The Daily Beet

07 Jun Easier Done Than Said: How Jennifer Gave Up Coffee!

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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!

-E2-er, Jennifer

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

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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • http://andymorrisart.etsy.com Andy Morris

    So refreshing to hear someone elses story about overcoming caffiene habit. I know how hard it is myself, and I do occasionally cheat now with Chocolate. One product I’ve found deliscious as a morning drink has been Teeccino Herbal products they taste great and are made with carob, dates, and chicory. There actually is a little bit of fiber in each cup!

    • http://www.vegheadfamily.com Meridith

      I love Teeccino. A good way to transition is mix 1/2 coffee and 1/2 Teeccino and keep upping it until you’re 100% Teeccino. The Vanilla Nut Teeccino is my favorite….which is funny because I hated flavored coffee.

  • Chris

    I’m glad you wrote about this again, the last time I decided I should give coffee up, just to see if I could and to see if it did anything. So I did, and th efirst few days were hell, because I didn’t realize what an addict I was, after that it got easier. The best thing though is that my blood pressure went down a lot, I had done everything else, except take out my coffee. Now I don’t need it to get me through the day, you are right, if you need a stimulant to get you through the day you probably aren’t eating right.

  • Lesa

    I have tried before to give up coffee, cold turkey, gradually, always unsuccessfully. It wasn’t until I started drinking green smoothies for breakfast that I “accidentally” gave it up. I didn’t set out not to drink it; it was just too much to carry my smoothie in a Tervis cup, water in a Kleen Kanteen, and a mug of coffee every morning. I figured I’d pick up a cup later in the day. After several days, I realized that I had FORGOTTEN to get my coffee, but this time I wasn’t snapping at people or feeling completely unsettled with a terrible headache, as I had in the past. I’m glad to hear about the Roastaroma as I haven’t seen that one before, but like Andy, I recently discovered Teeccino and it definitely fills the void.

  • Fran

    Look at this – The AICR lists coffee as a food that fights cancer! is there a contradiction here?

    http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/

    • Engine 2

      Plants do a much better job at that – without all of the harmful side effects :)

  • Yolanda

    The money I see people spend on coffee is crazy! I bet you she is saving hundreds of dollars per month!

  • Dana

    I never thought giving up coffee would be possible, and I didn’t believe my health could get better, I was doing everything “right” aside from the coffee. I went to the last Engine 2 event and there was no coffee, and I decided that I just was going to have to deal with it, well after 2 days I felt a lot better and I had a lot more consistant energy, my blood pressure also dropped a lot, now I’m not on meds, and I was even though I was on Engine 2.

  • Caroline

    I was only drinking two cups a day in the morning and I was addicted. Coffee was really affecting my sleep patterns. I would get up during the night to use the bathroom and couldn’t get back to sleep. Ever since I gave it up I am sleeping so much better. You wouldn’t think that the coffee you drank early in the morning could affect you well into the night. Well, it sure does.

  • Barend Esterhuizen Pr Eng

    A while back, to proof a point, a gave up coffee for a month – NO ISSUE! I am the ‘coffee maker’ at work as I am always 1st to the office, so we build 1 batch (16 cups total) of filter coffee and a group of colleagues share this; I normally have 2 cups (seldomly 3) / day [NO SUGAR]; I don’t drink any at home and will only have a double espresso if we go out on a weekend, otherwise it is plain water. NOW: coffee has never bothered me, that month proved I don’t get tired, cranky or anything; if I have it at night it doesn’t keep me up… it is a social habit…

    I think the main ‘issue’ is what to replace it with other than water… I am trying to stay away from dairy (especially milk that was a go to drink)… and alcohol is the next choice I suppose.

    I enjoy tea, but it just doesn’t feel right ordering it.

    I follow engine 2, have the books, as well as Jeff Novick, McDougall, HH, etc. all the documentaries we can mention, etc. BUT, the ‘COFFEE ISSUE’ is still not clear to me as there are numerous articles describing the benefits.

    Is there a comprehensive write-up or video clip or documentary discussing the ‘COFFEE ISSUE’? If not, it is long overdue… wink wink

  • http://Engine2 Behnaz Safavi

    Thank you very very much and as always.

  • Sandy

    There is a book called Caffeine Blues that was put out about 10 or so years ago. Thanks for the article. It would have also been nice to hear about the positive changes in energy, mood and of course health. That would be inspiring to many who are still contemplating the issue of whether to finally kick the habit.

    It is funny how hooked we as a society are on caffeine. And that it is “normal”. It is a form of legalized speed. And now the “energy drink” manufactures are trying to rope us in – initially targeting the young generation and now moving onto other demographics / customers.

  • Beth

    Cold turkey!? I don’t know if that is brave or krazy. (laughing) I know it IS a challenge to manage all of our food and beverage intake. I find I have to pee urgently if I drink coffee. I’m down to one cup and making the cup smaller or having tea. I now go to exercise class early and people wouldn’t appreciate a yellow cloud in the pool! I applaud your battle. Caffeine is a very strong addiction for many!

  • Mrs P

    I am currently weaning off coffee this week, by increments of 1 less ounce per day. Tomorrow will be 1 ounce, and Sunday begins no coffee at all.
    I am doing this for both health reasons and a challenge to myself to experiment if I feel better, sleep better and stop being jittery all the time.
    I have done extensive research on the detriments of coffee and the power this DRUG has on us. Please do your self the same favor. Today I feel awesome, no headache, and already my joints do not hurt. I focus on the present moment and in this moment I have enough energy to keep me alert. The power of attention isn’t limited by what I drink. I AM strong and healthy with a keen mind.

  • Roxanne

    Here I am reading this and knowing I had an addiction to coffee while I was working with others in an office setting… I quit that cold turkey. Had all the withdrawals mentioned, including throwing up. And I have been struggling to stay plant-based since August 2011. You mentioned that it does damage to the endothelium (I recently learned what that is through a facebook group) and here I am drinking coca cola… I am very disappointed in myself and I am sure Lindsay (HH cookbook author) would be too…if she reads this. I think it’s so much harder when one person in the household is not plant-based and brings a lot of “bad” foods in the house!

  • Tara

    5 months ago I gave up soda which meant I gave up the caffeine but even after months of no caffeine I’m finding that i’m soooo sooo tired still. I’ve started taking my heart rate regularly and find that it is in the mid-low 40’s. Today I ran to the store to check my blood pressure and heart rate.. my numbers were 93/55 with a pulse of 41. UGHH Is this caffeine bad or good at this point. I’ve been following the engine2diet for 3 solid weeks now.. the weight is falling off, I run 5 days a week but I just can’t seem to feel the energy I need in order to function without the caffeine.

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