I stopped consuming caffeine on a daily basis this year. It took me by surprise, to be honest. I’ve tried many times in the past to give it up , without success. The first to go was coffee. One day I just didn’t want it. The thought entered my mind that I wouldn’t be drinking coffee any more and the next day I stopped. It was a strange feeling because I have always enjoyed coffee. Not just the the taste but the ritual of it too. I would get up in the morning and in the solitary quiet, I would grind the beans, boil the water and brew my coffee, lovingly, in a French press. When it was ready, I would pour my cup, add some cream and sit down to read (or at least skim) the newspaper. It was my time. It was a quiet morning to an often hectic day of constantly meeting other peoples needs. It satisfied my every sense, the rich aroma, the smooth and bitter taste, the hot mug in my hands. At first I drank black tea instead, with milk and honey but one day, as I felt my heart race, I realized that caffeine had to go from my daily routine. And I stopped. It’s been a strange journey because it hasn’t been difficult. I get the occasional craving but it’s not intense, as it once was. I do still eat dark chocolate, but not daily and in small, delicious quantities. I now satisfy my taste for hot, sumptuous drinks with herbal and rooibos teas.
I still wonder how this happened to me. I drank coffee throughout all of my pregnancies. I tried to quit but the cravings were intense, so I just limited myself to one small cup a day. Like most of us, I have often tried, and failed, to modify my habits. I’ve dieted and lost weight, only to regain it, I’ve tried to stick to fitness regimes, and sometimes reach my goals but often I have not. So what was different this time? What was different was it came from within me. I didn’t think to myself, ‘caffeine doesn’t really agree with me, I should quit’. A deep desire simply arose in me to do something different. I knew for many reasons that it was important to my journey to let go of caffeine and a strong desire arose in me to stop.
These past few months I have been meditating, writing, and working to be deeply connected to my soul, feel my feelings and love myself. I believe this desire arising within me to eliminate caffeine is a result of my deep work. I think that changes of habit that come from this deeper place are much more effective and easier than the top down approach most of us use when deciding to change a habit and make new rules for ourselves to follow. Most often we fail and feel like losers but even those who succeed often do so at a cost. The cost is a feeling of resentment that you have rules to follow and others do not, an underlying, smouldering anger grows as one feels they are making some kind of sacrifice. Everyone knows that the most out-spoken non-smokers are those who used to smoke, but quit. I see this sometimes in those who choose dietary restrictions too.
But working from within is a very slow and unpredictable process. It doesn’t suit our cultural penchant for achievement and doesn’t satisfy our pride in sacrifice. But I think there is something more authentic about it, something that creates lasting change in a person and softens rather than hardens the personality. I remember years ago seeing a campaign for healthy weight loss that advised people to learn to pay attention to their body’s and how it feels. To eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. To love your body as it is and to focus on eating fresh, unprocessed foods but not make any food off limits. At the time I remember thinking ‘That will never work!’ but now I see the wisdom in this approach. It is much deeper than trying the myriad of diets out there that will set you up with all kinds of rules to follow that will inevitably be broken. Will it lead to rapid weight loss or fast results? Very unlikely, but it will lead to a genuine love for oneself and a loving, not punishing relationship to food. So save your self-discipline to establish habits that will lead to greater self-love. Habits like meditating, enjoying your body and saying nice things to yourself. Make time for creativity and fun; and then allow this love to work through you to change other habits you want to change. Allow your self-love to grow so that you eat well for the joy of it, exercise for the deep good feeling it brings rather than out of some idea that you aren’t good enough just as you are.