Dear Coffee

Cup of coffee

I gave up coffee about three months ago.  That may not sound like a big deal to some, but for me, it was huge.  It was something I had been thinking about doing for a while for various reasons that I will get into, but never really thought I could accomplish.  And you know what I learned through this whole process?

That I am more alert now, without drinking coffee, than I ever was when I drank it every day.

For a long time I wasn’t a big coffee drinker.  In fact, my parents never really were so it wasn’t around my house growing up, and I somehow made it through college without ever really drinking any either.  I just didn’t know what life was like under the influence of a coffee-induced caffeine buzz, so it didn’t even cross my mind to try.  Plus I thought it tasted disgusting.

Fast forward to my mid twenties and the advent of the Keurig coffee machine.  That is what got me hooked.  Thankfully I didn’t like sugar in my coffee so didn’t get addicted to that sweetness so many need, but I loved my morning joe with a good (and I mean good) dollop of half and half.  None of that drinking it black business.  Yuck.

For the past five or six years I drank multiple cups of coffee a day and believed I would never be able to go through a day without it again.  I believed that I was well and truly hooked on the stuff.  In fact, when I would do cleanses that didn’t allow me to drink any, my cravings flared and got pretty unbearable.  No caffeine headaches per say (which led me to believe I wasn’t addicted…), but just huge can’t-stop-thinking-about-it cravings. Not addicted you say?  Yeah, I know.

In all seriousness, I really thought I needed it.  I have struggled with fatigue for many years as a result of imbalances in my thyroid and adrenals.  Some days I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open at my desk the fatigue was so bad.  So, while I grappled with trying to understand why a normal thirty-something couldn’t stay awake at her desk job, I reached for the coffee to jolt me back to life.

I had to be careful with how much I drank though.  Too much and I would get heart palpitations.  Too late in the day (my cutoff was 3 pm) and I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night.

The fatigue issue aside, I began seriously considering giving coffee up when I thought about eliminating dairy from my diet.  Dairy is a common allergen and can contribute to gas, bloating and acne, three things that I have struggled with.  Also, I was worried that the non-organic half and half I was consuming in copious amounts at Starbucks would impact my health long-term as well (not to mention the sheer expense of coffee purchased at Starbucks).  I tried the non-dairy creamers, which paled in comparison (plus many of them have added sugar).  And those creamers at the office in little containers that don’t need to be refrigerated?  Not anywhere close to natural, so I avoided those too.

In addition, one of my health professionals told me that consuming coffee actually makes it even harder for my adrenals to function properly.  Really?  You’d think coffee would help our little adrenals to do their job, and while it does increase the stimulation of these glands, it may actually wear them out and increase vulnerability to a variety of health disorders related to inflammation and fatigue.

But I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to stay awake at work that I put all of these health concerns aside for a long time and just kept on drinking. Though it honestly never really helped too much, unless I drank enough and got right to the brink of drinking too much.

One day I upped and sold my Keurig on Craigslist.  Not sure how I got the inspiration exactly, but it was my first step towards quitting the habit.  Second step, going to black coffee.  That took some getting used to... Then one day I decided my coffee just didn’t taste good anymore and stopped.  And I haven’t looked back since.  (Though, to be honest, I’m a little scared to even try it lest I get addicted again!).

Since that day in November when I said goodbye to my addiction, I have rarely had the same feelings of extreme fatigue that I had almost every day at work when I drank coffee.  If I do need a pick-me-up these days, I turn to green tea, and occasionally black. 

So is coffee the reason I was so tired?  Perhaps.  Maybe my adrenals were just so toasted from being pushed along for so long that they finally got to working right once they were one their own.

Whatever the reason, it has certainly been a learning experience and a positive step forward with my health.  Now, I’m not panning coffee (though maybe all the sugar we add to it).  I know plenty of people out there who drink it every day.  It was just a positive step for me and my health.  We are all different creatures and need different things in our lives to get us to our healthiest state.  For some that includes coffee, for others like me, it doesn’t.

But an even bigger moral of the story?  I accomplished something that I never thought I would be able to do.  Something I considered out of the realm of normal possibility in my life.  All health gains aside, that is pretty freaking huge.  If I can get over this obstacle, what’s stopping me from tackling my next big task? 

Absolutely nothing.

Peace, love and freedom,

The Yogi~Foodie

CC image courtesy of Susanne Nilsson on flickr

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Small Changes to Big Results

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As I wrote in my last post when I discussed S.M.A.R.T. Goals, this time of year is the most popular time to set goals and commit to new and positive life changes.  In fact, approximately 45% of Americans make new years resolutions.  I am all for this.  I think taking time to reflect on our lives and figure out how we can be healthier is great.  I myself am doing a three week cleanse and abstaining from alcohol, sugar, caffeine, red meat and processed foods to help get my body to a more balanced and healthier state.  Changes like these are positive and a great way to ring in the new year with a fresh start.

But many times we approach these changes we want to make the wrong way. 

We live in a society that wants immediate results.  Gone are the days of carrier pigeons and handwritten correspondence.  Today is the era of email, texting, one-click shopping and daily (or hourly, in many cases) delivery.  Life is fast-paced and we have grown to expect fast response, from ourselves and from others. 

This translates over to our goals as well.  Let’s face it, we aren’t a very patient bunch.  When we want change, we want it now.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the weight loss and diet industries.  Somewhere along the way we were convinced that finding optimum health and reaching weight loss goals was as simple as taking this pill, ordering this meal delivery service or skipping breakfast.  Doing two-a-days at the gym or doing a juice cleanse.

But I ask you this – how are any of these things sustainable?  What will happen when you get so exhausted that you can’t keep on waking up for that early morning workout or simply lunge for that box of cookies in the break room at work because you are so incredibly hungry after skipping breakfast.  What will happen when you stop ordering the meal delivery service because you are tired to eating frozen meals out of a carton for dinner every night?

That’s right, you gain it all back.  And that really stinks.  It makes me sad to think about all of the people I talk to or hear about who have been on this never-ending cycle of ups and downs.  Chances are you have (or still are) on this path or know someone who is.

Approximately 73% of those people who make resolutions give up before meeting their goal.  Lofty goals are not sustainable and lead to heartache and a feeling of failure.  Granted, social media and pop culture don’t make it very easy for us.  We are enticed by stories for regular people just like us who lost 80 pounds and now feel the best they have ever felt.  We see pictures of celebrities plastered on magazines and on TV looking all glammed up and fabulous and want to be just like them.

Since regular life isn’t like The Biggest Loser or Keeping Up With the Kardashians, what can we do?

Well, how about baby steps?  Let’s start with making one or maybe two changes at a time.  One to two changes that don’t take us too far away from our daily life.  In fact, the easier these changes can be made part of your daily routine, the better our chance of success.  Once these changes are mastered and fully assimilated into your daily life, let’s think of one to two more changes to tackle. 

Picture a line of dominos.  The first domino is your first change and the last is your end goal.  First you start with one domino, tackle it and master it.  Your success helps drive you to tackle domino number two.  On and on you go until you reach your final domino.  Of course the entire process takes a lot longer than it does to knock over dominos, but you get the picture.

Everyone’s small changes are going to be different because we are all have different lives.  Let’s say you don’t work out at all.  Maybe your one small change can be taking a 15 minute walk a few days a week.  Or maybe you are a big soda drinker.  Maybe your one small change can be limiting yourself to 1 soda a day and substituting flavored water for the others.  Or maybe you eat primarily processed foods.  Maybe your one small change can be eating an apple a day.

Instead of going from no exercise routine to the gym 5 days a week, meet yourself where you currently are.  Take the stairs one step at a time instead of trying to hop directly to the top, because you are guaranteed to fall when you try that.

If you want to lose 20 pounds, take it one day at a time.  What is one small change you can make to your diet every day?  Maybe it’s eating something small for breakfast instead of skipping it altogether.  Maybe it’s eating a piece of fruit after dinner instead of dessert.  Or maybe it’s only having one dessert a day instead of two.

Let’s face it, change isn’t easy.  And I’m certainly not implying here that make one small change at a time is going to be a cakewalk.  Any change is tough, no matter how big or small.  What I am saying is that small changes over time give you a better shot at reaching your goal and maintaining that goal for a length of time.  They are more realistic, more sustainable.  They are S.M.A.R.T..

And one day you might slip up and not go to the gym as you planned or eat a bunch of cookies.  That’s okay.  One step backward, two steps forward.  Take time to sit and think about your goal and how far you have come.  Re-motivate yourself again.  Pick up and keep on moving forward.  Mistakes are how we learn.

What is one small change you can make today to bring you closer to your goal?

Peace, love and baby steps,

The Yogi~Foodie

CC image courtesy of Sean McGrath on flickr

New Years Resolution Tips

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

We’ve all got them.  Things we want to accomplish in the new year.  Goals we want to meet.  It’s a common thing to ask someone this time of year.  “Got any New Year’s resolutions?”  The Trader Joes employee ringing up my groceries last week even asked me.

Many times we set resolutions so grand that they are completely unobtainable.  They take on the quality of dreams or things that may happen “if I get my act together.”  What’s the point in that?  I feel like this way of approaching it will only lead to disappointment, and who wants to start a new year feeling disappointed?

I’d rather feel inspired, driven, excited, ready to take on a new challenge and grow in a new way.  Sounds a lot better right?  When you set goals or resolutions a certain way, you make them more effective and increase your chances of achieving them.  It also makes them less overwhelming.

So let’s look at resolutions and make them S.M.A.R.T..  By following this acronym, we will break down an overall goal into clear steps that can be tracked, so you can see your progress and improvement over time.  And when you can start to see some real progress?  That’s one heck of a motivation to keep on going…

So what does S.M.A.R.T. mean?  We will walk through it using my goal for 2016, which is to begin a 200 hour certified yoga instructor training program.

S is for Specific

Be as detailed as possible in your goal.  The more information you gather, the more you will achieve what you had in mind in the first place.  Some good questions to answer include:  Who is involved?, What do you want to accomplish?, When?, Where?, Why?, Which requirements and constraints exist?.

Using my goal as an example…  My first step is to determine the approximate cost of programs, the location of studios that offer training and the amount of my time a program will require.  I know most programs start in the fall and some studios within walking distance of my house offer them, which will save time and gas money. 

Most importantly, I want to become a yoga instructor because I am very passionate about the practice of yoga and want to share it with others.  Plus, I think it compliments my nutrition and health coaching background perfectly and I may someday want to do something for a career that marries both of them.

M is for Measurable

Establish criteria to measure your progress.  How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?  One thing that may be helpful is to create a checklist of things to be done and mark each one off as it’s accomplished.

My checklist includes: research studios, take a class at each studio I am interested in to get an idea of what their classes are like, review my finances to determine how I should be saving up for the training, and continue to build my yoga practice.  I will know when I’ve achieved my goal when I register and pay for a training program and attend my first session.

A is for Attainable

When we know deep down what we want to do or what our vision for the future is, we can establish goals that are in line with where we want to go.  When a goal is aligned with who you are as a person, you already have that inner drive and attitude needed to attain your goal.  So ask yourself, is my goal really what I want or is it only what I think I should want?

The practice of yoga is a part of me and an important part of my personality.  I have a personality that tends to want to do too much at once and I can easily overwhelm myself.  I also have a hard time slowing down.  Yoga centers me, grounds me, calms me and helps me get back to what is important in life.  We live in a society that is always on the go and I think it is so important to sometimes be able to just let go and let it be.  Feeling like that plus getting a good workout is a win-win in my book.

R is for Realistic

You must be willing to work towards your goal.  Are you committed?  Is this something you can actually achieve or are you reaching too far?  Do you need to break the goal down into mini goals?  Be honest with yourself. 

Make sure you have the time and energy to work towards your goal, as well as time to develop a plan of action before you get started.  Going into something with no plan is like hiking in the woods without a map.  Also, don’t make the goal too easy!  If it doesn’t motivate you, you will get bored and won’t be inspired enough to keep on going.

I’ll be honest, teaching yoga to a class full of people terrifies me.  But it also inspires me at the same time.  I think if it didn’t terrify me a little bit I wouldn’t be motivated to really see it through.  I like a challenge and this is one heck of a challenge.  

T is for Timely

Set a deadline for you to work towards.  When do you want to achieve your goal?  Mark it on your calendar, put it up on your refrigerator or write it on your bathroom mirror.  Make sure it is realistic and attainable!!  Losing 20 pounds in a month is NOT realistic and it will not stick long-term.  Slow and steady wins the race.

My goal is to decide on a training program by June 30, 2016.  That way I can take advantage of any early registration discounts that may be offered.  And once I have committed to something and made an investment, there is no backing out… 🙂

There is a reason that New Year’s resolutions are so popular.  Having a new goal is a great way to start a new year off strong and positive.  But make your resolution S.M.A.R.T. so you don’t fall of the wagon and lose hope.  You can do anything your heart desires if you really put your mind to it.  I believe in you!

Here’s to a new year of hope, positivity, love, laughter, fun and brand spanking new achievements!  Happy 2016!!

Peace, love and new beginnings,

The Yogi~Foodie