IN AUGUST LAST YEAR, I QUIT COFFEE. Real coffee anyway; I still drink decaf. Is that cheating? I’m not sure. All I know is that my body responds really poorly to caffeine and cow's milk and I don’t really have time for that. As an FYI, decaf coffee has had approximately 97% of the caffeine removed, so there is still a trace, but not enough to make you chomp at the bit.
I never intended to give up coffee. I’ve never really endured great success with giving up anything. When you enter adolescence yielding a lack mentality - a psychological disposition whereby you feel you don’t have; or you simply aren’t - enough; any form of restriction can be alarming and is to be navigated with caution.
Nevertheless, I was cajoled into doing a cleanse last year (I wrote about it here) and a requisite of that was giving up caffeine for four days. If you’ve read the post you’ll know I didn’t make it through day one. I convinced myself that life wouldn’t be worth living if I couldn’t have coffee. But for the rest of the cleanse, through whatever small semblance of willpower I could muster, I did it. Did my head hurt? Yes. Was I ropey and not a great person to be around? Absolutely. But by day 4, I didn’t actually want coffee.
If you’ve read any books about the power of habits (in particular, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg), you’ll understand that 45% of all our daily behaviours are automatic. They’re habits that we have consciously and sub-consciously formed and are a learned response to cues. And so, just as easily we can un-form them. As you know if you’ve been reading a while, I’m on a real conscious journey (I mean the name of my blog is a bit of a giveaway); and coupled with that, have a deep-seated desire to be intentional with everything I consume - from food, to media, to music and television. I realised that coffee had a hold over me, and I wasn't down with that.
When people learn that I've given up coffee the most common reaction is "I could never do that". And the truth is, if that's your belief, then that's your reality. What we focus on expands, and so having a fixed mindset (another book for you, Mindset by Carol Dweck) of all the things you CAN'T do, will only increase at the rate that you think you can't do the things. The reality is, is that if anyone in the world has ever done something then you can too. You just have to set an intention, shift your mindset and suck it up. Get out of your own goddamn way and stop lying to yourself!
For now, I still drink a decaf coffee with almond or coconut milk most mornings, and it still gives me that pick me up that caffeine used to, but without the intense burst of anxiety and urgency, followed by a mid-afternoon slump. I believe that the ‘wake up’ feeling of the coffee (decaf or caffeinated) is little more than a pavlovian response to the cup of coffee - the timing, taste, aroma, the warmth of holding the cup - rather than the actual biological effects of the coffee itself.
Outside of the physical effects of coffee, there is also a gigantic environmental impact that the coffee trade has on our planet. With 500 billion disposable cups produced every year, inconvenience is no longer an acceptable reason. It's utterly irresponsible not to own a reusable cup so please do your future generations a solid and get yourself a KeepCup.
Alongside the environmental effects which are a little closer to home, are the industrial effects that the coffee trade creates such as deforestation, waste and pollution, as well as detrimental impacts to the biodiversity of the region. Given that most coffee growing regions are also home to some of the most delicate ecosystems on earth, the potential for serious damage is great. We rarely even think about impacts outside of ourselves and unfortunately that's the world we live in.
But it doesn't have to be.
Call to action: Invest in a reusable coffee cup, and make a habit of taking it with you wherever you go. Commit to buying only Fair Trade coffee (and ideally organic). Fair Trade is a movement that promotes fair pay and ethical treatment for producer groups in developing countries when they export their goods to the developed world. Here are some Fair Trade coffee brands you can get in New Zealand. Kokako is my favourite (it's fair trade, organic, and Mike is a legend.)
So if I've sold you on this dream and you’ve been wanting to give up or reduce your coffee intake, here are my recommendations:
Start on a weekend/non-work day because you are not going to be a lot of fun to be around. In fact you'll be feral. Keep yourself busy anyway. Or rest if that's what your body is asking for. One or the other.
Expect that you’ll feel detoxification effects and support your body accordingly with lots of water and herbal teas, rest, nourishing foods, and dry-body brushing or infra-red saunas.
Develop a new morning ritual such as green tea, dandelion ‘coffee’, lemon water, or hot cacao (if you tolerate small amounts of caffeine okay). Embrace coffee alternatives such as turmeric, beetroot or matcha lattes. Delicious and nutritious.
Seek out accountability. Tell your friends and colleagues what you are doing. Announce it on Facebook. Be unabashedly smug about the whole thing. Get a friend or partner to join in with you and keep each other accountable.
Try not to focus on what you’re missing out on. Instead focus on what you are gaining in terms of increased energy, vitality and overall health. Plus, much better digestion and thus glowing skin!
Good luck! Let me know how you go.