The Daily Beet

25 Apr Engine 2 Series: Easier Done Than Said- Coffee!

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We asked you what you had the hardest time letting go of in your plant-strong journey, and BOY did you respond! We got a few 100 responses from people letting go of everything from coffee to steak!

We hope that you enjoy this series. We will be posting answers over the next several months, so stay tuned!
Please leave a comment on your experiences about letting go of something that you never thought you could.

“If I close my eyes, I can still see myself in my Nana’s kitchen.  It’s breakfast time and I am up with the sun.  I can smell the coffee brewing and the sound of the percolator bubbling.  She always used a percolator so when I started drinking coffee in 1996, I did too.  Strong dark coffee with cream and sugar, fond memories.

Fast forward 10 years.  I became a barista at an independent coffee shop.  I LOVED my job.  I’d wake up at 4am, ride my bike through the deserted streets to get there so I could start brewing the coffee for the masses.  The shop was populated by a vast array of regular customers.  I could see a car pull up and have their drink waiting for them.  We’d chat at the counter for those few minutes each day, getting to know each other.  I moved from coffee to espresso at that point.  My 3 shot Americano with room for half and half and one Splenda. Aahhh…joy in a cup!

I became manager of the shop and started learning a lot about coffee.  Not just how to make a better brew, but the social aspects of it as well.  Day in and day out, my people would come and see me.  The caffeine dealer. Some came to study or to have a business meeting, others came to hang out with the other regulars.  Most of these individuals reliably ordered the same thing every single day.  Coffee is a varied and personal as the reasons why we choose a mate.  Social circles from all walks of life gathered there around the cup I served.  From 6am to Midnight, our shop poured shots of espresso, glasses of cold press coffee, and mugs of light roast.  This spot was populated by my friends and family.  I loved everything about the place, I even met my husband there.

I no longer manage the coffee shop. It was great fun, but I am off on other adventures.  When we travel, we would seek out the best coffee shops.  I’d research ahead of time, by reading reviews and articles about the local coffee scene.  We had been making a tour of micro roasters we had read about on CNN.  From NYC to San Francisco and places in between, we revered a fine cup of coffee.  We’d buy beans at each one to savor at home in our imported Moccamaster Technivorm brewer.  I had graduated to drinking black coffee.

So on my recent trip to Austin, TX for the Farms 2 Forks Immersion Weekend I planned to have my morning cup of joe at the event.  I had read in the welcome email that breakfast and coffee would be served at 7am. Great!  No need to find a place open early on a Saturday.  As the breakfast service begins, I stood, dumbfounded in front of the industrial carafe of DECAF. Next to it sits another container marked HOT WATER.  I spin around in circles thinking surely there must be CAFFEINATED coffee here somewhere?!

Wow. Nope. Nada.

Of course there wasn’t.  Silly girl!  You didn’t REALLY think the Rip and his team were going to serve you caffeine now did you? I had read the books.  I knew that decaf only was the way to go. I knew the reasons why.  I somehow chose to gloss over this info when I read it, repeatedly. Didn’t want to hear it, uh huh. Not giving up my coffee, no way no how! Forget about it.  Knowing the nearest coffee shop was too far to duck away quickly, I resigned myself to decaf. Ugh.

The day progressed, a lovely day, full of interesting information, wonderful people and a brilliant piercing headache. Wowza! By 3 pm, my head interrupted my thoughts every two minutes.  Like a psychological tap on the shoulder saying, “Um…haven’t you forgotten something today Ami?? Where is our caffeine??!!!”  I pushed through it, had an amazing day at Farms 2 Forks and made a beeline for the hotel gift shop to buy some ibuprofen.  I couldn’t believe I felt that bad, over one missed coffee.

So at 6am on Sunday, guess who was first in line at Starbucks? Later that day, I listened to Dr. Esselstyn talk about the detriment of caffeine on our endothelial cells.  Having learned an invaluable lesson the day before I decided that once I was home, I was giving it up.  I wanted to be free of the addiction, and I wanted to be 100% compliant with the Engine 2 program. Now, I will always love my coffee. It played a huge roll in my life.  I can’t say that I will never have another cup, but I will not be beholden to it anymore.  My husband is quitting too, which is helpful.  It would be tough if I had to brew a pot for him and not have any myself.

So I am now caffeine free for over a week.  It hasn’t been easy.  The first day I concocted 16 different reasons why I needed to be at the grocery store (where the beans live) or a certain shopping center (where the espresso is made) and even eyed up the soda machine in our condo building, thinking a diet cola isn’t coffee now is it? – I didn’t leave the house and I didn’t buy anything out of the machine. But I wanted to.  The second day I had to go to the grocery store for more Kale and I actually held my breath walking past the bulk coffee beans so I didn’t have to smell them.  I wasn’t going to fall into the decaf trap either.  From the chemicals use to process the caffeine out of the bean to the fact that it is a slippery slope for me to be loitering in the coffee shop or the coffee aisle, I decided to abstain.  I settled on a nice roiboos (red tea) chai that is naturally caffeine free, so I could have a hot cup of something in the morning.  So far so good, it’s working.  I had a great workout at the gym this morning and I really feel great!

Do you want to quit your caffeine addiction?  My best tips: Plan ahead! Start on a Saturday or another day of the week when you don’t have a lot going on.  Don’t try it on a Monday morning before a big day at the office!  Find a buddy to quit with you if you can.  I find it helps to have someone to comiserate with whenever you are trying something new.  Know that you probably will get a raging headache if you have self-motivated by morning joe for years.  Plan to eat as much green leafy vegetables in the next few days as you can muster.  I feel that the mineral content and nutrient density of greens really helps, not only with detoxing, but to keep you full.  Caffeine tends to suppress appetite so I was voraciously hungry on day 2 of no coffee. Drink a lot of water to help cleanse your system and to help keep you full. Apples are great snack! You will probably be tired for the first few days.  I know I took a nap on one of the early days of being caffeine free and I am NOT a napper. It does get better, I promise!  If you have made the leap into eating Plant-Strong, you can make this leap too!”

Written by: Ami Mackey, E2er and Farms 2 Fork graduate!

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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!

  • William Mackey
    Posted at 07:19h, 25 April

    Very nicely written Mrs. Mackey. Coming from a clean and sober place in my life, 13 years with no alcohol or drugs, quitting coffee was a snap!!! BD

  • Cynthia
    Posted at 10:07h, 25 April

    this is so well written. I’m not there yet. I did manage to give up half & half in my coffee and now am using almond milk. I need to read the endothelial cell information. Maybe I glossed over it in the book because I didn’t want to hear it 🙂

    • Ami Mackey
      Posted at 19:07h, 25 April

      Thanks Cynthia! I think Dr. Esselstyn touches on it in his book Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease.

  • Em
    Posted at 13:40h, 25 April

    Re the coffee, I am a fast metabolizer of caffeine (23andMe) genetically, and I would like to know if this exempts me from the no coffee rule? I drink one cup per day, admittedly a large cup, with nothing added.

  • Wendy (Healthy GIrl's Kitchen)
    Posted at 16:27h, 25 April

    Gave up coffee two weeks ago after 23 years of a love affair with it. Withdrawl symptoms were minimal because I decided to do a juice feast/fast (a la Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead) at the same time. I felt great! Now that the juice fast is over, I do really miss the coffee. I have found that my life was fueled by the caffeine and now that I am no longer on my drug of choice, I just don’t have the energy that I used to. Instead of just going back on coffee though, I am planning a visit to my doc to get my iron levels checked. Iron has been a lifelong problem for me, so that may be it. The caffeine may have been masking a bigger problem.

  • Lucille Andrews
    Posted at 17:32h, 25 April

    I was a real coffee addict. I stopped because it was bothering my husband. He said I would never give it up. Well I had to show him. It has now been about 6 years. I still love the smell of it brewing but the taste is awful. It can be done.

    • Ami Mackey
      Posted at 18:58h, 25 April

      That’s awesome! I am like that too. Don’t tell me I can’t do something! Congrats on 6 years!

  • George Porter
    Posted at 17:46h, 25 April

    Wow – well done. Isn’t it amazing how even just a few cups of coffee can get a grip on us? I quit the coffee habit and went to tea thinking I was eliminating most of the caffeine only to find myself aching for “high test” once I switched to decaf. That alone was enough to convince me that even small amounts of caffeine are wildly addicting and better left out of my beverage cart.

    • Ami Mackey
      Posted at 18:57h, 25 April

      Thanks George! I’ve been enjoying a bunch of herbal teas. So that’s been fun trying out flavors and ideas for iced herbals too!

  • Lauren Stewart
    Posted at 18:26h, 25 April

    Oh thank you so much for this post, Ami! I was also at the Austin Immersion and shocked by the lack of coffee 😉 I was drinking 2 cups a day before, but I’ve been mostly coffee free since Farms 2 Forks, although I’ve had a few slipups — I’m a college student and am having a hard time focusing without it! I’m so glad you mentioned the fact that coffee suppresses appetite… I now want to eat ALL THE TIME! I’m used to getting that coffee high to get through the day, so I turn to food instead. It’s frustrating, even though I make sure to eat healthy in response to my cravings. I didn’t know if anyone else was dealing with that detail.

    But yeah, again thanks for this! Makes me feel better I’m not the only one dealing with getting over coffee!

    • Ami Mackey
      Posted at 18:56h, 25 April

      I’m glad to be in your company Lauren! At 16 days in, I am really feeling great! The smell still gets me though. I was out for a walk the other day and a man was pushing a stroller down the street with one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. I could smell it from about 10 feet away! It was heavenly! I doubt I will ever get over that. No different than a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls baking smells good too – but I am not going to eat that either. I am snacking more than I did before, also on good things like veggies with hummus. I find that I am eating more consistently than I was when I would have a big cup of coffee and forget to eat breakfast for 4 hours! Hang in there, you can do it!

  • Marjie Alonso
    Posted at 18:31h, 25 April

    I haven’t read the “endothelial study,” (where is it published – is it one study, peer reviewed, replicated?), nor will I likely give up all coffee as I figure at some point I’m going to die of something no matter what I eat – I’d might as well enjoy coffee in the morning. However, I’ve gone for years without drinking it, quitting after drinking a few cups a day at times, and I’ve found that making my own coffee, starting with 1/3 decaf, then half-caf, then 1/4 caf then all decaf over a week or two makes the headache completely unnecessary. Just taper, and suffer not!

  • Jamie
    Posted at 20:04h, 25 April

    Nicely written! Congrats! I gave up coffee about a year ago. Sugar is my vice that I am currently working on. Way harder for me than coffee!

  • jan bonnivier
    Posted at 21:20h, 25 April

    Great article Ami. In the last number of years I have given up my beloved Diet Coke,diary,meat and processed foods. I have a really hard time giving up my coffee tho and I must confess I drink 4 cups in the am.! I am going to the immersion in Chicago and knowing no caffeine will be there will hopefully motivate me to quit before I get there!

  • Cathy
    Posted at 04:05h, 26 April

    I also love my coffee and have found it the hardest thing to give up. I love the ritual of brewing it each morning. I have been using a product called Teechino. It is an herbal “coffee” that you brew and it has really filled a void for me!

  • Dina O'.
    Posted at 06:58h, 26 April

    Great post Ami!
    I quit drinking coffee 3 weeks and one day ago. The headaches lasted a couple of days even though I had been drinking half caf for months and tapered to one cup a day beforehand. But it has been worth it – I’m not ingesting the extra sugar and soy milk and I don’t have the 3 o’clock dip in energy that I used to get as a sign I needed another “hit” of caffeine. I have had an occasional matcha green tea in these last few weeks, but it doesn’t effect me the way coffee did and I don’t “need” it everyday, nor do I get headaches when I don’t drink it, which is most days.
    I decided to quit cold turkey when my husband went on a business trip and I wasn’t going to brew coffee for just myself while he was away. I wish I could get my husband on board, I still brew his coffee in the morning and honestly it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I just lump it in the animal products category and cigarettes (I quit 16 years ago) – not even one because I know that it will just suck me back in.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Ann
    Posted at 06:59h, 26 April

    I didn’t begin drinking coffee until I was 61. Loved the little lift, but the caffeine affects my digestive system badly and makes my heart race – even though I only drank 12 ounces or less a day. So now I drink Roastaroma (Celestial Seasonings, I think). It’s a barley/chicory tea like drink that is ok for me, I hope. Don’t believe it has caffeine and is a hearty, comforting, warm subsitute for the cup of coffee I was enjoying in the morning. Someone tell me if it’s not a viable choice.

  • Therese von Rodeck
    Posted at 09:17h, 26 April

    I quit coffee when in my 30’s but after never really getting my energy back, a physical fitness trainer said caffeine in moderation was ok and helped workouts. Of course I went back to 6 cups a day (or more). I am now in my 50’s and limiting myself to 4 cups of 1/2 caffeine. I read in Dr. E’s book that coffee was ok so I was truly elated!! I saw no mention of caffeine. Now… I am sadly informed. Is there a difference between decaffeinated and naturally decaffeinated coffee? I plan to finish the 3 cans of ½ caffeine and 2 cans of naturally decaffeinated coffee and then no more. I don’t look forward to the process of the experience but I am going to look forward to the final success.

  • Behnaz Safavi
    Posted at 10:05h, 26 April

    Proud to know about Esselstyns. Good people. Thank you. And thanks to all of you. It seems I unconsciously totally missed the part about Caffeine in Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book, how to prevent and reverse heart disease. I feel very happy and lucky.

  • thesrnciks@yahoo.com
    Posted at 11:55h, 26 April

    I don’t see that in the Engine 2 book….what page?

  • Ami Mackey
    Posted at 14:36h, 26 April

    To clarify, I went to the Farms 2 Forks Immersion weekend where during the lectures Dr. Esselstyn himself said that we should avoid caffeine. Whether or not it is touched upon in either book, I didn’t look it up. He mentions it on his website in the Q & A section at heartattackproof.com. Dr. McDougall also recommends no caffeine and has links to a study on his website as well. Jeff Novick, MS, RD also wrote a great article about the effects of caffeine and our coronary health. With that being said…the headache alone that I suffered that day was enough to tell me that I had a serious caffeine habit that needed to be addressed.

  • K. Williams
    Posted at 17:25h, 26 April

    Hi Ami – I loved reading your article, and all the comments following it. I agree – hands down, coffee (particularly espresso) is by far the hardest thing for me to give up! I’ve given up sugar, non-organic foods, junk foods, fast foods, and all kinds of other foods, and stuck with them no problem. But every time I’ve given up coffee, I’ve slipped back into the habit.
    I find I mainly drink espresso because my back and neck go out, and I get migraines. The caffeine in the espresso helps those migraines better than any pain pill. However, the caffeine is also contributing to the loss of calcium in my bones, (among other bad effects), which contributes to my back and neck going out more! What a vicious cycle!
    It’s encouraging to read your article, because I know I’ll be so much better off in the long run, by giving coffee up entirely. Every time I have given it up, I do increase my intake of vegetables, and veggie juices, and I feel great! Plus, I know I’ll be saving myself future troubles with osteoporosis by building my bones up now with the nutrients I need, instead of tearing them down with the caffeine.
    So thanks, you’ve encouraged me to keep trying, and not give up!
    (Did I mention I live across the street from a Starbucks? I might have to move!!)

    • Ami Mackey
      Posted at 22:12h, 26 April

      You can do it!! Thanks for the encouraging words yourself. It’s not the most popular topic. Two months ago I would have bet big money that I’d NEVER give it up. Like everything else, when you are ready to do something, really ready, you just will. I wasn’t ready then, but I am now. The Farms 2 Forks experience was very moving for me. It just felt right and honest and true in such a way that I really want to thrive. Not just get by. When I didn’t do well before, it’s because I wasn’t being honest with myself. I wasn’t fully committing. Now, I am enjoying the process of not cutting corners, slowing down and really enjoying my food. The entire process, from selecting my produce, to creating recipes, photographing the ones that really work as proof of the amazing food one CAN eat on this journey and taking the time to taste everything. In this effort, we even got rid of our microwave last year. Nothing healthy ever came out of it. We used it for convenience (read: junk) not for healthy food. Extreme to some, maybe. For us, it’s made a difference. Like Doug Lisle says, it’s working for us, but it’s not for everybody.

    • Therese von Rodeck
      Posted at 06:04h, 27 April

      K. Williams – funny I should know this… I suffered migraines and found that drinking water at the onset of the headache symptoms- at least 12 to 16 oz., prevented them from coming on full blast. I am now caught saying “Duuuuhhh, caffeine is not good for them either” Thank you for giving me yet another good reason to kick the caffeine!

  • Jennifer dyson
    Posted at 21:04h, 26 April

    Try Teeccino! Great alternative for coffee drinkers 🙂

  • Mary
    Posted at 12:54h, 27 April

    I was the worst about coffee, and I even saw Dr. Esselstyn in person, and I asked him IN PERSON and he said it is not a good idea. I was always mad that my numbers were not getting better, and finally one day I was crying because I couldn’t get my afternoon coffee , I was on a business trip and realized I hit rock bottom! So I gave it up, I took a Friday off from work, and stayed home all weekend to do it.

    Well it was bad for 3 days, like any addiction I thought it was not going to end. But I’m glad to say I’m off of it now – AND my numbers are finally improving, I was having these heart palpitations and they went away. Amazing how much we can hold onto to those last addictions, I kept saying “I can quit anytime” I was totally lying to myself!

  • Tobias
    Posted at 00:02h, 30 April

    A person with recently proven intermediate risk prostate cancer wants to avoid prostate surgery. He is very committed to the plant based whole foods approach. Would it be reasonable to follow this diet with watchful waiting and close follow up of his psa with the hope that the prostate cancer will resolve?

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