Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's not so bad.

Although habits do die hard, I'm finding that this experiment is getting easier with time.  My decaf morning coffee suits me just fine.  I haven't felt tired or grumpy at all.  Sometimes I reach for caffeine when I need a boost, but usually it's out of boredom.  A trip to the staff room for a cup of mediocre coffee is an excuse to socialize and get out of my classroom.  "Grown-up time" isn't just something that mothers seek out; it's a teacher thing, too.

Chocolate, on the other hand, is something that I crave.  Usually right after lunch or dinner, I want a little sweet treat.  The other night I walked down to Top Pot Doughnuts and ordered a pink vanilla cake and a decaf coffee. 

This is something I would normally never do.  I would always pick the rich, goopy, chocolatey one.  But I have to admit that my little pink princess donut was pretty delicious, too.  I remind myself that it's good to try new things, even if they're not the things that you like the best.

Now I wonder if I will switch back to caffeinated coffee once this experiment is over.  It does taste a little better.  But why add a drug to my daily life that I'm fine without?  When I've been out lately, I've been ordering vodka tonics instead of my usual rum and Diet Cokes.  That seems like a "healthy" switch, too.  I could continue to live without all of the caffeine and aspartame/saccharin.  Don't even ask me what's in the Red Bull vodkas.  And definitely don't ask me when the alcohol-free month begins...

I've kept some parts of each experiment so far.  For example, I use vegetable broth instead of bouillon cubes in soups (see vegetarian month).  I've also been less drawn to buying new things, instead finding cute used items or pieces already in my closet (see shopping month).  What pieces of this month will I keep with me?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I don't go to church; I blog.

Another day, another confession.  I may not confess my sins every Sunday at church, but this blog is definitely keeping me accountable. 

Yes, I ate chocolate on Thursday.  Every month I have a union meeting over dinner.  The dinner is usually followed by a few pieces of chocolate supplied in small bowls on each table.  While listening to a budget cut discussion, I absentmindedly grabbed a couple pieces of dark chocolate.  Only afterwards did I turn to my friend and say, "Oh no!  That's chocolate!"  Habits die hard.

How often to we snack (or gorge?) without thinking about what we're eating?  It feels like my body occasionally operates on auto-pilot.  Cultivating awareness is challenging.  My experiments with truth are mostly motivating me to fess up when I slip up.  So here I am...I confess!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Chocolate Challenge

I admit it.  I've been in a state of denial.  This whole time I've know that chocolate contains caffeine, but haven't wanted to sacrifice this beloved luxury.  I'm ready to amp up this experiment and exclude the many types of chocolatey goodness.  Anyone that knows me knows that I adore chocolate.  I keep a constant stash at home and usually at work, too.  While writing my last blog entry last night, I was sipping on a rich hot chocolate and feeling like a hypocrite.  I'm here to confess and recommit.  This month just got a whole lot harder.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What does that REALLY mean?

When I describe my experiments and my blog, I encounter a variety of reactions.  When I mentioned my morning decaf coffee, a friend replied, "What's the point of that?"  I completely understand this perspective.  Without the caffeine, coffee seems naked.  I guess now it's just a vehicle for the cream and sugar.  There's also something comforting about my warm travel mug keeping me cozy on the early commute to work.
I'm not a big soda drinker, so that part isn't difficult.  At this point, I'm a little unsure which teas have caffeine and which ones don't.  My local barrista told me that my beloved chai tea has caffeine.  Sad face here. 

I read on a box of green tea recently that it's "naturally decaffeinated."

 I'd always thought that green tea had caffeine and heard about it's metabolism-boosting effects.  After some research I've confirmed that green tea does, in fact, contain caffeine.  Now my marketing friends, how can a box claim that it's "naturally decaffeinated?"  What are the rules there?  How can I stay true to my experiment while constantly being led astray by misleading marketing?  Hmmmmm?  It turns out that products processed with ethyl acetate are referred to as "naturally decaffeinated" because ethyl acetate is a chemical found naturally in many fruits.  But that process doesn't sound all that "natural" to me.

If nothing else, these experiments get me to ask questions that normally wouldn't cross my radar.  All the little things we take for granted and just accept can be pretty surprising when we stop to take a good look.  I plunge onward with this experiment with a new awareness and interest in all the little details...

Viva Las Vegas!

The second day of this experiment was spent entirely in Las Vegas.  Sin City is not the best place to keep any kind of resolution.  After ordering decaf coffee with lunch, passing Diet Coke for tonic mixers, I succumbed to temptation.  The "forbidden factor" I experienced during my month of vegetarianism popped up again in a different form.  After some drinks, Red Bull just became ridiculously appealing.  I never drink Red Bull when I'm sober.  But when out, dancing, around friends, it seems like a magical all-night potion.  Long story short, I cheated.

There is one bright side to being caffeine-free in Las Vegas...Your brain is so fried from the alcohol, you don't really notice any caffeine withdrawl effects.  That blurry headache would be there regardless.  Bloody Marys were my treatment of choice.  The honest truth is that I don't regret my slip-ups....they make the stories, make life exciting.  I rather try and fail than stay on the sidelines.  Perfection is overrated.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Month 3: Caffeine Free

From March 12-April 12th, I will be experimenting with a caffeine-free diet. 
First, a little background...

"Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that is a psychoactive stimulant drug. In humans, caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, having the effect of temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks, enjoy great popularity. Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive substance, but, unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all jurisdictions. In North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists caffeine as a "multiple purpose generally recognized as safe food substance"." -Wikipedia

What I can look forward to...
Regular caffeine consumption reduces sensitivity to caffeine. When caffeine intake is reduced, the body becomes oversensitive to adenosine. In response to this oversensitiveness, blood pressure drops dramatically, causing an excess of blood in the head (though not necessarily on the brain), leading to a headache.  This headache, well known among coffee drinkers, usually lasts from one to five days, and can be alleviated with analgesics such as aspirin. It is also alleviated with caffeine intake (in fact several analgesics contain caffeine dosages).  Often, people who are reducing caffeine intake report being irritable, unable to work, nervous, restless, and feeling sleepy, as well as having a headache. In extreme cases, nausea and vomiting has also been reported.  Sited from Coffee and Caffeine FAQ

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Beauty that is the Clothes Swap

In the last week of this month's experiment, I received a gift from the shopping gods in the form of a Clothes Swap.  The idea is simple: bring a bag of stuff you no longer wear and swap it for "new" stuff.  It works best when participants are around the same size.  Any clothes that no one wants get donated to a local charity.  It's fun, green and socially responsible!

I came away with two tops and a sexy dress just in time for a trip to Vegas this weekend with girlfriends.  The things we "need" always have a way of finding us.  Even if I only wear these items 2 or 3 times, they still satisfy that desire for something new.  It's a handy trick for the non-shopping experimenter.

It also gets me thinking about store displays and clothes sifting.  There are some wonderful consignment shops in Seattle like Fury in Madison Valley, Crossroads on Broadway and Buffalo Exchange in the U District.  But in order to find well-made, high quality clothes, you have to be ready to sift.  Bring your patience and perseverance.  Sifting through many styles, fits and textures is required in order to find the one gem that was made just for you....well, you and the person that owned it before you.  At these stores, you don't get the polished perfection of Nordstrom with drifting piano music, meticulously organized colors and styles and that special feeling...the feeling that you are now part of the exclusive, expensive, awesome shoppers club.  You know what I'm talking about.  If you don't, read or watch Confessions of a Shopoholic.  That movie cracked me up, and every woman can relate to some degree.
As this no-shopping experiment winds down, I vow to honor the many beautiful clothes and accessories I already own, even though some days they feel so boring and tired.  Seeing others appreciate my hand-me-downs reminds me to stop buying and appreciate the many gifts already woven into my life.

Friday, March 5, 2010

If We Were Dating...

Shopping is a social experience.  Shopping with friends conveys trust in their opinions and tastes.  The shared experience is relived with every wear of the sparkling new object.  It's not a coincidence that most of my clothes have a story.  "I bought this one in New York with so-and-so, this one in Chicago with whats-her-name...."  I remember the hours spent shopping with my mom as she taught me about fit and quality and proportions.  My mom doesn't cook, but she can shop.  Those days and hours together connected us.

Shopping also connects us with our community members.  Casual conversations and run-ins with acquaintances often occur at the mall, in the dressing room, over lunch or coffee.  The other day, I bought a bottle of Cuevo Gold tequila at the liquior store near my house.  Necessary?  Probably not.  My friend, Allison, requested it for margaritas at our Supper Club tonight.  The man at the register said, "If we were dating, this is what you'd be drinking...." as he held out a sample bottle of Hornitos tequila. 
I looked at his long white hair and smiled.  "Really?  It's that good, huh?" I replied.  "If you don't like it, bring it back here and I'll finish it off for you."  "It's a deal!"  That small purchase filled my day with a funny story and a feeling of connection to my neighborhood.  But even that man defined his identity with a specific brand or product.  What's good enough?  High class enough to represent me and my tastes?  We often tie our worth to the worth of the products we consume.  He may not have much, but he'll be drinking the best tequila tonight!  He'll make sure all of his loved ones experience that luxury, too.  I'll probably see that old guy again before my next party or beloved bottle of Baileys.  Oftentimes, to refuse to buy is to refuse to connect.

Another example... a student of mine, Zoe, asked me to buy girl scout cookies last week.  I instinctively said yes.  I knew that my purchase was a gift to her, even though I was the one receiving the (blessedly delicious) cookies.  The box even declares, "Courage, Confidence, Character!" as though my purchase helps cultivate these qualities in little girls like Zoe.  It practically screams, "Get your checkbook right now, you attempt of a role-model!  It's the least you can do!"  Zoe's little voice, her big eyes peeking out of her long hair and her buding seeds of confidence needed my money and my affirmation.  Are you believing me yet?  Of course I wanted girl scout cookies, but mostly I wanted to support my student.  Buying is a social experience.