Beating the coffee habit

By Raina Dawn Lutz

Are you a dedicated coffee drinker? Is coffee your religion?

Many of my family, friends and clients use coffee on a regular basis, and I was always surrounded by coffee when I was younger.

I even learned to make coffee for my parents at the tender age of 7.

We know it as a morning ritual and a pick-me-up, something we do with old or new friends.

I have found balance with coffee and so have my clients, and I want to share our secrets with you.

Why do we care so much about coffee?

Caffeine is a  stimulant, which is why most people drink it. It is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. In the brain, it blocks the function of an inhibitory neurotransmitter (brain hormone) called Adenosine.

By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases activity in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This reduces tiredness and makes us feel more alert.

There are numerous studies that show caffeine can lead to a short-term boost in brain function, including:

  • improved mood
  • reaction time
  • vigilance and general cognitive function.

But if people are prone to anxiety it can induce panic attacks and quickly raise blood pressure.

There are also studies showing that caffeine can also boost metabolism (calories burned) by 3-11% and there are many blogs and articles about the health benefits of coffee including its antioxidant content, cancer prevention and lowering risk of stroke.

As with all foods, there are pros and there are cons.

Moderation is key

But not many of us are good at doing something (especially a substance!) in true moderation. Plus, some of these "wake me up" effects are likely to be short-term. If you drink coffee every day, you eventually build a tolerance to it and the effects will be less powerful.

That means we need more and more of it to feel anything.

On its own, it's really not a terrible thing. It's when we over-do it that it's negative effects increase, or when we add lots of sugar, dairy creamers, sweeteners or flavour blends to turn it from a pretty natural product into a liver-stressing, digestion-overwhelming drink.

With a few shots of your typical flavoured sweetener, we could be adding ingredients like palm oil, milk by-products and sugar, sugar, sugar! (Our poor, poor livers.)

If we start drinking it daily, we can become essentially addicted. Caffeine withdrawal headaches are a real thing for many people trying to quit. If we get to a point where we can't start our day without coffee, that can also be a downside since we are now need to be awakened by substance, rather than our natural hormones.

The more substances we rely on, the more we'll continue to need them.

The Question of Decaf

Is decaf healthier? We have this idea that decaf is much healthier than regular coffee, but the chemicals used to do the de-caffeination process are questionable at best.

Since the use of toxic chemicals on food is not something that we holistic nutritionists' value or support, I would question our use of decaf. If you need it for the taste, just have regular coffee cut with hot water. If you need it for the ritual, think about making the switch to tea instead.

Ready to curb your caffeine addiction? Let's go!

Whatever you put in your coffee now, move to honey or coconut milk

Whether you are using milk, cream, skim milk, or Int'l Deelites, make the healthier move to start replacing these additives with a local honey and alternative creamer (if you need it.)

Some people find that they don't care much for cream once they've started making other changes with their coffee ritual. My fav alternative milks are coconut, almond, brown rice or hemp milk.

If you don't have time to make your own, just read the package and find the one with the least amount of ingredients.

Cut down one cup per week

Cut your intake slowly; it's really the easiest way to start making changes. If you have three cups a day, cut down to two cups a day; for the next week cut down to 1.

Replace the one you dropped with a green tea and eventually herbal tea or water

If you have three cups a day, on the week you cut down to  cups a day, add a cup green tea after your second cup of coffee. It will give you a bit of caffeine but you'll still get to drink the hot drink for as long as you did with coffee, so it doesn't leave you feeling sad and without something to drink.

If instead, you went cold turkey, you may have to deal with the withdrawal headache — don't give in, it'll be over quickly. If you have cut coffee out slowly (less one cup per week as above) you may experience only a slight headache depending on how long you drank the substance for.

In any case, drinking herbal tea, green tea or lemon water upon rising will help with the drinking ritual and help your body out immensely.

Celebrate your good choices

It's all about making these choices that support us and making choices that are fun so that we keep our balance and not crave the treats all the time. Enjoy your morning ritual in moderation. If it feels good, do it!

Raina Dawn Lutz is a registered holistic nutritionist and kombucha brewer  who helps women to get the tools, motivation and excitement to eat well. She specializes in weight loss, digestive issues and anxiety. www.LutzNutrition.ca; [email protected]; office: 250-462-1025

Bullying 101

By Tracey Maxfield

Bullying is the use of repeated, aggressive behaviour intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally, or emotionally.

It is the use of force, coercion, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual.

One essential prerequisite is the perception (by the bully or by others) of an imbalance of physical or social power.

This imbalance distinguishes bullying from conflict. Bullies do not need to be stronger or bigger than their victims. Bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behaviour characterized by the following three minimum criteria:

  • Hostile intent
  • Imbalance of power
  • Repetition over a period of time
  • In the bully circle there is:
  • The bully
  • The victim
  • The bully victim
  • And possibly
  • The bystander
  • The assistant
  • The upstander

Types of Bullying

Verbal: name calling, insults, teasing, verbal abuse, racist or homophobic remarks which detrimentally affect’s the victim’s confidence, sense of self-worth, way he/she defines self, activities he/she participates in.

Cyberbullying: using digital technology e.g. computers, phones, social media sites, chat rooms to intentionally bully, harass, threaten, intimidate (will be discussed in Blog #17)

Sexual: verbal, emotional and/or physical harassment, threats and intimidation of the victim’s appearance (body), sexual orientation, gender type, sexual activity

Physical: actions such as hitting, tripping, punching, pushing, kicking and/or damaging personal property of victim

Emotional: humiliation, taunting, threats, exposure, ‘outing’

Relational (Social/Covert): spreads rumours/lies/gossip; playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate; mimicking unkindly, negative facial/physical gestures, contemptuous looks, deliberately isolates/ignores/excludes from an activity/group aimed at destroying the victim’s friendships, peer acceptance.

Dangerous Misconceptions About Bullying

  • Kids need to toughen up
  • Adults can’t do anything
  • Bystanders don’t have a role in bullying
  • Popular kids are bullies
  • It’s obvious when a child/teenager is being bullied

Risk Factors Leading to Bullying

  • Less parental involvement and/or parental rejection
  • Have friends who bully
  • Dislikes following rules (see Blog #5: CD/ODD)
  • Views violence in a positive/acceptable way
  • Aggressive and/or easily frustrated
  • Violence issues at home: physical abuse/discipline, spousal abuse

Who is a Bully?

Research indicates that “those who bully everyday are more likely to have experienced something stressful or traumatic."

Other Indicators of becoming a bully:

  • Death of a beloved pet
  • Experienced an accident, illness, serious attack
  • Parental separation/divorce
  • Significant family problems: mental illness, substance abuse, criminal activity, parental abuse
  • Abuse or neglect – sexual, emotional, physical
  • Type A bully is the cool kid who gains strength by harassing vulnerable kids. These bullies reassure themselves that ‘no harm’ is being done as it is all ‘in fun’ or get others to bully the victim
  • Type B bully is aggressive, uncaring, may be from a dysfunctional family, have a conduct disorder OR may be depressed, anxious, easily pressured and isolated

If you are a bully, there is an increased likelihood of:

  • Substance abuse
  • Criminal convictions
  • Worsening of pre-existing mental disorder(s) is left untreated
  • Developing anti-social personality disorder
  • Struggling to maintain personal, romantic, family relationships
  • Engaging in early sexual activity, risky behaviours
  • Growing up to be an unhappy adult with difficulty maintaining a job and/or becoming a workplace bully

What to Do if Your Child/Teenager is a Bully?

If your child/teenager is bulling, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent, nor does it mean that he/she is a bad kid. It is important to remember that there is always a reason for behaviour, whether good or bad.

Your child/teenager is relying on bullying behaviour to exert control, show power and get immediate satisfaction at the expense of another child/teenager.

The question you must ask is why?

Is he/she also being bullied or trying to respond to conflict? Is your child/teenager experiencing emotional problems, or unable to deal with a problem appropriately?

Is he/she being threatened or intimidated? Is the behaviour a reaction to a serious problem he/she may be too embarrassed or scared to talk about e.g. sexual abuse.

If you know or suspect your child/teenager is bullying, it is serious and must be dealt with promptly and appropriately.

The key is to be responsive and not reactive, remain calm and objective, listen to the facts, who was involved, what happened, what are the consequences.

Talk with your child/teenager privately, do not accuse, threaten, shame, blame others, dismiss; keep tone neutral, observe eye contact, body language and listen to the responses.

If your child/teenager becomes angry/argumentative, do not shout or argue, do not negotiate, you are the parent and role model, maintain your authority and clearly explain bullying is unacceptable and there are consequences.

Review strategies to help child deal with conflict, anger, anxiety, etc. If necessary, follow up with physician, counsellor. Speak with school, work together to develop plan of care if bullying is related to mental disorder, stress, being bullied, etc.

Be there to support and guide your child/teenager, show love whilst also firmly explaining the ‘rules’ and what is appropriate versus inappropriate behaviour.

Tracey Maxfield is a nurse, speaker, author, peer specialist and mental health/stop bullying advocate and educator. In 2017, she wrote a column for Castanet called Dementia Aware and in 2018, she published her first book Escaping the Rabbit Hole: my journey through depression. You can check out her videos and blog at www.traceymaxfield.com. She can be contacted at [email protected] 

Memories that bite

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel 

Something was lurking in the bushes during our daughter’s wedding and turns out that something was a hornet’s nest the size of a soccer ball.  

However, I didn’t find out about the giant nest until 10 days after the nuptials. I was standing on the balcony of our home where the ceremony had taken place when a gardener pointed out the nest and informed me that they wouldn’t trim the bush until pest control dealt with the nest.  

I couldn’t resist coming down to photograph it, and remarked that the nest looked cool and they seemed a bit shocked with my response and boldness. 

One fellow seemed particularly nervous when he suddenly realized that the wasps were actually bald-faced hornets, which are particularly aggressive and will attack anyone or anything that invades their space. Each one can sting multiple times.

My previous experience with those nasty insects was on our former West Side acreage on Upper Glenrosa several years ago now. My husband, Len, and I had just walked into the barn when we were instantly assailed. 

Len got stung under his watch band, while I was bit on the heel. We shrieked, cussed and ran out of the barn. The cat, dog and horse got in on the act and bolted too. 

The cat ran back and forth yowling, but was not stung; he perhaps was just being melodramatic and poking fun at us by mimicking our actions. As for the horse, being a prey mammal, he was in flight mode, scramming with us, away from an unseen danger;.

The dog probably just wanted to get while the gettin’ was good.

It would have been rather comical to have caught that on tape; it was most definitely a You Tube moment.   

Later, I sheepishly asked the neighbour if she heard any yelling or swearing and she said no, but perhaps she was just being polite because we could have awakened the dead with all that commotion. 

In any event, you would think with my previous horrific encounter with those particularly evil insects that I wouldn’t be standing there, less than three metres away, photographing the fiery tempered flying fiends. 

On the other hand, when I was 10 years old, all bravado with no brains, I threw bricks at a yellow jackets’ nest on the fence, in an attempt to destroy it.  Thinking it so hilarious when they would come blasting out, buzzing away angrily, but couldn’t figure out what was behind those clay missiles.   

Alas, after being tormented for several minutes, they did realize the source, and I was busted. In a cloud of biting insects I screamed and ran while swiping them away at them. One got me on the neck. 

Then, I went a bawling to my friend’s mom; she put some vinegar on it, which soothed the sting instantly. I knew better than to go home as my mom would have figured out that I probably had it coming, and wasn’t some innocent victim, and she would have really chewed me out, adding insult to injury. 

It also dawned on me that I was lucky to get off with just one sting; it could have been far worse. 

However no harm no foul on this day, some 40 plus years later. As a somewhat more mature adult, I managed to walk away unscathed, as did our unsuspecting wedding guests more than a week earlier. 

Our bite-covered guardian angels must have been working overtime.

A path in the park

Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve

By Sally Quon

There are days I want to get into the minivan and drive, drive, drive. 

And then there are days I just don’t want to stray too far from my coffeemaker. Know what I mean?

I stumbled upon the Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve one day last summer and promised myself I would return. So many birds!  Given the proximity to my coffee machine, it seemed like a good day to go.

My plan was to take my coffee and my beach blanket, find a spot in the park to set up with my camera and journal, and wait for the birds to come to me. 

I remembered there was a small clearing that seemed perfect. 

But by the time I got to Winfield, I was having second thoughts. I couldn’t remember exactly where the clearing was. 

It occurred to me that by the time I put my camera in my purse with my keys and my journal, hauled out the big lens (in its own case; it’s rather heavy), grabbed the blanket and my coffee – that was a lot of luggage to be hauling around on a trail, especially with my limitations. 

I draped the camera around my neck, threw the big lens over my shoulder, and tucked my keys in a hiding spot. No journal, no blanket, no coffee. Oh, the things we’re willing to sacrifice…

The parking area was occupied by a number of California quail families, all of which scurried off into the undergrowth before I could get my act together. It was a promising sign. There were sure to be a lot of birds.

I made my way slowly down the trail. I could hear a number of different birds, but the leafy canopy prevented me from seeing any of them. 

I wasn’t worried though. I knew once I got to the clearing, I would see plenty. And the trail was lovely, winding its way through the mixed forest. 

Breathing deeply, I let the fragrance of the trees fill me. That scent is like a drug and I’m an addict.

Early signs of autumn were visible — leaves beginning to turn, bushes heavy with rose hips – but for the most part, it was still green. As near as I can tell, there are three separate ponds connected by the creek. 

  • The first pond was empty. 
  • The second pond was covered with bright green algae. 
  • The third pond was full of ducks.

Where the heck was that clearing? My legs and lungs were both feeling the burn. It felt like I’d been walking for a long time. It had to be close.

I wandered through a stand of Ponderosa pine and red cedar, turned a corner and there it was. The tall grass sparkled in the sun. Sparkled. Because it was wet. Nope. I’m not wading my way into tall, wet grass. I probably shouldn’t be disturbing the native plants, anyway. This was a nature preserve, not a park. 

I plopped myself down on the dirt path next to the clearing. I desperately needed to rest. I could probably still see the birds from here. The strange thing was, I couldn’t hear any birds. Well. This didn’t work out at all.

I sat there for a while, resting my legs and wondering where the birds had gone. Birds tend to get quieter as the day gets longer, but surely, I hadn’t been out here that long.  Awkwardly, I got to my feet, thinking about the coffee I’d left in the van. 

That’s when I saw him. No wonder the birds were quiet! 

Just ahead of where I had been sitting on the path, I saw what I thought was a pile of deer droppings.  Drawing closer I realized that the poop was made up of partially digested cherries. That wasn’t deer. 

That was bear. 

I made it back to the minivan in no time. Not because I might be sharing the park with a bear, but because the path is a loop. Had I gone the other direction when I started, I would have arrived at the clearing before my legs had a chance to say anything.  

Live and learn.

Sally Quon is a Kelowna writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in Canadian Geographic Magazine and Nature Alberta's various birding brochures. She has essays coming out in two upcoming releases — Caitlin Press BIG Anthology, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Forgiveness Fix.

More Writer's Bloc articles

About the Author

Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

Do you have something to say that is timely? of local interest? controversial? inspiring? foodie? entertaining? educational?

Drop a line. [email protected]

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Castanet. They are not news stories reported by our staff.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories