Lent (5)

So I should probably have kept a more detailed track of my goings on over lent, that way this experiment might actually be valid in some way…

But alas, I have been busy.

Despite this falling somewhat by the wayside, I have this to report: it is day 36 and I have almost entirely stopped feeling caffeine cravings!!!!!

It only took over a month but hey-ho, let’s forget about that… 😉 What I have found is that on certain days I will feel an almost constant craving, but it is very faint, and extremely easy to ignore. I only notice it on days when I’m feeling really run down or I’m really tired and take a break. It hits me when I’m sitting in a state of semi-relaxation. Nice, y’no, to be sitting there, resting, happy as a pig in shit, then suddenly become aware of this little gnawing emptiness, somewhere on another plane, but situated close to you heart. I think it might be a tiny unfulfilled part of my soul… But generally it hasn’t been that bad. In fact, as time has gone on, it has become significantly easier.

I do actually feel quite proud of myself. It has not just been 40 days and nights. Oooh no, it has been more like 40 Days of Night.

This past month or so has been one of the most stressful for a long while, perhaps even in the past year. There has just been so much to do, with Uni and friends and deadlines and work and family and trying to balance all of the above… it has just been something of a mammoth task. And in times of great stress or unrest or, indeed, unhappiness, we turn to out vices, our addictions. For me, that would have meant a steaming cup of Joe… but not this month.

That’s right, I held strong. I did not crack and for that I am just a tiny little bit proud. It is such a miniscule thing in the grand scheme of things, but it has been important to me. I have been able to put mind over matter and say no. I am glad to be joining the ranks of thousands of others who have accepted a similar challenge.

I think I will do this every year. Perhaps not coffee, but with something else. There is a whole host of superfluous nonsense floating about one’s periphery, it would be more difficult choosing what to get rid of than actually giving it up. But in some ways I have enjoyed the challenge.

nom nom nom...

A health benefit I did not expect to see from it is that I am not eating so many biscuits. I am still eating a fairly worrying amount of them, but it has certainly made me more aware of the sheer volume I am stuffing down my throat. An unfortunate thing about coffee is that it goes exceedingly well with all known manner of treat, sweet or savoury, hot or cold. There is nothing I can think of, dessert/munchie style, that cannot be complemented by a good cup of coffee. I would almost always sit with something to nibble when I had a coffee.

Now that that is gone, I was still getting the hunger pangs, and to begin with I couldn’t understand why. Because I did not have a drink in my hand, it did not click to me that it was time to have a munch. My stomach and I apparently have differing ideas on timing, however, and it responded with despondent groans when I did not fill it.

But I have decided to take control. I think out my day and the likely way it will go and slot in the places I am likely to need to eat and decide when I will have fruit and when I will have sweets or a cereal bar, so that I am always having a little energy boost yet I also get the benefit and the tastiness of the fruit, while allowing myself some snacks. It really has made me hyper aware of the fact that, instead of being a couple left in the second packet of my favourite coffee accompaniment at the end of the week, there is a barely half eaten lone packet, which I am only responsible for eating perhaps one or two of. Over the course of an entire week, Had this been before lent, I would be almost through my second pack of them. And that isn’t even the only things I was eating with them.

The snacks themselves were fairly low in calories and I did try to only eat them before or after exercise so that I would burn up the sugar in them, but still, they were high enough. I’m quite into the whole, exercise, it makes you healthy, thing, so I keep a loose eye on the amount of sugary things I eat. So while I was already aware I was eating tonnes of biscuits and still to an extent am, it hasn’t really affected my weight all that much.

I am interested to see if Gillian has had any health benefits or not. I could be imagining it, but I also feel my skin is a lot better. My diet change made it a little worse to begin with but that cleared right up after a couple of weeks. I figure that was just my teenage body regulating itself after an adjustment. But eating no bad things at all, that must be having some serious effects. I for one know that if it were me doing that, I would probably starve half to death if I didn’t make some pretty speedy adjustments to my lifestyle. For sure I’ve noticed her lack of fizzy juice. She has been going through screeds of “juice boxes”, as she so Americanisedly calls them (the little cartons of fruit juice) Every day she will go through about four of them. At least that way she is getting some vitamins from the juice – the girl hates fruit so there goes one way to get you sugar fix without junk food. But she has adapted very well. She rarely, if ever, complains. The same cannot be said for me…

Resist...

But definitely, I am feeling good about the whole lent thing. I feel it has probably done my internal system some good, having that break from a stimulant.

It has made me look more closely at the things around me that are clearly surplus. I do not need coffee, I like coffee, but other than feeling quite tires for a few days, there were really no extreme side-effects. I can easily go without it. Gillian is still alive – point proved! You do not need all that crap to keep your system going. People have survived for thousands of years like this. When one food source runs out, you find another. When your shelter is damaged, you fix it. When something is stolen, you replace it and catch and punish the one that did it. When one survival methods stops working you find another. It is just the way people need to be to survive. Adaptation to your current environment. Finding your niche and claiming your territory and your role within the pack, often through displays of dominance and tests of ability. Darwinism at it’s best.

I kind of feel like that is the way this has gone. We have been made to appreciate what we have, yet also understand that we do not need it in our lives. We like them, but they are extra. They are thing that we are lucky to have and should not take for granted because they might be taken away without warning. Take chocolate for example. A wonderful thing, for sure, but the basic principle is that it functions as a food source, as it is edible. However, if you not-so-closely examine chocolate… it has very little nutritional value. It tastes incredible, but you would be hard pushed to live your life without extensive vitamin supplements if you tried to live off of it.

Hey… did I just learn the meaning of lent?…

Til next time, when I shall most likely be reporting on my experiences of lent overall and what I have gained from it. …

Lent (4)

All has been well so far, this being the 23rd day of the Lentathon de-caffeination experimentation.

 

All except for the slight wavering of my resolve when I had an accidental whiff of Starbucks Christmas Special Coffee. What are the chances that work decides to whip put the fancy coffee maker that’s been gather dust in a cupboard, unlooked at and unloved for many moons, right when I cannot give it the care and attention it deserves?

It was the super special Christmas coffee they brought out this year, covered in a cute little design which, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with coffee or even beverages of any sort. But still, it looked cute even in March.

It was the warm red of Santa with a white snow base and little wintry figures dancing about on it, like snowmen who had made friends with scarf clad red breasted robins and such (because that’s so obviously the way life happens).

I saw at work that the kitchen has acquired a fancy new coffee maker (a curious purchase, considering there is only two, perhaps three people in the whole building who actually drink the stuff) and so I inspected further. Beside it lay the packet of joy!

I took a tiny sniff that turned into a deep inhalation after I had established it was granulated. Mmmmmmmn… ground coffee beans have a far stronger scent than regular instant coffee, and Starbucks especially has a lovely rich smell, so much so that it feels like you are tasting it! It’s the next best thing to actually drinking the stuff.

I’m terrible, I know. I don’t allow myself such improper contemplations anywhere other than right here; this is my little piece of self indulgence.

I’ve wondered about getting a job at Starbucks actually. The coffee shops in the area already seem over staffed as it is, though of course I would never wish for them to become less so because anybody with a job is doing something right or being smiled at by luck. It beats being smirked at by that fickle bitch and being without one for no reason – other than the less than gracious disposition of something out-with your control.

Anyway, I would like to get a job in a café or a coffee distribution centre of some kind. I think even just learning about the different drinks and how to make and serve them to a customer satisfactory level would be interesting.

Because, it is one thing to make one for yourself and quite another to charge someone £3.80 for the pleasure of having it made for them. I feel that if I had the know-how myself, maybe I would be less reluctant to hand over my (fairly) hard earned cash for it. Coffee is over-prices in café’s especially the ones that are, or feign to be chic.

Sure it tastes a lot better coming from someone whose job title is Barista and it’s somehow thicker and more luxurious to drink – but that’s because they use what we call cream, and nothing so pedestrian as regular old fridge milk, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

And there is something quite continental and cozy feeling about having coffee that’s not made from home. But essentially, a lot of coffee shops, especially the cheaper ones, are just in it for the money. So you are most likely to be drinking the same old thing you would normally be if you were to drink it in the house.

Other than long hours, there doesn’t immediately appear to be anything particularly challenging about pressing a couple of buttons on a sophisticated, shiny machine, pre-programmed to make a perfect cuppa every time. The only real skill seems to be remembering to whip the cup away at the right time before it overflows, yet still filling it half way up with froth so that the customer doesn’t realise you’ve conned them until they are half way through their Partially Filled Tall De-Café Latte with Unexpectedly Extra Froth. By then, it’s too late to take it back and it’s Cheeky Barista – 1, You – 0.

These were my thoughts until I watched Singaporean blogger Xia Xue, also know as Wendy, trying her hand as a barista in a coffee shop in aSingaporeshopping mall for her YouTube channel.

She was taught only one full order, a specialised coffee and a pasta dish, all to be made and served quickly, professionally and entirely from scratch. I was truly surprised at how complex the whole thing was. A bit of a rigmarole to be honest. If it’s going to be that much of a mission, I don’t think I’ll be ordering what she was making any time soon!

Despite this, I just really like the atmosphere you get in a good coffee shop or café. How you can feel like you’re in a lively city when you’re surrounded by the scent of hot drinks and accompanying treats, the sounds of clinking dishes and chattering people of all ages, how the sound of tables and chairs always seems muffled, regardless of the surface they’re on or the material they’re made from. All of this, and you could be sitting in your tiny little town, in your local tea room or just the caf doon the front. You could be chilling with your Small Low Fat Super Skinny Latte, a Large Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream, Mini Marshmallows and a shot of Syrup, an Expresso or a cup of Tea, and yet, a good coffee shop will always leave you with that same feeling of contentment.

Lent (3)

So it’s day 19 of lent aaaaand…

I feel fine!

It’s so good. The majority of the cravings seem to have worn off and I’ve stopped replacing the mugs of coffee with sweets and cake. Which, y’know, is good because then I won’t get fat and spotty. Again XD

I still get the wanting when I’m around places that smell strongly of coffee for ages and also when I’m hungry and tired, but, generally I’m not feeling that bad about it. I do get a distinct sense of dread when I think about the fact that I still have half of this time left to go, but at least it’s not as bad as it was before.

Lent (2)

 Update on the zero caffeine situation.

Picture taken from Womans' Day

For the first couple of days, maybe 10, I was experiencing the most horrendous cravings, all the time, every day, every time I passed by somewhere serving or making coffee, someone holding a coffee, or of it was a time of the day I would have idealistically been holding a coffee myself. It. Was. Awful!

Because I am used to having my little dose of sweet caffeinated bliss at certain times of the day, my body was craving it, like some kind of beast, reaching from my inside out trying to grab what it was after. It left me with a kind of emptiness and I knew that the void could be so easily filled if I just gave in to the cravings. But you can’t! 

Along with the ache for the forbidden fruit, there came the headaches. I tend to get pretty bad headaches on a regular basis, but it’s the kind of thing you learn to ignore. Stress causes them, yet a lot of hypochondriacs who get them put them down to some chronic imaginary illness. This was something entirely other. It took me a while, but I’ve put these down to dehydration. Yeah, I know, weird right. But then when you think about it, I was drinking a tonne of coffee which is basically water with (delicious) murky brown stuff in it. Take that away and I really was only drinking about half a bottle and one glass of water a day. Not really that much. I had no idea.

There have been other “side-effects”, though in actual fact some of them are more beneficial than not.

I seem to have a bigger appetite and my metabolism has sped up a little. I think it’s because of the coffee but it could also be that I have also increased the amount of exercise I’m doing a little. Should probably have only changed one thing in my life to be absolutely sure, but hey! I definitely feel like I’m storing a little less pudge than I was before. So it’s all good!

Except for them damn cravings…

Lent (1) Intro

About a month ago I was speaking to some friends when an interesting opportunity presented itself. We each decided to give things up for Lent and I will document our progress here over the next 40 days
 
 
Having only known each other since September, when four of us met on the first day of Uni, none of us really knew anything of each others beliefs. For some reason, the subject had never come up in our lunch breaks or over drinks. I wonder why… Oh yeah, coz we were too busy partying!!… I mean, studying… obviously… 😛
 
I’m more agnostic than atheist, but basically I don’t follow any religion. I’m not in complete denial that there might be something out there though. This view, it turned out, was shared by two of my friends, Gillian and Phoebe. We’ve all had our own experiences of religion and we’re old enough now to be able to come to our own conclusions.
 
But enough of that! Totally separate issue.
 
However. With Irish heritage and having been raised inGlasgow,Shannonhad been raised a strict Catholic. She was enlightening us ignorant and undecided whelps on the truth of what it really is to be a Christian. (coz honestly, after hearing her speak of Catholicism, we realised we really didn’t have a bloody clue! That was quite humbling)
 
It was really quite inspiring and touching to hear someone speak about a faith that has been so slandered in the press in recent years with such passion and total commitment. She explained to us how frustrated she was with the misconceptions of Catholicism people have these days, all because a few of the shadier aspects were picked to pieces by the press. Even though we are, all four of us studying to be a part of that world, it did make me think that often people and subjects may receive an unduly bad rap.
 
 
Everybody has their dark side, it is a reflection of the faith they follow. But that doesn’t mean something is rotten to the core. It just means that you should try to isolate that darkness, fight it into submission by flooding it with light. As some smart cookie once said, “We need darkness to prove the light”.
 
***
 
Anyway…
 
Gillian and I decided to set a challenge.
 
Lent is a Christian tradition where, on Ash Wednesday, you give up something for the 40 days and nights preceding Easter Sunday. This day comes immediately after Shrove Tuesday, but in true heretic fashion, most people know it as Pancake Day. There is some story to do with Jesus and the crucifixion and his rise from the dead and a massive boulder or something… But no one really cares about that when the sickly sweet and delicious scent of fresh pancake is being wafted under your nose so, Pancake Day it is!
 
Now, I write these here words and confess to you, hand on heart… My name is Gemma, and I am a coffee addict. XD
 
Gillian thought that an interesting and productive use of her time would be to use me as her glorified lab rat – an experiment into the effects of caffeine withdrawal in a teenager. 40 days without coffee. 40!
 
Faced with the daunting prospect I counter struck with a vicious blow – give up junk food. All of it. Unhealthy snacks, take-away, the lot!
 
The crisp addict hesitated, but to her credit, only for a moment. And that was that. Decided. The winner gaining nothing but boasting rights, and if it was a draw, pride.
 To be honest, she has more to gain from this than me, the way I see it. Take-away food for the most part is bad for you. She’s just cutting out all the stuff you shouldn’t be eating if you have any sense anyway! Me, however…

Coffee makes me smile 🙂

How can a person deny themselves the bittersweet goodness in the luscious warmth of a steaming hot mug of coffee? (I take mine black, one sugar, just in case you were wondering 😉 )