healthy living

Living Without Caffeine

giving up caffeine

Giving up caffeine was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health.  I’ve become addicted to and given up caffeine twice in my life.  The last time I gave up caffeine was in May 2010 (right after I passed the last CPA exam).  There are two main reasons why I gave up caffeine:

  • I don’t like being addicted to anything.  I disliked waking up and having to have coffee or else being visited later on by that lovely caffeine withdrawal headache.  Plus, I believe addictions of any kind are unhealthy in one way or another.
  • Sleep issues.  As I mentioned in this post, I’m one of those people that sometimes has trouble falling asleep.  I think giving up caffeine helped my sleep routine just slightly.  If I had caffeine too late in the day, I could definitely feel it that night.

Let me start by saying that I LOVE coffee.  I love the ritual of it.  I love the taste of it.  And even though I gave it up, I also enjoy that nice coffee buzz (although, when you start to drink it regularly and your “tolerance” increases , it’s harder and harder to get that buzz – just like when you become addicted to anything!).

I still drink decaf coffee almost every day.  G is also caffeine-free, so we normally brew a pot of decaf every morning.  However, there are usually a couple days a week where I’m in a hurry or I just forget to get coffee, but it’s never a big deal.  I don’t get those awful caffeine shakes or headaches if I miss out of my decaf in the morning.  Also, sometimes we’ll just forget to buy it at the store and go for a week or so without it.  Again, no big deal.  We’re not addicted to caffeine anymore, we just enjoy coffee.

There are two main ways to give up caffeine:

  • wean yourself
  • give up cold turkey

The first time I quit drinking caffeine, I gave up cold turkey.

Here are the results from giving up caffeine cold turkey:

  1. I beat my addiction in about a week.
  2. It was quite possibly the worst week of my life.
  3. I had day-long week-long headaches.
  4. I was a mega-beyotch.
  5. I suffered from withdrawals all week and had to go about my daily business like nothing had changed (cue messy breakdowns in the work bathroom, “I want my caffeine back, NOW!! I can’t do this!!  I neeeeeed coffee….”  Whatever.  It happens.).

The second time I gave up caffeine, I wised up.  I weaned myself of caffeine.

Here are the (much more pleasant) results from weaning myself off of caffeine:

  1. It took me about 2 months to give up caffeine.
  2. I was super happy.  (I was still able to nurse my cup of joe every morning.)
  3. It works!  I decreased the amount of regular coffee I drank every week or so.
  4. I never had one withdrawal headache

Living without caffeine

For the most part, I love living without caffeine.  I don’t struggle with it.  I never crave caffeine.  It wasn’t the caffeine that I loved so much about coffee, it was the taste, the warmth, the ritual of it.  I can still have all those things – I just roll with decaf.  In fact, as I type this post, I’m drinking a delicious cup of decaf.

What about other products with caffeine?  Products like Diet Coke, Coke, headache medicine, chocolate.  When I drink Diet Coke (which isn’t all that common), I just go for the caffeine-free option.  (Caffeine-free Coke products are super hard to find, so this does pose a problem for ordering mixed drinks and the like.)  I rarely get headaches, but when I do, I just pop headache medicine without caffeine.  And, as for chocolate, of course I still eat chocolate!  But, I don’t eat chocolate daily or enough of it to become addicted to caffeine again, so I’m not too worried about that tiny splurge.

Using caffeine when you need it

Now that I’m not addicted to caffeine, it can actually serve its purpose when I need it.  On rare occasions – like when I get very, very little sleep or when I know I have a long day ahead of me – I’ll drink a cup of regular coffee.  Just a small cup will be all I need to get that jolt of energy (that I rarely ever got when I was addicted!).  For example, I am considering having caffeine the morning of my wedding because I know it’ll be such a long day (and because I’ll need lots of energy to bust out some awesome moves on the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning).

Coffee & Health

Before you tell me that coffee is full of antioxidants and is all natural and good for you, let me stop you now.  COFFEE is good for you.  Caffeine is not.  Yes, coffee beans have tons of great things to offer your body, but, guess what?  You can get all of those yummy good antioxidants and nutrients from decaffeinated coffee.   All the good stuff, none of the bad stuff.  Decaf for the win!

Giving up caffeine was tough, no doubt about it.  It’s huge sacrifice, but, in my opinion, it’s worth it for your health in the long-run.

Do you drink coffee/caffeine?

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  • is it a sign. While reading your post I spilled my entire morning cup of coffee on my key board. I am currently working on cutting sugar from my coffee – grain by grain…LOL. Maybe once I get over this hurdle, caffeine will be the next one to tackle.

  • Woo! I gave up soda on the day of our wedding. Luckily, my grandparents let me try black coffee as a young’n, and I’ve never had the desire to try it again. Even the smell of coffee… Just yuck.

    Diet Dr. Pepper was my big addiction, and I gave it up because of the aspartame in diet soda. It’s been linked to so many health issues, and I’m just not having it. Plus, like you, I hated the idea that I “needed” to drink DDP every day. I’d rather not be controlled by a drink, thank you very much!

    I was only able to go cold turkey because we were on our honeymoon at the time. We didn’t stock our cabin kitchen with anything but water (hubby strictly drinks water and apple juice only – weirdo), so it was easy for me to avoid it. When we went out to eat, I would order water or sweet tea. The caffeine from the sweet tea was probably the big reason I was able to keep away from DDP for the week. By the time we got home and temptation was abundant (the office stocks the kitchen with all kinds of soda), I had already lasted a week. “If you’ve made it this far, you might as well keep going.”

    It’s been over nine months now since I’ve had any soda! Yay! I’ve suffered from fewer migraines and less indigestion while eating. I still get cravings when I eat something that tasted better with DDP – like tuna straight from the bag or popcorn – but other than that, it’s been easy to stick to it.

  • I gave it up a while ago – best. decision. evar.

    I didnt get headaches or anything like that when I didnt have it, I just realized how long it was staying in my system (it has a very long half life) and thought that couldnt be good for my health. So, I decided that enough was enough.
    I never have had coffee before, so giving that up wasnt that hard – I drank a lot of tea though, and that was difficult. After a while of not drinking it, every once in a while I have a coke, and then I remember why I stopped drinking it again – coke tastes good, and I like it with mixed drinks, but now I usually just drink my whiskey with ice. I feel better in the morning.
    Also, Do you think it’s easier to give up coffee because you dont live in a very coffee centric place (like portland or seattle)? – that being said, I dont know how coffee centric KC is

    • We have The Roasterie in KC. It’s the big coffee around here. But, you can definitely get away with not doing the coffee thing in KC. It’s not even close to being a coffee city like Seattle. Still, you could always get by on decaf! 🙂

  • I still drink a daily cup in the mornings – T even makes me a homemade latte every day. But there have been times when I skip it with no adverse side affects, so I’m not too worried. If I ever went caffeine free (and i really have no plans too!), I think i’d still take Excedrin for my really bad headaches. I get them once or twice a year, and I’d make the exception!

    I’ve heard that caffeine before/during running can improve performance slightly, and that it helps with recovery. But i have no scientific studies to site.

    • Excedrin is the BEST. It always cured my aches/pains/headaches SOO fast. No more for me though. 🙁 I’ve heard that caffeine helps performance, too. I could see it, but wouldn’t people rather just have their performance be all natural? I dunno, I’m totally out of the loop on that. 🙂

      Anddddd, can T come make me a homemade decaf coffee every day?? 🙂

      • I’m embarrassed at my typo of site instead of cite. Ooops.

        Yes he could make decaf! I guess i’m not convinced that caffeine is bad for my health – feel free to educate me! I can’t say i particularly WANT to be convinced, but i also am open minded. I think…

  • I’ve never been addicted to caffeine of any sort and am SO glad! No pop if any kind (unless in mixed drinks when I go out, and even just one or two small drinks make me burp a lot!) and only the occasional white mocha from Starbucks. Dislike the taste of coffee but love the smell! My health has always thanked me for this 🙂

  • I read your first point about beating your coffee addiction in one week and was really impressed… as it took me a few months to get off the golden beans.

    Lol…but then I read your next bit about it being the worst week of your life! And I feel for you. Right now I have a cup every few days and it’s working great for me. I had to take a little break first though. Good luck with it!

  • Here is how I gave it up: I GOT SICK.

    I was so sick I couldn’t even drink a sip of water without vomiting. It was this was for 4 days. Since I hadn’t had any soda during that time I made the conscious decision to just continue not drinking soda. =)

    Also, the vomiting and the diarrhea was way worse than a little ole caffeine headache. 😉

    • OMG, was that the sickness you just had a couple weeks ago?? Awful! I was that sick from McDonald’s food poisoning in June (like worse than anything I’ve ever gotten) and have never and will never go back to McDonald’s. So I guess there is some good in those sicknesses – no more fast food and no more caffeine! 🙂

  • I love coffee and caffeine. It gotten to the point where caffeine doesn’t wake me up anymore. It doesn’t do anything for me. Even if I were to give up coffee, I’d still want to drink tea. I also can’t pass up certain coffee drinks such as mocha frappuccinos from Starbucks. I love them so.

    I can’t imagine drinking water all the time. What do you drink nowadays?

  • I gave up soda for my new years resolution. I had my first soda this week. My entire goal was to no longer rely on soda to get through a day. When I had the soda this week it wasn’t even a big deal. The taste no longer appeals to me to the point that I have to have it. I have been drinking more ice tea which does have caffeine. I think your recommendation for decaf is the best way to enjoy what you love.

  • Wow, I’m impressed. I feel like I could never give up caff coffee! One time I tried and got the worst headaches that only caffeine could cure. I do hate being “addicted” things though, so maybe it’s time I give it a go again.

    • If you ever decide to, you should totally wean yourself! I didn’t get ONE headache from it. I still drink lots of decaf. 🙂

  • I love my coffee and don’t plan on giving it up. 🙂 That said, I usually have a maximum of two cups a day, sometimes not even that. If I get 8 hours’ sleep I’d be fine without it. But I enjoy the smell, taste, and ritual of drinking coffee, especially in the wintertime. I don’t think I could have survived college without it, either! 🙂 About 10 years ago I was drinking WAY too much coffee and soda, though, and when I cut back suddenly, I had the excrutiating headaches for weeks!

  • I have never liked the taste of coffee, and like you, I also don’t like the idea of being addicted to it. I see how my co-workers can’t get through the day without several cups! I used to drink a ton of soda but I got a ton of cavitites because as a result, so I avoid soda as much as possible now.

    Having said all this, I must admit that I AM addicted to chocolate… I’m not sure if I care to change that, though. 😉

  • I tried the whole no coffee for about a few month’s, I also have hard time sleeping. And just like you mentioned I had headaches every day. So I went back to drinking coffee. I think I will never give it up again, I just love starbucks too much.

  • Love this post! I’ve never been a coffee addict but I understand it. Decaf coffee still has caffeine, so I don’t drink that at all and go the way of herbal teas. Some root-y ones especially remind me of coffee so I’ll recommend those to coffee reformers 😛

  • If you drink decaf you are only fooling yourself about being caffeine free, there is caffeine in it. Not only that, but decaf has some really nasty chemicals in it that regular coffee doesn’t have. Regarding coffee being good for you, there are hundreds of chemical compounds in coffee that are not present in any other foods, and only a couple of those have any evidence of being good for you, and even those only when consumed in moderation. There is plenty of literature about how nasty many of those compounds are and how they impact health. Keep in mind that there are practically no studies that concluded coffee has health benefits that were not funded by companies that sell coffee. We live in a gullible society where people listen only to what they want to hear.

  • I’m currently dependent on caffeine and take a caffeine pill in the morning, which is rather hilarious because I love coffee but had gotten pinched for time to make it in the morning and don’t like to spend money on coffee out. I’m not too worried though, my body seems to luckily have a very benign relationship with caffeine. I’ve gone off caffeine at various times and if I stop cold turkey, I’m only unhappy for a day, whereas if I taper off it takes about a week. The first few times I guess I was trying to prove a point, but then I realized a small caffeine dependency didn’t really have any negative effects on my life, so now I just modulate my habits according to my needs. I’ll likely cut down to half a pill soon and then switch back to coffee once I get my scheduling figured out so I can get more effect from it.

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