Friday, January 30, 2015

how (and why) I stopped drinking caffeine

I wrote earlier about my caffeine status. Here's how, and why, I became relatively caffeine-free.

During a physical exam in college, the doctor was surprised by lumps in my breasts, until she asked me how much caffeine I ingested per day: 6 cans of diet coke, at least. The doc had interns come and feel them (not as much fun as I'd hoped), said they are benign, and so I didn't think further on the subject. (WedMd writes: "...even though there is no proof that diet can cause tumors, studies have shown a relationship. For instance, avoiding caffeine may help shrink breast cysts.") Then, in my twenties, the Formyou3 program required that I ingest NO caffeine. So, for the first time in my life, I felt the consequences of caffeine dependency. I withdrew "cold turkey" in about 10 days. 10 really grumpy, headache-filled, unpleasant days. Since then, I've gone through periods of consciously using caffeine in the mornings, but in 2014 I stopped that, too. One side benefit: now that my body isn't accustomed to caffeine every day, I can use it for headache relief or a boost of energy just when I need it.

If you'd like to know more about how caffeine affects your body, WebMD has great articles about it:
I think that caffeine, when used purposefully and judiciously, can have benefits: increased attention, alertness, a boost of "feeling good". But, if you have gotten caught up in the 'caffeine causality loop' then maybe it's time to re-think your caffeine usage.

Finally, as in all things, try for a balance. If you enjoy a cup of coffee and the caffeine that it brings, then enjoy! But, if you require coffee before you're even 'human' in the mornings, then maybe caffeine has too great a hold on you.
For myself, when I gave up soda in 2014, I gave up caffeine, too.  I had been drinking 2 Diet Dr. Peppers (16 oz bottles) in the morning as my "wake up." When I decided to try reducing my soda intake, I specifically chose day when I felt pretty good; I had just 1 Dr. Pepper on that day, and it seemed to go well. The following day, I wanted 2 sodas so I had 2. The day after that, I had just 1. So, I alternated days for a while, until I could consistently have just 1 per day. Then, I followed the same pattern to move from 1 to 0 per day. It took several weeks, and it required perseverance, but I experienced none of the headaches or fatigue that I felt back in my twenties (when I quit "cold turkey").
So, now, what would you like to do? THINK about your caffeine intake. Is it OK? Then, great! Is it a little more than you'd really like? Then, make a plan for yourself (maybe try what worked for me) and see if you can reduce your caffeine intake. If you'd like, see if you can reduce it to ZERO. Go slow (small steps), but be courageous and make this change for your health. It will help your body calm down!
Addendum 2/5/15: For fun, buzzfeed has a fun list of 33 Signs that Coffee Owns You"

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