I didn’t drink coffee until I was in college. I didn’t like the way it tasted when I took sips from my dad’s mug, and he drank it straight black.

When I was in college, I discovered that I liked coffee when it was espresso mixed with lots of milk and caramel and whipped cream. A friend gave me the succulent concoction when I stopped to chat with her at her on-campus coffee shop job one day, and I loved it. I started to drink coffee this way occasionally as a treat.

This treat became a little more frequent when I was in grad school, because I was more regularly using it for caffeine. By the time I graduated, I was drinking several lusciously sweet lattes weekly.

As I started my first job, I scaled back my coffee intake. Sure, we had a coffee shop at our facility that made lattes, but I was a freshly-minted dietitian. I believed I had an example to set, and, to me, that included moderation in caffeine and calorie-laden coffee drinks.

Eventually, things got busy. For a while, I was able to power through. I loved when people asked me how I managed everything, assuming I was constantly wired on caffeine, and I got to tell them, “Nope, I just make it all happen!”

This didn’t last for too long, though. About a year and half in, I was swamped at work and drinking lattes daily. The baristas at the coffee shop even knew my drink and called it a “Jamie Special” (a white mocha with caramel drizzle and whipped cream, for the record). I would try to cut back, but I enjoyed my sweet drinks and the jolt of caffeine in the morning. I was spending quite a lot of money on “froo-froo” coffee weekly, but I was so reluctant to label myself a “coffee drinker” and buy a home coffee maker that I just budgeted more money. When my bank account simply couldn’t take it anymore, I broke down and bought a coffee maker.

That’s when I started digging into why I had been so adamant that I was NOT a coffee drinker. What was it that stopped me from admitting it and making a switch before? There were two reasons, both of which were 100% influenced by diet culture:

  1. Moralizing – I attached moral value to caffeine. I believed that I was “good” because I was not dependent on caffeine, and didn’t drink it often. I thought I was superwoman for having a busy life and not relying on caffeine. Now I realize – so what? As long as I am fine with the role caffeine has in my own life, it doesn’t matter if or how much I have. The same goes for anyone else: we all get to choose if and how much caffeine we want. The degree to which we choose to include caffeine or not does not make anyone a better or worse person.
  2. Restricting – I like my coffee creamy. I like my coffee sweet. Those are two facts about me. I worried for a long time that if I had a coffee maker in my home, I would drink so much coffee just the way I like it that my body would get larger and it would be a problem. But wait – I’m the same person who is steadfastly against the entire concept of ANYONE’s body being a problem, and I ferociously promote the non-diet concept of eliminating restriction from our interactions with food. It didn’t quite line up. So, here I am, drinking daily coffee just the way I like it (currently, that’s 16oz coffee w/ 2 packets of hot chocolate mix and a splash of half-and-half). And you know what? I don’t feel out-of-control around my coffee anymore.

It turns out, diet culture can impact us in ways that are deeper than we realize and we can unknowingly hold on to diet-y beliefs for a long time. Take the time to look into reasons you avoid certain foods. Check in with yourself, honestly, and see whether these reasons are actually serving you, or if diet culture is lying to you about what you “should” eat. You might find a solution that’s even better than you thought it would be – like coffee at 10% the cost!

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