I’m pretty sure that when the photo above was taken, at that moment, I was the happiest woman in Times Square. I was hungover as shit, and my $3 bagel and $2 iced coffee were bringing me back to life in just enough time to only be five minutes late to a meeting with my editor, rather than the usual 10 or 15 after a night of clubbing with promoters. At that point in my life, you might have well just stuck an IV of iced coffee in my arm for me to have at all times…then I’d REALLY be a happy camper.
I don’t remember the moment where coffee started becoming a regular part of my routine. If you know me well, though, you know that when I’m invested in something, I’m REALLY invested. My relationship with coffee was no different. As soon as I started, I couldn’t go a day without it. The moment I woke up, I’d feel a headache if I didn’t have a cup in hand right away. If more than a half hour went by and I didn’t have any, I’d start to feel REAL withdrawals: shakes, mood swings, digestive issues, you name it. And—stating the obvious because many people feel this way—without coffee, I was pretty unpleasant to be around.
I smoked cigarettes in college, and when I interned in London senior year, the black coffee and cigarette duet was 100% the highlight of my day. On my way to work, I’d sit on the tube with a cup of black coffee in between my legs and use the napkin they’d give me to hold the cup as a rolling station for my hand-rolled cigarettes.
The time period between living abroad (and then a short month in New York) and graduation was when I first started becoming interested in my health. I knew I was going to move to the city and try to make my dreams come true, and I also knew that I had to be in a good mental and physical place to do so. That’s when I decided to quit smoking. If only coffee were that simple.
I moved to New York to be a journalist. My first job in the city required me to write five stories a day, five days a week. Given the fact that I’d literally have five deadlines every time I went to work, coffee quickly became my safety net when yet another deadline would approach and I felt behind. Every morning, I’d have a cup of coffee at home. Then, I’d pick up a venti iced coffee on my way to work. Every afternoon, I’d have a cup of tea. Around three or so, my coworkers and I would make another Starbucks run, making that coffee number three or four for me. Finally, while I had that job, I’d often work from home if I didn’t meet what was expected of me that day. You better believe my “work from home moments” consisted of cup after cup of black coffee, accompanied by Anderson Paak and a lavender scented candle.
As I sit here and type this, I’m realizing that though I’ve changed my lifestyle dramatically in the past few years, the present and past Gater have something in common: Deep in my gut, in my soul, I always know when I’m doing something that doesn’t serve me in ways that will push me forward, towards a better life. The main difference between the present and past Gater is that back then, I’d ignore it, even if I knew it was wrong. Now, I always take action and make a conscious effort to make positive lifestyle adjustments. If I see myself walking towards a cliff, I just turn around.
Needless to say, when I was having anywhere from four to six cups of coffee a day, it became clear to me that this was something I needed. At that point, I was beyond just wanting a cup of coffee. Without it, I couldn’t get my day started. I couldn’t get my work done. I couldn’t function.
At the time, my desk was nestled in-between another section editor and our copy editor. After realizing that I was depending on coffee to do my job, I asked the copy editor (also a dear friend), if he’d be interested in seeing how long we could go without it. To my surprise, he agreed to try it out. Little did both of us know that this would ultimately lead to my decision to quit coffee altogether.
Something I want to mention here is that when I went vegan, I didn’t do it by going cold-turkey. First, I tried being a vegetarian. After seeing all of the positive results that a meatless diet had on my body and mind, I decided to stop having dairy six months later. Then, I learned more about the vegan lifestyle, and a few months after that, I let go of eggs and fish. I compare quitting coffee to going vegan because when I got started on both, I put ZERO pressure on myself. When I became a vegetarian, I didn’t intend to become vegan, it happened naturally. This is the same thing that I did with coffee, and I really believe that that’s how I’ve kept up with it for this long!
Long story short: Letting go of a part of your everyday life is a huge decision. For me, it made it so much easier if I told myself, “I’m just going to see how long I can go and take note of how I feel. If I want to have it, I’ll have it. If I feel okay and see positive results, I’ll keep at it.” If I took it truly day by day and didn’t make it a big deal in my mind, then that’s exactly what it was. Not a big deal.
Sure, I had withdrawals at first. Right when I woke up on day one, I wanted a cup of coffee. But in that moment, I just told myself, “Try to make it to lunch, AT LEAST.” Once I pushed through and lunch came around, I would think, “Try to make it until the end of the workday,” or even, “try to make it another hour. Another minute.” After I got through day one, I realized I could do this, so day two didn’t seem as bad. After three days, I started to feel better. I noticed how much money I was saving. I woke up naturally. I felt less foggy. This was enough for me to keep at it, and it wasn’t until a year and a half later that I decided to have a cup, simply because I missed the taste and my boyfriend at the time made it every morning. To my surprise this time around, every time I’d have coffee, my body would reject it. This is the same thing that happens to me if there’s dairy in something that I’m unaware of, and for me, when my body sends me signals, I really try to respect it and listen.
So, do I have caffeine? Yes! I just don’t drink coffee. I have caffeine in the form of matcha and kombucha. I enjoy these drinks because I LOVE the health benefits and taste of both. I don’t drink them every day, and I don’t have them first thing in the morning. I only drink them after a meal due to the effect it has on my hormones if I drink them on an empty stomach.
During and after my “coffee cleanse,” I did have cravings, there’s no doubt about that. Even to this day, sometimes I see someone walking down the street with an iced-coffee, and for a split-second, I think, “Damn, that looks good.” Over time, though, I’ve learned a few tricks to stay on track. I’d love to share them with you here!
Quitting coffee has been such an amazing, eye-opening experience for me. I have no regrets. If you’re interested in giving it a try, here are some tips that helped me.
tips on quitting coffee
1. hot water + lemon
When I first decided I was going to give the “no coffee life” a shot, a friend had told me that hot water and lemon was said to give your body a natural boost of energy when enjoyed first thing in the morning. Not only did this wake me up naturally and help with my coffee detox tremendously, it has also become part of my daily drink routine. Lemons are full of tons of lovely benefits, so I add them to everything I can.
2. replace the ritual
Looking back, I think this is what I wanted to hold onto the most. Sure, the withdrawals weren’t a pleasant thought, but for me, coffee was an experience. I loved holding a hot mug in the morning and before I went to sleep. I loved hugging my hands around a mug at brunch. The smell it had, the culture surrounding it…these were things that seemed irreplaceable to me at first. If you’re serious about trying to quit it, I promise you, there are so many other things that can replace your coffee ritual that provide the same emotional experience. For me, those things were (and still are) enjoying hot water and lemon, learning to make my own matcha latte, and making my own nut milk. I still believe the culture surrounding coffee is bad ass, but I can wholeheartedly say I love my new rituals just as much if not more.
3. Be honest with yourself, and then experiment
Are you wanting to quit caffeine altogether, or, are you just trying to lower your coffee intake? Are you open to alternatives, like matcha or decaf? Also, why are you having coffee in the first place? Do you truly enjoy the taste, or do you need it to start your day or get your digestive system going? If you are honest with yourself about all of the above, your journey and the decisions make will seem much, much clearer.
4. grab a buddy
This was a deal-breaker for me. It’s kind of like having a workout buddy; it’s a win-win situation. If you embark on this journey with someone else, you’ll have a shoulder to lean on when things get rough, you’ll have someone to talk to about how you’re feeling, AND, you’ll have someone to hold you accountable. I’m not sure if I would have stuck with it if I didn’t have someone to check in with throughout the process.
5. keep track of how much $$ you save without it
I’m not even going to tell you how much money I spent on coffee each month…THAT’S how embarrassing it was. Even if you don’t drink it often or make it at home, that shit adds up. If you don’t really have an emotional attachment to coffee and you’re looking for other reasons to quit, this could serve as great motivation. Who doesn’t wanna save some extra cash?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. I hope I can help you on your journey, no matter what you decide!
In good health,