Coming Clean About My Cup of Joe

by Gena on March 30, 2010

coffee

One of the first things that new clients like to declare to me is this: “Just so you know, I love my morning coffee, and I’m sorry, but I’m not giving it up.”

Hmmmm. OK. Thanks for sharing?

To be frank, this statement amuses me. Half the time I’m tempted to reply, “In comparison to some of the things you’re eating, buddy, coffee is the least of your problems. Lay off the processed food and diet soda, then we’ll talk about coffee.” The rest of the time, I want to smile and say, “Don’t worry, I’m not giving up coffee, either.” Because –after much tortured consideration — I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not.

Coffee. Java. Black gold. Cafe. Joe. Drip. Brain juice. Jet fuel. Liquid energy. Morning thunder. Mud. Bean juice. Americano. Day starter. Lifeblood. These are only a few of my pet names for the smooth, sultry, and incomparable stuff that is coffee. Few pleasures in life can compare to coffee drinking. Since my first sip at the tender age of ten, coffee and I have been good, good friends. I remember sneaking out of class in fifth grade to spend a whopping $4.00 on iced mocha from Timothy’s. A small fortune, then, but it was worth it, every time. I remember the advent of the frappucino — what a joyous day that was! I remember hot, tall lattes that steered me through every study break, every play rehearsal, and every homeroom hour of high school. I remember drinking six or seven cups of the burnt, bitter, totally ordinary, yet totally reliable brew that was churned out all over the Columbia campus for each and every day of my college career. I remember discovering real espresso in Italy during my sophomore year, and wishing that one day I might squander a paycheck on an espresso machine. Sigh. So many beautiful memories.

If coffee is so divine and dear to me, why bother writing about it at all? Why not simply guzzle it to my heart’s content, and be done with it? Well, here’s the thing: coffee’s not exactly awesome for you. It’s heavily acidic, which is bad news for reasons I’ve discussed many a time. It’s dehydrating, which is no fun. It’s a stimulant, which means it exerts stress on your adrenal system and keeps your body in a constant state of over-stimulation and recovery. Drinking too much coffee has been linked to fatigue, foggy headedness, cranky moods, and weakened immunity. And, if you suffer from IBS or a sensitive belly, coffee is very likely to exacerbate your symptoms and prompt attacks.

The news isn’t all terrible. As you’ve probably read, moderate coffee consumption has been linked to some good things, too: reduction of headaches, mood elevation, and even a decrease in changes of Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and colon cancer. I’m not totally convinced about the latter claim, but I do think that coffee can boost athletic performance, increase alertness, and (perhaps) offer us some antioxidants. Which is why I hold firm in my insistence that drinking a cup or two of coffee each day is far less harmful than eating poor, processed, and impossible to digest foods on a regular basis. But let’s get real here. Coffee ain’t kale. It ain’t green juice. It isn’t health food. There may be purported benefits, but at the end of the day, I’d suggest that the known downsides of coffee probably outweigh the potential upsides. And because it’s acidifying and can irritate digestion, it’s fairly at odds with the rest of the things I try to do for my body.

Two years ago, I decided that it was time to wean myself off. I had just quit smoking: how tough could coffee be? The answer is, relatively un-tough. Compared to the misery of quitting smoking, ditching coffee seemed like a piece of cake (OK, maybe not quite, but it wasn’t painful, either). I missed the taste quite a lot, but I didn’t seem to suffer any significant withdrawal, and my tummy certainly felt good without it. Green juice gave me the jolt I needed, and I wasn’t suddenly lacking in energy, so it seemed to me that I could and should vow to do without coffee for good. If I didn’t need it, and it wasn’t great for me, why bother?

coffee-poster What I left out of that reasoning was this: I may not need coffee, but I love it. Dearly. And because I ignored that crucial factor — pleasure — my coffee hiatus was not meant to last.

A few months ago, I find myself craving my morning joe. A lot. So I had a cup. And one became another. And another. And another. And, like the dysfunctional, yet stubbornly persistent ex-boyfriend I thought I’d kicked to the curb, coffee crept back into my life in the weeks that followed, guilty cup by guilty cup. Today, as I write this, I’ve gone from stolen sips of espresso and furtive trips to the office coffee maker to brewing at home each morning. So much for quitting.

Today, my friend Kristen posted an excellent article on how to kick a caffeine habit. In it, she offered many of the tips I offer to clients myself: sip juice each morning; try Teechino; depend on caffinated teas, and then move to herbal tea; try warm almond milk with cocoa powder to satisfy a craving. Awesome tips, Kristen! I couldn’t have said it better myself. The problem is that it’s not caffeine I’m addicted to. It’s coffee. I’m actually not particularly responsive to caffeine. When days go by — and don’t worry, many still do! — when I don’t drink coffee, I don’t feel very tired or cranky. I don’t get headaches. In fact, I know darn well that green juice boosts my energy far more than coffee does.

No no, the lure of coffee isn’t the caffeine. It’s the taste, the smell, the associations. Like all true pleasures, my love of coffee can’t be replicated with a substitute. No coffee-like beverage — not tea, not Teecino, and certainly not grain coffee — tastes as good to me as the real thing. And since it’s not caffeine per se that I want, but coffee itself, I’ve virtually no interest in anything that’s meant to seem like coffee, or simply to deliver some caffeine. When I quit smoking, the idea of nicorette gum seemed absurd to me. How on earth would a little nugget of nicotine help me get over my adoration of the smell, taste, and sensation of smoking? Well, ditto for coffee. You can keep the Teecino, thanks. If I’m going to drink something coffee-like, it’ll be the real thing, or nothing at all.

What about green juice, you ask? Doesn’t that help? In a word, no. Green juice is heavenly: in many ways, it’s my idea of lifeblood. But for me, it offers an entirely different experience than drinking coffee. The two can’t even be compared, and I don’t see how one is supposed to supplant the other. Of course I love and drink juice. But it’s no stand in for my tall, dark, and handsome morning bean.

So where does that leave me? Well, let me break out the counseling skills for a moment here. Whenever a client and I discuss the pros and cons of eating a food that’s not ideal, I ask my client not to think in terms of “good” and “bad,” but rather to consider the whole picture. Maybe a food isn’t exactly bad for him or her, but it tends to prompt overeating or binges that are bad, both physically and psychologically (many women feel this way about nuts, or sweets). On the other hand, maybe there’s a food that isn’t nutritionally ideal, but it gives my client a great deal of pleasure, and helps him or her not to feel deprived, which in turn helps maintain balance. In those cases, I’ll always say that the food should stay in my client’s life. Living without pleasure does not fit into my definition of health.

4816617_939621efad Of course, such a statement can be misused and taken to extremes: if my client’s pleasure happens to be heroin, or Big Macs for dinner each night, I’ll most likely declare that the pleasure afforded is vastly outweighed by the harm done to his or her body, and we should work on strategies to excise the habit. This is what I ultimately had to do with cigarettes. Yes, I loved them, but I knew that they did me too much harm for me to keep them around on the grounds that they gave me pleasure. With some habits, there’s no middle ground.

With coffee, fortunately, there is. Coffee’s not doing my body any favors, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not sending me to an early grave, either. I drink an eight ounce cup or less almost every day, but not every day, and I don’t return to the coffee maker all afternoon for more if I can help it. I drink the caffeinated stuff, but it doesn’t make me overly jumpy. And the nice news is that my digestive system is now so strong, and my terrible IBS such a distant memory, that coffee doesn’t send my body into spasms of discomfort. Score!

I know that this isn’t a balance that should be abused: if I were to push the envelope and drink coffee three or four times a day, I’d likely begin to feel sick. But fortunately, I won’t. I’m not perfect, but I do possess fairly impressive stores of discipline (to counteract my equally impressive stores of coffee love), and I know I won’t often go beyond the pleasureful morning cup — or perhaps an afternoon cup, if that’s my pleasure instead.

Is coffee undoing all of the good things I do for my health? Nah, I don’t think so. It’s probably making me more acidic, but the amount of juice and alkaline foods and greens I put in my body should do a fine job of counteracting that effect. It’s probably stressing my adrenal system a bit, but to be honest, my stress levels are far more responsible for any adrenal fatigue I’ve got, and I’d rather spend time working on stress management than depriving myself a sip or two of liquid joy each morning. And since my own vision of health includes certain things that aren’t necessarily biologically ideal, but boost our pleasure and enhance our waking experience, a little bit of coffee in the morning is actually not so very out of keeping with my own talk.

Don’t get me wrong: getting back together with coffee isn’t exactly something I’m proud of. If I were, I wouldn’t be writing this little wry apologia for the habit. But I do think it’s important for us all to recognize the value in certain gentle imperfections. Would I like to love coffee less, and want it less? Yes. I’d no doubt be better off. But since it does mean a lot to me, and since my life is otherwise bursting with good foods and habits, I like to think that the joys coffee affords me stack up sort of evenly with its dangers. And, after two years of trying to avoid the stuff simply because I know it’s not ideal, I’m ready to welcome it back into my life. If I can drink my green juice first, and if that sometimes satisfies my taste for morning thunder, great: I’ll skip the java. If not, well, I’ve got a lovely French press at home that’s just dying to be dusted off. And I’ll be happy to get reacquainted with it :-)

OK, readers. You’ve stuck with me this long. Tell me: what gentle imperfections do you like to keep around? And why?

Have a lovely night, all!

xo

P.S. I highly recommend anyone who’s been following Jamie Oliver’s show — and those of you that haven’t — to check out Heather’s wonderful “insider” post on school lunch.

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{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily March 30, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Hi Gena,

This is a great post, I can totally relate to not wanting to drink coffee for health reasons but absolutely loving the taste of it. I wanted to get your thoughts on one thing. Have you ever used Ph drops in your coffee? They are supposed to alkalize acidic things but I’m skeptical of the results. Any thoughts on them?

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Heather March 30, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Awesome post, Gena. When I first got into eating more raw foods, I thought I had to be perfect: give up coffee, stop eating bread, never eat a cookie again. While my tastes have changed and I no longer crave 4 cups of iced coffee daily, need bread every day, or eat cookies the way I used to, I realized that being a purist just isn’t for me. All the raw desserts in the world can’t compare to a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, and Ezekiel bread doesn’t compare to crusty French bread. Do I eat these things daily? No! Heck, I don’t even eat them weekly. But I’ve learned that, while in general the idea of moderation doesn’t work for me, a chocolate chip cookie from Whole Foods — laden with white flour, white sugar, and refined vegetable oils — won’t kill me if I eat one every 3 or 4 months. I gave up diet soda, a ridiculous Starbucks habit (we’re talking $30/week), fried foods, and so much more — so allowing myself these indulgences every once in awhile aren’t going to ruin the progress I’ve made with my food choices.

In terms of coffee, I really have grown to love Teeccino, but coffee it is not. I’ve tried to make sure I drink decaf more often than not, but the acidity definitely does do a number on my stomach. I’ve learned to do half almond milk/half coffee. Like you, I prefer the taste and the ritual moreso than the caffeine. Coffee is so, so delicious.

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Lindsay March 31, 2010 at 5:11 am

Heather you are so right about allowing for those foods you love. I once ate white items (flour/sugar) at every meal, switched to wheat, now I can go months without craving those foods. But if I fell like a nice thick piece of French bread I have it. I do not make it a daily or weekly occurance, just when I would feel deprived without it. Last year when I was starting to do more RAW I went to Paris with the notion I would eat no white bread. My husband asked me if I would regret being in Paris and not eating any bread? With that question I realized I was being to hard on myself with my diet. And I enjoyed my french bread with no guilt!

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nelly March 30, 2010 at 8:09 pm

original flavour sunchips…because they’re salty enough to help me through my monthly crankiness…

=)

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Danielle (Coffee Run) March 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I love your philosophy between eating what’s good for you and eating for pleasure :D And really, if coffee is one of the “worst” things in your diet, then you’re doing pretty good!

Personally, I think anything that comes from the ground in its natural state is perfectly fine to eat. White potatoes, coffee beans, even iceburg lettuce *gasssssp* Although it made not provide the most vitamins or minerals, it certainly won’t kill you :)

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Emma March 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I completely sympathize with everything you are saying Gena. I find that it isn’t just coffee I crave, but the cultural and social constructs around it. Going out for coffee is something social, and usually my coffee is accompanied by conversations with friends. I’ll take the mental health benefits of a good heart to heart, even if the coffee itself throws off my pH a little bit. I think, to a certain extent, coffee is hardwired into our conscious from a young age–my first memories of coffee are synonymous with my warm kitchen, and my parents heating the milk on the stove. Coffee is positively reinforced in our culture, perhaps too much so. I can fully claim I am a worshiper of the morning cup, I began drinking it at age 14, when it seemed like a “naughty” and grownup rite of passage (which is arguably part of its charm.) I’ve tried to quit, but life’s too short to deny ourselves something so basic and so pleasurable. Embrace it.

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bitt March 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm

So I was gluten-free and vegan for awhile but a junky one. I mean skittles and gin-and-tonics and corn chips type gal. Coffee went along with those things. And I was tired. The coffee was making me have ups and downs all day. I kicked it finally and I was elated to not start each day with a headache and have a caffeine crash at 2pm. I felt so much better off it. A few months later I got into raw foods, and eating raw was a breeze compared to quitting coffee. I think it really has to do with how it feels in your body. We are all a bit different. For me, quitting was a step in the right direction that lead to more positive steps.

Thanks for your honesty! Oh and I was supposed to say something I am having an imperfection about? Staying up late.

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Raw Candy March 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I love honest posts like this. It’s nice to remember that no one is perfect, and that perfection isn’t always necessary :)

I’ve always been take-it-or-leave-it attitude with coffee — it’s not my drug of choice. I’ve mostly done a decent job eliminating bad habits, and am now happy to enjoy not-as-healthy foods somewhat rarely – like sugary, bread, processed stuff, and fried foods. And sugary baked goods. And when I do indulge, it’s nearly always during periods of stress.

But my major remaining vice is the warm, warm sun. I spent way too much time tanning outside in high school/undergrad years, and I hate to think what it has done to my skin. I try to make up for it now with nutrition, but I’m still far from perfect when it comes to sunscreen. At least I’m getting lots of vitamin D…

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Hilary @ Purelicious March 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Great post! I was just thinking about this earlier today at work, while battling back cravings to head to the office coffee machine. I 100% know what you mean about how coffee can’t be substituted – nothing can equal that smell, that taste… nothing. I’ve significantly cut back my coffee to where it was a few months ago (probs a 3x a day habit!) to now being about 3x a week, which I think is a great level for me. I still enjoy that occasional indulgence of that heavenly aroma, but without all the downsides of excessive consumption.

Just out of curiosity, how do you prefer to sweeten/cream your coffee? Or do you just drink it black? I’ve been experimenting a bit, and I’ve found sometimes almond milk gets weird and doesn’t mix in well, gets clumpy – is it just me, or does that happen to anyone else? I’ve yet to try coconut creamer, but really want to! The only one I’ve tried that works without fail is soy milk, but I try to really limit my processed soy. And for sweetener I always do Stevia, but would be willing to experiment with other ideas! :)

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Jess - The Domestic Vegan March 31, 2010 at 9:16 am

I agree about almond milk! The storebought stuff is just too thin to “cream” coffee properly. (Though I did recently try the new almond milk made by Silk, and it’s AWESOME in coffee. Super thick & rich! I’m not typically a big Silk fan since they’re owned by a big dairy conglomerate, but I’m happy to support the animal-free portions of their company once in awhile. :))

I really recommend the coconut creamer by So Delicious! You’re missing out by not trying it yet. ;-) Love that stuff! I also like to use the Coconut Milk Beverage by So Delicious. It has a similar creaminess & heft, but it’s cheaper (by the ounce) than the little carton of So Delicious Coconut Creamer.

Lastly, I LOVE homemade nut milks in coffee. They’re really creamy & mix better in coffee than the storebought brands.

Guess I know a lot about creaming coffee… ;-) Jeez!

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Gena March 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I drink it black, Hilary! I’ve always thought it was perfect just the way it is :)

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Ameena March 30, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I am not a big coffee person but I do like a good decaf cap now and then. My “gentle imperfection” (love how you put that) would be an issue with eating chocolate after dinner almost every night. In the grand scheme of things I know it’s not the worst thing to eat but it still bothers me that I have a habit of doing so.

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Aletheia March 30, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Aspartame spearmint gum.

I know, I know.

But it’s my comfort and friend.

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hihorosie March 30, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Drink up my dear and drink one for me! :) I love coffee and I miss it but I have my reasons at the moment to not indulge but oh yeah, good stuff. I’ll have sips now and then but my nursing son doesn’t appreciate the black gold. Great post!

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Lauren Slayton March 30, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Love this post, I love sort of knowing a food or drink isn’t 100% great for you and as a professional deciding and accepting you still want it. I too broke up with coffee when I stopped having dairy (didn’t want the coffee black). I fell in love with tea, have electric kettle in my office…still love tea but I too fell for coffee again.
I bet your clients will love your confession.

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Lauren March 30, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I love coffee…but my tummy doesn’t!
That would be my one vice if it didn’t give me such GI trouble.

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eef March 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I have exactly the same problem! I love the taste of coffee. I tried to switch to teas, but it’s not the same. I don’t need a lot of coffee (although, I used to), but I feel happy when I get to drink it. You put it into words so well!

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tori March 30, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Thank you so much for this post!!
When i started to eat raw, coffee was the one thing I could not give up. I tried for a few weeks, but it was just too painful so I started drinking it black. I completely agree with you, it’s not just the caffeine, but also the taste and aroma. . .mmm just thinking about it makes me want some. Recently I have been drinking it with soymilk because the taste of it black is just too harsh and acidic tasting. I don’t really like the idea of using processed soy products, but no other milk seems to offer the same amount of creaminess. How do you drink your coffee? Do you have any non-soy milk recommendations for coffee?

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Gena March 31, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Tough question! I think almond milk tastes awful in coffee. Soymilk is fine as long as it’s just a tiny bit. I’ve also heard great things about So Delicious, per Jess’ recommendation. I drink my coffee black, though — I love it just the way it is!

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jenny March 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm

once again, GREAT post. I swear I enjoy your posts for the writing itself rather than the information gleaned from it (though your posts are obviously very informative). I have kicked the coffee habit completely and since I never was a coffee person, it was easy for me, though i used to have 4 coffees a day… and having IBS means coffee totally screws up my insides (not to mention the usual milk and splenda that i used to pour into it… those were the days).

my vice are definitely mints (the excel kind that comes in a metal tin). when i’m stressed i could finish the entire pack in five minutes. it’s a waste of money and contain artificial sweetner/sugar alcohol calories and i really shouldn’t get them at all. though i like to justify it with the fact that peppermint sometimes heals an upset stomach… i dont like peppermint tea, i need the rock-hard crunchiness of those mints!

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El March 30, 2010 at 10:38 pm

I have a question – I’d love to hear your thoughts on alcohol. I know you don’t drink for personal reasons, but did you ever? Alcohol is definitely my “vice;” I love a nice cold beer or a glass of wine. The problem is that these drinks tend to make me “loosen up” with my eating, and consume foods I wouldn’t otherwise eat. I hate how I feel the next day, but love the fun and relaxation of drinking socially. Do you ever deal with this issue with your clients? Thanks!

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Gena March 31, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Hey El!

I’ve steered away from this one for personal reasons, but I will think about sharing soon.

xo

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Mama Pea March 30, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I’m with you. The smell of coffee immediately transports me to so many places, and because my dad and my husband are the only ones whoever have made me coffee at home, I’m instantly reminded of these men who I love so dearly, and of long Sunday mornings with each of them. I’ve also worn out the caffeine buzz long ago (unfortunately), and it’s more about the smell, the warmth and the memories.

I can’t wait until you and I can share a cup someday.

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Erica March 30, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Thanks for the candid and informative post. When I went vegan (from vegetarian) and raw in January, I gave up alcohol (wine) for a month . . . but never intended to give up my coffee. I got a sample of Teeccino in the meantime, but haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. Guess I just love my java (with soy milk, no less! almond milk just isn’t the same) too much.
I am curious, as is the previous commenter, about your thoughts on alcohol. I’m back to having wine every night again and struggle with letting that go. Thanks again!

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Jenny@ JennyLikesToRun, a teenager with a healthy twist on life. March 31, 2010 at 12:42 am

I love this post :) I love your style of writing, it’s so fluid and free-flowing. I want to read more from you!
I’m a new reader and I think you’re fantastic. Already I’m inspired to implement some “Raw Food” changes into my current diet, and with the assistance of you blog I think it will happen :)

I’m a coffee drinker too unfortunately, however, I have found a drink which actually satisfies me enough to be able to skip my morning cup of toads venom- Green Tea. I’m not sure what it is but having 2 cups of this magic liquid is a perfect substitute for coffee.

Gentle imperfections I like to keep around? Chocolate. I’m a sucker for it. I could devour an entire chocolate shop if presented with the opportunity. It’s my greatest weakness, i love everything about it in the same way you love coffee. The taste, the smells, the feel of it melting on my tongue, the comfort of it… however, I have managed to substitute regular chocolate for 85% dark chocolate so that when I do crave a little bit, what I do have is relatively good for me. Also, since it’s so dark I find it takes less to satisfy my cravngs. Win! :)

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Stephanie March 31, 2010 at 1:00 am

Oh, Gena! That was the most honest, witty, and informative post I’ve read on any blog in a long time. And, way to go, you! If coffee is your thing, do it! And, do it unapologetically, I say :)

I can’t say coffee is a habit I can’t kick. I drink a cup about once every couple of months when I’ve got lots of papers due for class. It makes me jittery and I remember why I don’t drink it! My habit is a gin and tonic. I’m not talking everyday, maybe just 2 nights a week, but I can’t kick it. I love it. It’s refreshing, light, LEMONY :) and I go out a lot. I am in grad school after all! Sometimes I try a tonic and lemon…but I miss the gin part. Oh well, one drink twice a week doesn’t seem that bad to me. And there’s nothing that can replace that in my book.

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Emily March 31, 2010 at 1:46 am

Hi Gena ~ It made me breathe a little easier to read your take on this. As much as I move into a clean, light way of eating and living, coffee for me is something I MISS when I don’t have it. Like you, and other commenters, it’s not the hit I’m seeking, but more the taste and the social constructs and the break in my day. A cup of coffee feels like a special ritual for me. I’ve tried doing it with herbal tea and whilst I went okaaaayyyy with that, I adore the scent of coffee, I adore the taste, and I adore the moment I get to breathe in my cafe every morning, chatting to the barristas and relaxing with the relaxing music they play. It’s a life supporting moment, even if my coffee is not such a life generating substance. It also supported me in removing less desireable (comfort?) foods out of my diet.
Happy sipping! :)

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Denise Stella March 31, 2010 at 2:24 am

Hi Gina, like you, I decided that, all in all, the extra acidity would be counteracted by the rest of the alkaline diet I consume. I drink lattes I make from homemade almond – or cashew milk. Yum!

I want to share a link to an old yoga journal article by the delightful zen chef (think Tassajara Cook Book) Edward Espe Brown.  The article is about he how he reconciled with his love of coffee and, as part of a very mindful ritual of making the brew and bringing it to his meditation cushion. It’s an entcing read called Jolt of Meditation. The URL is long: 

http://books.google.com/books?id=QeoDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA200&lpg=PA200&dq=%22Edward+espe+brown%22+garuda+coffee&source=bl&ots=M4LtEqYgSJ&sig=fm7yM2tUd5GD5Op12m4ehGOnV-8&hl=en

Happy Coffee Drinking! Denise

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is March 31, 2010 at 3:38 am

Love your honesty, Gena. Also how amusing it is when people say they aren’t giving up coffee, yet consume a ton of other junk!

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Hanna M. March 31, 2010 at 3:38 am

Wow, this soo matches my story with coffee!

BTW, I highly recommend an Aeropress for those with sensitive bellies. The coffee from these little darlings don’t bother my stomach at all. And as a bonus they are cheap, fast, easy to handle and clean, and they make the BEST coffee ever! Enjoy your coffee :D

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Hanna M. March 31, 2010 at 3:48 am

Oh, and regarding non-soy alternatives: I find that oat milk (bought, I don’t make it myself) make a very smooth and rich latte/macchiato/whatever. I’ve also tested this with people in my family who drink milk regularly, and they couldn’t believe how much better it was! :)

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Pure2Raw Twins March 31, 2010 at 4:17 am

Coffee was a little difficult for us to give up. We loved it as well, first for the caffeine than over the years it was more of a habit than really anything else. It become our morning ritual! It took us awhile to get off it for good. Now we only have it for social purposes, though must admit it is hard some mornings (especially those cold ones)! :)

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Happy Herbivore March 31, 2010 at 4:23 am

this must be a popular question lately, because I’ve been getting it on HH. I used to be a total addict. I would get a medium iced coffee on my way to work, again at lunch and then again after work on my way to law school. The result was an expensive habit and declining digestive health. I will still go for a coffee on occasion, but I have to get decaf. Even drinking a small halfcaf makes me so jittery I can’t stand it and most often, the cup of joe takes my stomach out — esp. starbucks, that stuff is like high octane or something. If you drink it occasion because you like to, great, but I feel dependence is bad — and daily consumption too — it’s like paying a credit card with a credit card. Thanks for another great post, Gena!

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AnnaO March 31, 2010 at 4:24 am

I´m more of a herbal tea kind of girl myself, but thank you for your honesty! Love your wrighting, as always your posts are apleasure to read. I´ve still got a few issues with food and eating that I want to sort out, but coffee is not one of them!

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VeggieGirl March 31, 2010 at 4:34 am

YOU are the one who taught me to “bring back” the gentle imperfections – and I’m so glad I did. Here’s to your cup of coffee and some of my imperfections :)

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Judy (ccokbook maven) March 31, 2010 at 4:50 am

Thankfully, coffee & smoking have never been my vices.

My achilles’ heel is my sweet tooth. I know I would be a healthier person if I cut back on the sweets — and we’re mostly talking healthy sweets here, stuff I make myself — to even just 2 or 3 times a week.

Just can’t seem to do it.

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Lindsay March 31, 2010 at 4:50 am

Thank you Gena!!! This post is what I needed! I use to drink coffee 2-3 cups a day 3-4 times a week, mainly during college or work. I kicked the habit! I would order herbal tea and such when out and at home.

Well I just came back from 10 days in Rome, Italy and enjoyed expresso everyday…so dark, rich, bold and yummy. Yeaterday I made myself a nice expresso at home, just one. Then I read Kristen’s post yeaterday and thought about coffee again. Well today I have a small cup of Joe and started to read your article…thank you! Sometimes we can not “win” every battle. I, like you, love coffee. The caffiene is not an issue for me with a cup a day. I will sit here with my yummy coffee and think about all the wonderful things I do for my health. If coffee is the worst I am doing WONDERFUL!

Plus a new found joy in a glass a red wine with dinner due to my Roman experience, although at home I will only have wine once a month or so not at dinner each night. Roman really know who to live. The produce was so fresh, straight from the farm. Large portions of veggies served with small (compared to American portions) of pasta. And yes while in Rome I had pasta 3 times and loved everytime!

Thank you once again Gena for this great post! And I agree with others that your writting style is so wonderful, always feels like you are having a conversation with us not telling us the info! Keep up the great work!

Lindsay – slowly sipping my 6 ounces of coffee…

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Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg March 31, 2010 at 5:24 am

This is such a great post. You and I have the same thoughts exactly on coffee– I’m okay without it, in terms of energy, etc. But I CRAVE the taste of it– the warmth of it, the associations I have with it, the way it brings me back to certain places and memories. I love the smell of fresh beans, the sound of it dripping down…okay, I guess I’m coffee-obsessed! Except that I’m not– I only have one cup, every morning. And that, to me, is just fine!

Awesome post, truly! I really enjoyed reading it. :-)

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Ian March 31, 2010 at 5:37 am

I have the exact same relationship with coffee…it just tastes nice! Caffeine doesn’t do anything for me either, and it’s more of an associational thing: sitting in starbucks doing homework and sipping the coffee out of my 8oz tumbler.

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Anne P March 31, 2010 at 5:41 am

Great post. I definitely agree – if you love something that much, you should keep having it. I feel like for a lot of people, coffee is more about an experience than the actual taste or caffeine. It’s the pleasure of holding the cup, sipping the warm liquid, or talking with friends over it. And that’s not something worth giving up. I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, but I love me some tea – for the same reasons :) It’s just… comforting.

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Mandie @ Vegan Wagon March 31, 2010 at 5:46 am

I love chocolate. And fortunately, I’ve trained myself to love dark chocolate. So I have a little vegan dark chocolate everyday. Or I have banana “ice cream” with a little nut butter and cocoa mixed in. I was able to give up coffee and replace it with tea, which was easy enough. I noticed that if I didn’t have my daily cup of coffee within a few minutes of waking up, I’d get a horrible headache. I could tell my body was addicted to it, and it bothered me, so I cut it off. But I’ll never cut out chocolate. :)

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RhodeyGirl March 31, 2010 at 5:59 am

I declare you a coffee addict!

I love the ritual that coffee provides, and I don’t even drink hot coffee. I love iced coffee though and am thoroughly addicted in the warmer weather. Like you, it has nothing to do with the caffeine, and in fact I will start buying decaf once I run out because the caffeine makes me shaky.

It is all about the ritual, the smell, the sensuality of it all.

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RhodeyGirl March 31, 2010 at 6:01 am

Random additional thought. When PB and my cousin Raz decided to guest post on quitting coffee, PB chose one of the same images you did. What are the chances of that???

See it here!!!
http://rhodeygirltests.com/2010/03/08/the-coffee-buzz/

Too funny!

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Chelsea (Chelsea's Chew and Run Fun) March 31, 2010 at 6:28 am

This was such a refreshing and reassuring post to read. I, too, have a similar love affair with coffee (i started drinking the stuff religiously at a young age). Having recently attempted quitting the stuff for a month…my mornings and overall days just didn’t feel right without it. I’ve finally started brewing it every morning again, and accepted the daily ritual as one of my vices, which I will now (thanks to your post) dub, gentle imperfections. :)

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Sophie @ yumventures March 31, 2010 at 6:38 am

I love this post! And I could not agree with you more. I adore coffee. The smell and the taste, the ritual of having it sit next to me as I am typing this comment, like a good friend or little pet saying “I’m here, as always”. I also love drinking coffee when I travel, exploring ways each country drinks it (for example, I had a terrible time ordering just a normal cup of joe in Australia. They are espresso all the way!). I always tell people I would pick coffee over alcohol. I believe you and I share the same love for this brew :)

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grace March 31, 2010 at 6:42 am

i love coffee for the very same reason! love the smell and taste! :)
so glad i won’t be having to give that up!

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Lauren March 31, 2010 at 6:43 am

I had coffee issues in the past, when crohn’s came along, I had a hard time giving it up.. Now I have a little cacao problem. LOL! :)

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Catherine March 31, 2010 at 6:45 am

Thanks for the great thought provoking post. I think it’s important to be ok with the little imperfections we have so long as we make them the exception and not the rule. I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, although I do enjoy the occasional latte now and again mainly because of the pleasing aroma. Ma raised me on herbal tea!

I would say my gentle imperfection that I like to keep around is crusty white bread dipped in olive oil. I really only have this maybe twice a month or so when I’m out at a dinner that offers that tantalizing bread basket and bottle of olive oil, but when it’s there I can’t resist!

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laura gallagher March 31, 2010 at 6:51 am

What a great post. I too was a coffee-whore. :) SEriously. I had one of those machines that would grind and brew ona timer and be ready when I woke up. MU hubby would bring it to me in bed, then I”d get up and start my day. I agree it’s more of an addiction to the taste/smell rather than the caffeine. At any rate when I got pregnant I quit cold turkey and (since I’ve been pregnant or nursing non stop for over 5 years now) have not gone back. :) I occasionally get a decaf fancy coffee, but really the love affair is gone.
Do you want kids eventually? Maybe you’ll take abreak while you’re pregnant?!?!
xoxo

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Brenna Kater, the Oceanskater March 31, 2010 at 6:55 am

I love the balance that you and Kristen offer, which is why you 2 (and Green Smoothie Girl) are my go-to people for high raw!

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katherine March 31, 2010 at 7:01 am

Ah the transcendent powers of an aromatic, smooth, inviting cup of joe. I stick with the decaf as I’m terribly sensitive to caffeine, but I mean it when I say my favorite wedding gift was our espresso machine. There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly ground beans in the morning!

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brandi March 31, 2010 at 7:13 am

I’m the same way. It’s not the caffeine I want: it’s the smooth aroma, the inviting warmth, and the connection with other people that I love about sharing coffee time. My husband and I have weekend routines that revolve around our crazy coffee contraptions. A good cup of coffee is hard to beat, and I’m not giving that up.

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Katie March 31, 2010 at 7:27 am

I couldn’t agree more about my love of coffee. I’ve gone through phases where I “quit” for a week to see if I can do it, but in the end, it’s not the caffeine boost I need. It’s the smell, the morning ritual of brewing a pot while I start my day, sipping a cappuccino in a cafe with a good book, exploring other cultures’ coffee brews. I love it all, even on the weekends when I don’t have to be up and alert at a set time.

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Kath March 31, 2010 at 7:32 am

I COULDN’T AGREE MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!

And this is SO true –> “And since it’s not caffeine per se that I want, but coffee itself”

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Dori March 31, 2010 at 7:38 am

I had a very similar experience to you with trying to give up coffee. I’ve “quit” coffee 3 times, all with no issues — no headaches, no tiredness, etc. But I just crave the test and having that warm delicious drink on a cold morning, or the iced version on a warm day. I love it so much that I always eventually go back to it slowly — a small cup every now and then, and it turns into a small cup almost every day.

It doesn’t seem to have a bad effect on my stomach (if anything, the opposite actually) and I just enjoy it too much to give up.

Thank you for being so honest and sharing this!

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sarah March 31, 2010 at 7:49 am

I have never tried to give up coffee but when I decided to stop using the store bought creamers… sugar free, not sugar free, whatever and started to drink it black, I realized it was more about the habit of making the cup of coffee in the morning than actually drinking it. I still get up and make a cup of coffee but usually at least half of it goes down the drain.

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Christine (The Raw Project) March 31, 2010 at 7:55 am

Great post, I am a fan of coffee too, but have limited my intake to 1-2 cups a day only in the morning since going heavy raw. I’ve become very sensitive to caffeine as a result and have to be careful when I have it or I won’t sleep well. I think it’s more the flavor and having a warm, rich beverage in the morning when waking up to a cold, dark house for me.

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Lauren March 31, 2010 at 7:59 am

Great post! Unfortunately I am not a fan of coffee at all, but I went through the same thing with beer.
When I started to strive for a healthier lifestyle, I cut out all alcohol. But then I realized that I really liked beer, and really missed it.
I definitely don’t drink it everyday, but I make sure when I have a beer, it’s a good one.

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Megan @ Healthy Hoggin' March 31, 2010 at 8:01 am

I’m in the same boat– when I dove into raw foods, I thought I had to be “perfect” and give up my beloved morning coffee, too! And while it wasn’t THAT hard to do, it did feel like some joy was missing in my life! I eventually decided that coffee wasn’t the worst thing I could be doing, and that by giving up so many other things, it probably wouldn’t be that bad to drink a cup when I was craving it! I always drank it black, after all. Now I’m to the point that I don’t drink it everyday, but I really enjoy it when I do!

I’m of the same mindset with other “treats” as well– substitutes don’t always cut it for me! Back when I drank soda, I could never imagine drinking diet soda. It doesn’t taste AT ALL the same! I’d rather give it up all together than drink the fake stuff. And while raw treats DO satisfy my sweet cravings most of the time, I will still indulge in a REAL cookie every now and then. Sometimes you just can’t replace the nostalgia and emotional enjoyment of the real thing.

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melissa March 31, 2010 at 8:16 am

The way you feel about coffee is definitely the way I feel about diet coke. However, I have finally given it up. Although it took severe tinnitus to finally scare me enough to drop the habit. Anyways, I am very relieved at the monetary, environmental, and health benefits I will undoubtedly experience in my diet coke free lifestyle. thanks for keeping it real Glove!

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Amber March 31, 2010 at 8:19 am

Ooooo, try cold-brew coffee!!! So much (like 70%) less acid, great taste. Easy to make! I had it in Maui for the first time and I got hooked. Have it in an iced coffee or add hot water to have a hot cup of coffee!

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Kat March 31, 2010 at 8:22 am

This post hits close to home! My mom and dad were HUGE coffee lovers, 2 cups a day on the dot, at 8am and 5pm. My mom eventually started her own coffee business and could order from over 200 options of flavored coffee! (think choc covered cherry, caramel, etc.. you name it) I had a love and addiction to coffee. It was amazing to me but I hated the feeling of HAVING to have it. I had a severe headache if I didn’t have it. When I wanted to go raw, I thought coffee would be the hardest to give up but it was actually the easiest! Fruit and green smoothies were so much more satisfying to me. I will always love coffee but I dont have to it. Now its a treat when I visit my mom and she always has a new flavor to try. :)

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Krissy March 31, 2010 at 8:30 am

Thanks for the great post! Many things you said rang true to me. Like many of the other comments here – i love the taste, the smell, and the association I have with coffee.

My love started way back in 7th grade with my obsession with coffee ice cream and the cup my friend and I would have in the mornings pretending we were grown ups. Flash forward to a trip to New Orleans Cafe Du Monde in college and my love grew even more!

I have had many a hiatus from coffee over the years and feel wonderful without using it but I always go back because I do miss it so. I allow myself one cup a day. No sweetener. I have it in the morning while the sun is coming up and the house is still quiet and it is pure relaxation to me.

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Taysa (Water, Butter and Wine) March 31, 2010 at 8:54 am

Oh, thank you for this! I recently went to the doctor to discuss my own tummy troubles, and she put me on a low acid diet for a month to see if that would help. Coffee has been the worst thing to live without. Just going through caffeine withdrawls was bad enough, but I too love coffee. I love the smell of espresso as I read a book, or sipping it by the window watching the sun come up on a weekend morning. Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one struggling with this love affair!

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Jess - The Domestic Vegan March 31, 2010 at 8:59 am

Ah, I love this post. Such great insight, as always.

I am exactly like you in regards to coffee. For whatever reason (I have my theories), I am not particularly responsive to caffeine. I know what a “sugar high” feels like (as well as the subsequent “sugar crash”) – but I have never felt a caffeine “buzz.” It’s the flavor of coffee I crave (and love). It’s the warmth, the smell, the mouthfeel (hate that word), and the TASTE. I happen to enjoy Teeccino, but not as a substitute for coffee. There’s nothing like the real thing! I don’t “need” it everyday, and I don’t drink it everyday. But when I want coffee, I’m going to drink it without guilt!

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JoLynn-dreaminitvegan March 31, 2010 at 9:43 am

My husband and I were just talking about coffee the other day. We actually stopped drinking it about two years ago for quite some time. We had some houseguests over so we brewed some and one thing led to another. LIke you, I’m not addicted what so ever, or need that caffeine rush in the morning. I just love the taste and the smell. I only have 1-2 cups a day and I add non-dairy milk to it so it really isn’t very much. Somedays I do skip it altogether. If I want an energy rush I’ll juice!

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Gina (@ Looking Forward) March 31, 2010 at 9:45 am

Hi Gena, I just started reading your blog and I just wanted to comment on how much I enjoy your posts. You are such a great writer and I am always excited about health after reading each post! I have been experimenting a lot lately with green juice and raw eats and though not ready to become veagan or raw, have found a place in my lifestyle for them especially some of the recipes I’ve tried from your blog!

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KRISTEN'S RAW March 31, 2010 at 9:58 am

My new puppy gave me a 5 minute break and I was able to read this post. As I was reading it, I thought to myself, “WOW! We both blogged about coffee/caffeine! Cool!” Then, I saw that you linked to me. Thank you. :)

I hear ya on the coffee bond. Now that I’ve broken the caffeine addiction, I can enjoy a cup here and there (when not pregnant or breastfeeding) and not feel guilty about it. Organic when possible. Usually decaf.

I agree that there are some things that give you a psychological edge… a spiritual uplift that can be worth their weight in health gold. That being said, I do love my new relationships with Teeccino and herbal teas – thankfully.

I have concerns about coffee production and the environment, which I haven’t looked into yet, but I’ve seen snippets here and there about its problems. I plan on diving into that soon and seeing how bad it is. I have heard that shade-grown, organic, fair-trade is at least better (for health and environment), but I don’t know how much.

Great post, as always.

XOXO,
Kristen

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Serena March 31, 2010 at 10:01 am

Yay for a little cup of heaven! I’m with you. I tried to kick the coffee last summer and I was miserable. I drank tea and Teecino for 3 months and then couldn’t do it anymore. I realized that it was the overall experience (all the sensations and especially the taste) of drinking the coffee that I missed and no substitute was going to work in the long run. I did make some modifications that have worked well though. I switched to half-decaf and ditched the 2T of half and half in favor of hazelnut milk (regular and chocolate, yummo!). Then a really weird thing happened. In January I just didn’t want any coffee. I stopped drinking it except for maybe 1 day a week when I went to work and I could instantly smell the coffee. Now I have come to some sort of balance. I make my hubby a breve almost every morning, but I only make the coffee for myself a couple times a week. Usually I make the coffee in the am, add some yummy raw chocolate powder, peppermint oil and hazelnut milk and stick it in the freezer for several hours. Then I whirl it in the blender for a yummy delicious homemade granita right around high-tea time.

My reasoning for enjoying the occasional cup of Joe is that it is one of my only “vices.” Otherwise I am very happy and feel very good eating high-raw, and as vegan as possible, if that makes sense. I felt that I had to give myself a little cushion with the coffee, otherwise I felt I was restricting myself and this unfortunately leaked into other areas. When I was restricting myself from coffee, I turned to other less healthy options and started feeling yucky. When I allowed myself to have what I enjoy, my body balanced itself out. This has really opened my eyes in other areas of my diet as well. My daughter loves to announce to anyone we meet that, “my mommy is a vegetarian!” While it is really cute and she says it in a very happy manner, I don’t want to put myself into a box. That is, the mental restriction of “I am a _____” doesn’t work for my brain. If my sweetie didn’t say anything, I wouldn’t share that info. Nonetheless, when she does make that announcement, I smile and say, “yes I love my veggies,” but if a strong craving for something comes up and doesn’t go away in a few hours or a day, then I happily meet my body’s request for said food. Then the craving usually goes away and doesn’t come back. It is my healthy way of staying balanced. Anyway, it was a great learning experience for me and I am glad to read that there are others out there, including yourself, experiencing the same thing as me :-). Thank you!

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Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble) March 31, 2010 at 10:49 am

Gena, this is an amazing post, yet again!

I have dealt with the “coffee struggle” for many years now. I KNOW it is not good for my body, and even worse for my IBS… but I love it! I have learned to be ok with having coffee once or twice a week, and that satisfies my cravings. I believe in everything in moderation!!

xo
K

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fitforfree March 31, 2010 at 12:06 pm

awesome post! I feel the same way about coffee — except that I have a REALLY hard time exercising moderation with caffeine. I also feel that way about alcohol — I don’t have it often enough to call it a “vice,” but it really hits the spot when I’m craving it, so I don’t see the sense in cutting it out of my diet just because it’s not nutritious!
I’ll always struggle with the sugar issue, because it’s NEVER “good” for you, but there is something about a warm home-baked chocolate chip cookie that is more comforting than any other food . . .

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Pauper March 31, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I loved this post! Sounds just like my love affair with black tea :) I tried to give it up after a lifelong habit (even had it in my baby bottle!) but came to the same realizations that the amount of happiness it gives me likely far outweighs any detrimental effects.

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Lauren March 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Love this post Gena.

What we all have to realize is that “perfection” is some invented idea. What is perfection without the little things that we enjoy… and in the grand scheme of things… whether it is hot cocoa, coffee, or a glass of wine here, and there, it certainly is a heck of a lot healthier than the other things we could be “indulging” in. If it brings us sheer pleasure- then it is healthy! Pleasure, like laughing, is good for the heart and soul.

Glad to hear you are having fun with your old friend, the coffee bean.

Love,

lauren

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Maria (Tough Cookie) March 31, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I’m with you, Gena! Coffee is the least of my worries right now based on ALL of the good I do for myself through diet and mental and emotional health. ENJOY your coffee!

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Gelareh March 31, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I used to be a heavy coffee drinker.. I would pull up to Dunkin Donuts or Honey Dew Donuts and they had my cup ready… those were the old college days that I wanted the $1 coffee.. I have always drank it for its taste and smell… except when I had to pull all nighters in the lab then it was to keep me awake. A year ago I went cold turkey and didn’t have sip of it for a good 6 months.. until I bought my husband an espresso machine for his birthday.. now I only have a cup when I absolutly crave it. which is probbaly once every week or one every other week. Luckily the coffee at my work is so gross that i don’t even get tempted.

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traceyr March 31, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Ditto your coffee thoughts. Tried without, but i’ll always love the stuff. french press coffee is near to my heart!!
thanks for all your “real” posts!!!

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Jodi Harris March 31, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Yay Gena – My thoughts exactly! :) Thanks for the post.

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Melissa March 31, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Thanks for this post and being honest:) I think there are too many extremes related to vegan/raw lifestyles so it was nice to hear that you are keeping it real and still enjoying life’s little joys! I would say my little imperfection ,if you will, is simply eating too much sugar. I need to up the greens I think!

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elizabeth March 31, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I too have stores of discipline around food, so I don’t know why it is that I have so little discipline around drinks (coffee and wine). I think it’s an aesthetic thing … a whole range of mostly positive associations around both those indulgences. I’d go so far as to say my love of both drinks is constitutive of my identity. And while I make no secret of my love of good food, I’m the first to admit that the act of “eating” (whatever the food) does not carry the same range of positive associations that the act of “drinking” (especially those two substances) does.

I still drink coffee. Organic, fair trade, dark roast, properly brewed in a French press, never more than 8 to 12 oz a day. I’ve been drinking it since I was 15 or 16, and I’ve had a little ritual of grinding my own beans in the morning for almost as long. I no longer start my mornings with coffee, but it’s still an almost daily mid-morning indulgence. One I have no plans to give up.

I know that plans change however … I never thought I’d stop drinking wine but I recently gave it up. I’m still horrified that I no longer drink. But I gave up wine because I’m a horrible intellectual snob and I’ve been losing my memory (big time) and my ability to stream information and being smart means a lot more to me than being cool.

Coffee, on the other hand, seems to help my concentration (in the limited quantities I drink it … too much will backfire, which is maybe why in all the years I’ve been drinking it, I’ve never built up a tolerance for more than a morning cup or two).

I especially don’t understand why women battling weight problems come to raw foods and try to give up coffee along with a host of other indulgences. In my experience, coffee is an appetite suppressant, so I’d think it would be easier to give it up after achieving one’s goal weight (if at all…).

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Ruth March 31, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Thank you thank you thank you! I love my coffee, for all the reasons that you mention. And I’ve tried to let go og the habit, but with little success. It may well be an addiction, in my case, but I think my healthy diet and healthy lifestyle can support this small transgression.

One of the things that I most appreciate about you and Choosing Raw is that you offer real advice tailored to real folks. No one can maintain a “perfect” diet, and the perfect diet for one person may not be the same for someone else. You always support your readers in making the best choices for their own lifestyles and preferences.

So yes, I’ll continue to enjoy my green juices and my lovely salads and my – gasp! – black coffee at breakfast!

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Melissa March 31, 2010 at 4:07 pm

great post. Shirley over at Vivacious Veggie also talks about coffee and the issues with decaf – http://vivaciousveggie.wordpress.com/

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Erika March 31, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I really like this post. I feel like I have often been pressured to give up coffee and I have for the past several weeks. I realized by giving it up that I’m not addicted to it and I’m certainly not addicted to the caffeine. I’ve decided to bring it back into my diet because I realized that coffee makes me slow down. I take a break and drink it slowly, and I think that is a great thing for me.

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Katherine March 31, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I love coffee and it’s totally just about drinking something hot in the morning (sometimes I have decaf or just hot water in a pinch).
Creatures of habit!
Katherine

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Neven March 31, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I love this honest post! For some reason coffee was so easy for me to give up even though I loved it and the ritual of drinking it. I gave it up with out even trying, I just stopped craving it. One thing I’m not planning on giving up is wine. I don’t drink more than 2 glasses in one evening and I only drink it occasionally. My husband has been collecting wine for decades and I love opening a bottle together and talking about what it tastes and smells like. I have no plans to stop drinking wine!

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Heather Williams March 31, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Hi Gena! I just love reading your posts! I can relate to the ADDICTIVE smell of coffee. I like to walk down the coffee aisle or into a Barnes and Noble just to get the smell! 3 years ago i gave up my morning java due to vanity reasons- I didn’t like my teeth coloring! :) I missed coffee but don’t miss it so much anymore. What did I miss that my body wouldn’t work without?? yogurt..yes I know…as a STRONG beliver in raw food and a dedicated practioner of it, I have to admit.. I never thought I’d pick it back up again, but my body literally wouldn’t work and didn’t want to work without it ( fatigue, poor digestion ). No matter what else I tried to substitute whether it be probiotics, kefir, any cultured foods or other proteins, I missed that daily indulgence of one, frozen Greek nonfat organic yogurt drizzled with dark cocoa powder, which brings me to my other addiction – RAW CACAO!!! I eat it 3 times a day and its my morning java fix. I am a HAPPY camper after my veggie hemp protein shake topped with raw cacao after my morning juice. I cap every evening off with my yogurt and my body works effortlessly and HAPPILY. As a vegetarian and 99% raw foodist, I have to say, if this is the only area I’m slackin in, then so be it:)

Great post:)

Heather

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Gabreial March 31, 2010 at 8:34 pm

“No no, the lure of coffee isn’t the caffeine. It’s the taste, the smell, the associations. Like all true pleasures, my love of coffee can’t be replicated with a substitute. No coffee-like beverage — not tea, not Teecino, and certainly not grain coffee — tastes as good to me as the real thing. And since it’s not caffeine per se that I want, but coffee itself, I’ve virtually no interest in anything that’s meant to seem like coffee, or simply to deliver some caffeine.

I could have wrote that! Thanks for this post. I feel a lot less guilty now!

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Laura March 31, 2010 at 10:24 pm

I’m quite lucky in that I don’t like coffee- or pop/soda, or alcohol (I drink socially now and then, but I never crave alcohol!). My gentle imperfections, if you could call them that, are usually desserts- cookies, ice cream, candy. These days they are usually at least from a health food store- the whole wheat cookie, the coconut ice cream, the carob raisins- but they do play a bigger role in my diet than I’m sure they should. I also go through periods where I am craving “coffee cart” drinks- that is, soy chocolate or soy chai from the coffee cart on campus. Some weeks it never crosses my mind, and other weeks I end up there almost daily. Sometimes I opt for an iced herbal tea instead. I really wish more coffee shops would carry nut milks (or even rice milk) and natural drink blends- I’d be much happier about my habit!

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Sarah April 1, 2010 at 2:54 am

I know the feeling. Coffee and I have been on breaks for months at a time but we always end up getting back together, and it’s usually a happy reunion. Plus, my morning coffee is a chance for some me time before the day starts and I love that. Thanks for this great post Gena and for putting things in perspective, which you always do so well. x

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Sarah April 1, 2010 at 5:26 am

Thank you for this post! I recently got to craving my java too. Not necessarily in the morning, but mostly mid afternoon. I just love the taste of it, it’s never been about the caffeine. “kicking the habit” wasn’t difficult, but after clearing my cabinets of every other vice I could find, it seems like the pleasure of coffee drinking IS minimal, especially if kept under some control. It just tastes so fine :)

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Michelle @ Find Your Balance April 1, 2010 at 5:48 am

I’ve found myself sipping coffee from my husband’s cup lately and even buying my own small cup now and then. I refuse to feel guilty! But I can say that my coffee hiatus has made me only want to return to really, really good coffee. I have no desire for the cheap stuff. I love that you wrote this post!

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Andrea April 1, 2010 at 5:51 am

Gena,
I love this post. Yes, you are human…I was starting to wonder…hehe. No seriously, you have such a great balance and I agree completely that life should be enjoyed and if that includes coffee, chocolate, the occasional diet soda, so be it!
Andrea

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Janelle April 1, 2010 at 7:05 am

Gena,

Thank you for this post! I’m so impressed by your dilligance to your health, along with your acceptance that we are not perfect creatures and striving to have the “perfect” diet is an exercise in futility. I also believe that coffee is “Liquid Joy” and embrace it not for its tastes or buzz, but for the experience that is drinking it – holding a warm mug, enjoying the smell, and getting the warm fuzzies as I swallow a hot sip. I’m 9 months pregnant, and although I have done a lot with my diet to give my baby the best start possible, I have also enjoyed a single, guilt-free cup of coffee every day of my pregnancy.

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Hangry Pants April 1, 2010 at 8:39 am

I never drank coffee until I started working. Now I drink one cup during the week, but I really could not have it one day and be fine. For me, that’s okay. If I felt like I could not function w/o it, then I might have to make a change.

Thanks for the link!

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Jess @ MTL Veggie April 1, 2010 at 9:14 am

Gena,

I sheepishly raise my hand in agreement with you. I too, ironically enough, gave up the very bad habit of smoking around 2 years ago, and with it I thought, hey, if I can quit smoking, I can quit coffee too, right? Wrong!
So, as much as I try (and I do try) to keep my coffee consumption to a minium I, I simply try to enjoy when I do have it. I really like how you discussed that its all about balance and looking at our diet and lifestyle in a “big picture” perspective. I may drink coffee occasionally, but I also follow a well balanced and healthy vegetarian diet and have an active lifestyle. Thanks for such a great post :) -Jess

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Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday April 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

I wish I had half the passion for any food as you do for coffee. I think, in that case, my life would be complete.

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Lizzy April 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Love this post!!! I also LOVE coffee….and wont give it up! But I have scaled it back to no more than 2-small or 1-large mug a day…and never after 11am!! I am excited to read more about your techino experience, I hope youre having a great thursday!
xoxo!

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Charlie April 1, 2010 at 7:44 pm

I will always keep my Type-A Virgo-ness… ;)
And my love of coffee and pickled ginger. (Separate, of course.)

I love your blog, and I’ve added you to my “must reads” blogroll, since I am a high-raw vegan myself. I’ll be doing my yoga teacher training on the Florida beaches this summer, and then I am planning on a move to NYC. 1LD date?! :)

XX,
Charlie
(“La Maison de Charlie”)

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Lynna April 1, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I feel the same way about coffee. The caffeine doesn’t do much for me but a nice hot cafe au lait is comforting and I have no intention of giving it up. For awhile I was feeling a similar guilt but then I thought, I don’t even drink it everyday, and on the days I do drink it, I never have more than a cup. Plus, I enjoy it, and that’s what’s most important. Thanks for being so honest. It helps to know that you too have the occasional imperfect eating habit :)

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Andria @ Veg is Sexy April 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm

This is a great post! Thank you so much for your honesty. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow morning and have a guilty free cup of coffee :)

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Bria April 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

For me, two things I won’t give up that are perhaps less than ideal are chocolate and black tea. With the black tea, I often de-caffeinate it by steeping it for 30 seconds to one minute, then re-steeping it in fresh water. With chocolate, I just try to be moderate and always go for dark (which I like better) and dairy free varieties.

As for your coffee habit, it sounds like you’ve found a good balance. I’m one of those people who loves the smell of coffee but never developed a true taste for it. Plus, unlike you, I’m incredibly sensitive to caffeine. Coffee does weird things to me.

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renee April 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

i keep coffee for the social aspect of it, its lovely to have with other people!
my guilty pleasure is thanksgiving: i am not gonna fuss about dairy in my meal once a year, it would distract from the unity of the day in my family

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alexandra April 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

what about chickory. its a very popular coffee substitue here in Europe. Lots of children and pregnant women drink it.

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Gena April 6, 2010 at 7:02 am

Alexandra,

Alas, no. I think my main point is that, if I’m drinking coffee, I’m drinking coffee. I’m not interested in replacements :)

Gena

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Rose-Anne April 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Mmm, coffee…{swoon} What a lovely post, Gena–honest and thoughtful. I wonder if it’s BECAUSE you gave up coffee that your health is strong enough to allow you to enjoy it now.

Also, I have to echo some of the other commenters and recommend cold-brewed coffee. It’s so smooth and delicious! I love making it using a “Winter Blend” coffee that’s infused with cinnamon and some other warm flavors. It’s dreamy :-)

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Rose-Anne April 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Also, to answer your question: what won’t I give up for my health? Sugar and white bread! I eat them in careful moderation–much less than I did when I was younger–but I do love me some dessert and bakery breads. I always eat them after or alongside much more nutritious foods, like a big salad or a vegetable soup. I eat them for pleasure, and I think the rest of my diet “covers” for them.

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Elizabeth June 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Lays potato chips and alcohol. The chips urge is easy to keep at bay as long as they aren’t anywhere near me; I can go weeks without them. But the alcohol thing is a bit more complicated. It is very similar to how you describe your coffee thing, i.e., there are a lot positive associations with it (for me) outside of the fact that it can get one drunk. There are social and sensual associations with it that I would miss. it’s hard to give up something that is considered unhealthy when I associate it with things i like.

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