down. Nicole and I will snuggle up and watch an episode of something on Netflix or some YouTube videos right before bed. However, all leading research in the field points to screen time as one of the biggest culprits for sleepless nights, throwing off our circadian rhythm. Stupid evolution. We have also banned all other non-sleep activities (except adult play-time) from the bedroom.

We have a fun fill-in, though. We sit across from each other on the sofa before bed, and take turns reading a book to each other. One person reads while the other massages their feet, and then we switch. It is wonderful!

So far, I seem to be sleeping slightly (but again, not remarkably) better. This might also be due to the caffeine thing.

3. Waking up a half-hour later. This was a risky experiment but it has been paying off the most, so far. I normally wake up at 6am and leave the apartment by 7. Usually, I arrive to work with about 10 to 15 minutes to spare, depending on traffic. Personally, I find the thought of waking up before the sun disgusting and appalling and I can not believe that any human would do it voluntarily. Stupid society. Out of desperation and anger, I decided to draw a line in the sand. I had no idea how I would hustle fast enough to get out the door on time, but I was done waking up at 6.

I decided to set my alarm for 6:30 and see what happened. Turns out, I just do everything faster. It is a bit of a rush and I end up leaving closer to 7:10 now, but I have not been late yet (it would be okay if I was but I take it as a matter of pride to always be where I agree to be when I agree to be there). Oddly enough, I also wake up before the alarm goes off.

This is the most dramatic of the experiments so far, in both action and results. Just waking up on my own 10 or 15 minutes later than when my alarm was set makes a HUGE difference in how I feel for the rest of the day. Less “fogginess”, less anger, less pouting, more energy, more efficiency (I love efficiency!), and no real loss of time. It’s crazy.

 

So there you are. Quick update on some of my current little life experiments. What are you trying, or what can you  try, to keep yourself in the mindset of living an experimental life?

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Is It Possible To Live Without Caffeine?

Today’s Lesson: It’s all in your head.

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I love my morning latte. It’s sweet warm embrace is like a peppy (but not obnoxiously optimistic) friend that greets me and lets me know “Today is going to be alllright.”

The problem is, I have mixed feelings about caffeine. First of all, I don’t particularly like the taste of coffee or plain espresso so there is no point in switching to decaf. That is like saying, “I just want stained teeth and bad breath with no benefits.” Only crazy self-flagellating anarchists drink decaf.

I also like soda, and only the kind with caffeine. I don’t know why. Maybe they mix up the formula for caffeine-free Pepsi. I am not sure what caffeine itself tastes like but it is not the same as regular refreshing delicious dark carbonated molasses nectar Pepsi. Instead, it tastes like Pepsi without caffeine, which is basically like drinking San Pellegrino. Why not just jump out a window?

Finally, I can not find any convincing evidence that caffeine is bad for you. Sure, it is known to give you hillbilly teeth and zombie breath and can explode your heart and deplete iron like a black hole, but I am not convinced it’s bad for you. Watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians does all those same things but we still tune in, right?

Anyway, it has now been 5 years since I have had caffeine. Wait a second. No. Then Kardashians would only be on Season Four. 5 days. It’s been 5 days since I’ve had caffeine (but, man, it feels like 5 years).

I think the reason I keep giving up caffeine is because I don’t trust anything so “needy”. It clings to you like that stray piece of plastic wrap from the DVD you just bought–that little clear strip that you try to shake off your hand into the trash can, like, seven times before you are convinced it is really gone. Clingy.

One thing is for sure. Giving up caffeine is actually not that hard. Giving up the relationship to caffeine is the tough part–it is almost all mental. Quitting caffeine cold turkey only gives you a headache and a little tiredness for a day or two, no different from sitting through Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

Nonetheless, I am taking a break from caffeine again. If my sleep and energy seems unaffected then I will probably crawl back to my morning latte where I know I will find sweet, warm, comfort waiting with those tender, loving words I long to hear each morning:

“Welcome to Starbucks. The usual today?”

Otherwise, it’s probably San Pellegrino and the nearest window for me.

 

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An Easy Way To Have More Energy

Some days seem to drag while others zip by. You are the same person every day, so why don’t you have the same energy each day?

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Some nights you sleep well, some are a struggle. For the most part, you have your daily routines, eat pretty much the same types of food, and for the most part have the same amount of activity each day.

It all seems to average out but I have noticed people’s energy (meaning awareness, activity, and acuity) is all over the map. Some days we drag and feel sluggish, others we seem to come out swinging and hit home runs all day! Why isn’t our energy level average most days?

The easy answers, I know, are always external factors like sleep, caffeine, exercise, etc. Today, while I was driving, the sky was overcast and I did not care for the music playing in my car and I felt really bored and on the borderline of a headache. Then, one of my favorite songs came on just as the sun came out and before I knew it, I was singing and tapping my feet and I felt lively and alert.

During moments of the day, I had lots of energy–when I was engaged and enjoying myself, and during other moments all I wanted to do was nap.

I thought I did not sleep well last night or maybe I needed an extra caffeine or sugar boost today. Then I realized I was responding to external stimuli but the energy was coming from inside of me the whole time. I generated the energy I wanted when I wanted it. When I felt bored or depressed in a moment, I let that take over. All I had to do, though, was put on a good song, or smile and move and suddenly I felt better. I could have done that the whole time!

 

Today’s Lesson: You choose your energy level.

 

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Waking Up Tired

That fuzzy-headed, throbbing-pulsing, vision blurring moment when you wake up and remember you only fell asleep an hour and a half ago…

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Since I don’t drink alcohol that often, it is pretty rare for me to hang up having regretted the night before. I know the feeling, though, of waking up nauseous to a spinning room. Sometimes it happens just from having too much fun the night before and not going to bed early enough.

Nicole and I spent most of last night making each other laugh when we knew we both needed to be up early. The only problem was, we were having so much fun it seemed worth it.

It totally was.

Of course, we both woke up tired and added an extra shot to our lattes but a little lost sleep is only regrettable if the penalty is lasting damage to your health, wealth, or well-being.

 

Today’s Lesson: You should always get plenty of rest. Except when it is more fun not to (but observe the difference between really having fun and sort-of being entertained–only one of them is worth it).

 

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Never Too Latte

How badly do you need a caffeine jump in the morning?

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I love soy lattes. One of my favorite parts of my day is my morning latte. Sometimes I make my own at home; sometimes I buy them from Starbucks, Biggby, or one of my favorite local coffee shops like Lantern, The Sparrows, MadCap, or Kava House. They are all great (but Kava House and Lantern are a step above anyone else).

I sometimes debate whether the daily dose of espresso and sugar is detrimental to my physical health and mental acuity. I fear becoming comfortable with the rush and crash of sugar or the addiction of caffeine. Probably twice a year for the last few years, I have given up lattes (or caffeine in general) for weeks or months at a time, for fear of being addicted to my morning cup of warm, bittersweet bliss.

Each time I give up caffeine, I suffer an annoying headache for two days but once the headache is gone, I have no other side effects or qualms about not having lattes. I do not have a difficult time waking up or falling asleep, my energy levels seem to be the same, and I do not find myself pining for lattes or glad to be rid of them.
I just enjoy them; they are an easy way to start a day and relax for a few sips.

I think most of my agonizing has been because I have heard many times that people are unable to wake up without caffeine. I have also heard caffeine is terrible for our health and we should avoid it. I do not think either is exactly true.

Today’s lesson: People say a lot of things. Most of it is inaccurate, untrue, or based on misguided pretenses or vague information. The simple way to tell if something is good or bad for you is this: listen to your body. Your body does not care about marketing, peer pressure, or social rationalizations. If your body is alerting you something is bad, it almost certainly is. Unless or until that happens, don’t worry too much. Enjoy your latte or don’t. Just do not harm others or yourself intentionally.

Note: Of course, when I say, “listen to your body”, this means you have to know how to listen to your body, something with which most of us are out of practice… but that is a different post.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Better Latte Than Never [140903]

I drink a latte every day… a large one. Sometimes I make it at home; sometimes I buy it, but I never miss a day. It is a guilty pleasure and easily one of my favorite parts of the day.

Because lattes are made with espresso (and steamed milk–soy or coconut milk for me), they have a lot of caffeine. I never drank coffee before my affection for morning lattes and I don’t drink a lot of soda or other caffeinated beverages.

I gave up lattes over the weekend; this is my 3rd day free from caffeine (other than a cup of black tea) and boy am I feeling the withdrawal. My head has been pounding the last two days and I have been pretty surly (good thing I am on vacation so only Nicole has to put up with me–she is a real trooper, not taking anything personally and being supportive–I couldn’t ask for a better support system). I have quit lattes before so I know the headache will only last another day or two and I will be happier once I get through it.

So… if you love something and it doesn’t hurt anybody else, why give it up? For me, I am giving up my morning addiction for two reasons:

  1. I can’t get along the same without it. My caffeine headache is proof enough I have become reliant on my morning treat. That means I am no longer the one in control of my life–the caffeine is now dictating my behavior and actions. That is unacceptable.
  2. It is not contributing anything to me. I enjoy the morning sugar bomb and the little energy kick it pretends to deliver (I had the same energy before I started drinking espresso; it has only replaced what was already there). Overall, though, it is just liquid calories that do more to make me fat and lazy than to give me extra zip. Why would I want to keep doing that?

I might still enjoy a latte as a rare treat after I know I am the one making the decisions again, but for now, it’s good-bye to the morning sugar rush and getting my body and mind back in alignment.

It was a good run, lattes, but I have better things to do now. Sorry about your luck.

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