How to Give Up Coffee in 7 Easy Steps (Part 1) - Christine Kane

“It’s Saturday morning, it’s twenty degrees. I quit drinking coffee and I’m tired of tea.”

-from my song Whole Other World

I never drank coffee. Then I moved to Asheville and got a job at a gourmet coffee roaster. Every morning, I was there at 6am. In the dark of dawn on the porch of that hip little Tudor-style house-turned-cafe, I invented some coffee drinks that could wake the dead. Between the Ghirardelli chocolate shavings, whipped cream selections, espresso varieties, and the industrial sized cappuccino machine, it’s a wonder I didn’t blow something up. Needless to say, I got addicted. Big time.

I’ve since had to give up the coffee habit. I’ve gone through periods of time where I’ve had none, and periods of time where I’ve had tons. Sometimes it’s been easy to quit. Sometimes it’s been awful. I do know that I’m much better off when I don’t drink it.

Here are seven steps that I’ve come up with after exhaustive research, using my own self as the guinea pig. If you’re thinking of quitting the habit, you might find these helpful.

Step #1 – Want to.

Decide that you want to give up coffee.

My friend Suzi made a resolution to Give Up Giving Up Coffee. She’s over it. She doesn’t want to give up coffee anymore, and she’s sick of trying. She gets a gold star for her clarity on the issue.

Some people kinda sorta feel like they should give up coffee. Then they wing it, and they make it til about 3pm on that first day when the headache becomes unbearable, and the voice in their head sounds like Springsteen singing Thunder Road on their old Walkman when the batteries were dying. So they end up at the Starbucks counter yelling “Venti Me!” and then claim that giving up coffee is impossible.

You don’t have to have a burning desire. You don’t have to be all Tony Robbins about it. You just have to want to do this.

As Bob says in my song Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad “Choose.”

Step #2 – Define Your own Reasons Why You’re Giving Up Coffee

Everyone from Suze Orman to the Dalai Lama, from self-help bloggers to the cast of The Secret will give you reasons why you should or should not do something.

However, when you get personal and get clear about your own choice to make changes in your life, you’ll find that the results are more powerful and enduring. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve chosen to do lots of things just because someone else said I should. It’s amazing how often I haven’t consulted myself in the decision making process!

There’s a gajillion health reasons for giving up coffee. My acupuncturist talks about it in terms of ultimately draining your chi, or energy.

The author of one of my favorite health books, The Tao of Healthy Eating says, “I believe coffee has no place in the diet of those hoping to be healthy.” And, “Women especially do well to avoid coffee.” The explanation is detailed and convincing.

The most common reasons I’ve heard are that coffee stresses your adrenals and ultimately weakens your system, and that coffee weakens your kidneys.

And a million people will jump up and say that’s hogwash. And a million others will have different reasons why coffee is harmful. And then a million others will get self-righteous and tell you not to tell them what to do.

This is why it’s important to have your own quiet non-self-righteous reasons for giving up coffee.

Though I believe in the kidney/adrenal/chi arguments, those ideas weren’t compelling enough for me in the face of something so delightfully addictive. I needed to recognize and validate why giving up coffee was important for me in my daily life. I’m going to give you a few my reasons for giving up coffee because you may see yourself in some of these examples:

Reason #1 for Me Giving Up Coffee: The woman whispering Hurry.

(It’s like Goodnight Moon gone awry.)

There’s this fairly hysterical woman in my head. Her hair is long and string-y and she is absolutely outrageously neurotic. When I drink coffee, she comes to life. And her entire reason for existing is to lean over my shoulder and whisper, “Hurry,” into my ear. That’s all she says all day long. “Hurry.” It makes my heart pound and my pulse race. “Hurry.” I don’t know what I’m hurrying to do, but it’s clear that she has good reasons for me to hurry. “Hurry!” And when I can’t stop my head because I’ve had coffee, she programs my entire day. The woman whispering Hurry becomes my manager.

Reason #2 for Me Giving Up Coffee: My brain splatters when I drink coffee.

I become a to-do machine. My focus and my thinking are splattered. I’m doing and not knowing why I’m doing, and I can’t stop to think about why. I’m just being productive. At what, I can’t tell you. If you’re a Stephen Covey fan, let me put it in Seven Habits terms: I cease to think about things that are important, and instead look for the things that are urgent. I check email way too much. I go from task to task without a feeling of completion. Too many days of this, and nothing feels done. So I end up with a low-grade level of anxiety.

Reason #3 for Me Giving Up Coffee: By about 3pm, I’m a complete bitch.

I’m ruffled. I’ve been hurrying. I don’t have a sense of priorities. And I just get bitchy easier. I’m an impatient driver. I’m less likely to be present in my relationships. I forget to enjoy the moment and my life.

Reasons #4 and #5 for Me Giving Up Coffee: Sugar & Cream

The only way I like coffee is with sugar and cream. It’s comfort food. Sugar is probably more addicting than coffee. (Click here to read more on sugar.) And it dawned on me that I was starting my day with 1 – 3 teaspoons of sugar. That’s a lot. I started using Stevia. (A natural herbal sweetener. No chemicals.) It was mighty hard to get used to, but after a while I did it. But it’s still too tempting to just dump sugar in a cup if I’m making coffee. And I found myself cheating here and there. So I decided it was best to just give up the whole thing.

Cream is another issue. After listening to the book The Way We Eat, I’m considering a vegan diet. For about 10 years, I’ve limited my dairy intake to only organic. (Of course, this is impossible on the road and at Starbucks.) Even so, many Western doctors, including Christiane Northrup recommend that women eliminate dairy from their diets for help with menstrual and breast symptoms.

If you’ve watched yourself throughout the day, then you know whether or not coffee is a good choice for you. My acupuncturist maintains that one cup in the morning is fine. (Then I remind him of the giant 24-ounce sized pottery mugs my friend Kathy has made for me.) Clearly for me, the subtle and not so subtle changes it brings about in me don’t help me much.

Part 2 will continue this alluring discussion!

(Most of the books I mention in my blogs are available in audio format at audible.com. Click on the link in the sidebar to visit audible. I absolutely love it.)

23 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Jodie

    I am thinking of trying to give up my coffee and I don’t know if I can do it, I have quit smoking for a year and gone a week here and a week there without smoking but I don’t remember a day I didn’t have my coffee. I am like an evil zombie without my coffee. The reason I want to give up coffee is because my anxiety is getting so bad I shake and my chest feels tight and right after my coffee especially after my second cup I feel it coming on. I would love to know how it feels to go a month without coffee. I have noticed that people that don’t drink coffee seem to have less anxiety and more drive. I have to have coffee just to feel alive yet I do notice that the days I sleep as late as I want I don’t need my coffee as bad but I still drink it anyways I guess out of habit. I feel like crap in the mornings I have to get up early and coffee is the only thing that makes the evil zombie that hates everything, turn into a mom that can meet the days challenge without crying and giving up and going back to bed. The thought of drinking tea in the morning makes me sick to my stomach. I guess going to bed early is the only real way to give up coffee, I guess time to find something that knocks your lights out so you can go to be with the chickens.

  • Macy Eshmon

    There are certainly loads of particulars like that to take into consideration. That could be a great level to bring up. I supply the thoughts above as basic inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you convey up the place a very powerful thing will be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around issues like that, however I am certain that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both girls and boys feel the affect of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  • Abby

    You are awesome. I have never read anything so articulate and kind and real about breaking the coffee addiction. And now I love the rest of your website, too, as I am starting a business and love, love, love your writing and resources. I realize this article is way old, but so glad I found it and your site! Thanks…

  • Jane

    Hi Christine
    My brother emailed me your website. I guess he was searching for ways to give up coffee in his seemingly life long battle to do so. I watch on in amusement being one of those people that can now just stop anything. It’s a gift…well actually it’s a combination of watching my overly self disciplined father for my entire life and having multiple sclerosis. In order to stay upright and active I have no wheat or gluten, dairy, sugar, coffee, alcohol(the occassional glass slips by) and this has become my life. Keeping immune responsive foods out of my diet keeps my immune system nice and quiet and leaves my brain alone. It’s incredible that when you have a reason to give up like not wanting to be in a wheel chair it’s a no brainer. Interestingly when the reason is merely better health or keeping the “hurry woman” in your head at bay or the “splatter” feeling or the “bitch” it’s so so much harder. I remember before M.S that doing something good for myself just because I loved myself was not enough. Strangely M.S has been the ultimate gift of good health. Weird.

  • Carla

    LOVE your coffee ideas – typed in “how to give up coffee” to give me some ideas as REALLY need to do it.
    You just made me wet myself laughing – I SO know what you mean when you talk about the woman saying “Hurry”.
    Am giving up tomorrow. Gulp. Nervous already but fairly strong.
    Thanks again

  • jackson

    Please. Coffee is good for no one except the undertaker business. It disrupts insuling levels, increases stress which is proven to create all kinds of health problems, messes with sleep which has plenty of ramifications included affecting insulin control, increases cortsol production which causes fat to be stored – just look at the health of americans – we are some sick people – and 90% of us consume coffee. Type 2 diabetes – aint it fun!

    Why do we do it? Because we are tired. Why are we tired? Many reasons – work scedules and loads, but mostly because of poor food choices and our wheat and dairy based staples which make most people fatigued.

    Coffee is toxic and extremely addictive. For most people it will cause not just headaches but depression which can be very tough and dangerous for some people to deal with. It is a plague.

  • christine

    Nel, You’ll notice that I don’t even require you to ask me the question, “Can’t we keep just a few vices?” Go back and look at Step #1. You have to be the one who wants to! I understand how it can be totally overwhelming when you’re improving one area of your life to have to think about all the other areas too! So, don’t! When I was healing bulimia, that’s ALL I did. (I even smoked for a period of time during that time!) The option is yours. I have chosen this path because I want to be as conscious and present as I can be, and as I grow beyond the old stuff like bulimia, I find that I want to keep getting clearer and clearer. Coffee deters from that for me. So, stay on your path. I didn’t write this as a should! Thanks for writing!

    Chris, yep, that’s it. That stress thing we’re all under too much of the time!

    Starbucker, maybe next time you write in, you’ll be “Froo-Froo-New-Agey-Tea-Guy!” That’ll work! I’m very into alternative medicine. I haven’t been to a medical doctor in many many years. But the only drawback to alternative medicine is that the longer you do it, the more sensitve you become to things as seemingly small as coffee! Or, maybe that’s not a drawback…

  • Starbucker

    Just let me know Christine and I can change my pseudonym for this site – any suggestions? 🙂 And nope, I don’t have a Woman Whispering Hurry. For me, it’s more like “Professor Clarity”. Given where you are going with alternative medicine (you and my wife could have a great conversation – she’s really into it too), I completely understand where you are going. Look forward to #6 and #7.

  • Chris Cree

    I agree that there are some really benificial health ideas out there that mainstream medicine is missing. I’ve heard that coffee consumption adds to your stress levels, at least in the mass quantities that I drink it 😉

    But then my personality is one that seems to do better with a little stress…

  • Nel

    Can’t we keep just a few vices? I can’t walk on water, I’m still tryiing to learn proper swimming techniques. I’m thinking that the energy that I loose from drinking coffee (and my bladder is feeling very proud today)…is not near the energy that I gain from trying to make some shifts and doing some internal work on me (“if it’s not an absolute yes, it’s a no”)….I just can’t do that without that cup (or two) of coffee….I will not reveal the size of my coffee cup. I always take my blood pressure meds with my morning coffee….its the first laugh I have everyday. It must be the laughter that keeps my bladder so strong!

  • christine

    Hey Chris! Well, then…you’ve got your answer to step #1… you don’t want to! My own health regime is based solely in alternative medicine, with most of my work being in acupuncture. There are strong arguments against coffee, especially for women. The fact that it’s a diuretic is actually one of the reasons it’s considered a substance that ultimately drains your energy…because it’s forcing energy (chi) out of your system. There’s lots of material out there about it! But ultimately, the choice has to be yours!

  • Chris Cree

    But what about the recent studies that say regular coffee consumption is a factor in reduced instances of colon cancer (I’m guessing because it helps keep you regular)?

    I started drinking coffee as a teenager when I went spent summers working for a horse trainer – 5AM was just too early for this non-morning guy to get up without assistance! Then 4 year of military school, 6 years in the Navy and a career working in and around the docks with weird hours and free-flowing coffee pots. Its got me this far, why would I want to quit?

    Ive decaffeinated myself more than once, so I know I can if I wanted to. I was smart enough to do so before I went through survival school. A couple weeks eating bugs and snakes is bad enough without the caffeine withdrawal four-day headache to kick it off with!

    Unlike Starbucker I tend to be a quantity over quality guy where coffee is concerned. Although I tend to skip it in the evenings as I get a little older. I guess I like to sleep a little too.

  • christine

    Hey Starbucker! (I may have to ban your name from the comments list given all the images it conjures up…) Of course, the whole reason for Step #1 is to reassure everyone that I wasn’t saying, “Here’s why YOU should give up coffee!” You’re right…decaf is awful. And actually, in Chinese medicine terms, just as bad as regular coffee. Of course, everyone is affected differently. I take it you don’t have your very own Woman Whispering Hurry.

  • Starbucker

    Christine, you KNEW I had to comment on this, since I basically worship at the Starbucks altar. I didn’t discover coffee until I was in college, but it has been a daily essential ever since. Now I have experimented with decaf (actually worse for you than the real thing because of the decaffination process, I came to find out – but it tastes lousy anyway), tea (that was during my “English” phase – it didn’t take), herbal tea (I actually switch to this in the evenings, because I cannot sleep if I ingest any caffiene after 5PM), and Green Tea (I know it’s SO good for you, and it has caffiene, but……..it just doesn’t taste good) – none of this could compare with that smell, that aroma, that little kick in the head, of a fresh brewed Cup O’Joe. It’s my only liquid vice, since I did give up carbonated soft drinks (of any kind, even diet) nearly 20 years ago, so I did have to go through a “give up” process back then. I actually convinced my Ayurvedic physician that at least one Latte a day works for me, even when I was on detox (that’s a whole other story). On the other hand, if it’s not good for you Christine, it’s just not good, no matter what it is. So good luck – I’ll be pulling fo ya!

  • christine

    Hi Caren! Part Two does have a few coffee substitutes in it. But you’re right…nothing compares. And decaf doesn’t do it for me!

    My friend Suzi and I joke about how you can make it through that two week period and you say to yourself, “Oh. Okay. I’ll just have a tiny cup.” And that tiny cup puts you in the BEST mood! So, then… you have MORE! And then you’re back where you started. Yes, I know it’s hard. I’m preparing for more comments like Kathy’s!

  • Caren

    Having given up coffee for what seems like a *million* times, and always going back, things finally clicked for me when a very empathetic soul said, “Let’s face it, nothing is coffee but coffee. So, a
    little letting go of that is in order if you really want to quit.” Those are her exact words. Damn! I had posted on an unschooling list looking for alternatives. Thinking I could find something just like coffee, but without the bad after-effects. After she wrote that, I realized…. I wasn’t quite ready to let go! lol And, listen, to find that quote, I went back and read those archives… there were about 30 posts about it! It’s something a lot of people have struggled with.

    Did I mention it’s as if to blog, you peek into my life? lol Definitely feed my addictive side with coffee. I found that if I give it up for a few weeks, then have a big mug, the rush is HUGE. And the situation is the same… if I have just one small cup in the morning, it seems fine, but after a few days, I turn into MEAN MOMMY without even realizing it. And it’s much easier for my head to get into spin cycle with the addition of some caffeine. Oh, my… could it be…. I’m *ready* to give up coffee again? Just for today, I mean. lol

  • christine

    Hi Kathy, If you click on the orange links in my blog, it takes you to the person’s website. Christiane Northrup’s name is in orange, and if you click on that, it takes you to her site. (This is why it takes so long to post a blog! Keeping people in the loop with links!)

    And no, you don’t have to give up your coffee. Notice that the title of this post is NOT “Why Kathy Needs to Give Up Coffee” !!

  • Kathy

    No way. Not giving up my strong black coffee. Not me. Can’t do it….ok won’t do it. Not now. Not yet. But you mention Christiane Northrup – I have recently discovered “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom”, thanks to my sister Karen who gave us all one for Christmas. Did you know she has a website? At this website, you can join her community and sign up for her newsletter. It’s one thing to read the books, another thing to keep the concepts front and center. http://www.drnorthrup.com/ is her website and I hope all you great Christine Kane fans out there join if you haven’t done so already.

    As someone at an age where menopause is looming, I think it’s more important than ever to know all we can about our body and be able to recognize what it is telling us and perhaps address and issue….long before something breaks all the way down to an acute problem requiring medical emergency care.