Oh coffee. It's been my nemesis for years. I started drinking coffee at the beginning of high school, and its been a love-hate relationship ever since. Sometimes it was a meal-replacement; during grad school it was a companion through many long nights writing or grading papers. And then...around three years ago, I learned about its impact on stress hormones and its relationship with autoimmunity. I cut it out cold-turkey, muddling through the withdrawal headaches.
I've been very strict with my diet over the years, in the name of healing my body with lifestyle and nutrition. This approach has served my very well, for the most part, and sometimes it really is necessary to be rigid.
But, in my experience, there is some grey area here. For example, my boyfriend and I went to Vienna, Austria (where we used to live) for a weekend to celebrate his birthday and visit friends we hadn't seen for a long time. When I've been stressing for months about my health, does it help me to have to prepare all of my food in advance, to go to sleep by 10 PM, to not have even a sip of alcohol? I decided to try moderation. I let go, I enjoyed my friends, I enjoyed healthy food, I drank wine, I had a latte, and I soaked up the city. The next time I had my autoimmune antibodies checked, they were lower.
I know this may not be the case for everyone, but when you know stress is a big trigger for your illness, sometimes really enjoying something, a treat, every once in awhile is less stressful than being super strict and avoiding things that give you joy. When I make exceptions, I make sure it's never a time when I NEED a coffee, glass of wine, dark chocolate, etc., because, for example, caffeine is the last thing your body needs when you're exhausted. But when I can enjoy something in moderation for what it is and slowly savor it in peace, I no longer feel guilty and have come to see it as a holistic, balanced approach to my healing process.