Less than a quarter into an early morning solo bike ride this Summer, when the world was just waking up and the roads felt like they were mine and mine alone, I realized I could be home drinking coffee. I had headed out without my morning fix. So I turned around and rode home. That's when I realized I had a problem. My need for caffeine was keeping me from enjoying the simple things of life like two wheeling it on the open road. But I didn't do anything about it until I was invited to a cleansing health retreat months later, The Ranch at Live Oak — four days with no vices, from Internet connection to alcohol, from sugar to caffeine. While I like wine and cookies, living without caffeine seemed unbearable. My one large, super strong cup of joe is what got me out of bed in the morning. Going sans cafe always leaves me with a headache for days.
Instead of going cold turkey at The Ranch, I followed the retreat center's staff recommendation and began to wean myself from the bean. Taking it slow saved me from the headaches and the slight depression I feel when I don't have my java. Quitting caffeine slowly made the process rather painless; here's the month long plan that I followed.
- Week One: Each day pour yourself less coffee so by day seven you're having only half a cup. This is a gradual way to decrease the caffeine without suffering any withdrawal symptoms. But you have to be honest with yourself.
- Week Two: Continue pouring yourself less coffee daily so by the end of the week you are only having a sip. Seriously. By Sunday I was just having a sip. Midweek you can begin to supplement your habit with small amounts of decaf coffee. Decaf coffee does have some caffeine in it, so don't go crazy. Keep this replacement habit to one cup a day.
- Week Three: Only drink decaf coffee and begin to drink less of it daily. I found this easy to do since it can be difficult to find a good tasting cup of decaf. I had no headache, but felt slightly hazy at times.
- Week four: Drink decaf black tea — Twinings Tea makes a lovely decaf Earl Grey — until midweek, and then switch to herbal tea. I find that I still need something hot in the morning and rooibos tea fits the bill.
People who have known me for years are a bit shocked at my breakup with the bean, but the benefits are pretty cool. No longer a coffee zombie, I wake up and I am ready for anything. I think I am probably nicer to my family in the morning too. Although, I occasionally buy a decaf latte when I am out in the world, I spend less money caffeinating myself. Plus, when I feel like I am dragging a bit in the afternoon, I don't think I need some green tea. Instead, I get outside and take a walk. Walking might not be loaded with antioxidants like the green leaf brew, but it's certainly refreshing and every bit of exercise counts in my book.
Are you trying to reduce your caffeine intake? If you already have, share your tips in the comments section below because more than a few readers are trying to decrease their coffee habits for the New Year.