Monday, 14 January 2013

The Java Monkey On My Back

Welcome to the January 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Recovering from the Holidays This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about how their families get back to normal after the holidays are over. ***

Losing weight, detoxing, getting more exercise, or some other goal of getting healthy are typical new year resolutions after the hedonistic holiday season in December. We eat too much rich food, we drink too many adult beverages and we stay up too late.

I would love to have the time and energy to do another restrictive detox like I followed for almost a year when I was in my late twenties. I felt great, weighed less and was healthy. But I also couldn't go out for meals with friends, had to explain dietary restrictions for family meals and spent a great deal of my time planning, prepping and cooking meals.

I do need to get back into a regular exercise routine. I hope to complete another Sun Run in April, which means that I need to get back into a training schedule.

I sorely need yoga and meditation to ground my body and quiet my mind.

But for the new year, the one thing that I am going to do to feel healthier is try to restrict or gradually eliminate my caffeine intake.

I love pretty much everything about coffee. I love the morning ritual of making a pot of coffee; I love the smell of the beans as they are being ground and brewed. I have been drinking coffee, on and off, since my last year of high school when I was preparing for my grade 12 provincial exams. I began drinking coffee, black, to help me with my late hour studying and essay writing. Through my university years it was pretty much a necessity for survival, along with the culture of coffee. It seemed very adult to sit down with a cup of coffee and chat with friends.

After a variety of health issues I went to a naturopathic doctor and had food allergy testing done. I was told that I was intolerant to corn, sugar, dairy, chocolate and yes, coffee. As mentioned above, I followed a very restrictive candida detox to heal my body. The withdrawal symptoms from caffeine were quite painful; headaches, body aches, lethargy, moodiness - basically I felt like I had the flu for about five days. I vowed I would never go through that again, so I was coffee-free for eight years. After a particularly bad spell of sleep deprivation after my second daughter was born, however, I had a cup of coffee to help me cope. And the rest, as they say, is history.

My favourite organic, fair trade coffee: ethical bean coffee
a local company that makes me feel good about buying their product.

I now feel like I am a prisoner to coffee, rather than just enjoying my morning cuppa joe (or two or three). It is well known how our bodies build up a tolerance to caffeine and require more and more to have the same effect, and I am no exception. Over the past five years I have brewed stronger and stronger coffee, although I can no longer drink it black (I love making my faux lattes with a milk frother). The end result is that I can no longer function in the morning until I have had my first cup of the day. I make my poor family drive around to find the nearest coffee place when we are on vacation and I don't have access to a coffee pot where we are staying. Basically I don't like being controlled by my addiction, so it is time to stop.

What clinched the deal for me is reading more and more about the negative health effects of an acidic diet. Eating too many overly acidic foods not only depletes calcium from our bones but is linked to a variety of health concerns, including cancer. I'm not good at explaining information about this because I am not a nutritionist or naturopath. This video explains some health problems related to pH and our diet:

I realize that coffee is just one of the offending acidic foods that I consume on a daily basis but I am starting small with this one and picking on the number one drink in the world because of the grief it is causing me.
Even my students know about my coffee addiction. 
This lanyard for my keys and whistle was a gift from 
a group of students a few years ago.

Cutting out coffee will mean that I can reduce the milk and cream that I consume (which currently is fairly minimal). As I've mentioned, I have an intolerance to dairy products (which is not surprising as being lactose tolerant is a genetic mutation in humans - mammals don't consume milk from their mothers past weaning). This will eliminate another acidic food. I'm already motivated to start incorporating more whole foods into my diet as a result of this, which will increase alkaline foods in my diet.
In my humble opinion this is the best latte in town, from 
my favourite coffee shop, Bean and Beyond in Steveston, 
just a short walk from my home. 

There's just one problem: I need to replace coffee with something else in the morning, for the short term at least. I like the ritual of sitting down with a hot drink, but I'm not a tea drinker. I do enjoy some herbal teas like liquorice root, chamomile, lemon and mint but I definitely do not like green tea.
On the morning walk to school 
with my daughters, the ever present 
coffee in hand.

So my plan is to continue cutting back on the amount of coffee I drink each morning to avoid the withdrawal symptoms I experienced in the past (which I cannot go through again, especially with three young daughters). The headaches alone were torture and made we want to drive a railway spike into my skull. As I continue to reduce my caffeine intake I am going to experiment with other morning drinks. I tried this tea, made with lemon, cinnamon and cayenne, but I had to add a spoonful of honey to make it drinkable. I will continue to experiment with it (perhaps adding ginger?) to see if it lives up to its promise of staving off cravings and helping to detox.
From a tea party with my grandma and my daughters.

I am an all or nothing kind of person, but this time I think I'm going to go easy on myself. While completely eliminating coffee would be a good thing, I do truly enjoy drinking it and if I take a break from drinking java for a while I may come back. Or not. We shall see.


So much for going easy on myself; I either do something or I don't, there is no in-between. I was anxious to get going with this coffee detox thing so I skipped ahead to eliminating coffee sooner than I had planned. I'm currently on day six of no coffee with only a medium-sized headache on day three. I have noticed that I am quite fatigued in the afternoon (on my days off this past week I've had a little nap) and falling asleep earlier in the evening (sometimes sleeping on the couch until 2:00 am!). I haven't had the same energy to do things (crafts, baking) in the evening, which could also be due to the fact that I'm back at work after the winter break. I'm noticing that I'm hungrier too, so I have to make sure that I have healthy snacks readily available (Friday after work I wolfed down half a large bag of potato chips... oops). Time to try some of the healthy, whole food snacks I've pinned on Pinterest. One of the more obvious withdrawal symptoms, to my family at least, is my short temper and lack of coping ability. Sorry family! It will get better, I promise.

But I do miss coffee today. I miss sitting down and smelling it before I take a sip. I miss the false energy I get from it (everything is more difficult today). I know I'll come out of this soon, but I'm licking my wounds today.

Something interesting that I've noticed, when talking to people about quitting coffee, is that most people cannot understand why I would want to do this. I am not one to proselytize and so I have generally avoided going into food pH other health concerns. They see no problem with building up a tolerance to caffeine and they say that I should just drink more. Perhaps I should just keep my plans to myself (and then write them here instead).

I have found a delicious tea, through a work colleague, to replace my coffee intake. It has cinnamon, roasted carob and chicory, cardamom and ginger (the tea may be increasing my appetite). A side effect benefit of drinking three to four mugs of tea a day is that I'm increasing the amount of water I drink, which is always a good thing, and will hasten the detox. Yay!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting this March!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Pinterest Inspiration for Easier Winter Holidays Shannon, writing at Natural Parents Network, shares inspiration for having more relaxed winter holidays from their Handmade Holidays Pinterest board.
  • Seven Recipes for Beans - Post Holiday Cleaning — Destany at They Are All of Me shares her favorite bean recipes that she hopes will help her body recover from overindulging her sweet tooth during the holidays.
  • The Recovery in the Change — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen made changes in her life and attitude throughout 2012 and was pleasantly surprised at how those changes impacted her holiday recovery!
  • Could this question change your life for ever? — To get your new year off on the right footing, Mrs Green of Little Green Blog is challenging us all to love ourselves with commitment and discipline. She asks you to focus on a simple question which might just bring you back in balance...
  • Holiday Recovery — Meegs at A New Day talks about how the holidays can be overwhelming for a toddler, and how she's helping her 3 year old recover.
  • 5 Ways to Detox After the Holidays — Brittany at The Pistachio Project gives a few ways to help you detox and get back on track after the holiday season has passed.
  • 3 Simple Ways to Establishing Rhythm After the Holidays or Any Time — Sheila at A Living Family shares 3 simple ways to reestablish a rhythm of connection and calm in your family after holidays, visitors, travel or any time.
  • Gemstones For Holiday Hangoverss — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama delves into the power of gemstones as an often overlooked means of dealing with the holiday letdown.
  • Getting back to Healthy — Bess at A Warrior Mom talks about the struggle of getting young ones back to eating healthy after several days to weeks of getting more candy and sweets than normal for the holidays and gives some suggestions on how to get them back to eating healthy in the new year.
  • Post Christmas Juice Feast — Sam at Love Parenting explains why she has created a new tradition of juice feasting, and how she includes her toddler when detoxing.
  • The Java Monkey On My Back — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs realizes it is time to kick her cup of Joe habit as a first step toward detoxing.
  • Minimalist Holidays — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn't find much need for recovery after her minimalist version of the holidays.
  • Do something for you — Lauren at Hobo Mama urges you to find a silly and indulgent reward of me-time — and she has hers.
  • do we recover? — Kenna at Million Tiny Things wonders what recovery really means in the context of the tragedies of this past holiday season.
  • 37 Easy Ways to Save Money — Shannon at GrowingSlower is sharing these money-saving tips to help get your budget back on track after the holidays.
  • A Two Year Old's ResolutionsThat Mama Gretchen is putting the holidays behind her with a spin on traditional resolutions — New Year's goals for her two-year-old! Sound crazy? Read on for an explanation!
  • How to Find Balance after the Holidays — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her favorite ways to start a new year with hope and calmness.
  • Fresh Awakening — For Luschka at Diary of a First Child, the new year has coincided with a return to restful nights. With sleep, she's found new directions in life, but while she can't make too many changes to her life right now, she's inspired and excited about the future.
  • Learning to slow down after a busy Festive Season Stoneageparent describes the joys and lows of this year's festive season, as well as her New Year's resolutions.
  • Detoxing' Your Toddler After the Holidays — Does your family suffer side effects from the holidays? Join Christine from African Babies Don't Cry to learn how she detoxed herself and her toddler off the treats and festivities of the season.
  • Scheduling is OK! — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep explores the possibilities of the — SCHEDULE!!
  • We're Saving their First Christmas for Next Time — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot takes it easy after moving with her husband and new babies to Scotland.
  • A Vacation from the World — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children retreats with her family at the end of every year in order to recuperate and enjoy one another.
  • On the Road to Recovery — Dionna at Code Name: Mama isn't just recovering from the holidays, she's recovering from a lifestyle.
  • We Never Left the GrindErika Gebhardt compares a typical day pre-holidays and post-holidays.
  • Remembering and Recovering from the Holidays (One day at a time) — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM is recovering from holidays slowly--taking one day at a time--while trying to remember all the sweet moments that passed too quickly.
  • 5 a Day — To get back on track Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy needed a simple system to help her family learn new values.
  • Holiday Detox & Healing: Bieler Broth — Megan at The Boho Mama shares her secret for a gentle, whole-foods-based post-holiday detox: Bieler Broth!
  • I'm Mama Not Supermom — After a year filled with changes Angela at EarthMamas World has to remind herself that she does not have to be supermom while recovering from the holiday chaos.


  1. Can I suggest loose leaf tea? I've been a lukewarm tea drinker (as in enthusiasm, not temperature - heh) for years. But seeing all of the loose leaf tea reviews for the NPN Holiday Gift Guide sparked my curiosity, and I have become a convert. (Don't get me wrong - I'm still consuming a couple cups of coffee in the morning!) I went to a local herbal store and picked out two different types of loose leaf tea blends, looking for ingredients that I like (spearmint, licorice, chamomile), and I love both of them! Plus, I got 1-2oz of each, and they were super affordable - probably cheaper than a box of tea bags and they'll last longer. Good luck with your detox!!

    1. Great idea for loose leaf tea! I like the idea of mixing my own preferred flavours rather than store bought tea bags. Must get some.

  2. I also love loose leaf teas! There are some truly fabulous ones.
    Good luck kicking the coffee to the curb. I discovered in my early 20's that I am very susceptible to caffeine. If I have even too much tea in a week, my insomnia comes back. It's so hard while your kids are little and you are so tired not to take the easy solution.

    1. I can't drink black tea - for some reason it affects me more than coffee does (?). I have been noticing that I have been staying up way to late and since kicking the habit I have no problems going to bed. Unfortunately I have gotten used to those extra hours at night, even if it makes me feel horrible in the morning and has been affecting my overall health.

  3. Oh, good luck! I cold-turkeyed from a 9-cup-a-day habit years ago. I was off for a long time but now go back and forth. I drink it out but don't make it at home, usually. Here's my tip for stopping--TMI alert for the prudish, stop reading now: Smooth Move tea (comes in more than one flavor). Because the coffee acts as a bowel stimulant, so you might need some help! I know I felt much less sluggish once I found the tea.

    1. Oh definitely not TMI! Believe me, that was one thing I have been worried about with this! Thanks for the tea suggestion. If things slow down I will be looking for Smooth Move tea!

  4. For me it's diet soda, so I should follow your plan! I've been noticing the effects lately of too many late nights and too much caffeine (so hard to calm my mind to sleep). My husband's gung-ho to go cold turkey for our whole family, though I'm really nervous. Thanks for the injection of your own bravery! :)

    1. Good luck if you decide to drop the diet soda! Sometimes cold turkey is the only way to go (it is easy to cling to old habits), not that I"m saying it is best for everyone.

      I can't imagine the will power of people quitting smoking or drinking. They are heroes.

  5. I too used to be a huge coffee drinker, but went off the taste completely the moment I became pregnant, and haven't been able to stomach it since. It needed to go and I feel so much fresher in the mornings now - I start the day with just hot water, but drink lots of herbal tea throughout the day. I completely avoid milk too and agree that mammals are not designed to drink milk past weaning, but then again, in our distorted culture weaning happens far earlier than our species has evolved to expect! Good luck!

    1. I didn't experience going of coffee with my first two babies because I wasn't drinking coffee at the time but I hear you with my last pregnancy but I went back to it. I was surprised by the comments and looks I got buying a coffee with a big pregger belly.

  6. Isn't tea also a diuretic? I don't recall for sure. Good on you for quitting coffee! I've never been a coffee drinker, I can't stand the stuff. But I drink water and milk almost exclusively.

    Have you ever looked into the PH of the water you drink? I've been drinking Kangen Water that I get through the filter at my Chiropractor's office. I'd also like to recommend B12 to help with fatigue. It works for me when I have a hard time.

    1. Great minds think alike - I've started taking B complex again!

      When I'm sick coffee tastes like I'm eating a handful of dirt.

  7. awesome job with making the commitment to quite coffee. With everything I have quite recently, coffee is not on my immediate "to cut" list but eventually will be. I have cut it for pregnancies but even then, only for the first trimester. I happen to be reading all this while enjoying my oversized mug full of home ground, fresh brewed coffee. And the thought of an allergy to coffee kills me! oh goodness. Shrimp makes me break out to touch and I still eat it so I think coffee will be on my same list- if my throat doesnt swell closed from it, im still having it. LOL I know, eventually I will get there! just not this morning. :)

    1. Ahhh, I can smell it from here, haha! I hear you about eating things we love even if it is not what we should eat - even though dairy can build up over time and be an issue for me, I'm not sure if I could give up cheese ever again (too many of my favourite foods include cheese). I guess the key is moderation, right?

      I'm sorry you are allergic to shrimp - yum yum. :-(

  8. The one big upside to never developing a taste for coffee is never having to go through this. Sending good thoughts!

    1. Yes, your method makes the most sense, lol! I regret going back to coffee after I went through this the first time.

      So far so good - don't miss it in the morning now. I love the extra time that has been created at the start of my day.

      Thanks for the good thoughts.

  9. High five to you, Chirsty
    That’s a great blog. I really appreciate your efforts

    Organic Fair Trade Coffee Beans