Acquired Tastes

One Week Without Coffee

[French press photo]It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s been a full week since I last drank (caffeinated) coffee!   Today I had some decaf in the french press, but I’m realizing that decaf coffee doesn’t do it for me.  I think it tastes the same as regular, but drinking it isn’t fun for me.  It makes me feel like an old lady.  I think I’ll stick to the green and herbal tea.

The good part is I’m feeling just fine, and I’m at the point where I don’t really think about coffee in the mornings.  I suppose I’m not quite as happy during the hour or two when I normally would drink it, but I feel so much better for the rest of the day.  None of that nasty anxiety that, for me, always follows coffee-drinking.

What I want to know is:  how are YOU doing on your 30-day challenges? For most of you it’s been a week or close to it, hope nobody’s fallen off the wagon yet!

Acquired Tastes

I’ve been thinking a lot about acquired tastes ever since Pete mentioned in his guest post that when he tried coffee after not having it for three weeks, it didn’t taste that good to him!  I experienced the same thing a few years ago– as part of a New Year’s resolution, I drank no alcohol for three months before the Shamrock Marathon in March.  I couldn’t wait to get across that finish line and drink a few quarts of free Yuengling, the sponsor of the race that year.  But when I lifted the cup to my lips to drink that sweet nectar I had missed so much… it tasted terrible!  Remember how beer smelled (and tasted, if you had experimental parents) when you were a little kid? That bitter, almost stale sensation?  It was exactly like that.

I tried some wine a few days later, and I had a flashback to my first (and not my last, but close) communion.  It was that vinegary-ness that wine tastes like when you’re a kid.  What is it about beer, wine, and coffee that make them not so good after a layoff?

The answer is that they’re all acquired tastes.  Tastes that you initially have an adverse reaction to, but that you learn to love.  Your teachers, of course, are those who went through the same learning process a long time ago, back when they didn’t like it either.

That we don’t naturally like this stuff should give us a hint that it isn’t good for us!  If you have to learn to like something, and it doesn’t taste so good after a few weeks without, there’s a reason. Your body doesn’t naturally like it; it has to be convinced by your brain.

I can think of two objections to this idea.  The first will come from those who love hearing about the studies that show how good red wine and coffee are for us.  Here’s the problem with that.  People love to hear this (because they like drinking), so they spread it.  Maybe you’ll see it on the news, maybe Yahoo! will run a fun story about it, and you’ll forward it to some coworkers or drinking buddies.  Do you think a study showing how bad alcohol and caffeine are would have the same viral effect? Of course not.  So there’s little incentive for researchers to report such results, and when they are reported we don’t hear about them. And yes, coffee and wine contain some good antioxidants (sadly, for many Americans, coffee is their leading source), but what wonderful benefits would these studies show if they used grape juice instead of wine?

The other objection will be “What about vegetables?  Lots of kids don’t like vegetables, but learn to appreciate them as they grow up.”  To this one, the only defense I have is that often we don’t eat the same vegetables on a daily or even weekly basis.  For most of us, several weeks pass between servings of cucumber, squash, mushrooms, and lots of non-everyday veggies.  But when we have them after several weeks without, they don’t taste weird.  They taste just as good as they have since we started liking them.  In that way, vegetables are different from the acquired tastes that I’m talking about.

My point isn’t that you should never drink coffee, wine, or beer.  What fun would that be? I drink each of them several times a month, sometimes more often, and I love them (though I’m liking less and less how they make me feel).  All things considered, I’m much happier drinking them on occasion than I would be without, and that’s my criterion.  And you need to eat and drink what makes you happiest.  Just don’t lie to yourself about how good these things are for you.



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  1. This has definitely been the case for me with sugar and candy. Before my healthy eating revolution, I ate WAY too much sugar. Gummy bears, soda, juice, chocolate, hard candy… all pure sugar and I loved it. When I finally realized what I was doing to myself, I slowly weaned myself from sugar overload. While I still enjoy some good quality dark chocolate now, candy in general is just sickly sweet to me, and even hurts my teeth! It’s amazing how you can reprogram your taste buds. I find the same is true for salt. If you stop adding table salt to foods, you can really taste the foods and when salt is added, things taste too salty.

    Congrats on your week without coffee, have you had any caffeine withdrawal symptoms? I only drink a cup of coffee with breakfast in the morning, but if I miss it or skip it, I get an annoying headache.

    Alison’s last blog post..Laundry Mountain

    • I didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms when I stopped drinking coffee this time. But I hadn’t been drinking it daily, just 3-5 times per week. When I was drinking it daily and stopped, I had headaches for a few days. Miserable, but I got past it. Headaches like that are a big hint to me that daily coffee is not good.

  2. It’s the same with cigarettes – the first few actually taste awful!

    Here in South Africa we don’t have as much of a fast food culture as you do in the States. When my husband and I were over in the States last year we were appalled at the awful food! We were in a fairly rural area where there were only fast food and chain restaurants. I couldn’t understand why Americans think that this “slop” was so delicious! Every single meal we had in restaurants, diners and fast food places was disappointing, to say the least. So for me, America fast food is also an acquired taste!

    Hanlie’s last blog post..Stepping up to the plate

  3. Congratulations on your week without coffee! I’ve been doing well, aside from my anniversary, on the no dessert policy. The trick has been making sure I have a sufficient dinner so I’m not hungry later at night. So far, so good!

    I’m conflicted about the beer/wine/acquired tastes issue. I was a fairly picky eater as a child and I’ve spent the past few years choosing a new food every couple months to “learn to like.” So far, I have acquired tastes for raw tomatoes, peppers, hot sauce, bananas, yogurt, greek yogurt, okra, cottage cheese, artichokes and olives. I’d like to think I’ve benefited from these dietary additions, though I’ve had to make a pretty serious effort for some of them (cottage cheese and olives being the toughest).

    Maybe acquiring some tastes is a good thing? 🙂

    Katherine’s last blog post..Live and Learn

    • Yeah I know what you mean about good acquired tastes. Like I said, lots of kids don’t like vegetables, and almost everyone would agree they’re good for you. But with vegetables and all the things you mentioned, they don’t taste bad if you don’t have them for a while, like the unhealthy ones do. For example, if you eat at all seasonally, then you might not have a certain vegetable all winter, but it tastes just as great as always when you come back to it in the summer.

  4. I totally agree – more and more, I am finding things to be too sweet. If you had told me even a couple years ago, I woulda called ya crazy! I have the hugest sweet tooth – but in a way, it’s acquired taste + your body becoming used to having it. When you break that, miracles can happen I guess!

    For the record, I’ve cut down to one cup of coffee a morning (or a small coffee if I go out). I am drinking more herbal teas (mint) as well as green tea and chickety-chai.

    have a good one!

    Holly’s last blog post..This and That

  5. Not a drop of caffeine for me. And I agree that decaf just isn’t any good. But how does tea make you feel less like an old lady??

    • Tea is hip, and fresh, and new age. Isn’t it?

      • Laura says:

        Tea is hip, and fresh, and new age. Isn’t it?

        well, it seems to me that more people are going out for a cup of tea nowadays.

        …or maybe i just hang out with/talk to people who enjoy tea more than coffee.

  6. Colleen says:

    I have to agree w/ Pete a little…I laughed outloud when you brushed off tea drinking as not being “old-ladyish.” Maybe it’s because I went to a team room last weekend, run by an older lady, with doilies, lace and fine china:) As for my soda challenge, I am on day 5 and not a drop of soda yet! Yesterday was exceptionally stressful and, at lunch, I found myself really craving a fountain soda…weird, I know. I did resist my craving and I am trying to be more aware of my coffee intake so that I don’t simply replace soda with coffee. I think my motivation for the soda challenge was more about eliminating all of the junk that makes up a diet soda, rather than focusing on the caffeine thing. However, maitaining the caffeine reduction offered by a soda free diet is a plus!!

  7. Nice job on your challenge. I haven’t had any cheese, but I’m still craving it! I know that will fizzle out by the end of the challenge. Interesting discussion on acquired tastes. I recall reading somewhere that kids are more sensitive to bitter flavors and as we grow our taste buds mellow out, leading us to develop a taste for vegetables. I don’t know if that’s true because there are lots of kids out there who do eat their veggies!

    As for Hal Higdon- I was drawn to the program bc it brings me to 20 miles twice before the race- but that kind of mileage also scares me a little. At what point did you get injured? Would you ever do any of Higdon’s programs again or are there others you like better?

    VeggieRunnr’s last blog post..My Plan

  8. I tried stoppin coffe for few days, I’m buying rice milk 🙂 even if I make coffe out of control, rice milk will make it taste miserable!!

    Ann’s last blog post..Upma

  9. Wow, when I “gave up” coffee I also started a high RAW food diet and my detox symptoms were intense. I had a constant throbbing migraine. It lasted 6-8 weeks. But now I am to the point where I have coffee on occasion. Maybe once a week or less, and rarely I will have it more than once a week. I feel better when I don’t have it, but I enjoy drinking it.

    As for beer I love it too, but have started noticing it doesn’t always make me feel great. So, I have cut back on this too, but sometimes I have weeks were I end up having them several nights a week. But overall I know I’m better without it.

    Caleb’s last blog post..Eating for energy

  10. Almost a week in and I have had a few urges for the no soda that Colleen and I have put forth. The worst urge was yesterday. Admittedly, It’s been a rough week so I almost gave in. I have had one little symptom. For the first couple of days I was ending up with a headache by mid day (I would have had a soda by noon for sure)but the last two days have been headache free.

  11. I tried going off caffeine (coffee) once. I had bad headaches all day, couldn’t think, was in a fog. I was the crabbiest, pissiest I had ever been. I went back on and never gave it up again.

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