Can you remember the first time you had coffee? While I can't recall the exact first time, I know it was around my Sophomore year of High School. I'd make a cup in the morning, fill it up in my to-go thermos and wait for the bus at the corner of our street. And how would I drink it? Black with about five Sweet N Lows (yes, I cringe even thinking about it, too). Thankfully over the years my taste buds changed and I learned to skip the added sweetener a few years later.
But the coffee habit stuck.
In college my dependency on it grew thanks to exams, late nights and a strategically placed Starbucks outside the doors to our campus library. However, there was also a social and ritual component to it. We'd wake up on Sundays and drive to the Dunkin Donuts, catching up on everything that happened the night before. During crunch time for whatever assignment or final was due, it was always a welcome call from a friend who wanted to take a break and grab a cup.
Fast forward a number of years and not much changed for my adoration of coffee. My years spent in an office both required the caffeine for energy after many red-eye flights and late nights but it again provided something to bond over with co-workers. When I left that world and started working from home, I tried to focus more mindfully on my consumption but of course, there were many times in a day I was reaching for a 3rd or 4th cup.
Why Caffeine Free?
Ibelieve there isn't much wrong with a daily cup of coffee or caffeine. It even has been reported to have some benefits. Personally, I truly enjoy not only the taste (and albeit slight buzz) from a fresh cup but also the ritual of making it everyday. I don't believe in fancy coffee machines and rely only on my Chemex 6-cup (as well as occasionally a French press) and I find there is something about patiently waiting for it to finish brewing.
However, especially as a woman, caffeine can really have an impact on our hormones which isn't always a good thing. Especially since we live in an overly stimulated world, relying on something everyday to help boost your energy can really throw you off track.
For me, I've wanted to know that I could not only walk away from coffee/caffeine if I wanted to but I also wanted to understand the impact it may be having on me. I had been wondering this for sometime so when I saw that Lee from Lee From America was hosting a virtual Caffeine Free Week, I knew I had to try it.
How It Went
Okay, I'm being dramatic. But seriously, Day 1 really opened up my eyes that coffee/caffeine is an addictive substance and you can absolutely go through withdrawals. While I started out strong drinking an herbal "coffee" and feeling pumped to get on with my day, I hit a serious wall around 3pm that included not only exhaustion but an excruciating headache that wouldn't give up.
I also noticed how much I enjoyed our morning ritual of having coffee with my partner. Since he moved in about 8 months ago, he's become the one who makes the pot of coffee in the morning. He's learned exactly how I take my coffee and brings me a cup almost every morning as I'm working on the computer or getting our meals ready for the day. It's a really small but sweet gesture that makes my day feel complete.
I'd be lying if I said my first thoughts upon waking on Day 2 weren't "Dear God, I don't want to do this again." However, after a minute or two of laying in bed I realized something - I woke up naturally at 6am and did not at all feel groggy or tired.
With this new found energy, I tried making a version of Lee's "faux latte" and was really happy with how it tasted!
Days 3 - 6
This middle days of the week were largely uneventful and I managed to steer clear of caffeine. I settled into my routine of having my morning cup of herbal "coffee", usually with some Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides and homemade cashew milk (recipe below).
Around day 4, however, I really wanted a cup of coffee. Like, for real. It had been raining in New York for what seemed like forever and a piping hot cup of coffee sounded so warming. Plus, I was having major computer issues which just put me in a (temporarily) bad mood. Instead of caving, I decided to give myself some leniency with work, shut down my computer until it started behaving and chilled out on the couch with a big blanket and cup of tea.
It reminded me that we all have cravings at times and sometimes these are emotional (like they were this day) and sometimes they are for something more tangible like a specific nutrient or vitamin. It's important to listen carefully and find ways to address these cravings, not just sweep them under the rug and pretend they don't exist. I'm sure if I hadn't taken a few minutes to relax and recharge, I would have caved in to my craving and grabbed that coffee!
Oh man. Day 7.
I had almost done it. I had almost gone 7 WHOLE DAYS with NO CAFFEINE. What?! I even enjoyed a brunch with my mom and passed on the big, full mugs of coffee they were serving.
And then it was gorgeous out. And I wanted iced coffee. And then I had said coffee and didn't beat myself up over not making it the full 7 days.
I enjoyed that iced coffee thoroughly and while I definitely had some side effects such as jitters and a tough time falling asleep, I realized that enjoying some caffeine daily is just what I need.
How Did I Feel?
To be completely honest, overall I felt a lot better not being held hostage everyday to my cup of coffee.
Here's a few areas I noticed it the most:
- Sleep: As the week went on, I found it was easier to get up at same time everyday without being groggy which is often a problem for me. I also felt a natural urge to go to bed around the same time every night. For full context, I was focusing during the week on sticking with my bedtime routine and making sure I was getting enough sleep so perhaps it was the combination that worked well for me but good to know that caffeine can really impact your sleep!
- Anxiety: For as long as I can remember I have been an anxious person. Seriously, I was that child that overthought EVERYTHING. While I've worked a lot on managing my anxiousness over the years and don't struggle the same way I used to, I realized removing coffee really helped my mind settle even more.
- Stomach Pains: For a number of months, I've been struggling with some lower abdominal pains on and off. It's nothing major but enough to sometimes be really annoying. I definitely saw a difference this week in how often that pain would come and how intense it was.
Okay, so here's what wasn't so fun during my caffeine free week:
- Hunger: No two ways about it, I was constantly hungry for the first few days. Perhaps my daily cup was suppressing my appetite a bit but all I know is that I kept snacking. This eventually faded around Day 4 so it wasn't a big deal overall.
- Comfort: So here is the big one. No matter what I did, whether it was to sit and enjoy my faux latte with a book, put it in a fancy mug, use my delicious cashew milk, nothing compared comfort wise to my daily cup of coffee! I don't know why, but I really enjoy it. The taste, the smell, the ritual - it's just really important to me.
And that's why I've decided to go back to coffee - it provides me something very non-tangible but important. But I will be making some modifications to my consumption. I'm going to try and stick with one cup a day of mindful enjoyment. No coffee on the run and perhaps will mix in some more matcha into my routine for a little break of caffeine here and there. I'll be reporting back on how it's going, so stay tuned!
Have you tried going caffeine free? I'd love to hear how it went for you. Let me know in the comments!
CASHEW MILK CREAMER
Creamy and indulgent, this homemade cashew milk creamer is a great option for those looking to avoid milk or just want to switch it up!
While I've been making my own coconut milk for awhile, I've really been loving cashew milk lately. I find it is a bit easier to make (especially if you have a high speed blender so you don't need to strain it) and it's much creamer, making it perfect for a dairy free coffee creamer option.
Adding almond extract gives this coffee creamer a wonderfully complex taste combined with both the vanilla extract and sea salt. While I don't think it needs any sweetener, feel free to add if it's your thing!
Cashew Milk Creamer
Serves: About 2 cups
Time: 5 minutes plus at least 1 hour soaking time
2 cups organic, raw cashews (soaked for at least 1 hour and up to overnight)
3 cups filtered water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon sweetener such as honey, maple syrup (optional)
Pinch sea salt
1. Drain and rinse soaked cashews and place in blender or food processor.
2. Add water and blend, adding salt, vanilla extract, almond extract and sweetener about half way through.
3. Continue blending for about 5 minutes. For those using a high speed blender, you should not have to strain the mixture but if you are using a food processor (like me!), you may want to strain through a fine mesh strainer*.
4. Pour into jar or container with a lid and keep refrigerated - although I am sure it won't last very long!
* Stay tuned for a recipe I'll be sharing soon for how to use the leftover pulp from making your own dairy free milks!