Why I quit Coffee

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For almost 10 years I was a regular coffee drinker and when I say regular coffee drinker what I really mean is, I was a coffee addict. I couldn’t function properly in the morning until I had a flat white.  That first hit of caffeine in the morning got me going and left me feeling motivated for the day, without it I was short tempered and cranky.

Overtime my coffee intake went from ½ shot to double shot, because my body had become so used to the caffeine I needed to increase the level.  I went from drinking 1 cup in the morning to having a second cup at lunchtime and a third one in the afternoon, this is when I knew I had a bad habit.  I had become a slave to coffee, I needed more and more to give me the same kick I would get when I first started drinking it.  My energy levels would become so low after a few hours of having my first cup and I would walk around like a zombie until I had another.  I wanted my morning coffee to actually help me focus instead of being a lifeline to stay awake. Relying on a drink to get you out of bed in the morning is not ideal and relying on a drink to give you energy throughout the day is not right. Right?

If our bodies are healthy and we get adequate sleep, we should be able to wake up in the morning with energy and have long-lasting energy throughout the day without an energy slump in the afternoon. If someone told me this 2 years ago I would have never believed them, but since I have “kicked” the habit I can now say that I don’t need coffee to wake me up or give me energy to last the day without falling asleep on my lunch break.

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After 4 years of being a stressed student I would spend A LOT of money on coffee to keep me going throughout the day. I would drink 3 a day, sometimes 4 if I was studying until the late hours of the night/early hours of the morning.  Coffee in Auckland is on average around $4.50 a cup so if I'm drinking 3 coffees a day, 7 times a week that equals $94.50 per week.  In a year I was spending on average $4500 on coffee, which is money that I could have spent more wisely.

In my earlier blog post on overcoming adrenal fatigue I spoke about high cortisol levels.  Drinking coffee elevates your levels of cortisol and when cortisol levels are too high you can suffer from headaches, waking up feeling exhausted, low immunity, low sex drive, having more energy in the evenings than the morning and feeling wired during the day. Do these sound familiar?

If you are someone who is constantly sick, highly stressed, anxious, overworked, fatigued, depressed, hormonally imbalanced and suffers from inflammation then coffee shouldn't be used to help with your healing as its only going to exacerbate symptoms. I am a big advocate that everything in' moderation is fine, but the more we drink coffee the more of a tolerance we build.  If you not careful you can overload your adrenal glands and become stuck in a cycle of fatigue.

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What positives did I notice once cutting coffee? 

  • More energy throughout the day: I could wake up in the morning without feeling foggy headed and exhausted and I no longer had a 3pm energy slump.  No longer was I relying on a false energy source.
  • Better sleep: I could fall asleep easier at night, had a deeper sleep and stopped waking up throughout the night. This also gave me more energy and I found that I had better moods.
  • Better concentration.
  • Clearer skin: My skin always had very small bumps all over the surface and as soon as I kicked the caffeine these cleared up. It could be due to the fact that I was no longer having all that milk in my diet.
  • No dark circles under my eyes: For years I had dark circles under my eyes, everyday I had to use concealer to cover them up. Now I can wear no make up without looking like I haven't been to bed in weeks.
  • Regular bowel movements: One of the main reasons people rely on coffee is to get their bowels moving. Once you have cut out coffee you will find after a while that you will be able to go to the bathroom without having to have coffee. (taking into account you have the correct diet to allow this).
  • Less anxiety: Anxiety used to consume too much of my life and I knew that coffee would make my symptoms so much worse, now I don’t have any anxiety at all. HURRAH!
  • Lost weight: I'm not sure if it was completely due to cutting out caffeine but I had some stubborn fat that I could not lose no matter how much exercise I did or how healthy my diet was. Caffeine taxes your adrenal glands which then negatively affects your thyroid which controls your metabolism. When you are in a bad state of adrenal fatigue your body holds onto fat and finds it harder to burn fat due to high cortisol levels. If you are a caffeine addict and you find it hard to lose weight, start to cut down and see if you notice any weight loss.
  • Saved more money. I was spending around $4500 a year on coffee, by kicking this habit I had more money in my bank account.

How I broke the habit - 

One of the main reasons I cut out coffee was due to low energy levels throughout the day. I had to drag myself out of bed each morning, I was constantly yawning, I always wanted to sleep and drinking coffee was making me feel worse each day. I decided to start cutting down on the amount I was drinking and swapping it for herbal tea and other hot drinks such as chai. The coffee I was having I was making it a single shot and then a half shot until I gradually didn’t need it anymore. It took around a month to completely be free of my addiction. It wasn’t easy and during that month I suffered from the occasional headache, low moods, exhaustion and cravings, but I began to reap the benefits. There had been several times in the past when I tried to cut coffee cold turkey and I found that too hard. Some people prefer to do it this way, but it was not for me.

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Many people know they have a bad coffee habit but just don’t know how to kick it.  If you know you rely too much on it and want to cut down on the amount you drink per week, here are some tips that helped me cut out coffee.

Substitutes:

Try a half-caf: By making your coffee weaker you are consuming half the caffeine but drinking the same amount of fluid. This way, you are still getting a small amount of caffeine without completely cutting it out cold turkey.

Herbal teas: The first thing I missed when I cut out coffee was not having a hot drink in the morning. Make sure you have plenty of herbal teas to help curb that craving. My favourites are licorice, peppermint and ginger tea.

Green tea: If you usually have 3 cups of coffee per day, start having 2 cups of coffee per day and 1 green tea. It still has small amounts of caffeine but has many health benefits. If this works for you, decrease the amount of coffee you are having the following week and increasing the amount of green tea, this way you are not cutting out coffee cold turkey.

Dandelion coffee: Dandelion coffee is a common substitute for coffee, it is tea made of dandelion root which tastes and looks like coffee except it is caffeine free.  You can find it here.

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Hot drinks: If herbal teas aren't for you, switch your usual coffee to a hot drink such as a chai latte, turmeric latte or even a hot chocolate (but watch the sugar content). This way you can still sip on something warm in the morning and have something to look forward to when you wake up.

Water: When you do begin to detox from coffee you will need to drink plenty of water to flush out those toxins so you need to stay well hydrated. Aim to drink between 2-3 litres of water per day.  When you are well hydrated you will notice you will feel less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day.

Warm water and lemon: When you do feel a craving for caffeine coming on, drink a big glass of water and see if that helps. Starting the day off with a warm glass of water and a squeeze of lemon is a great way to help kick-start your digestion process, it is known to help stimulate bowel movements and lemon juice helps to flush out unwanted toxins in the body.

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Snacks: It is common for people to have a cup of coffee as a snack so when you are cutting down or cutting out coffee make sure you have healthy snacks on you at all times. I recommend a couple of pieces of fruit, mixed nuts and seeds, crackers of vegetables with hummus and bliss balls.

Addressing habits: Too often our caffeine addiction has become a habit overtime. You might not even feel like a coffee but it has become a habit to have one every morning or at morning tea time.  Once you have addressed this habit you can find something else to do instead during that time.

Exercise: Exercise is one of the best ways to increase your energy and it unleashes a flood of endorphins. Try to aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise each day. If you have trouble finding time I suggest waking up 20 minutes earlier in the morning to go for a walk around the block, take the stairs instead of the lift, do 20 minutes of stretching before bed time or go for a short walk on your lunch break instead of sitting behind your desk.

Sleep: When cutting out coffee you might begin to notice that your energy levels decrease and you feel like sleeping more often (this should only last 1-2 weeks).  Try and have an early night if you can and if you are lucky enough to sleep during the day, have a short 30 minute nap.

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You don’t have to give up caffeine completely from your life but it is important to have your habit under control if you are ingesting more caffeine than you should be. Even cutting down on 1 cup a day, or week can make a big change to your health. Since cutting it out I treat myself to a cup every so often and I can enjoy it without feeling like I need a second one straight after.

If you have quit coffee I would love to hear the experiences you have had since you quit. Have you noticed any differences to your health?

If you have any other tips to cut down on the amount of coffee you are drinking, please share below.

L x