I think most people can relate when I say that growing up in India you are raised on garam chai or filter coffee. Mornings just aren’t the same without either of those beverages and the thought of giving them up makes most people anxious.
At the Vegan First office, the aroma of coffee is constantly in the air, as most of us love our coconut-coffee lattes. We’re constantly craving that cuppa‘Jo at the 5 o’clock mark, which is why I wanted to give up caffeine cold turkey. Researching online for the best way to give up caffeine, the best way most people said was to give it up all at once. I wanted to do this as I wanted to see how my body would react. People on the internet have said that they experience severe headaches, lack of energy, lethargy and a whole lot of withdrawal symptoms I wasn’t looking forward to.
So, with all those things in mind, on the 3rd of July, I said no to all things caffeine-filled. This includes coffee, tea, chocolate, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, energy bars, and even “decaf” coffee (we’ll get to that later). Yes, chocolate had to go too. Strangely as the title of the article suggests, NOTHING BAD HAPPENED, but here is what happened instead.
Most people say they crave that warm cup of something in the morning. The act is more of a sense of habit than actually needing that drink to wake you up. Let’s face it, when your alarm goes off, you’re awake, maybe not fully, but your brain is up. At least for me, that cup of tea in the morning was a sense of comfort, especially during the cool monsoons. I always have a full box of different organic teas, however, mostly ALL of them contained caffeine!
I wanted something warm and delicious to drink in the mornings which lead me to my drink of choice – lemon mint water. Simply steep some mint leaves in hot water and add the juice of half a lemon/lime (according to your taste), if you really need to you can add a few drops of agave nectar, but I decided to go sugar-free too.
The most common reaction most people get is that seething headache. Honestly, to my surprise, I didn’t experience any head ache. I’m not sure really why, but it’s probably because in general, I don’t consume a lot of caffeine in a day, a cup or two of tea in a day and that’s about it. In general, I don’t like those sweet carbonated drinks and only consume them sporadically. I’m going to chalk up the lack of a headache to this fact – my body isn’t dependent on caffeine. This was a great realisation as it meant I was doing something right!
There wasn’t a noticeable difference between my energy levels before or after the 10 days. That’s probably because for the past couple of months, I’ve had a pretty steady routine, that didn’t change during my 10 days of caffeine abstinence. I believe my mind had been conditioned to the point that I didn’t feel like I was extra tired or cranky. Also, putting water in your coffee cup at work tricks the mind into thinking you're having your usual cup of coffee - which also helped!
Having to be more vigilant about whether or not certain foods contained caffeine, I automatically started looking at the nutrition index on products and just making the choice to go with the most healthy, organic and foods that felt good to eat.
My home meditation corner
I’m by no means an anxious or stressed out or hyperactive person, but there are times I can feel those emotions get the better of me. Towards the end of the caffeine challenge, the big noticeable change was that I was a lot less anxious and wasn’t quick to react. There was more clarity and I had more control over my thoughts. If you are generally an anxious person, then I would wholeheartedly say to cut down or give up caffeine, as this was one of the biggest changes I saw in myself.
I’m guilty of rushing out of the house with just a cup of tea and not taking the time to have a good breakfast. Since I gave up the habit, I needed something to replace the time I would take to make my morning beverage. Having a bowl of oats with cut fruit and nuts, became my go-to breaky, that was really quick and easy to make.
At the beginning of the challenge, I noticed that some days I’d get a craving for coffee, but when I really thought about it, my body was probably just wanted that caffeine and sugar boost. Instead of giving in or opting for decaf coffee, I chose fruit instead. Fruit has a ton of natural sugar and gave me that boost of energy that made me feel way better than a cup of coffee. On days that I had time, I would make a nice fruit smoothie. Speaking of decaf coffee, most brands have a highly reduced amount of caffeine in their decaf varieties. However, they are not completely caffeine free, just caffeine reduced. So don’t think you can get away with decaf.
During the week, sitting at the office, it’s easy to forget it’s tea time or snack time. However on the weekends, when I was chilling at home and relaxing from the long week, I noticed that I didn’t crave coffee, but missed my weekend tea time routine. Luckily I have an enthusiastic cat who loves to play whenever possible, so instead of trying to fight my ‘craving’ I just focused on playtime! Not only did that earn me extra cuddle points with Kohji, it also got both of us a nice little workout in the house! If you don’t have a pet, then get out of the house, go for a walk, busy yourself with some form of exercise, that will pump those happy hormones and get that heart rate up.
If you and your girls love meeting for coffee, then being surrounded by that beverage might be a bit stressful! However, many cafes now make turmeric lattes, and if they don’t it is super easy to make them at home. Which is what I did, I introduced my girlfriends to yummy coconut milk turmeric lattes. It was a huge hit and after a while, the jokes and gossip took over any sort of caffeine craving.
I think the main reason why I was so non-phased by giving up caffeine was that I was in the right frame of mind. I knew going into it that if I put too much stress on the fact that it would be a “challenge” it wouldn’t be successful. From day one, I knew about good substitutes and I wouldn’t punish myself if I was craving something warm or if I wanted coffee or chocolate. I would just let it slide. I think most people get so caught up in wanting to get through it and stressing over giving up things that they forget to listen to their bodies and see why they have those cravings in the first place. Overall I wanted to make a life style change and this frame of mind made it a lot easier for me to go through his whole process.
After the 10 days and seeing that it really had no HUGE difference on my mind, body and lifestyle, I decided to go with the flow. Some days I’ll have a cup of coffee, or I’ll have some chocolate. I haven’t given it up for good, but I haven’t jumped into it full throttle either.
Read more: 5 Thirst Quenching Iced Tea Recipes