How I Quit Coffee / by lee tilghman

Coffee. It's what fuels our society.

It's how 54% of Americans begin their day. 

It's more than just a drink, it's culture, it's family, it's social. It's kind of like alcohol. 

It's also extremely addictive.

If you read my adrenal fatigue blog post last week, you will know that giving up coffee was so important in my quest to re-balance my hormones, heal my PCOS, and reverse my adrenal fatigue. 

My Coffee History

I started drinking coffee as a 16 year old. As soon as we got our driver's licenses, my friends and I would make daily stops at the Dunkin' Donuts before school started each day. It was such a fun ritual. I'd get a medium hazelnut or French vanilla coffee with skim milk. LOL, those were the days!
Before I knew it, coffee was a part of my every day life. I never experienced any issues with it, unless of course I didn't have it one day, then I'd get a withdrawal headache as my body began detoxing from the caffeine addiction. I even drank it some nights before going out and had no issues even sleeping.

But suddenly, when I turned 24, coffee started to make me feel jittery. I'd feel a "high" for about 30 minutes upon drinking, then I'd sweat immediately after drinking it. I'd become noticeably more agitated on days that I drank it. I'd also be an anxious mess the entire day, and stress eat and feel really anxious and sometimes depressed. This was the beginning of my adrenal fatigue.

And because coffee stimulates those adrenals, it puts your body under so much stress. It's no wonder I was so irritable! 

Why Eliminate it?

Well, first off....Coffee is a stimulant, and any sort of stimulant is a major no-no for those of us with PCOS. Coffee has an immediate effect on insulin sensitivity and can make your body insulin resistant upon consumption. 

Secondly, coffee gets your adrenaline pumping and causes your body to do crazy things. It drains your adrenals and puts your body under a state of stress. It increases your heart rate, dilates your pupils, increases sensitivity to external sensors including sound, light, and touch. Have you ever jumped out of your seat when someone approached you soon after coffee?

Now you know why. 

Thirdly, it's a strong drug and addictive AF! I didn't like the idea of relying so heavily on a beverage everyday to feel good and energized. 

I want to share some of the tricks that I used in order to quit my coffee addiction. 

To be 100% transparent, I still drink caffeine in the form of matcha, green tea, and cacao.

How I Quit

I'd love to sit down and tell you that I quit coffee the day that I started to experience these negative symptoms associated with caffeine. However, I'd be lying to you. 

With any addiction, I was in denial for a bit. Deep down, I KNEW that coffee was totally messing up my body and making me super anxious, but I couldn't imagine living without it. I also wasn't really trying. It was so tough because though coffee made me feel super anxious, irritated and stressed out, I still preferred that over the insane headache and overall crappy feeling I'd get if I didn't even have a cup.

Quitting coffee was like choosing between the lesser of two evils.

After I moved to Los Angeles I did some research and realized how important quitting coffee was in my quest to heal my body and find balance. I picked up my yoga practice around this time, which helped me to feel grounded, safe, and secure as I transitioned to a life in a new city. I think the feeling of groundedness that yoga provided me with gave me a reference for how good I COULD feel, and how coffee just completely lifted me away from the sense of calm and security and authentic LEE. 

Tips for Quitting

So, about a year later, I decided to quit coffee. Below are my tips for quitting. 

  1. Set a date, and stick to it.
    • When I was ready to cut out coffee, I set a date 30 days in advance that would be first day without coffee, and I stuck to that. I marked it in my calendar, told all my friends, and really held myself accountable. I still remember the day. It was January 4, 2016. I quit coffee cold turkey, no weaning off. This worked best for me, though everybody is different.
  2. Replace it with chai tea
    • I knew going cold turkey without caffeine would be too much, so I did bought tons of Tazo Chai Tea from Starbucks to make myself at home. And boy, did I drink tons of it. Upon waking, I'd immediately boil water and steep some chai tea for myself. I'd keep refilling the water using the same tea bag for a few hours until it was so water-y and I'd strain all the tea from the leaves. I was a chai junkie! Chai gave me a steady burst of energy without the jitters of coffee. Also, the aroma and ritual of chai was very reminiscent of coffee. It has warming spices like cinnamon and cardamom that reminded me of coffee. 
  3. Incorporating herbs
    • A week into my new life sans-coffee, I purchased Ashwagandha from Sunpotion, and added 1 tsp of this to my chai tea. Ashwagandha is a powdered herb that helps relieve stress and anxiety. It helped me ease anxiety and diminish the coffee withdrawals.  
  4. Yoga
    • My first day quitting coffee also happened to be the first day of my yoga teacher training. Coincidence? I think NOT! I purposefully chose that day because practicing yoga filled a void inside me that I was filling with the ritual of coffee. Yoga made me feel more connected to myself and my purpose. I also felt physically better after practicing. So, I chose this time to quit coffee since I knew I'd be doing tons of yoga. You don't have to take on yoga teacher training in order to quit coffee, but I do suggest doing yoga as it helps with the detox period, and it helps you stay calm and collected during this stressful time. 
  5. Drink tons of water
    • WATER. It's what we are (mostly) made of! Quitting coffee was a great excuse to step up my hydration game. I started drinking 3-4 liters a day, and that helped me feel more alert, decrease the headaches, feel awake in the AM, and just better all around. I mean, what does water NOT cure?
  6. Switch to herbal tea in the afternoon
    • When I say I drank tons of tea, I mean I drank tons. I would go through about 2-3 boxes of tea each week. I was obsessed with Tazo’s Chai, but would always have a few cups of Celestial Seasonings Spiced Cinnamon Apple after 12 noon to avoid too much caffeine and disrupting my sleep patterns. In retrospect, I would probably go with organic teas and ones without “natural flavorings” but this was before I was exposed to all of this (Thank you, Womancode, for making me change the way i see life).
  7. Avoid coffee shops and other triggers your first few months
    • This was especially important because coffee shops were triggering for me. I mean, think about it. It's like an alcoholic walking into a liquor store. The familiar smells of espresso were almost too tempting to bear. I knew this because right outside my apartment is an adorable coffee shop that I had frequented a few times a week, and when I quit coffee, walking by that shop was really hard because of the smell. Instead of meeting friends for coffee, I suggested we go for a meal, a hike, or a yoga class.
  8. Find a support group
    • Tell friends. Get support. Coffee (and all caffeine) is a drug, and getting of it is not easy. Prepare yourself! If you're thinking of quitting, join my #caffeienefreeweek April 17-24. You don't have to sign up, just share your experiences every day for 7 days using the hashtag #caffeienefreeweek. 
  9. Adopt new rituals
    • As we all know, part of the allure of coffee is the ritual of coffee itself. It's important to note this so you are prepared. If you used to wake up everyday and immediately start brewing yourself a cup of coffee, you need to replace that with something else or it will be really hard. I suggest fixing yourself a cup of hot water with lemon, going on a quick walk, meditating, listening to a podcast or heading right to the gym to workout (sweating will naturally increase your energy!). Believe it or not, it's easier for us to adopt new rituals when we are outside of our normal routine. For instance, if you're heading on vacation soon, that's a good time to cut out coffee since you're already going to be doing something outside of your normal routine.

The above tips helped me in successfully quitting coffee.

Like I said, I still drink caffeine in the form of matcha and green tea, kombucha, as well as the occasional black tea (I do love earl grey!)

For me, matcha is my #1. I love the way it gives me a steady energetic creative flow, keeps me focused without the jitters, and I don't experience a come down. Sometimes if I drink too much of it, I can feel the effects of over-caffeination coming on, which is why I definitely monitor it and don't drink it after 1pm in the afternoon. 

Matcha also has a slew of other health benefits:

  • high in antioxidants
  • improves mental focus + clarity
  • detoxifying properties
  • good for hair skin + nails!
  • contains an amino acid known as L-Theanine which promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain
  • induces relaxation without the inherent drowsiness caused by other “downers"

Speaking of giving up coffee, I am going to host a virtual #caffeinefreeweek on instagram next month. It begins April 17 and will go through April 24th. We are going to completely detox from all forms of caffeine: coffee, matcha, black tea, white tea, even kombucha! If you're interested, join! I'm really looking forward to documenting sharing our experiences together. I'll be giving daily updates on my instagram stories. All you need to do it tag your post #caffeinefreeweek and you're good!

I hope this helps you in your quest to give up "the juice"!