Giving up caffeine: It’s not you, it’s me.

coffee_lambentlifeWe met when I was 18 years old. Fresh faced and ready to explore all that the world had to offer, I ran to you with open arms. They say that college is a time for exploration and experimentation. While some of my college peers tried uppers, downers and round and rounders, I dabbled in flavored lattes and energy drinks. Your bottomless cup was my support during those all-night study sessions at the diner. My 48-count of Red Bull was the only thing there for me when my computer crashed at 2 a.m., wiping my entire Women’s Studies final project just hours before it was due. Through the turmoil of self-discovery and navigating quasi-adult relationships, you were there to lend a comforting lift.

I grew older and wiser and you grew stronger. No longer satisfied with the sickening sweet beverages of my youth, I graduated to the grande triple shot latte. It was more than the temperature of my beverage that warmed my body and stirred my mind. You, caffeine, were the muse to volumes of publications and articles. You sat with me through hours of edits and acted as my meeting and media event side kick. There was no water cooler conversations in our office – only those friendships built during frequent Starbuck’s runs. As time marched on, our relationship evolved from one of convenience to one of necessity.

When I got pregnant, things became a bit awkward between us. Everyone said you weren’t good for me and, truth be told, they were probably right. But I couldn’t just give up on you so easily. We had history. So we met secretly in the diluted cups of half-caff and an afternoon Coca Cola to soothe the nausea.  Childbirth didn’t do much to fix our broken relationship. Taunted by fears of an insomniac infant, you gave me pause. So I mentally packed you away with my expensive lacy bras and turtleneck sweaters, not to be fully enjoyed again until all babies weaned.

Parenting young children brought new life to our friendship. With the whack-a-mole bedtimes and questions of sanity, I was thankful to have you back in my life. Despite the messy house, cranky toddlers and sleepless nights, you were there for me. You saw me at my worst and still shared your mind clearing goodness. You were a key figure in the early years of my motherhood. And I wasn’t alone. As I made new mommy friends, there was as much discussion regarding the location of our next play date as to who would pick up with Dunkin’. We knew each other’s secrets and coffee orders by heart. I traded the fancy (and expensive) Italian beverages for the simple joys of a morning and afternoon cup of coffee. Your predictability was a small comfort in the midst of motherhood’s chaos.

I loved you and was leery of those who doubted your goodness. You were a litmus test to easily determine my compatibility with a potential friend. But as time goes on and I learn more about myself, I began to see a dark side to our friendship. I needed you. At some point, a long history wasn’t enough to ignore how toxic our relationship had become. What once brought me renewed energy and inspiration turned me into an anxious, slightly manic version of my otherwise copacetic self. I hate the way I relied on you to get through the day.

It won’t be a clean break – more of a slow fade – but I’m already feeling the simple pleasure of being less and less addicted to you. I don’t want my mood and abilities to be controlled by a drug (no offense, but that’s what you are). The joy of a caffeine rush simply isn’t worth the racing heart and shaky hands. My heart isn’t pounding hard enough to be visible to others. I have more patience and I’m less on edge. I’m giddy to be exhausted in the evenings and look forward to building a stronger relationship with my other friend – my bed.

I’ve grown and evolved and you’ve stayed the same over the millennia. So really, it’s not you – it’s me. I wish you well and perhaps we’ll cross paths someday during a late night road trip or a particularly vicious migraine. But until then, I bid you adieu.

The Down and Dirty on Clean Eating

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When I started this blog, I did a mini-series called Dirty Little Clean Secrets that to this day are some of my most popular posts. This is amusing because I knew very little about blogging back in 2012 and was just writing what I cared about. What’s even more amusing is that two years later, I haven’t learned much about blogging – except that “dirty little secrets” provides interesting and unsavory search traffic. But I have gained a wealth of knowledge through experience about clean living and eating and I still love to share information to help others.

There are very few conversations that cause me to take a firm stance and they generally fall into one of two categories: faith and food. While I love to talk about my faith, I want to focus on the many, many questions about what I feed my family and why. I realize the food choices that are common for us seem odd to others. Straight away – pause the background music – I want to be clear that I am not telling you what or how to feed your family. Our family’s journey to a healthier lifestyle is ours – you need to be responsible for yours. In fact, our very definition of “healthy” is probably different. But I am telling you to be an informed consumer and make educated decisions and sharing ours.

Our journey to clean eating started when I was pregnant with Emery and has changed and evolved several times. But at the core, my numero uno food rule is to eat real food. One of my favorite quotes on this is by Dr. Alejandro Junger (yes, this same Junger) who says, “The problem is that we aren’t eating real food anymore; we are eating food-like products.”

Right?

I have yet to meet anyone who truly believes processed foods are better than the real deal. But we live in a culture that promotes taste over function and sacrifices nutrients for convenience. Before we started eating a cleaner diet, we were eating under the advice of a well meaning personal trainer who encouraged low fat dairy, artificial sweeteners, fortified grains and diet sodas. Josh and I were both working long hours and many of our food choices were based on convenience. We trusted that this professional knew more about our health than we did. We wised up and cut out the processed grains and started making our own bread. A few months later, we started thinking hard about organic produce. And then looking at where our meats came from.

I know what it’s like to be pressed for time, money and energy and pulled like a Stretch Armstrong between all the new “right” ways to eat. It’s overwhelming to figure out what a clean, healthy diet looks like – I get it. Paleo. Low carb. Vegan. Vegetarian. Organic. Local. Raw. Every supporter claims their way is the right way. Regardless of who is “right,” I promise you that making even small steps away from processed, empty-calorie foods will show a big return on your health. The journey to clean eating and natural living is a journey – it’s a process, trial-and-error, failures and grand successes. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. It’s taking baby steps that turn into bigger steps that eventually lead to a stride.

There are thousands of blogs that do a great job of highlighting the reasons why we should eat unprocessed foods. so why am I even talking about this?

A few reasons. My passion is holistic health. That means I want to help people life their fullest, most satisfying life possible. Eating a clean, unprocessed, organic, locally sourced – whatever you want to call it – is the most important piece of a healthy, natural lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how many vitamins, supplements, fermented foods, non-toxic cleaners, yoga sessions or essential oils you use – if your diet isn’t strong, neither is your health. It’s my goal to help others improve their overall wellness but a strong foundation in good nutrition is necessary.

Secondly, I’ve been there. And it wasn’t until food allergies forced us to examine our diet that we finally made serious, life-long changes. We had to do a dramatic overhaul of our diets – multiple times – and quickly. We were in for it, sink or swim, praying we would swim. Our first dairy allergy diagnosis forced us to make a change but that doesn’t mean it was easy and in hind sight, we made a lot of decisions then that I wouldn’t encourage now. But it’s a process.

Third, I’m not Paleo. Or vegetarian. Or anything. I strive for clean. Unprocessed. Nutrient-dense. I may subscribe to certain aspects of a diet theory but health is not a one-size-fits-all approach. That does not mean I’m perfect or in perfect health (obviously). We eat out. We give in to cravings. We live on a budget. We travel. I have kids who want sugar and junk and treats. I don’t make everything from scratch.

And although our diet is clean, my kitchen is messy. Like, really messy. Don’t stop over unannounced. Does anyone want to do my dishes?

So, what Down and Dirty of Clean Eating topics are we going to talk about?

  • What is a Clean Diet?
  • Making Time
  • Eating on a Budget
  • Eating on the Go
  • Clean Eating for Kids

Guys, I’m ridiculously excited about this.

I want to hear from you! What topics do you want to talk about? What stops you from eating a less-processed, nutrient-dense diet? What tips work for you? Please share!