SCIENCE

I Gave Up Coffee For A Week. Here's Why I Won't Be Going Back.

I'm going to approach coffee like I do desserts -- every once in a while. 🍰 ☕️

This story is part of a 10-piece series for which HuffPost staffers agreed to experiment with improving their health and decreasing their stress on the job. It’s also part of our month-long “Work Well” initiative focusing on thriving in the workplace.

Some people are extremely sensitive to coffee, and I've always felt like I'm one of them. 

I was in college when I tried coffee for the first time, after which I phoned my mom convinced I was having an anxiety attack. I didn’t suspect the caffeine at all. I just thought I was losing it. Clearly, it was my first rodeo.

Eventually I got used to the drink's stimulating effect and even came to enjoy my daily cup, not to mention the digestive help and mild appetite suppression it seemed to bring. Add to that the piles and piles and piles of research touting how great the brown stuff is for you, and it's safe to say I wanted coffee and me to work.

I started off drinking maybe a tiny, weak French-pressed cup each day. More recently I'd grab a 20-ounce Starbucks on my way to work in the morning. Around that time, I noticed that I wasn't feeling like myself. I wasn't sleeping well and was tired a lot, which can happen to coffee drinkers but is usually linked to having coffee late in the day. Though I drink mine early, I suspected my extreme caffeine sensitivity might be to blame. I was also feeling more stress and anxiety, which may be linked to coffee consumption in a small number of people, though there's conflicting research on this.

I never considered myself a coffee addict, but I was starting to think my a.m. caffeine lift had become too much for me. So I resolved to give up java for seven days to see if I felt better. As it turns out, coffee affects my body and mind more than I realized.

RULES

No coffee for one​ week other than one​ cup on the weekend -- but only if in a relaxed environment.

PREDICTIONS

I knew I would miss the ritual, the pleasant smell, the familiar taste and the fact that I could work several hours straight during the first half of the day without feeling very hungry. I also figured I'd have less regular bowel movements without my morning joe. 

I assumed I'd have a headache for a couple days while my body adjusted, but that's a small price to pay for what I hoped would be better sleep and more regular eating patterns. And while I thought I'd feel sluggish at work on the first day of my challenge, I hoped that I'd make stronger decisions throughout the day if I felt more rested and balanced. 

DAILY DIARY​ 

Day 1

Not a super fun time but no serious mental,​ emotional or physical side effects -- although I did feel a bit lethargic as I sat at my work desk.

Day 2

Successfully walked past Starbucks. It was tricky.

Day 3

Officially uncomfortable. Bowel movements non-existent or unsatisfying for past two days. Painful headache.

Day 4

Feeling better. ​Early morning bowel movement -- check. Also beginning to​ feel very hydrated from all the supplemental decaf tea-drinking. I suspect all the fluids are keeping my appetite in check.

Day 5

More goodness. Beginning to see the effects of all that hydration on skin, eyes, lips. Feeling very leaned-out from all the fluids. Headaches and fogginess gone!

Slept well last night. Feeling high-energy, but not anxious, which seems to be helping at work -- productive, yet calm.

Day 6

Feeling super at-ease, even-keeled. Getting used to not having energy spikes from the caffeine kick, which also means no lows when that kick wears off. Brain working quickly​ from multiple nights of hard sleep. Noticing an impressive ability to think through email responses and tasks. Body assuming natural state that it clearly prefers.

Day 7

Saturday. ​Enjoyed my first coffee since going cold turkey. Probably shouldn't have had a large. ​Didn't sleep well that night, but felt OK the next day despite the lack of rest​.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

My non-scientific conclusion is that I’m not someone who needs coffee.

I think it’s too much stimulation for me and causes some anxiety because of said stimulation, followed by a crash and fatigue. I think it creates an imbalance in mood and confuses my appetite in a way that makes me feel like I have less control over my food intake throughout the rest of the day.

I'm still a fan of the digestive help coffee gives me, but really I think I conditioned my body to depend on it. My body seemed to balance itself out a few days after I stopped consuming the drink.

While I felt less hyped at work, I preferred the way my brain functioned and reasoned through challenges in its natural state. 

WHAT'S NEXT?

I think I should stop drinking coffee, at least on a daily basis. Perhaps I should indulge in coffee the same way I do desserts -- every once in a while. It does taste and feel like a treat, after all.

This approach feels right for me. But to each their own, of course. We're all wired differently.

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