How I Ended One of The Greatest Love Affairs of My Life!
From the age of twelve I’ve loved coffee! Oh sure, I’ve had short little romps with Diet Coke and other caffeinated beverages, but none have ever won my heart the way coffee did. Long before Starbucks lined our landscapes, I’d drive long distances to specialty coffee shops where they sold flavored coffees and exotic teas. The aromas from these shops were similar to what flows out of Starbucks today – a little piece of heaven. I’ve had every kind of coffee maker on the planet: a French press, automatic drip, a Keurig K-cup brewer and a few other exotic contraptions. I’ve never had an espresso maker, I never really felt the need because I could make really, really strong coffee by loading my filters with much more coffee than water. The first cup that came out of my automatic drip brewer was always the strongest, so of course I held my cup up to the machine and did a quick switch to the coffee pot when my cup was full. I would go through several pounds of coffee per week. It was an addiction! Of course I had tried to stop many times – the expense, as you can imagine, was outrageous. I’d cut back for a bit, mix some decaf into my standard mix and hope that it would help. I drank coffee through all three of my pregnancies. I drank coffee nursing all three of my children. It was my vice. I even drank coffee through gallbladder disease and through finding out I have a hiatal hernia (a condition that causes a lot of heartburn). Talk about pain! Coffee has a lot of acid, decaf even more, so I would spend the morning with my drug and then spend the afternoon and sometimes the night in pain. But still I insisted that I needed my coffee. I thought it gave me an edge. After losing a lot of weight I just knew if I stopped drinking coffee I would gain it all back.
Because of all the pain I was in I developed a love/hate relationship with my beloved beverage. Nothing could ever take its place! I was a hot herbal tea drinker but to me that was an evening beverage – it wasn’t what I needed first thing in the morning. I have been seeking a plant-based whole food diet since around 2006. At first, I made a lot of mistakes and went back to the Standard American Diet but did manage to lose weight counting points and calories. I was happy about my weight loss but didn’t like the way I was eating or the way I felt. I knew there had to be a better way! Last summer a friend was participating in a 30 day cleanse and really made it sound like something I could do. So I contacted the leader or the group and one of the first things she told me was that coffee had to go. Like I’ve said, I’ve quit before so 30 days seemed doable. I’d just go back after 30 days. My eldest son expressed interest in doing the cleanse with me so how could I say no? I want my children to eat as many whole foods as possible so I agreed to let him try as long as he knew he could quit anytime.
The first twelve hours weren’t so bad, but then the mood swings hit and the pounding headache was almost unbearable. I’ve gone through caffeine withdrawal before but this time was the worst. Not wanting to quit before my son and realizing that I was completely addicted (in every sense of the word ) to caffeine I hung in there. I spent the rest of the week feeling drained, tired, fatigued and well, surprised – surprised that I could be that addicted to a legal substance. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that everyone who has a cup of coffee in the morning is addicted the way I was, but realizing how powerful caffeine is and what it was doing to my body was shocking. At one point I thought I was going through early menopause because I would wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat even in the dead of winter. I later realized this was all because of the caffeine. I was nervous all the time and always looking for my next cup of coffee. Often the only thing to coax me into bed (I’ve always been a night owl) would be the thought of the first cup of coffee in the morning. As the raw food detox continued and I started feeling better, and I started realizing I could give up stuff I loved , I felt empowered.
I quit cold turkey, just the way my dad gave up cigarettes almost 40 years ago, so I guess that stubbornness runs in my family. I’m not sure I’d recommend everyone quit like I did. I certainly didn’t stop eating meat cold turkey and I have to admit the transition from a carnivore to a herbivore was a lot easier. It also depends on how you get your caffeine. If you’re a soda drinker then you really might want to try mixing caffeinated soda with caffeine-free soda. Then slowly wean off the caffeine soda to just drinking the caffeine-free soda. After you’ve made that adjustment, then wean yourself off of soda all together. If you’re a coffee drinker, well, there are several approaches I would recommend. If you are a tea drinker you’ve got an ace in the hole! Herbal tea is not exactly the same as coffee but it’s a hot beverage that you can drink instead of coffee. If you like both why not choose the healthiest one? You can even start with tea that has caffeine in it (tea has a lot less caffeine than coffee) then slowly (maybe every other day) drink only caffeine-free tea. Celestial Seasoning Tea makes an herbal tea called Roastaroma, which tastes just like coffee and is completely caffeine free. I brew this tea and put a little non dairy milk in it. It makes me feel so English. It is the closest tasting thing I’ve found to real coffee. However this is for straight coffee drinkers. Starbucks cappuccino drinkers might have to take another approach. There are numerous recipes for “hot cocoa” using carob (remember that cocoa still has caffeine, although far less than coffee, so it could be a good transition tool). There are still other options like hot apple cider or warm non-dairy milk with a bit of vanilla extract. Then there is always cold turkey. I don’t recommend it but it does work for some people – just a clean break, no looking back!
Now, I no longer have night sweats, I’m not as nervous all the time (unfortunately I’m a bit of a nervous person by nature), my pulse doesn’t race, my heartburn is gone, and the money I was spending on coffee can be spent on organic fruits and vegetables. I am healthier and much stronger knowing I had the strength to quit! If aseasoned addict like me can end my affair with coffee/caffeine you can end yours too!
Thank you Jennifer! Please leave Jennifer some plant-strong encouragement in the comments. Did you give up coffee? We’d love to hear how it went for you!
A few notes on coffee from Engine 2:
Don’t get us wrong, we think coffee is delicious, and we still love the smell of it when we pass by it in the mornings on the way to the office. Every so often or as a treat, it’s not going to do much damage. However, we say that anything you “NEVER” think you could give up or anything that you MUST have to get you through the day? Probably not the best idea. Dr. Esselstyn also says that caffeine can do damage to the endothelium, as well as raise blood pressure. So we stay away from it, because honestly? We know we can get hooked if we are not careful. Like we said, if it’s an every so often thing? Not a big deal. If it is an every day, must have it or you will rip your co-workers heads off thing? You should probably think about giving it up. Don’t know if you are a coffee addict? Give it up this week and see how you feel. If you are cranky, tired more, crashing in the afternoon, it is a sign that you need to give it a pass and get your body back to normal, and really see what your energy levels are like.
Or, like E2-er Stacy wrote to us a few days ago “I know I need to give something up when Engine 2 posts something about staying away from a certain food or drink and I get really angry! I think to myself, why would I be angry if I wasn’t addicted to it! I did this with coffee a few months ago, and life has been a lot better since, I don’t get the coffee slump in the afternoon, I am not getting heart racing palpitations and my blood pressure has gone down!” - Stacy