Guys, caffeine withdrawal is real. The horrendous headaches. Fatigue. Irritability. Tremors. Anxiety. You name it; I’ve experienced it. I used to crack jokes if I missed one cup of coffee in the morning, that I was experiencing withdrawal. Turns out that was truth.
Part of my nutrition adjustment in July was to take out caffeine completely for the full month. That meant saying goodbye to coffee for the month. Which to some, may not be problematic, but for me—someone who was used to 4-6 cups by 10:00nam and then usually another cup or shot of espresso in the late afternoon—it was debilitating. I waned myself off coffee the week prior (in hindsight, I realize now I should have started at least a month in advance), but still experienced the aggravating withdrawal symptoms the first week. Survival without coffee seemed impossible. However, with discipline, I made it through.
After I finished my 28-day plan, I was ecstatic to put coffee back into my daily routine. I couldn’t wait to hold the warm cup in my hands, the steam filtering into my face and fogging my glasses, the relaxation of enjoying every sip. So, I had one cup. Just one. Clearly, that was not a great move on my part.
The result: two hours later I had the WORST headache, anxiousness, jitters, stomachache, and that night only about two hours of sleep. All of these are apparently symptoms of caffeine sensitivity. Yes, just like caffeine withdrawal, caffeine sensitivity is a real thing. My body had been deprived for so long that it became dependent for fuel on something that hindered it. I was oblivious to coffee’s impact on my system because I never had the opportunity to see my life without that level of caffeine, until now.
Now don’t get me wrong coffee can have some benefits. There are links and studies that show coffee may show a reduce risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. It can also boost metabolic function. However, for my case (and I am starting to realize through my journey, my case can be completely different from another person dealing with the same thyroid condition), the caffeine consumption through coffee potentially interfered with my thyroid function and my immune system.
I knew the effect. I knew the outcome of what would happen if I continued to try and put coffee back into my diet. Yet, I wasn’t ready to let it go.
At breakfast the next morning, as I explained to a friend the reaction I experienced, I tried to find every excuse I could to continue drinking coffee. For some reason, I was desperate for coffee back in my life.
Maybe if I try drinking it earlier, it would be different. Maybe if I just stick to decaf instead. Maybe if I just force myself to drink it for a few days, the symptoms wouldn’t be recognized anymore. My friend stopped my babbling and just asked me, “Why bother when you know that is how your body will react?”
I realized in that moment—sitting in the corner booth at a Sunrise Café with my friend Casey—I had to break up with coffee.
I was absolutely DEVASTATED. I missed my routine of waking up in the morning, grounding my flavored coffee, inhaling the delicious aroma of blueberry or almond or cinnamon, and enjoying my usual amount by mid-morning. How would I ever survive and move on from losing this (indulgence) in my life?
Then I realized something else.
I only missed the idea of coffee. I didn’t miss coffee itself. I missed my routine. I missed how coffee made me feel. I missed the comfortableness of knowing coffee would be there for me and give me a “pick-me-up” when I needed the boost.
It’s interesting when we realize something is not beneficial to our fit, our healthy, our happy, we still strive to want that something. We regress back to it, even though we have become aware of its hold on our lives. We still resort to the same type of habits, the same type of people, the same type of situation even though they will not fully sustain us.
Why? Because we think it’s what we deserve? We think that is what is expected of us? Because it makes our image better?
Or perhaps it is because we lack discipline, and we fear growth in a different direction.
When we take something out of our life—whether that is food, a habit, a job, or even a person—sometimes it is hard to decipher the good out of the situation. We get so caught up in reminiscing about what we know, what we used to have, feeling these “wants” are needed in our lives, that we miss out on seeing the benefit of change. The benefit of something different in our lives. The benefit and potential for something greater.
Friends, when you gravitate towards a different direction instead of gravitating back, there will be growth. You must be willing to take that leap and accept something new. Be okay with embracing something that can fulfill and sustain you over something that won’t.
The next time you are caught regressing back to something that you start to discover is a hindrance to you, examine your life without it. If you are hesitant on what to do, ask yourself “Do, I truly miss [insert your food, habit, job, person, etc. here] specifically or just the idea of it.” And if it is just the idea, that should tell you.
I am the personality that tends to hold on to situations, among a variety of things in my life. It is hard for me to embrace acceptance and understanding and let things go. I question why something has happened. I question what the purpose of it was. I question everything. I hold on because in a way, I think, it gives me a sense of power over whatever it is that I can’t let go. I feel in control, but, it is draining me, controlling me, taking over my spirit without me realizing it.
I could have chosen to just deal with the symptoms and poor reactions to coffee, ignoring its negative impact on my body. I could have chosen to stay in a job that wasn’t fulfilling me. I could have chosen to ignore my own feelings and emotions in friendships and relationships that tore me down. I could have chosen to remain stagnant in my negative self-talk habits. Instead, I am choosing to realize that it is okay to let things go. It is okay to admit to myself, “You deserve more”. It is okay to see the potential of something greater in my life and go at it full force. It is okay to embrace that growth in a different direction.
And to think, something as simple as breaking up with coffee helped me realize this.