I Did It: I Gave Up Coffee for a Month
Work + Life Balance

I Did It: I Gave Up Coffee for a Month

by Griffin Hill
Photos Tonhya Kae | June 03, 2015

THIS CONTRIBUTOR GAVE UP COFFEE FOR 30 DAYS—ONE MONTH BEFORE HER WEDDING. FIND OUT HOW (AND WHY) SHE DID IT...AND HOW YOU CAN, TOO.

One month before my wedding, I made the radical decision to quit coffee until my big day. I know, I know, seems incredibly foolish to give up one of the most wonderful parts of life during such a hectic time, but I had my reasons. 

During the five and a half months that I was engaged, I had undergone a season of extreme change. I graduated college, moved from Tennessee to Colorado, and was preparing to open my business approximately six weeks after the wedding. I was trying to coordinate everything for October 24, 2014, while keeping the rest of my life from falling by the wayside. I needed a change, something small to keep me on track—a new habit, if you will. 

I had read on many accounts that coffee can contribute to hormone issues, weight gain, and overall tension, so I decided to see if I could be more relaxed, focused, and healthy without it. 

And I gave up coffee.

Since I began drinking coffee about four years ago, I have never taken a break from it. I never believed I was “addicted” to it, but I do love it. It’s a staple in my morning routine. But, when life feels out of control, I’m the type of person that wants to regain it. For some strange reason, I decided that my anti-coffee diet would be my attempt at regaining order and focus. 

Since I began drinking coffee about four years ago, I have never taken a break from it. It’s a staple in my morning routine. But, when life feels out of control, I’m the type of person that wants to regain it. I decided that my anti-coffee diet would be my attempt at regaining order and focus. 

MY HABIT LOOP

One of my favorite books is “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. In this book, he discusses the most effective way to break a habit by describing the habit loop. The loop essentially describes the steps of a habit: cue, routine, reward. 

For instance, the cue to drink coffee would be my alarm clock. The alarm sounded, and I would get out of bed and begin to make my breakfast (routine). Drinking the coffee, feeling refreshed, and beginning my work day was the reward. In order to replace one habit, you don’t replace the entire loop, you just replace the routine. {Click to tweet}

So, on day one, when the alarm clock sounded (cue), I got out of bed and made fresh, decaffeinated tea (new routine). Then, I sat down, ate my breakfast, and began my day in peace. I kept the cue and the reward the same and simply replaced the action. I didn’t try to quit cold-turkey. I didn’t eliminate a breakfast beverage, I just chose a new one.

THE PROGRESSION

The first day without coffee just felt like a mistake. All day, I was keenly aware of my lack of coffee. I didn’t get a headache, and I sort of liked my tea, but I just felt like I was waiting for coffee…all. day. The coffee machine taunted me and beckoned me with it’s aroma, but I didn’t waiver. I pouted and thought about how much better coffee would taste than my bland tea. Days 1-3 were about the same in their sadness level. 

Within the first week, however, my feelings began to change. It was like my body was adjusting to the lack of caffeine. I stopped feeling groggy and made sure that my food choices were healthy and providing proper nutrients to my body. I stopped feeling jealous when my fiancé would drink coffee around me, and I began to accept tea as my beverage of choice. If I felt unsatisfied, I might have more than one cup of tea because it was decaf and essentially like drinking water. Being able to indulge in my tea made me feel slightly better. 

After day 10 or so, it was pretty much smooth sailing. In fact, I began to crave my new routine. Tea sounded delicious in the morning, and I actually felt refreshed. It’s not that I began disliking the taste or smell of coffee, but I felt in control of my new routine and had learned to rejoice in it. I made it through the rest of the month with no problems, no caffeine withdrawal, and little to no longing for something I had tasted every day for the past few years. 

It’s not that I began disliking the taste or smell of coffee, but I felt in control of my new routine and had learned to rejoice in it.

LESSONS LEARNED

On my wedding day, I had a celebratory coffee and rejoined the caffeinated world. But I did it because I wanted to, not because I needed it. In fact, I now feel like I could give up coffee at any time and survive because I proved it to myself already. So why, you might ask, did it all matter if I went back to my old ways? I’ll tell you. 

  1. Life Without Coffee Didn’t Kill Me: Sometimes we cling to our vices so tightly that we convince ourselves that life would be miserable without them. {Click to tweet} Life without coffee was depressing for a while, but only for a short time. I survived and learned to enjoy my new routine, something that I wasn’t sure was possible at all! 
  2. We Control Our Habits: Giving up coffee taught me a huge lesson in breaking habits and forming new ones. By replacing my old routine with a new one, I was able to successfully transition out of something and into something new. I proved to myself that I had control, I could make choices, and I stuck with them. That is an empowering thing to know. 
  3. Coffee Really Dehydrates You: Having a cup (read one mug) of coffee in the morning isn’t an unhealthy habit, but coffee does indeed dehydrate your body. It’s very acidic, and it can contribute to hormone imbalance. I often felt far more hydrated and alert without coffee because I was starting my day with a full mug of water. To combat the acidity of coffee and avoid its negative effects, you can drink a full glass of warm water with lemon in the morning to return your body to a state of alkalinity. Cancer doesn’t grow in an alkaline environment, plus you will feel a lot better, I promise. 
  4. Coffee is a Crutch: Those of us who like to go, go, go often use coffee or some other vice as an excuse to be productive. Realize that you have the power to set and reach goals without an external stimulus. Maybe coffee isn’t your go-to, but we all have something. Take responsibility for your own actions by breaking and forming habits that lead to your success. 

I gave up coffee for 30 days, and I didn’t die. It took mental fortitude, a replacement beverage, and will-power to succeed, but it was doable and not all bad. 

I gave up coffee for 30 days, and I didn’t die. It took mental fortitude, a replacement beverage, and will-power to succeed, but it was doable and not all bad.

What do you think you can’t live without? Give it a try for just a month. You might even surprise yourself.

Related: Here's Your Real Game Plan for Change