The Health Benefits of Quitting Coffee (for Me)

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!If you missed yesterday’s post, I talked about my relationship with coffee over the years and my experience giving it up three months ago. Today I want to talk about all the health benefits of quitting coffee I’ve noticed over the last three months. By no means did I wake up the next day and suddenly feel like a brand new woman–most of these changes are subtle and weren’t noticeable for weeks or even months.

Now that I can take inventory of tangible improvements, I’m certain my gut feeling to quit drinking coffee in the first place was right, and I’m even more enthusiastic about continuing to go without my morning cup of joe. For years though, I never stuck it out long enough to see and feel these changes, and that left me conceding that I might as well just drink coffee again. And that I did. Time and time again. Everyone’s body is unique and responds differently to coffee and caffeine, but if you suspect it may not be the healthiest habit for you, my advice is to really give it a few solid months before making a judgement call. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the first month the only noticeable change for me was how sad I was to be without my favorite beverage. It took patience and will power and was totally worth it.

Health Benefits of Quitting Coffee (for Me)

I’m More in Tune with My *True* Energy Levels

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!

This is huge for me. My whole idea of health is being in tune with my body–when I truly listen to it, it is always my best, most informed guide for what workouts I should be doing and food I should be eating. I’ve learned you can only fight your body (physically and/or emotionally) for so long before it ends in injury, illness, energy crash or emotional breakdown.

Caffeine was effective at masking how I truly felt and what my actual energy levels were, but really was just delaying the inevitable. Sure, I could power through a week of not getting enough sleep by drinking coffee throughout the day but that doesn’t change the fact that my body is sleep deprived.

At the three month mark without coffee, I definitely feel like I have more energy and I don’t experience that drastic afternoon dip. That being said, I really do need to go to bed early enough to give my body the sleep it needs in order to feel that freeing natural energy. I have to work with my body instead of against or despite it.

I should add that things definitely got worse before my energy leveled out. The first class I teach in the morning starts at 5:45AM. For weeks this was brutal without my caffeinated crutch. No longer could I bypass the effects of a bad night’s sleep by drinking coffee to power through my classes. Eventually though, my body adjusted to life without caffeine and now I’m back to being the natural morning person I’ve been since I was a kid. I can’t even explain how liberating it is to wake up full of *real* energy each day without needing a cup of coffee to feel like a functioning human. (Granted, I need to get my ass to bed at a decent hour to feel this way, but that’s how it should be!)

My Skin Is Clearer

Caffeine increases your body’s stress levels by triggering a sort of fight or flight response that signals the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones. Increased levels of cortisol have been linked to acne and breakouts, so–especially if you drink several cups a day–your daily coffee intake could be having a negative affect on your skin. (This article goes deeper into the possible connections between caffeine and acne if you’re interested.) Sometimes it’s more what you put in your coffee (dairy and sugar) than the coffee itself, but I drink my coffee black so that wasn’t the case for me.

I haven’t had really “bad” skin since high school, but my oily complexion and sweaty profession usually result in clogged pores, small zits and an overall bumpy, dull texture. Honestly nothing bad enough to lose sleep over but I always feel like there’s room for improvement. I still get a few zits before my period, but  since quitting coffee, I’ve noticed an improvement in the texture of my skin–it’s smoother and more even.

Another contributing factor to my skin changes isn’t so much the removal of caffeine but the increase in water because of it. I drink a lot more water now that I don’t drink coffee, and staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Instead of drinking coffee while teaching my morning classes, I drink a big bottle of water. When I sit down to start working at my desk, I again reach for water instead of a second cup of coffee. Yes, coffee is water, but it’s also a diuretic so in my mind the two cancel each other out (I’m not a doctor or nutritionist–take that as opinion more than fact!). I certainly don’t feel hydrated after drinking a bunch of coffee.

If you think caffeine might be affecting your skin negatively, check out this girl’s experience cutting out coffee to cure her acne.

I’m Actually Hungry in the Morning

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!

Drinking coffee first thing in the morning would leave me without much of an appetite until late morning or even lunchtime. I either teach three workout classes or do my own workout first thing in the morning so this just didn’t feel right. My body should be hungry. The result of not eating much in the morning usually meant that I’d then overeat at night, having a massive dinner and then snacking on the couch until bedtime.

Now I wake up with a good, healthy hunger in the morning. Eating a big breakfast to satisfy that has helped me eat a normal portioned lunch and dinner and then chill on the late night snacking.

I’m Not as Moody and Irritable

Caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants can cause anxiety as they increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This was absolutely the case for me. Because caffeine is addictive, you can also experience the irritability and depression that comes with withdrawals. Now I should preface this retelling of my experience by emphasizing that I have a history of depression and moodiness so for me in particular, really the last thing I need in my life is to be drinking any sort of substance that can alter my mood. I’m sure lots of people happily enjoy a cup of coffee a day without the dramatics I experienced!

I honestly didn’t really notice I was moody, anxious and irritable while drinking coffee regularly–it wasn’t like any of this was so intense that it was affecting my life or relationships. I only noticed the change afterwards. Sometimes it’s hard to connect the dots: Am I irritable because there’s something valid to be irritated about or is it the caffeine that’s making me respond so intensely to this irritant? Only through eliminating coffee was I able to see the cause and effect relationship. Now my mood is stable, I don’t get rushes of anxiety over trivial things, and I think I’ve been an all around more pleasant person in the last couple months.

This article from Whole30.com talks more about this (the author apparently had a similar experience to me when she quit coffee!). This article elaborates on the connection between caffeine and mood swings, and finally this piece discusses some studies suggesting caffeine worsens depression. To play devil’s advocate, I’ve also seen studies suggesting caffeine improves mood, so take everything with a grain of salt. My intent is to share some information on the topic and ultimately just encourage you to figure out what’s best for your body.

My PMS Isn’t as Bad

The days before my period have, for the last several years, consisted of a drastic dip in energy and irrationally bad moods. If that part of my cycle happened to fall on a day I was teaching, I would drag through my morning classes (even after inhaling a cup or two of coffee) and then I’d inevitably need a nap afterwards I’d be so drained. I’d also snap at Joe for the dumbest of dumb reasons (“You didn’t put the toothpaste cap back on?!” *sobs hysterically*) and would feel super down and antisocial. It’d only last a day or two and I always just brushed it off as an inevitable part of being a female, but the craziest thing happened when I stopped drinking coffee.

My PMS exhaustion and moodiness have all but vanished. What?!

I didn’t connect it to quitting coffee at first, but for three cycles now I’ve had no noticeable dip in energy before my period and my mood has held steady. The only change I’ve made to my daily routine in that time has been to eliminate coffee. It makes sense that with increased natural energy, lower anxiety and a more stable mood, PMS would be a bit more tame.

Before I end this post, I wanted to share this Forbes article I found interesting. It suggests the only reason coffee has been linked to increased performance (more coffee = more productive at work) is because of caffeine withdrawals, which decrease performance. So the coffee is actually just bringing you back to neutral after a night’s sleep withdrawing from caffeine, rather than making you some workplace superhero. Some food for thought!

Ok phew! This has been two long AF blog posts in a row. Before signing off and returning to our regularly scheduled program, I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad about their coffee habit–you have no idea how much I wish I could still drink it every morning and feel as good as I feel without it! Our bodies are all different and I think we should be constantly striving to figure out what lifestyle habits make us feel our best.

How does coffee/caffeine affect you? If you’ve eliminated it, what changes have you noticed? Think this post is a bunch of BS? Share your positive experience with caffeine and/or any studies supporting it–all opinions welcome!

Is Coffee a Drug? – My Relationship with Coffee & Why I Quit

I stopped drinking coffee. Here's why.I love coffee.

I love the rich, soothing smell of it wafting from the kitchen early in the morning. I love the first sip of it from a mug on cold winter days that snakes gently through my body, filling my bones with a comforting warmth. I love the first sip of it iced from a straw on summer mornings that sets with certainty an energized tone for what surely will be a great day. I love the ritual of coffee. Methodically preparing it at home; measuring out the grounds and water just how I like; the satisfying click of the silver BREW button that sets into motion the best part of my morning. I love ordering a cup at spots around the city. Sitting in a sunny corner by a street-facing window, sipping and working at my laptop while the coffee shop buzzes around me. I simply adore coffee.

And it’s been 83 days since I’ve had a cup.

My Relationship with Coffee

As much as I love this black liquid, I’ve always had a feeling that I shouldn’t be drinking it. I don’t mean to imply coffee is categorically bad–everyone’s body is different and responds differently to caffeine/coffee–but for me it felt like a bad habit right from the start. One of those “I should probably stop but…” guilty indulgences.

I’ve always been really sensitive to caffeine. The first time I drank a Red Bull in high school, I convinced myself it was laced with something because I was profusely sweating, jittery, anxious and swore I was having heart palpitations. I didn’t drink my first cup of coffee until college, and even then it wasn’t a regular habit because of how terrible I’d feel. I’d order the smallest cup available at the coffee shop with the intent of staying up late to study and would become so jittery and anxious I could barely even get any work completed. And even if I drank just a small cup first thing in the morning, my sleep that night would be all messed up. Nope, coffee was not for me.

Yet when I got my first real corporate job after college, I fell into the habit of drinking it regularly. I’d have a cup on my way to work and then not be able to sleep that night. So then I’d be tired the next morning and reach for a coffee to help me wake up. And then because of that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. This terrible cycle had me hooked. With time, my body adjusted and got used to the coffee and it no longer affected my sleep. This also meant that I no longer got that fun caffeine buzz when I drank a cup which bummed me out. I couldn’t increase my intake because more than a cup a day gives me a stomach ache, so I decided I’d stop drinking it for a while and then limit myself to only a couple days a week so that when I did drink coffee, I could get a noticeable caffeine high.

Even at the time, I was self aware enough to realize that that behavior and thinking was reason enough to say BOY BYE to coffee.

Whoaaa was quitting harder than I thought. The first time I went off it, I was shocked at how much the caffeine withdrawals kicked me in the ass (I was only having one cup a day!!). I was exhausted at work to the point where I contemplated taking a nap in my car during my lunch break, and I had a dull, persistent headache for two straight days. I couldn’t focus, I was lethargic–I felt terrible. I’d say it took a solid three or four days to feel normal without coffee–and when I did, it was pretty damn glorious to not be dependent on a drink to feel energized in the morning.

The past six years or so have been a cycle of drinking coffee every day, quitting it and hating life for three days, then being coffee-free for a couple weeks before caving and drinking it again.

Would I ever actually quit for good? Did it even matter?

For every article or study on the reasons why you should stop drinking coffee, you can find one touting its health benefits. The information out there can be confusing–is coffee good or bad for you? I’m going to get deeper into this in tomorrow’s post, but as with most things, I think it really depends on the person. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to health because we’re all so different. For me, I’ve always had this gut feeling (literally and figuratively) that coffee is not good for me and my body. 

On December 13, 2016, I drank my last cup, a large iced coffee with almond milk from Dunkin Donuts at around 5:15AM as I walked to the North End to teach my morning classes at Btone. I felt “off” that day and had zero appetite, and it wasn’t long before a nasty case of food poisoning fully settled in (I had eaten raw cookie dough the previous day womp wommmp). I spent the whole night curled in the fetal position on my bathroom floor, and in the days following could barely stomach plain foods, let alone an acidic cup of coffee. I felt so ill from the food poisoning that I barely even noticed or differentiated the caffeine withdrawal symptoms from my overall state of sick. Honestly the food poisoning was pretty convenient in this regard and I’m weirdly thankful for it.

As I recovered and began to feel better and eat normally again, I had a choice to make. Do I start drinking coffee again? Quitting coffee had been in the back of my mind ever since I started drinking it years ago, and now I had gotten the hardest part out of the way with the caffeine withdrawals, so I decided to stay on the wagon. I was sure of my decision but very wrong about one thing: The hardest part was not out of the way.

Day 83

This is the longest I’ve gone without coffee since I started drinking it years ago and what’s most surprising is how sad I was about it (and still am, but to a much lesser extent). It’s like I lost touch with a best friend or my dog died. This thing that I would go to bed looking forward to enjoying the next morning was now gone … yet still there. Coffee is everywhere. Joe still brews it in the morning before heading to work and often there’s some leftover in the pot when I get home from teaching, still warm and just sitting there ready for me. I pass my favorite coffee shops every day while walking around the city. I live above a mother effing Dunkin Donuts.

During the first month without coffee, I almost caved every other day. The thought of never having coffee again was so sad and overwhelming that I had to really switch my focus and take it not even one day at a time but one decision at a time. I’m not going to have a cup right nowI can get through the next hour without coffee. Gradually it got easier to pass up and finally in month three I can say I don’t think about coffee much at all. Still though, writing this post is bringing back so many good memories and I’m starting to miss my BFFAEAE … 

image source

In addition to the temptations and general sadness, I even had a dream one night about coffee. This was about a month after eliminating it from my daily routine. The dream was nothing extraordinary except for how vivid it was. I was brewing a cup of coffee in my kitchen and then settling down on the couch to enjoy it but IT WAS SO REAL. I could smell it, taste it, feel it hitting my lips. When I woke up, I didn’t know whether to cry or pour myself a cup.

*Neither, for the record.*

I was going to name this post something else, but continually throughout the writing process I found myself thinking, “Damn am I talking about coffee or getting sober??” In no way am I suggesting that quitting coffee for a coffee lover is the same as quitting alcohol or drugs for an alcoholic or addict (I have the upmost respect for the strength it takes to stay sober for those battling addiction!), but it is kinda crazy that parts of this post would still make sense if you replaced “coffee” with the name of a hard drug.

This rambling diary entry of a post is already long AF so I’m going to end it here, but I have another one coming your way tomorrow that’s a bit more focused and constructive. I’m going to talk about the changes I’ve noticed with my body since quitting coffee. All have been positive things and have reinforced my decision to quit in the first place–it was 100% the right choice for me. (Emphasis on “for me“!)

What’s your relationship with coffee like? Can you enjoy it here and there or are you dependent on it? Have you ever tried quitting?

You Can Help End Nutritional Poverty

When you sign up for the MegaPledge, MegaFood will donate a bottle of their whole food-based multi vitamins to someone in need. In addition, you'll get a coupon for $5 off a bottle of your own AND you'll be entered to win a kickass wellness retreat.This post is sponsored by MegaFood. All opinions–as always!–are my own. I appreciate your support of the brands that make this blog possible. 🙂

Throughout my partnership with MegaFood, I’ve talked a lot about the quality of their whole-food vitamins and supplements. But the product is just one reason–albeit a big one!–of the many I feel so passionately about working with this brand. MegaFood’s mission is simple, yet huge: to improve lives. Last year they partnered with three New England retailers to establish community gardens in areas that lacked access to healthy food, and this year they’re taking it a step further with the MegaPledge.

For every pledge made, MegaFood will donate 1 bottle of Multis (up to 20,000) to someone in need. They’ll also make a donation to Wholesome Wave equivalent to two servings of fresh fruits and veggies for someone living with limited access to nutritious food.

Sounds great, right? Let’s back it up a bit so you can fully appreciate how awesome this initiative is (for those in need and you) … When you sign up for the MegaPledge, MegaFood will donate a bottle of their whole food-based multi vitamins to someone in need. In addition, you'll get a coupon for $5 off a bottle of your own AND you'll be entered to win a kickass wellness retreat.

Findings reported in July 2015 by the Center for Disease Control show that, in general, Americans do not consume enough of the right foods to get all the essential nutrients needed to maintain optimal health. Even someone who shops at Whole Foods, eats vegetables with every meal and visits their local farmer’s market on the weekends could have nutritional deficiencies, so it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to understand how beneficial a multivitamin could be to someone lacking the resources to access quality food. I think it’s important to acknowledge that, to a certain extent, eating a nutritionally dense diet is a privilege not afforded to all.

Yes, it is possible to eat healthy on a tight budget. But if you live in an affluent area with lots of dining and health store options; make a comfortable living financially; and have access to information on what it means to eat healthy in the first place (education is so important!), you’ve sure as hell got an easier go at it. I remind myself all the time to be grateful for having the means to make food choices based on what I want and is best for my body, rather than on budget. (Although my bank statement would argue that I probably should consider budget more often–good lord do I need to chill out on the Sweetgreen and Dig Inn!)

Wholesome Wave is a non-profit dedicated to making fresh fruits and vegetables available to everyone regardless of income, and shares MegaFood’s vision of curing nutritional poverty. That’s where the MegaPledge comes in!

How to Get Involved

  1. Pledge to fill the nutritional gap in your diet by taking a MegaFood Multi. You can make your pledge HERE.
  2. In return, the first 20,000 pledgers will receive a $5 coupon to use on any of MegaFood’s multivitamins and will be entered to win a year’s supply of multis as well as an amazing wellness getaway (ummm yes, please!).
  3. For every pledge (up to 20,000), MegaFood will donate one bottle of Multis and make a donation to Wholesome Wave equivalent to two servings of fresh fruits and veggies for those in need.

So obviously a year’s supply of vitamins and a wellness getaway are kickass prizes, but guys. Seriously take advantage of that $5 coupon! The quality of MegaFood’s line of products is next level. The supplements are made from whole foods, which MegaFood gets fresh from authentic farmers like Uncle Matt’s Farm and Foxy Organic. Each year they buy more than a half million pounds of produce from these farms–say whaaaaa. It then takes over 236 hours for each batch of supplements to be made because it’s a slow process that optimizes nutrient content. With this exceptional quality, comes a little extra cost. MegaFood will never be the cheapest option on the shelf, but it’s worth it–especially armed with your $5 coupon! 🙂 When you sign up for the MegaPledge, MegaFood will donate a bottle of their whole food-based multi vitamins to someone in need. In addition, you'll get a coupon for $5 off a bottle of your own AND you'll be entered to win a kickass wellness retreat.

Head on over to MegaFood to make your pledge. As simple as that you’ll be helping to get a bottle of multis and fresh fruits and vegetables in the hands of someone in need. I’m excited to be a part of this initiative and hope you all will join me!