Last fall I was trying, unsuccessfully, to quit drinking coffee. I've always loved coffee. Like really, really, really loved it. But I'd finally hit a point where I was doing so many things to lower the unnecessary stress in my life and boost my energy that it just started to irritate me that I couldn’t kick the coffee habit to the curb.
Coffee was stressing my body out and I was over it. But I also felt that pull every morning like my life wouldn't be complete without that steaming mug in my hand to start the day. I was hooked and couldn’t remember the last time a day had gone by when I hadn’t had a cup, or two, or more.
Like with anything, my decision to stop was a totally personal choice based on what I was going through to try and heal my adrenals, but that's really what all of this is about.
As we delve into what "wellness" really means to us we have to make choices about what's most important to us.
So I had to ask myself, do I want to feel better or do I want to keep drinking coffee?
Once I thought about it that way the choice was easy. And I was under strict orders from my doctor to ditch the coffee once and for all, so I knew I had to commit to it in order to heal. But how? And what about the terrible headaches I was sure to get once I stopped?
I couldn’t even imagine how I’d be able to quit, but I also know by now that I don’t need to know the “how” to start.
I’d tried to quit coffee cold turkey once in college when I did the Atkins Diet and the headaches were so bad that I gave up 2 days into it. So this time around I wanted to concoct a way to do it where I could ease into the process and, hopefully, not have headaches so intense that I wouldn't be able to endure the withdrawal.
Here are the steps I followed to do it:
Step 1. Be Willing
As with any addiction, you actually have to be willing to stop. I’ve tried to quit doing plenty of things that weren’t good for me in the past, but it never stuck if I didn’t somehow or someway believe it might be possible. Even if I had no clue how I'd actually do it, being willing to believe it could happen was always the first step.
The cool part about this is you don’t need to know how you’re going to do it right away; you just have to be willing to try.
And being willing to try also means facing your old fears that might pop up during the process. I‘ve done a lot of work to heal my old tendency to self-sabotage, but it still likes to visit occasionally and I know it when I see it. The difference now is I don’t believe the voice in my head that says, “Come on, it’s ok to just have one cup. No one will know and how bad could it really be for you anyway? Billions of people drink coffee every day!”
I know now that the louder that voice gets, the closer I am to breaking through, so to start the process I just committed to being willing to quit coffee.
Step 2. Shift Your Mindset & Focus on the Good Stuff
You’ve probably heard people talk about going on diets where you focus less on “giving up” certain things, and more on adding the good stuff in so before you know it, you’re “crowding out” your unhealthy habits without even really realizing it.
This works like a charm because you’re not spending all your time and effort focusing on what you’re not supposed to have.
You’re just adding good things in and not depriving yourself of anything to start. The idea being the more good things you add in, the less room there is for the bad stuff.
Your job is simply to focus on fueling yourself with things that are actually nourishing your body. Just that subtle mindset shift of being willing to put your energy into drinking things that make you feel good and are good for you is enough at first.
Step 3. Disrupt Your Pattern
So, I just started adding more of the good things I was supposed to be drinking to my morning routine before cutting out coffee completely. Here's how I did it:
Here's how I did it:
2. Next I drank two glasses of filtered water and took my supplements.
3. Then with my breakfast I’d have a turmeric latte with homemade coconut milk, which quickly became my new obsession. Check out Dr. Kelly Brogan’s turmeric paste recipe for a quick and easy way to whip one up on demand.
4. And after all that, I’d finally make myself a cup of coffee to drink while I was getting ready for the day.
This went on for a couple weeks and as more time passed I realized that I was only drinking about half a mug of the coffee I made every morning. Progress!
At some point I also started having Dr. Brogan's "KB Smoothie" a few times a week, which is delicious and stabilizes your blood sugar, and adding a smoothie drink to my morning routine also meant I had one more "good" thing to drink. You can watch Dr. Brogan make it below.
By putting all those other drinks ahead of the coffee I was filling up on the good stuff and by the time I got to the coffee I just wasn’t that psyched about the 5th or 6th drink of the morning. But, I was also never depriving myself of having the coffee either.
For the next week I did half regular and half decaf so I could gradually get used to the decrease in caffeine. And after 2 or 3 days I noticed I was only taking a few sips and by the time I thought about taking a sip again it was already cold.
And that’s when I knew I could really do it.
I believed it was possible. I believed it because I was already doing it, and because I was willing to keep doing it.
Step 4. Keep Going & Check Out Coffee Alternatives
Next, I went on an organic Yerba Mate and Matcha tea researching binge, both of which my doctor said would be ok, so I could find good options for both and have some coffee alternatives at the ready.
I discovered that your Yerba Mate should not be aged or smoked for the best taste and to retain the most nutrients and that there are grades of Matcha ranging from “culinary” to “ceremonial” in different shades of green (a little hint: the brighter the green the better the quality).
I bought loose Yerba Mate Chai tea leaves because I didn’t think just throwing a tea bag in a mug would do it for me ritual wise. Part of the comfort of having coffee was the daily ritual of making it so I wanted to have something to brew! And I love anything chai so I figured that combo would be a winner.
Matcha, which is a bright green powder made from ground up tea leaves, is traditionally made in a ceramic bowl with a bamboo whisk type thing and I wanted to be legit in my Matcha making so I bought those too. Plus—I liked that there was a ritual and process that went along with making it.
Good quality organic types of both can be more expensive than coffee, technically, but if you’re already dropping a couple dollars to get your fix at a coffee house every day you’ll actually save money.
The Yerba Mate I ended up liking the most is about $18 for a 12 ounce bag. And the Matcha is around $25 for a small tin of the good stuff, but you don't use very much for each cup and there are 25 servings in that little tin, so it’s not like you’ll go through it in a week or anything. There’s more in that little tin than you might think.
Step 5. Take The Plunge
Next I took the final step and switched out my coffee for a cup of either Yerba Mate or Matcha and ditched the decaf. I told myself I could have a little decaf if I missed the coffee taste, but didn’t end up even wanting it.
I did get a headache for a few days, but I don’t think it was as bad as it could’ve been if I’d just stopped cold turkey. I also knew it wouldn’t last forever and took the throbbing in my head as a positive sign that the coffee addiction was leaving my system.
Now I’m proud to say I’ve been off coffee for about five months and I know I won’t go back.
My desire to feel rested, energetic, and well in general is way stronger than any momentary nostalgic pang I might get. And I'm happy to report I'm sleeping much better and deeper since I stopped, my energy is more steady and my complexion definitely has more of a glow than it did before.
I now alternate between Yerba Mate, Matcha and Turmeric Lattes based on what I feel like having in any given day, and even though the teas have a little caffeine, they don't hit my system with a jolt like coffee did and are commonly described as "clean caffeine" because they're much gentler on your system.
And better than that, I don't have that I-have-to-have-it-now-or-I-can't-make-it-through-the-day feeling with the teas like I did with coffee.
To understand the difference I did a little investigating. I discovered that a grande drip coffee from you know where has about 330 mg of caffeine, Matcha has 70 mg, Yerba Matte has 85mg and, for comparison's sake, decaf coffee has 25 mg of caffeine (1). I found this amazing site called Caffeine Informer where you can look up the caffeine content of pretty much any drink and it lists a bunch of different brands so you can check how much caffeine is in your favorite coffee, tea, soda or energy drink.
And besides the major drop in caffeine levels, Yerba Mate and Matcha also have a ton of health benefits.
Among other things, Matcha is chock-full of antioxidants, L-theanine (an amino acid that leads you to feel a "relaxed alertness"), vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium, is alkalizing rather than acidic and boosts your body's natural ability to detoxify (2).
The benefits of Yerba Mate reportedly include stimulating your immune system, its anti-inflammatory properties, promoting healthy weight loss, and reducing your cholesterol levels, to name a few (3).
All in all, it took me a month and a half to actually kick my coffee habit to the curb, but I know it wouldn’t have worked for me if I’d tried to white knuckle it. That’s the important thing here.
I know myself well and if I’d followed the suggestions I read online that said to just set a strict deadline and force yourself to stop cold turkey it wouldn’t have worked for me. I know pushing myself to do something without getting the mindset piece in place first is not the way to go. That’s what I used to do, but now I trust that my intuition and belief that I can do it will get me there and they always do.
Something to note: I am (obviously) not a doctor, so I reccommend you do your own research and talk to your doctor about what’s best for you and your situation if you decide to give this a try. This is simply what worked for me, but everyone is different. This is not intended as, and shouldn’t be taken, as medical advice.