I love coffee. What I like best is an extra hot latte made with full fat milk, one brown sugar and a shake of cocoa powder. I particularly like to have one first thing in the morning on the days I’m working, when I’m out very early. Or in the summer when I'm in Italy, at my favourite cafe, sitting in the sun overlooking the lovely little port of Villanova.
There’s just one small hitch. I’ve been doing lots of reading about how to manage the symptoms of the menopause (most of which I seem to be experiencing, most of the time!). One of the suggestions to reduce hot flushes among other thing seems to be: cut down on caffeine. I also have an added problem with coffee, which I have always had as far as I know. If I have one cup from time to time I’m fine and if I have one every day, I’m fine. But, if I have a latte three days in a row and then I stop for a few days, I get the most unbelievably painful headache (for a whole day) which nothing but caffeine will get rid of. No amount of paracetamol or other painkillers does the trick. It’s a kind of withdrawal I think and it’s pretty drastic. So, the sensible thing might be not to have coffee. Or to limit myself to one from time to time. Problem is these days I tend to rebel when I think I have to be 'sensible' and I don’t like limiting myself. Over the past year I’ve dabbled with various options. I have had a go at only having coffee when I’m in Italy (which is where I love it best) but recently I’ve been spending more and more time there, so I've been having coffee more and more. I’ve experimented with cutting it out - but just end up feeling deprived and I’ve noticed that when I really fancy one and I don’t have it, I find myself wanting something sweet and I have chocolate or a cake… neither of which I particularly want at the time and so never feel terribly satisfied. I have experimented with having one a week but it feels like some kind of diet - I then have an ongoing battle every morning “I want one, can’t have one until next Thursday, damn, maybe just today?, no, wait til next week, you now it makes sense...” and on and on. I came up with a 1 Minute Mantra to support myself - but it was fake I realised! When I heard myself saying “I’m taking care of my health” I just wanted to have a mega tantrum and I didn’t believe it anyway. How do I know I'm taking care of my health? Where is the evidence? I haven't experienced any benefit first hand! Despite my rebellious retorts to myself, it did work at some level - I did stop drinking coffee so often but I felt a constant, niggling deprivation. Using the 1 Minute Mantra to stop myself having something I want, when I’m hungry for it just wasn’t working in the full and real sense. Not for the long term, which is what I'm after. It works a treat when I’m on the brink of overeating, when I want to have something I'm not hungry for. I believe my mantra then because all my experience tells me that I know how to manage without food and I'll always feel better when I have chosen not to overeat. Always. But I doesn't work when I’m depriving myself in the true sense of the word, without any real benefit or reason. Not with coffee anyway.
So, last week I decided that the only way to manage this effectively would be to allow myself to have a latte whenever I want one. To stop messing around with resistance or control. To tune in and ask myself if it’s what I really want, to taste it and enjoy it (or not!) and to give myself a chance to notice how it impacts hot flushes, my skin, my mood and make a decision about whether or not to have it day by day. It feels important to add here that I see a latte as a food, not just a drink. It contains almost two thirds of a pint of milk - which I find both nourishing and filling. I have always had the latte as my breakfast, not with my breakfast, because I find it fills me up, I’m not generally hungry when I’ve drunk the best part of one (I usually leave little bit because I only like it when it’s piping hot and by the time I get to three quarters of the way down it’s gone luke warm!).
Anyway, I’ve had one every morning for a week. My hot flushes have been pretty bad and I’m going to keep monitoring them and see if they are any different when I don’t have coffee. I might even experiment at some point, when I feel ready, and have coffee every day for a couple of weeks and then not at all for a couple of weeks and see if I notice a difference. But I’m not ready for that kind of experiment yet. And maybe I won’t need to… Yesterday morning, very early, on the way to see my first client, I stopped off for a latte. I sat down in the cafe and had a sip, and then another. I enjoyed the hot, sweet. bitter falvours. I fancied a few almonds so I had a few of those too. I’d had about eight sips when I realised I’d had enough. That actually that’s all I wanted. I wasn’t hungry and I felt perfectly satisfied. And pretty much the same happened today. That’s always been my experience with my relationship with food. When I can unhook myself from the ‘all or nothing’ diet thinking, when I let go of the “I should do this and I shouldn’t do that” mentality, when I tune in, when I allow myself what I want instead of trying hard to resist, when I sit down and taste what I’m having and experience it rather than eating without awareness… magic happens. It’s early days yet but I know something has changed between me and coffee… watch this space!