Coffee is a staple in the lives of most corporate professionals as a response to the demands of work – an aid to make it through late nights, meetings that can put one to sleep, when one cannot afford after-lunch drowsiness with deadlines to meet. Many of my clients ask me at the initial interview, “Do I have to give up my coffee (in order to lose weight?)” The good news is, no – you do not have to give up your coffee in order to lose weight. But the not so good news is that your coffee addiction is an early warning sign of something not quite right with your body that would probably manifest itself several years or decades later – which is good news too if you come to think of it, it means that if you’re experiencing a coffee addiction NOW with other signs of disease (i.e. high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc), you’ve still got time to get your health sorted before you get hit with a health crisis.
So what is a coffee addiction and how do you know you’re addicted? Some people use the word addiction very loosely and call themselves Coffee Addicts when a more accurate term for them would be Coffee Appreciators. Coffee Appreciators drink coffee not because they need it, but because they appreciate the sensory experience that comes with enjoying a nice cup of coffee to start the day. They appreciate the whiff of coffee aroma, the warmth of the smooth liquid as it slides down their throat, etc. And they take their time to savour the experience. To be a Coffee Appreciator is not such a bad thing (Coffee Appreciators rejoice!) It enhances mindfulness and promotes relaxation in a way, so if you’re a Coffee Appreciator, well – appreciate away!
Coffee Addicts however, absolutely need coffee in order to function. And I mean this literally – if they don’t take coffee, they are unable to function well and perform in their work. They also feel a natural urge from the body drawing them towards coffee and they feel unable to resist it with willpower. Now that’s the sign of a Coffee Addict. Many of my clients describe experiencing symptoms like these and feel guilty about not having enough willpower to stay away from coffee, without recognising what their body is trying to tell them with these coffee cravings. A similar principle applies for sugar and cigarette cravings as well. Cravings – regardless of whether coffee or sugar or cigarettes – are your body’s way of crying for help.
If you step back and take an objective look at cravings, you’ll find that they aren’t always there. They only manifest themselves due to a combination of certain conditions – mental stress (which causes damage to the body), and a weakened physical body that is unable to recovery properly from the damage caused by the mental stress. Mental stress itself is typically a natural response to happenings that occur to us from the external environment that we perceive as being outside of our control (i.e. bosses piling on the workload, an uncooperative colleague). Add a particular stimulant (coffee, nicotine from cigarettes and sugar are all stimulants) to that stress cocktail and that’s how our brain develops cravings. Trying to fight the craving only results in more stress (as the parts of your brain that produce the cravings are the parts that are out of your control – just as you can’t really use your willpower to control thirst / body temperature, which are also controlled by the same parts of your brain) and the vicious cycle continues.
So, what can you do to overcome coffee addiction? Look out for Part 2 of this article next week.