I broke up with coffee. Here's what happened in Week 1

Breaking up is never easy, I know, but I have to go ...
(I have to go this time
I have to go, this time I know)
Knowing me, knowing you
It's the best I can do ...

Last Saturday afternoon I knew. I knew I had to break up with coffee. It was the best I could do for myself and my family. 

And so, just like that, we broke up, and I woke up on Sunday morning to ... green tea.

Coffee and I have been on-off for years. We were ON during the uni days, when we were young and carefree and watched Days of Our Lives in our pjs at lunchtime. We were OFF each of the three times I was pregnant. We were ON once those babies grew into toddlers and woke before dawn (boy, were we ON then). We were OFF a few times when my wildly beating heart warned me my morning coffee might be a bit too much during the school rush. We were ON like Donkey Kong when we moved to the US nearly two years ago. Everyone drinks coffee here (it's not necessarily good in all places, but it's massive in serving size and popularity and availability – so yeah, there's been some serious coffee consumed over here in Salt Lake City).

But now, we're OFF. And I reckon it's for good this time.

Breaking up with coffee didn't necessarily come easy, but it also wasn't as heartbreaking as you might imagine. Because for a fair while I have known my coffee consumption was probably doing more harm than good.

I loved lots of things about coffee: the smell; the feeling of 'reward' and 'connection' it can bring; its soothing warmth; its wake-up/get-up-and-go superpowers; its sociability ... you know what I mean. 

But here's what I had grown to suspect (alright, know) about coffee:

It was making me a cranky, stressed, unnecessarily overweight mum.

And since I have a couple of ongoing goals to be as consistently calm as I can be (eliminate stress), and to lose a decent amount of weight so I can approximate 'pre-kids Nat', I've maintained a keen interest in the science that says some people are particularly sensitive to coffee. And that coffee raises your stress hormones, which can lead for fat storage. Stress! Fat! I'm listening ...

I've read the books of Dr Libby Weaver, a leading women's health specialist and nutritional biochemist, including Rushing Women's Syndrome and Accidentally Overweight, where she outlines the damage coffee can do to women. (Other women's specialists, Dr Christiane Northrup and Dr Sara Gottfried say the same, for example.) But it was only after a particularly strong brew last Saturday (that literally made me feel like I was operating outside of my body), that I returned to some of Dr Libby's wise counsel and this time the following words finally sunk in:

When you consume caffeine, it sends a message to the pituitary gland in your brain that it needs to send a message to your adrenal glands to make adrenalin ... [and] get you out of danger that doesn't actually exist ...

When adrenalin is released, your blood sugar elevates to provide you with more energy, your blood pressure and pulse rate rise to provide more oxygen to the muscles, which tense in preparation for action [the fight or flight response] ... you make insulin to deal with that elevation in blood sugar. And insulin is one of our primary fat storage hormones ...

This biochemical state can either lead you to slenderness [often at the expense of your nervous system health] or fat storage, because insulin ... will firstly convert unused glucose from your blood into glycogen and store it in your muscles and what is left over will be converted into body fat.

... Most people believe that in order to become healthy, they must lose some weight. I believe the opposite is true; in order to lose weight, we must become healthy.

Once the body is better balanced and healthier, body fat is readily burnt."

So, food for thought there, right? And if you want an even more comprehensive breakdown of the effects of coffee on the human body, read this excellent article on caffeine from Dr Mark Hyman.

But, back to me: how do I feel at the end of my first week off coffee?

In a word: FREE. 

  1. I feel calmer than I have been in years. Since before kids, for sure.
  2. I feel like I can 'feel' my emotions. 
  3. I feel like I can breathe deeply enough to relax. 
  4. I feel clearer, lighter, and much more balanced in my body and mind.
  5. The scales are shifting really well.
  6. I have more energy than I thought possible. (Dr Libby says most women are shocked at how much more energy they have after kicking coffee for one month. I can't wait to see how I feel in three weeks time then.)
  7. I am falling asleep at night much easier. 
  8. I am far less cranky, tired and frustrated.
  9. I feel more alive.

I have made some other nutritional changes in recent months, but these feelings I describe became most pronounced after the coffee breakup.

Now, I would never tell another human being to give up coffee, especially a busy mum, so I am definitely not saying that. I just wanted to share my experience, because I'm a bit blown away by it, frankly.

Anyone else given up coffee lately? Anyone think I'm crazy?  




Natalie Bartley