I’m Giving Up Coffee—Cold Turkey—for One Month

updated May 3, 2019
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Candace Bryan is one of six people tracking their resolutions with Apartment Therapy in real time.

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I wake up each morning with a feeling that is similar to gasping for air. But the vital substance by body desperately craves is not oxygen, it’s coffee. I’m truly addicted to the stuff.

Though the jury is still out on whether or not high coffee consumption could have negative consequences on my long term health, I know in the short term that feeling dependant on coffee doesn’t make me happy. Plus, the large volume of coffee I drink daily (around eight cups daily—and no, that’s not a typo) is preventing me from drinking other, more healthful liquids like water.

That’s why this January, I’m ditching coffee. I want to see how giving up caffeine might affect my health and, hopefully, make it so that I don’t wake up in the morning feeling so depleted.

My History With Coffee

I began drinking coffee when I was 16 years old. Though my parents disapproved of caffeine consumption at that age, I think they took pity on me because, since classes began at 7:15 in the morning at my high school, I had to get up at an absolutely ungodly hour each day. So I began drinking one cup each morning, mixed with vanilla soy milk and a teaspoon of sugar to make it appealing to my youthful palate. But I quickly took to the addictive powers of caffeine, and by my senior year I was inhaling nearly a full pot of black coffee every morning before I got to school. Though it helped keep me alert in my morning classes (sometimes a little too alert), by afternoon I would inevitably crash since I had no access to coffee once I was at school.

Now that I’m a full-fledged adult, I experience a similar daily afternoon crash but am able to medicate it with, you guessed it, more coffee. On average, I drink about eight cups daily and, needless to say, I do not have an easy time falling asleep. As a result, I’m exhausted in the morning and wake up feeling like a fish out of her life-giving, bitter brown water. It’s an absurd cycle, but one that has been a fact of my life for years.

Why I’m Giving It Up

Given my decade-long romance with coffee, why on earth would I decide to ditch it for 2017? Well, when you spend eight hours each day chugging espresso, there’s not much time for drinking water. When I have the option to easily imbibe coffee, I’m never going to grab water instead. Yet, on the rare days that I do prioritize hydration over caffeination, I immediately see a difference. I’m very prone to nasolabial folds, euphemistically called “smile lines,” but when I am hydrated they practically disappear.

So, yes, part of this challenge is absolutely motivated by pure vanity: I’m interested to see how much better my skin will look if I ditch coffee.

I also want to kick coffee to the curb, at least temporarily, because I frankly feel dependant on it. My mind can’t function before I’ve had coffee in the morning, and though Lorelai Gilmore may think her caffeine addiction is adorable, in reality, there’s nothing cute about feeling like you need coffee to start your day or to focus on tasks at hand. I want to wake up each day in 2017 feeling energetic and ready to accomplish personal and professional goals. Waking up each day feeling physically desperate for caffeine doesn’t set a great stage for feeling productive and empowered.

(Image credit: Kathryn Bacalis)

My Rules

Though coffee is my morning beverage of choice, I’m going to rule out any sort of cheating and cut out caffeine altogether. No Red Bull, no black tea, not even decaf coffee (which by the way still contains a certain amount of caffeine) will enter my pie hole.

Instead, I’m going to dust off my old juicer, and start every morning with a nutritious homemade vegetable juice, just like I do in my dreams where I’m best friends with Gwyneth Paltrow. Throughout the day, I’ll consume at least eight glasses of water (and maybe caffeine-free herbal tea, since January will be very cold). Though there’s no scientific consensus that eight glasses of water is necessary, it’s unfortunately close to the amount of coffee I drink daily, so it feels like an appropriate personal goal.

“I’m going to dust off my old juicer, and start every morning with a nutritious homemade vegetable juice, just like I do in my dreams where I’m best friends with Gwyneth Paltrow.”

I’m also going to take a makeup-free selfie every morning to document how my face and teeth may be impacted by the change in my coffee habits. I think being able to see the benefits will be key to making this new coffee-free habit a long-term lifestyle, and I’m also genuinely curious if removing coffee from my diet will eliminate any lines and redness on my face, or if it will keep my teeth whiter.

What I’m Expecting

I’m expecting this to be very hard, which is why I’m publically sharing this goal! I’ve been drinking coffee regularly for 10 years, at a laughably high volume, so I am expecting some symptoms of withdrawal initially. According to science, these symptoms could include headaches, exhaustion, irritability, inability to concentrate, and who knows what else.

The hardest part will be the social aspect. I live with my boyfriend, who is absolutely not intending to ditch coffee in 2017. The smell of brewing coffee in my apartment each morning that I will not be permitted to drink will indubitably be the most brutal part of this whole effort. Also, I will likely still frequent coffee shops, and I’m expecting that asking baristas for herbal tea or hot cocoa will be no easy feat.

Yet, I believe my challenge will be a successful project. By supplementing my morning beverage habit with better liquid options, I’ll still have a wakeup routine. Also, by having specific results I hope to achieve by quitting coffee — like a more beautiful visage and increased water consumption — I think it will be easy to remember why I’m doing it on those mornings when, perhaps, my hangover may act as a devil on my shoulder tempting me to cheat.

Ultimately, at the end of the month, I think I’ll be able to drink coffee again more casually, or maybe I’ll never crave it again. Either way, I’m hoping that experiencing a coffee-free month will help me make a decision about how I want to drink (or not drink) coffee in the future from an informed position, not just a habit of dependence.

Candace will be checking in mid-way through January, and again at the end of the month to share her journey quitting coffee. Until then, follow along with our other writers’ resolutions.

(Image credit: Margaret Lee)

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