The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Coffee: Headaches, Addiction and Listening to Your Body

I used to drink a tall glass of orange juice very morning as a teenager. I couldn't seem to get my day started without it. As I transitioned into college, eventually that tall glass of orange juice gave way to a morning jolt of coffee. As soon as I'd roll out of bed, my first duties every morning were to get myself to make that first cup of coffee and bring myself to life, again. I didn't even realize that my desire for orange juice had just quietly faded away.

And so it was for years and years: Coffee was my bread and butter. Periodically, I have tried to wean myself off of coffee. Once, I managed to sustain that for a number of months. What I discovered to my amazement was that as soon as I got off the coffee and passed through the initial withdrawal, that strong and gentle desire for orange juice showed its face, again. It occurred to me that the desire for orange juice had always been there. It was just drowned out by my louder addiction to coffee. All those years, I wasn't feeding my need for orange juice! (I still drank orange juice throughout the day, but I wasn't getting that early morning hydration nor that consistent glass of juice).

Health experts recommend that you "listen to your body." Your body knows what it needs and what it doesn't need, and every individual has different needs. I believe this to be true, but I think there are different tiers to this. There is a quick fix, fast action desire of your body. Coffee, junk food, fast food all tap into this. You can say your body wants it, and that is true. However, its really the quiet, gentle tugs that are best listened to.

Its like exercise--your body wants to sit on a couch and be lazy. That's a true want. But also deep down, in sometimes a quieter voice, your body also wants to exercise. How can you want to be lazy and want to exercise at the same time? Which voice do you listen to? We have to learn to listen to those deeper voices. Just like in my coffee and orange juice example, the desire for juice was drowned out by coffee. I don't believe that coffee satisfies the same nutritional benefits as the orange juice so I'm left believing that those nutritional needs were left unfulfilled all those years, and I didn't know it.

Learning to listen to those gentle voices is key to healthy living. The same process is key to cultivating a healthy spirituality. The quick fixes are often unsatisfying deep down, even if they address something we want (or think we want) on the surface.

So yes, my first morning duty is still making that cup of joe (sometimes I've surprised myself by going the first couple of hours without it, but it always makes an appearance at some point). However, I always include that tall glass of juice, as well. In effect, I chase my coffee. Not always right away--I'll drink the juice maybe 30-60 minutes after my coffee. This has had a profound effect. A lot of people complain about coffee headaches, and it makes sense: Caffeine tenses up your body and the coffee dehydrates you, so that combination is sure to bring headaches and general irritability. Chasing my coffee every morning seems to offset that to a large extent. If giving up coffee is not really on your radar, then chase it.

I'm certainly not against all coffee. Some argue that it is full of beneficial antioxidants and that a cup or two a day might be a great boost for you. I do have some words of caution, though: Like any addictive substance, it can cause problems having healthy relationships in life. When you're addicted, a substance is filling a "gap" that could otherwise be addressed through relationships or spiritual cultivation. I also think coffee speeds up your life.... ages your body. Also, if I start drinking several cups a day, its not long before my throat consistently burns.

1 comment:

  1. I drink fair trade coffee that I get from people at my church. ;) So my addiction is helping people in third world countries not get gypped by greedy businessmen. It's my duty to drink that coffee! He he =)