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!

An Ode to My Favorite Bar: LÄRABAR Giveaway!

This post is sponsored by LÄRABAR. All opinions–as always!–are my own. I appreciate your support of the brands that make this blog possible.

I eat a LÄRABAR almost every single day. If you were to open up our kitchen cabinet doors at any given time, you’d be sure to find Blueberry Muffin (my favorite) and Coconut Cream Pie (Joe’s) Larabars in there. On mornings I teach, I wait to have my real breakfast until after I’m done with classes, so to fuel me through instructing I grab a LÄRABAR on my way out the door. Yes, this is a sponsored post, but for realz yo, these are hands down my favorite snack bars and have been for a couple years now.

The first LÄRABAR I ever tried was the cashew cookie and I remember looking at the ingredients and not even believing what I read. That’s it?! Yup. Just cashews and dates, simple as that. All the core bars have just 2-9 ingredients in them.

And that’s why I love LÄRABAR: simple, real food ingredients. It’s food made from … wait for it, wait for it … food. Personally, I don’t count calories or macros or any sort of numbers. What I do pay close attention to is ingredients. What am I eating? If I were to whip up a batch of snack bites at home, I’d opt for pretty much exactly the same ingredients that are found in Larabars. In that way, they’re like a homemade snack without having to clean my food processor. Holler!

As much as the bars themselves, I love the company’s mission. LÄRABAR was established on the idea that real food should be accessible for all. They combined a blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices in a convenient, on-the-go package. And I like that I don’t have to trek to Whole Foods or a health food store to get them–most the time I just pop into CVS.

Anyone else think of that old TV show Weeds when you listened to the song in the above video?? I was obsessed with the first few seasons of it in college. Anyway …

Reader Giveaway

One reader will win a LÄRABAR Real Food Prize Pack including:

  • 12 original Larabar flavors
  • S’well water bottle
  • Real Food tank top
  • Fruit push pins
  • Floral cloth bag

TO ENTER

Leave a comment on this blog post with the ingredients of your favorite LÄRABAR. Don’t know the ingredients? Visit Larabar.com to find out (website will open in a new tab so you can easily come back here to comment!). I’ll pick a winner randomly Wednesday night. My favorite is Blueberry Muffin: dates, cashews, blueberries, blueberry juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate and vanilla extract.

Good luck everyone! 🙂