Friday, January 31, 2014

Why I Gave Up Caffeine

30 days ago I stopped consuming caffeine (other than decaf coffee and decaf tea which do contain a very small amount of caffeine). I decided to quit caffeine as a one month experiment. I wanted to see how I would feel. After 1-2 weeks without caffeine, it became very apparent to me that I genuinely felt better.

I have been addicted to caffeine for 11 years. I started drinking it out of necessity when I worked nights, however, I kept drinking it after I abandoned my nocturnal lifestyle. My first love was GOOD coffee, then energy drinks, then GOOD coffee again. I didn't want to quit, but at the same time my energy level wasn't optimal. Caffeine's effect on me started to become barely noticeable and it eventually became something I HAD to consume or my body would rebel. So despite my own reluctance I gave it up. I consoled myself with thoughts like "it's only temporary" and "I can have it again on February 1st". Yet after I started feeling better, I wasn't sure I wanted caffeine in my life anymore?!?!  I couldn't believe I was feeling that way!

These are the changes I noticed since giving up caffeine:

1. I wake up with more energy.
This is an improvement since previously the only thing motivating to get up at 5:45 AM was my coffee pot.

2. Less anxiety.
My racing thoughts have slowed. I feel more calm. Overall I just feel less anxious, less wound up, and less hurried.

3. No afternoon and/or evening energy crash.
Previously, by 3 pm I needed a coffee fix because all I really wanted to do was go home and take a nap. Now my energy is very even. I feel very awake and alert throughout the day and into the night. And when I am tired, I go to bed or take a nap instead of masking the tiredness with caffeine.

4. Better able to express myself.
When I was caffeinated, my racing thoughts would make me want to say ten things at once. I had a hard time making my point and choosing which of the ten thoughts I should say. Now my mind is more relaxed and I can focus more clearly, therefore, better expressing myself.

5. There is nothing I "have to have" when I wake up.
I think it's nice not to HAVE to have something within  two hours 15 minutes of waking. A few days ago I only drank water with breakfast. Whoa.


Tomorrow is the day when I will be "allowed" to drink coffee again. Did I think about it? Yes. Am I thinking about it? Yes. But I already have my decaf in the coffeemaker so I think I will hold off. Do I think I will never have caffeine again? No. Yet, I'd like to save it for special circumstances.

Have you ever given up caffeine or something else you thought you couldn't live without?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

No Caffeine/No Alcohol Day 1 and 2 Recap

I made it! I'm almost through my second day without caffeine. I think all my friends are doing equally well.

Here's a quick summary of how things are going.

Sunday. I felt awful. On Sunday I had officially ran out of coffee in my house and I refused to buy any more. Why tempt myself? I drank a decaf latte in the morning....then went back to bed...but I couldn't sleep....so I forced myself to get up. I made it until 2:30pm then I went on a Starbucks run. However, I did order a HALF caf latte.

Monday. Slept like crap Sunday night. Drank a caffeinated homemade iced green tea latte in the morning. Went to work. Noticed myself feeling headache-y, cranky, irritable, and very tired. Left work, drove to Starbucks. Ordered second half caf latte of the week. Ahhhh.....

Tuesday. It was official. This was my last day with caffeine. I was eager to go to Starbucks one last time for my caffeine fix. I woke up with lots of energy and couldn't wait for that latte. My friends all sent me pics of their last caffeinated beverage and so we commiserated. I did have two glasses of wine later that evening (It was NYE!!!), but I am obviously not as attached to that beverage. Bon Voyage Vino.

Wednesday. This is my official day one without caffeine. I have decaf coffee and decaf green tea ready for consumption. I know these beverages have a very small amount of caffeine, but compared to what I was consuming, it's very minuscule. Maybe in time I will be able to let go of the decaf coffee altogether, but today is not that day. I had a decaf latte with almond milk, breakfast, and 3 ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is for the mild headache I woke up with. I didn't feel too bad throughout the day, but around 5-6 pm I had a craving for coffee. I made myself a half decaf coffee, half teeccino latte. Yum!

Thursday (today). Day 2. I woke up before my alarm with more energy than usual. I drank a decaf green tea latte, went to work, and felt pretty good until 11-ish. I did take two ibuprofen then for a mild headache. 11:15 AM. Coffee craving!!! Went to Starbucks and ordered a decaf latte. It's now 6 pm and I am feeling pretty good. I feel like I am over the difficult part of this process.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Decaffeination and Deprivation

Happy New Year!

So this year I decided to give up caffeine and alcohol for my new year's resolution. Don't give me too much credit, I only committed to one month of abstinence. I also recruited five other people to give them up with me. I hoped it would be mentally easier to give up my coffee knowing someone else was giving up theirs.

For those of you who don't know, I have a history of disordered eating and chronic dieting. That makes me very sensitive to completely restricting any food (coffee!) in my life. Even now, I eat a mainly vegan, plant-based diet, but I am unwilling to completely eliminate anything from my diet (except meat) because I don't want myself to ever feel deprived. And I am okay with that. I actually feel better about my food choices than I ever have.

But how do you get to that point?

Today I was reflecting back to 10 years ago. New Year's Day 2004. I was living in California and I was stuffing my face. Why? Because I was joining Jenny Craig the next day.

I had moved away from home 6 months prior, started working nights, was going through a break-up, and had gained a few pounds. I decided I needed to go on a diet to lose those extra pounds plus some. I gained a few more pounds before the diet began by eating lots of "forbidden" foods as I knew I wouldn't have them again for a very long time.

I did join Jenny Craig the next day and I stayed with her for 9 months. I ate only what was allowed on my 1200 calorie prepackaged food plan other than "free" foods like sugar-free jello, diet coke, and vegetables. I became a gym rat. I did lose weight, but I was miserable. When I stuck to this diet, I inflicted 9 months of deprivation on myself. As soon as I abandoned Jenny, I ate and ate and ate. I ate everything I had wanted the previous 9 months. Then I felt awful. I felt all of my hard work was for nothing. I also realized there had to be a better way!

Miraculously, I stumbled onto the "no-diet" approach and I haven't looked back. Basically, the no-diet approach is eating when you are hungry, eating whatever you want, and stopping when you are full.

At times, it's tempting to jump back on the dieting bandwagon, but when I think of what a miserable life it was, the temptation subsides.

I digress.

After I was able to get all of the unrestricted eating out of my system, I was then able to think a little bit more about WHAT I was eating without feeling deprived.

For me, I had to make peace food.

And now after all this time, things have shifted. I choose to eat the healthy option. Why? Because I feel better when I do both mentally and physically. BUT the trick is, you have to give yourself permission to absolutely choose the burgers and fries if you want them. You can't make the unhealthy food option off limits or you will feel deprived. Make all of your food choices neutral. Sometimes you will choose the healthier option and sometimes you will choose the unhealthier option. Over time as you continue to do this, pay attention to how you feel after eating certain things. Do you feel great after you eat fries for the fifth time in a week? Do you feel yucky after that big bowl of veggies?

I started noticing how much better I felt after eating healthy foods so I ate more of those. I chose the foods I considered unhealthy less often. And I don't feel deprived eating the healthy option anymore because guess what? Healthy foods are delicious! The benefits I get from healthy foods makes them more attractive to me. The unhealthy option is always there and I can always choose it if I want it....but most of the time I don't.

Caffeine is my last vice.

I used to be addicted to Monster Energy Drink and couldn't imagine going into a gas station and not buying one. However, I started feeling uncomfortable with this habit; it wasn't a part of the life I wanted to live. So I switched to coffee and green tea.

Lately, I have been feeling a lot a little addicted to coffee hence the New Year's resolution. I am curious to see if I will feel better without it. I told myself if I don't feel better at all, I can always introduce it back into my diet. Do I feel deprived 18 hours in? Not yet. Why? Because I am doing something that has the potential to positively affect my overall well-being and I am committed to seeing if it does.

Admittedly, this is a situation that does have the potential to make me feel deprived. Yet, I am going to strive to find the balance between decaffeination and deprivation.


Vegan Dip Duo

My husband wanted a plethora of dips on NYE 2013. I agreed to make two. He requested a taco dip which I thought was great because it would be super easy to make vegan. I decided to make Muhammara because it is seriously one of the best things dips I have ever eaten!

For those of you who don't know what Muhammara is, it is a red pepper dip. IT'S AMAZING!
I decreased the oil in this recipe by 1/2 cup because that is A LOT of oil. I also used regular molasses instead of pomegranate molasses. It still turned out great!



 Muhammara

Adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

1. One 10 ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2. 2/3 cup of plain bread crumbs
3. 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts
4. 4 garlic cloves, minced
5. 1 Tbsp of lemon juice
6. 2 tsp of molasses or pomegranate molasses
7. 1 tsp of cumin
8. 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
9. 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
10, 1/2 tsp of salt (optional)

Method

Process all ingredients, minus EVOO, in a food processor until smooth. With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Transfer dip to a bowl and serve at room temperature with pita wedges, veggies, tortilla chips, crackers, or bread.



Vegan Seven Layer Taco Dip

 

Ingredients

1. One can of vegetarian refried beans
2. One packet of taco seasoning (1 oz.)
3. One cup of ONE of the following: dairy-free cream cheese, sour cream, or plain yogurt
4. One can of chopped green chiles
5. One cup of salsa
6. Two cups of shredded lettuce
7. Four green onions, ends removed, onions sliced thin
8. One tomato, chopped
9. One-Two cups of guacamole or mashed avocado

Method

1. Mix beans with chiles and spread over the bottom of a large platter.
2. Mix taco seasoning with cream cheese, yogurt, OR sour cream and spread over bean layer. 
3. Next layer guacamole or avocado evenly over dip.
4. Spread salsa over avocado layer.
5. Layer lettuce over the salsa.
6. Top lettuce with green onions.
7. Top green onions with tomatoes.

Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!