Before I fell in love for the first time, I fell for coffee.
Stepmom made the best, strongest fresh-ground coffee, and at first I added cream and sugar because that’s what Dad did. I was 13. I used it to greet an ungodly hour of summer, because the waves at the beach were best early in the morning.
Later, my coffee consumption became a source of pride. I learned that I couldn’t tolerate those frapp-things or the white chocolate whatevers without some serious digestive problems, so I just drank it tall dark and handsome.
I was proud of that intensity. Newsrooms are built on intensity. Reporters want to go harder and faster and longer than everyone else, and then they want everybody to notice.
See, I think for many people, coffee is as much cultural as anything else. Working culture in America is focused on drinking coffee. Giving it up makes you weird.
In college, offee helped me make my deadlines. Coffee helped me win national writing awards. Coffee let me graduate with a 3.8. COFFEE MADE ME HOT, MAN. (That last part is patently untrue)
Last year, in the middle of an internship that had me waking up at 4 a.m., I dumped coffee.
“What?” you sputter. But why? Coffee is paleo, right? And also, how’d you do that without KILLING ALL THE THINGS.
I’m gonna slow you down there for a hot second. Here’s the why and the how of my breakup with coffee. (SPOILER ALERT: I DID WANT TO KILL ALL THE THINGS.)
WHY (the hell?)
The positive and negative affects of coffee have been addressed at length in the paleo community. I like The Paleo Mom’s post in which she discusses how giving up coffee might help you heal faster, and Chris Kresser’s podcast on whether coffee is good for you.
For me, kicking coffee began before I’d even started eating paleo.
I first tried a standard elimination diet, and coffee went immediately off the table. It stayed off when I moved to a candida control diet, because coffee and, in fact, all caffeine is often on the ‘no’ list for those plans.
I’m not on a strict candida protocol anymore, but I will always struggle with those annoying little guys. I am also recovering from adrenal fatigue and find that artificially kicking up my cortisol production with a shot of caffeine just doesn’t make me feel my best. Plus, I’m concerned about gluten cross-reactivity.
I don’t by any means think that coffee should be cut out of everyone’s diet. But looking back, I can honestly say that coffee has never made me feel well and has always upset my stomach. I think it’s an area of our health we take for granted, and it’s a sacred cow for many folks who have kicked other baddies out of their diets.
Here’s how I dumped coffee.
> I started out with a tea called “Morning Thunder” or something equally sexual. It had a ton of caffeine, but it helped me break my coffee habit. I recommend this over trying half-caf or decaf because 1) the irritating compounds in coffee are still present in those blends and 2) much of my relationship with coffee was centered around the taste and aroma. From black tea I moved to teas with less and less caffeine until I was off it all together.
> Drink lots of water. As I said, I started this process at a time when I was sleeping about 6 hours each night and beginning work at 6 a.m. On days I focused on drinking water, I left work feeling like I had gas left in the tank. When I was dehydrated, I was drained. It’s as simple as that.
>Eat a nutrient dense diet. Focus on organ meats like liver, which has b vitamins shown to provide a boost of energy. Eat a variety of vegetables. Drink bone broth. Snack if you need to during this time, even if you don’t think you should do that on paleo (who says we “should” do anything on paleo, anyway?).
>Don’t fill the hole with sugar. You may be tempted to give yourself a boost with something sweet when your energy is failing. This is transferring one bad habit onto another, and your sugar crash will make you want to KILL EVEN MORE THINGS.
> Be gentle on yourself in the days after you begin edging off caffeine. You will get headaches. You will get brain fog. You will be sleepy. Didn’t you expect this? Just stick with it. Breaking an addiction is always worth it in the end.