I used to be a coffee fanatic who couldn't start my day without a strong dose of caffeine. Every single pro-coffee meme that was ever created (i.e. "but first coffee") spoke to me on a cosmic level. On average, I would toss back one cup a day, although there were many times when I was just too tired to fight the fatigue, so I would reach for a second (or third). Having read so many studies about how coffee is good for you and can reduce certain diseases, I always thought I was doing my body good by consuming caffeine on the regular. But after living a caffeine-free life for a year and a half (yep, I haven't had a sip of coffee in over 18 months), I can definitively say that my life is much more enjoyable now than it was when coffee was my most trusted companion.
Sometimes you don't know how significantly something affects your life until it's been eliminated. For example, I didn't realize how much dairy and sugar were wrecking my digestive health and energy levels until I nixed them from my diet. The same was true for caffeine.
When I gave up coffee cold turkey, I had a splitting headache for eight days straight. No matter how much ibuprofen I took or how many minutes of meditation I did, the pain continued to radiate all the way down to my kneecaps. After I survived the withdrawal symptoms and allowed my body to readjust, though, I started to notice significant changes.
For starters, I started making better choices in my diet. Rather than rely on coffee to feel awake, my body was producing its own energy in the morning, which encouraged me to make a full, nutritious breakfast before I went to work. In turn, I didn't have to snack on anything before lunch. Additionally, I no longer got the late afternoon crash, so I didn't have to fight the urge to reach for a sugary pick-me-up at 4 p.m. Instead, I felt energized enough to go for a workout or simply take a walk around the block.
Not consuming caffeine every day also made me a lot less anxious. At the end of the day, coffee is a stimulant, and it has a serious effect on how jittery or stressed you feel. Therefore, without having to battle that anxiety, I was able to exercise more often, get more work done, and generally feel more calm and at ease in my life.
All of that is a winning recipe for being healthier all around. Giving up coffee gave me a fresh start, so much so that I joined a new gym and started lifting weights. Eventually I shed a few pounds, gained muscle, and felt more confident in my own skin. My body felt stronger than ever — and the best part was I didn't need to rely on a latte to get me out of bed every morning.