If you can’t imagine your life without coffee and yet, you sense that there’s something on the other side, then you've come to the right place. I get it. I’ve been there. So before we go any further let’s get a few things out of the way. When we talk about making dietary and lifestyle changes, a lot of stuff comes up for people…
First, I’m not interested in the “coffee is bad” conversation (coffee is a coping strategy; it’s often about survival).
I’m also not interested in doing the “right” or “healthy” thing (that changes from day to day and from person to person).
I’m not interested in deprivation (will power is a limited energy to call upon).
And I’m certainly not interested in being skinny (because your weight has very little to do with your health).
All of these things are boring and not helpful. What you do (or do not eat) does not make you a better or worse person.
What I am most interested in is being fully alive. Because there was a period in my life where I felt like the walking dead. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but now I know that chronic inflammation and a dysregulated immune system sucked the life right out of me, and I wanted my life back.
Over the years, my body asked me to do many things to claim my vitality. I tell my story in my book Eat in Peace to Live in Peace: Your Handbook for Vitality. For now I will say that in December 2016, my body asked me to do something I thought was impossible:
It asked me to stop drinking coffee. You may be here reading this right now because your body may be asking you to stop drinking coffee as well. For me it looked like this…
Prior to becoming a parent, I drake a lot of green and black tea, thinking that these were healthier options but once I had a kid, these just weren’t enough. So while I was still suffering from sleep deprivation, I increased my caffeine intake. That worked out for a while, but as a highly sensitive person who has a history of burnout, it didn’t work for long. I started to have heart palpitations with a significant increase in my anxiety levels. My inflammation was also on the rise. I felt puffy and when I wasn’t anxious, I was depressed, and often angry. Sleep was getting more challenging, and I also had tension in my neck and shoulders that wasn’t there before. For lack of a better description, everything felt like a fucking emergency. I’m already an intense person; coffee was putting me right over the edge.
So I did for myself what I teach my clients. I observed myself and looked for the obvious. So before I ran to the medical doctor for an EKG, I thought, “Fuck. It’s time to tell caffeine goodbye.”
And I didn’t do it alone. I had lots of help, which is what I want to share with you today. This process of giving up coffee may be easier than you think!
#1 Acknowledge that all change starts with a decision.
Most people suck at making decisions, especially where drugs are involved. Caffeine, while it is a naturally-occurring substance in coffee, is a drug. It specifically blocks adenosine receptors in your brain which are responsible for making you feel fatigue. Coffee is an enabler. It allows your body to keep pushing through when it wants you to stop. So in essence, you have to make a decision to stop making your fatigue go away. Easier said than done, right? Keep reading…
#2 Reduce your coffee intake by ½ cup each week, until you are at none.
This is the best way to ease this transition. Yes, some people do and can go cold turkey but more often than not, this does not set you up for success. It’s called unconscious sabotage. You make some superficial decision to give up coffee and feel like shit when you do and start immediately drinking it again. 95% of withdrawal symptoms are avoidable. Take the time to strategize for long-lasting, positive change.
#3 That said, give yourself space for rest.
I know everyone is busy, which is part of a bigger problem, but seriously, do what you can to create some space in your life. When you give up coffee, you are birthing a new version of yourself. When you feel fatigue during the day, maybe you can lay down for just 5 minutes or simply close your eyes. This is an exercise in giving your body what it wants, instead of masking its needs with more stimulants. It will be uncomfortable at first, but very rewarding long term, and please know that your fatigue will pass as your body adjusts to life without coffee.
#3 Find a new sacred beverage to create a new ritual.
Here are a few of my favorites:
DandyBlend – This is a water soluble extract of roasted barley, rye, chicory root, dandelion root and sugar beet root. It’s super easy, and tastes good hot or iced.
Reishi Roast – This is an herbal blend that you will need to steep in a French Press and it contains: Roasted chicory root, reishi mushroom, chaga mushroom, milky oat strobiles, roasted dandelion root, mesquite pods, raw cacao, cinnamon bark, milk thistle, and Himalayan pink salt. It’s definitely my favorite option and is one that you can feel. If you drink it in the morning, it will give you more resources to get through your day and at night, it will help relax you.
Rasa Koffee – This is my most recent discovery and would be great for those who have a sensitivity to cacao. I like making it as a hot water decoction, but it also comes ground for a quicker preparation in a French Press. It contains chicory, burdock, dandelion, eleuthero, shatavari, he shou wu, codonopsis, ashwaganda, chaga, rhodiola, cinnamon, and reishi. What a powerhouse.
Herbal teas – My two favorites are holy basil from Organic India and organic rooibos, and I also enjoy organic turmeric and ginger tea from Rishi. Last but not least, there’s Rooibus Masala Chai from Blue Lotus which contains water soluble rooibos powder with ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. Come on…yum!
#4 Accept that abstinence may be best.
I meet so many people who will stop drinking coffee and within a couple of days, a few weeks or months later, they are back on the wagon. Why? Because they replaced their coffee with green or black tea. Again, this is not everyone’s experience. Sometimes this substitution actually works for people, but not for everyone. My guess is that the presence of the stimulants just keeps the need for them going, tolerance develops and then one day, you’re feeling tired and vulnerable and you say, “Fuck it. I deserve a cup of coffee today” and bam, you’re back on the caffeine saddle again. Give your body a chance to shine on its own and just say no – one moment at a time.
#5 Play with herbs.
Almost every single thing we do is an attempt to feel more alive, even if it doesn’t serve our best interests long-term. Fortunately, herbs can help you feel more alive without the side effects of caffeine. There are two classifications of herbs that can help here: adaptogens and nervines. Adaptogens are herbs that improve the efficiency of your stress response and nervines relax the nervous system without sedating you.
As previously mentioned, both Reishi Roast and Rasa Koffee both contain these types of herbs.
I also like Rhodiola & Ginseng from MediHerb for the short window of time that it takes to adjust to life without caffeine. Taking 2 tablets upon waking, then 1 at 10AM and another at 2PM can dramatically help your energy levels. After you go through a bottle of that, you can rely on something like Withania Complex and/or Nevaton Forte. Both of these formulas contain a combination of adaptogens and nervines, so they help to energize and relax at the same time. All three of these products are available through qualified health professionals with a Standard Process account. I just want you to understand that you have options. These are some of my favorites, but there are many available to you.
The primary herb that got me to give up coffee was turmeric, and you can read more about that experience here.
Overall, these herbs dramatically promote mental clarity and stabilize energy levels and can be very helpful during caffeine withdrawal. In other words, we do stupid shit when we are stressed, like getting a mocha from Starbucks followed by a Snickers bar. These herbs will help you to not do stupid shit that you will regret later!
#6 Improve your nutritional status.
Eat a kickass breakfast that includes mostly protein and fat, and as few carbohydrates as possible. This will minimize cravings during the day and into the night. This looks like eggs and bacon, eggs and sausage, quiche, or even leftovers from dinner. Just think out of the breakfast cereal box and you’ll be well on your way.
Good quality supplements can help, too. I like Symplex F (female) and Symplex M (male) from Standard Process for endocrine support, as well as Cataplex B for energizing B vitamins that comes from whole foods, like liver. These three are also available through qualified health professionals.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now! Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it speaks to the deepest part of your being because that was at the center of my need to give up coffee. I wanted to feel me. I wanted to be real. And I have had that experience…
I feel the unsustainable pace of this world and how we prop ourselves up using stimulants.
I feel the full spectrum of emotions now but with more nuance, i.e. I peeled off a layer of anxiety induced by my beverage choice. Now I can feel my true anger and angst and am more likely to be able to identify where it’s coming from and address it accordingly.
I mean, how can I know what my body needs if I override its wisdom with stimulants? It’s hard!
I also feel the beauty of this world more deeply. I’m not moving as fast as I was. I’m not buzzing. I notice more birds chirping and more flowers blooming.
And I’m here to tell you that life without coffee is good. It’s more real, and that’s what the world needs right now: more authenticity and truth, and that doesn’t start with eliminating Fake News. It starts in our own bodies.
I have zero interest in another cup of coffee and if given the chance, you may not have an interest either.
Stop drinking your coffee in peace, my friends. It’s worth it.
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