I love coffee. I have a cup (or two!) every morning.
Why then would I write a post about how to quit drinking coffee? Let me explain.
For a long time I never drank the stuff, I just didn’t develop a taste for it. Once I graduated from college and started working at Microsoft, that changed. I started drinking coffee just to pass the time or while taking a break with co-workers. I was also living in Seattle….the coffee capital of the universe. Eventually I grew to love the stuff.
Over the years I’ve had an on again off again relationship with coffee. I’ve even blogged about my swapping out a coffee habit for a tea habit. At times I drank too much of it, and felt like it was an addiction I didn’t need in my life. I would feel a little jittery and at times have trouble sleeping. Tea, even the caffeinated varieties, never gave me the same trouble.
Right now I am thoroughly enjoying my coffee habit and have no desire to quit. I have 1-2 big cups in the morning (I brew it myself) and feel no ill effects. In fact I’m drinking some right now! Perhaps my body has developed some kind of tolerance, or perhaps I’m just blind to the continuing ill affects. Even more likely, my days are no longer stuck behind a desk. I’m very active and that makes a big difference in how well my body processes food and drink – caffeinated beverages included.
Whatever the reason I’m still sticking to my coffee habit. There are more important things for me to focus on right now.
However, my wife is taking a break from drinking coffee, it just isn’t sitting well with her right now. She is a true coffee aficionado though, which makes her giving up the stuff even harder. She has shown a ton of willpower in being coffee free for a few weeks now and we talk quite a bit about it.
Since coffee is on my mind (and in my mouth) right now, I thought I would share five tips for those looking to quit, based on my own experience in the past.
1) Get clear on why you want to stop drinking coffee
We are motivated by compelling reasons more than anything else. Why do you want to stop drinking coffee? Is this the right time to do so? How will your life be better without it? Is it really a priority?
The urge to give things up in the hope that it will make life remarkably better can be a big one….but without first getting clear on why taking action is important the deeper intrinsic motivation will be lacking. Take some time to ponder your compelling reason “Why?”.
2) Commit to going cold turkey off coffee
Many articles on the internet mention that going cold-turkey isn’t the smartest thing. These articles point to the numerous withdrawal symptoms that come with caffeine withdrawal. That’s why I go cold-turkey off coffee, but continue drinking other caffeinated drinks for a while.
Going cold-turkey has been the only method that has worked for me. Just tapering back on the amount of coffee consumed over time never worked. It was too tempting to drink more. YMMV.
3) Wean off the caffeine over time
To avoid withdrawal symptoms, I would start drinking green tea or Yerbe Mate instead of coffee. There is a good amount of caffeine in these drinks, but in my experience they don’t lead to the jittery-ness or highs and lows that caffeine in coffee provides. I could drink a big cup of Yerbe Mate in the afternoon and sleep like a baby. The same was never true with coffee. Again YMMV.
Over time, if you want to cut back on all caffeine, you can explore the world of herbal teas or coffee substitutes (based on chicory, carob and other caffeine free and healthy ingredients). My wife is drinking is drinking this stuff right now, I tried it and it’s decent:
4) Develop a new morning/afternoon drink ritual.
A lot of the desire to drink coffee can be linked to the ritual associated with it. Maybe you enjoy drinking a steaming cup with your partner in the morning. Maybe its a way to relax with co-workers in the afternoon. Maybe you like walking to Starbucks during your lunch break and getting some fresh air.
Replicate those rituals, but find a substitute for the coffee. Walk to a juice bar instead of a coffee shop. Get loose leaf teas and proper tea brewing equipment to make the process more fun. Propose going on a walk with co-workers instead of sitting at the coffee bar. Etc.
5) Keep a log/journal for 10 days (minimum)
This one is important, particularly if you are wanting to quit coffee for a health-related reason. Make note of what you eat/drink, your sleep quality and energy levels (and whatever other health indicators you are monitoring). See how your coffee free-ness is helping (or not) your cause over time.
There might be something else you can do to more dramatically improve your well-being than just giving up coffee, or perhaps coffee is really throwing a monkey wrench into your quality of living. The only way to know if to objectively look at the data. Keep a log for at least 10 days. Review it and see for yourself. If it’s working keeping it up. If not, change your approach.