My name is Cathy and I'm a coffee lover. It's been two weeks, six days and four hours since caffeine passed my lips.
And the funny thing is, I only started drinking coffee about two years, six months and four days ago! I always loved the aroma of it, and I even ate the coffee crème chocolates that everyone else left behind in the Christmas box; but once I was hooked on drinking the stuff, my relationship with coffee was one of my most reliable... it never disappointed, and consistently made me feel full of energy – creativity, even.
To me, coffee = morning fuel; the ultimate chocolate companion (mine’s an Avoca rice crispie bun or a peanut butter ball from St George’s Market). It was an instant energy boost and an ever-reliable Instagram prop. My first, and until recently, only cup of the day dispelled any threat of brain fog, leaving me feeling focused and alert with a spring in my step. But I started wanting more. And then I realised that the weak sleep and sore jaws (from grinding and clenching at night) were probably something to do with the caffeine. I was dehydrated too. Because although most of us know that caffeine is an appetite suppressant (and I never really drank it for that reason, but hey, a few less pounds ain’t no bad side effect, right?); it also supressed my thirst, and I found myself not drinking any water at all. All. Day. Long. Then all of a sudden at around 4 or 5pm the drug would wear off and I would be all-at-once starving and super thirsty. And we all know it’s futile to drink most of your 2L/day in one go. Plus the hunger turned to hanger and I was irritable and often reached for a quick, (unhealthy) food fix.
So I decided to step away. But could I do it? And was I right to?
Most of us know that too much caffeine is not good for our health. And although I only really drank one cup of coffee per day, I was obviously very caffeine-senstive, so even my single cup was proving too much. My own research brought me to the point where the plus points of giving it up appealed more than that daily hit. I'm still at the early stages of my journey - and yes I still miss it - but am happy to say that the benefits have started to kick in already. Of course it hasn't been all roses, so I decided to journal my experience and share what led me to this point.
Anyone who knows me or follows along on social media will know that my life is pretty full on, thanks to a busy work schedule, colourful social life, regular travel and the absolute highlight, looking after my daughter, Valentina.
Like many busy working mums, reaching for a cuppa to keep my focus on point seemed the most natural thing in the world, but how has it really affected me - and what are the benefits of stopping?
Caffeine is the world's most commonly consumed psychoactive substance, aka it stimulates our central nervous system, affects neural activity in the brain and makes us feel more alert and less tired.
While alertness levels tend to drop after giving up caffeine, most people find that they soon return, along with greater stability and clarity of mind.
Naturally there are pros and cons to giving up caffeine and common symptoms last from a few days to a few weeks, such as:
· low energy
· poor concentration
· depressed mood
I also gained weight almost immediately after giving it up. I was grazing all day long instead of living off the sugar hit from the bun and the energy from the caffeine. So that’s not great, but I just have to flatline a little bit – and I’m sure I will, with time. On the upside, there are multiple benefits from giving up caffeine in the longer term.
Caffeine is a stimulant that causes increased energy, alertness and concentration. While withdrawal can initially lead to fatigue, zero energy spikes from a caffeine kick = zero lows when it wears off.
Tip: stick to a nutrient-rich diet and swap your daily cuppa for a vitamin-packed smoothie. I’ve just started the turmeric lattes from Panama café in Belfast – a perfect pick-me-up, with great anti-inflammatory benefits too!
A Clear Head
Caffeine causes blood vessels in the brain to constrict, slowing blood flow. Skipping it will avoid the painful headaches caused by the brain adapting to an increase in blood and help us think more clearly. Reducing caffeine gradually and replacing it with extra hydration will prevent headaches occurring.
Tip: bring on the water and herbal teas.
As coffee acts as a stimulant, eliminating it can cause drowsiness. Its energising effects only last around four to six hours, hence the urge for another cuppa or that afternoon slump. You should soon notice an improvement in sleep quality and subsequent energy levels fairly soon after cutting it out.
Tip: early nights - aim for at least 7 hours. I only usually get 6 – and I know I need more than that, long term. Calm
Caffeine increases heart rate, blood pressure and the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which is why too much can make us feel jittery and anxious. While withdrawal can cause anxiety in the short term, it will lead to a calmer state of mind in the long run.
Tip: stress reduction techniques such as yoga or meditation. I use the Glenn Harrold Deep Sleep app to help me drift into a really deep, relaxed sleep. It works so much better without the caffeine in my life!
Caffeine actively stimulates the brain leading to increased alertness and improved focus, so quitting can cause difficulty focusing on specific tasks. Cut down slowly and increase hydration ... you'll soon feel sharp as a tack again.
Tip: pace yourself and drink more water.
Most coffee drinkers are used to the mood-enhancing effects of caffeine and some become irritable and moody without it (thankfully not me). There's no easy fix for this one, but replacing caffeine with little things that make you feel good will help. Rather than sit at an empty desk without at your usual coffee/tea break, go for a brisk walk, listen to a podcast or call a friend. As your body becomes less dependent on caffeine, your moods will stabilise.
Tip: self care is important.
The liver cleanses and naturally detoxes the body when you cut caffeine out, so around a month after giving up caffeine, you should notice clearer, well hydrated skin.
Tip: swapping caffeine for water will bring on the glow even faster.
Coffee can erode enamel and stain teeth due to a high acid content, so ditching it will lead to a brighter smile in the long term.
Tip: book in for a professional clean to remove stains after giving up caffeine... this will encourage you to steer clear! As you may know from other blogs, I highly recommend regular cleans and go to Sandown Dental in Belfast where I have learnt so, so much about oral hygiene and the long-term effects of good tooth care.
Two weeks into giving it up, the most positive side effect so far is that I'm definitely sleeping better. I no longer wake up with sore jaws from grinding; the quality of sleep has improved and my body feels more rested.
It's even affected my mind and personality for the better. I feel more zen and chilled... I still love a good chat but am less inclined to over share without the caffeine spike.
And the Downs
Of course I miss the buzz that caffeine gave me... I think that's the bit we get so hooked on! It definitely gave me clarity and got the creative juices flowing, but I expect all that to balance out in the coming weeks. Apparently even greater clarity comes with time as caffeine and reliance on it leaves our system, so I look forward to that! Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my progress and let me know if you have any tips or decide to join in too! :Lastly, I have gained weight – a lot. From grazing all day, but like I said, I hope this will flatline as I get back into a decent (and more healthy) routine.
There are plenty of decaff options out there, though personally I'm enjoying something completely different to crush my cravings.
Hot water with apple cider vinegar, fresh ginger, the best honey you can afford & the juice of half a lemon is super detoxifying and balances out the pH of the stomach and digestive tract. Add cayenne pepper or turmeric to give that spicy kick.
Fresh Pineapple & Lime Juice (M&S do a great one) with crushed ice and slimline tonic tastes as good as a cocktail
Cranberry & Raspberry juice with soda water and a slice of lime makes a gorgeous long drink, perfect for a sunny afternoon catch up. Much better than a latte and a bug bun!