I don’t drink. I eat a primarily raw, plant-based diet. I workout every day. Let’s just say I take my health seriously and consider my lifestyle choices carefully as to how it will affect my body.
But when it came to coffee, all bets were off. I have a hard time remembering a time when I didn’t drink coffee. I started when i was a teenager, drinking out of cheap brown, chipped coffee mugs with my Dad at the local Perkins. College continued the coffee obsession, using it to fuel late night study sessions and early class schedules.
From there it was a habit, with an adulthood of gradually increasing coffee consumption. I even upgraded to a home espresso maker and would often drink shots of espresso well into the evening hours without any effect on my sleep. Caffeine was not only a daily ritual, but a real requirement for proper functioning and performance of my daily adult activities.
I never thought to give up coffee. After all, it was everywhere and everyone drank it. Starbucks pioneered the qualify coffee craze and I couldn’t have been happier about it. A 16 ounce Americano! I would shout at the barista, in an attempt to be heard over the steaming and spitting espresso machine. Coffee was my jam and it couldn’t have been more socially acceptable.
But a few months ago I began to think about coffee and caffeine. I felt like a bit of a fraud. I shouted from the treetops or to anyone that would listen about how great a mostly raw vegan diet was, how it gave me so much energy. So if that were true, why did I need upwards of 4 cups of coffee a day in order to keep myself from nodding off in the middle of the day? Why did I wake up groggy every morning and immediately head for the kitchen and the coffee maker like an actor in some zombie apocalypse movie? If I wanted to be this great advocate for the benefits of a raw vegan diet, I couldn’t exactly be extolling the virtues and simultaneously ingesting enough caffeine to single-handedly support a Starbucks location.
A part of me also didn’t feel great about the fact that I ingested a drug several times a day. Despite my uber-healthy lifestyle, I wondered about the long term health implications of caffeine. It didn’t help that mainstream media kept telling me how coffee consumption has no negative effects and that we should all just continue drinking it and never you mind about any of the pesky side effects. It’s practically a health food! Drink up! The more I heard that the more I began to wonder.
So I quit. One day, out of the blue, with nary a plan or even any direct health issues arising from my consumption, I boldly walked out of the relationship. I dropped the mic. No decaf, no tea, no gradual weaning off of my favorite beverage of all time that I had consumed for the last 25 years of my life.
By mid morning on the first day, a blinding headache nestled behind my eyes and stayed for the next 3 weeks. I had all the classic withdrawal signs, sleeplessness, headaches, trouble concentrating and a general disdain for anyone and everything in my general vicinity. Oh, plus, I wanted to die.
I picked up the book Caffeine Blues: Wake up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug in an attempt to reinforce my decision and put some science to it. I learned how even “healthy” amounts of caffeine are really not so healthy (surprise!) at all and that caffeine acts like a jackhammer on your adrenals. It’s also correlated to certain types of cancer and raises blood pressure levels. Oh, I also learned that quitting caffeine cold turkey as I had done is not recommended. At all. Oops.
So what happened? After 3 weeks of blinding headaches and sleeplessness, the skies cleared, the clouds moved out and life went on. I suddenly had no cravings and no desire for coffee. I still enjoyed the smell but it didn’t make me want to drink any. It was as if I had never drank a cup of coffee in my life.
I even felt my energy level amp up a little more. Mornings were welcomed with a large glass of H20 instead of a steaming mug of coffee. I found sleep much more restful and rejuvenating. The afternoon lull and some of the early evening listlessness I usually experienced went away completely, replaced with a much more consistent and optimal level of energy.
Oh, and I have to say I like saving a bucket load of money. With fancy pants organic, shade-grown coffee and espresso a thing of the past, as well as the occasional high end coffee shop visit, my coffee coffers are overflowing. I don’t drink decaffeinated coffee or even tea now. Just water. Plain old water. And you know what? It tastes pretty darn good.