A WHOLE Week Without Coffee?! Pros & Cons So Far!

Lisa Martens

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Last week, I noticed a caffeine headache coming on. Instead of reaching for a cup, I decided to see what would happen if I went without coffee.

I've been drinking a cup of coffee a day every day for a very long time. Sometimes, I drink two...one to cover the afternoon slump. During the first months of lockdown, getting a cup of coffee and walking through the park was my only time outside, and those were moments I cherished.

First, the cons:

The withdrawal headache.

For those of you who drink coffee regularly, you might already know what I'm talking about. The withdrawal headache can be brutal. It's a headache that, for me, existed on both sides of my head. It was like my brain was in a vice and the vice was tightening, all the time.

Why do people get a headache after stopping their daily cup of coffee? It's actually the blood flow to your brain going back to normal! Caffeine narrows the blood vessels to your brain, so when you stop drinking it, the pain is the blood vessels going back to their regular size.

The withdrawal headache lasted almost a full day for me, and then finally subsided. I made sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

The loss of routine.

My morning coffee and walk was always a way for me to know my day was starting. I found it difficult to get motivated without my coffee, and part of that was the loss of ritual.

Instead, I began taking a walk with yogurt or a protein drink...sometimes even just plain milk. This seemed to mimick my coffee habit well enough that I started to recover my routine after the third and fourth day of not having it. Still, this was difficult to overcome, and I often felt like reaching for coffee just for that "getting the day started" feeling.

I just...like coffee!

Coffee is something I enjoy drinking and tasting, and I did feel like I had lost an old friend, so to speak. I like how coffee smells and I like having my little group of people I recognize at the cafe, even if I don't know who they are. There's a social aspect to drinking coffee, just like there's a social aspect to drinking alcohol, and when you no longer partake in it, you're missing out. There's a kind of "on the other side" feeling when you tell people you no longer drink coffee.

And the pros!

Believe it or not, I started noticing benefits to not drinking coffee just a few days after I stopped. The withdrawal headache was pretty bad, and I felt irritable and tired, which are common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

However, by the third day, I began to notice some obvious benefits.

More energy: No midday slump.

This seemed counter-intuitive to me. Wasn't coffee supposed to keep me awake? But now that a whole week has gone by, I'm positive: Without caffeine, I have more energy.

I used to crash right after lunch and require either a nap or a second cup of coffee. Now, I can work/be active all day without that midday slump. No longer am I nodding off in front of my screen.

The caffeine gave me a boost that, when it wore off, made me more exhausted than if I never had that boost to begin with. Without it, my energy levels are simply more even.

Weight loss??

It's too soon to really tell, but I'm definitely feeling more trim. Perhaps it's the sugar I put in my coffee that loaded it with empty calories, or the fact that now I'm drinking more water to compensate for the lack of coffee, or something else entirely. Whatever the case may be, I'm noticing my pants just might be a little looser, and I don't feel as bloated or full.

Lower anxiety.

I have long struggled with my anxiety, and while I've tried a whole host of diets, meditations, and exercises, I've never tried cutting out caffeine. I wish I had! My moods are far more stable and even now. I no longer have that sweating feeling when I experienced the rush of caffeine.

I used to think caffeine was mobilizing me and readying me for the day. Now, I am wondering if I can instead just work at a slightly slower pace, if it means skipping the midday slump AND feeling less anxiety. After all, is it really so important that I do a day's work in two hours?

I used to pride myself on being able to drink coffee and then zipping through tasks that would take other people hours. Now I wonder if that pride was misplaced. After all, unless I am doing something extremely urgent, what's wrong with taking another hour or two...and skipping the sweats, the crash, and the anxiety spells?

Coffee can trigger the "fight or flight" response in a person's body. For years, I've been trying to regulate that and feel more moderate and less extreme. While therapy and meditation definitely help, sometimes simple solutions like consuming fewer stimulants are just as revolutionary.

Other unexpected health benefits.

For two years, I have suffered from a condition known as "skin writing" or dermographism. I have seen numerous doctors who usually offer me antihistimines. I have also tried acupuncture, which also helped.

My acupunturist also advised me that what I consume...particularly alcohol and caffeine...may also be causing my skin to be extremely sensitive. I noticed that cutting back on alcohol and drinking more water definitely helped my symptoms. And lo and behold...since eliminating caffeine, my symptoms have disappeared.

To put this into perspective: I used to not be able to put on a backpack without a rash forming on my shoulders and back. I have been unable to wear jeans because the denim literally hurts. I have felt like my skin was on fire. And now, since eliminating caffeine, my skin writing symptoms have disappeared.

It's still too soon to tell...after all, it's only been a week. However, this revelation is eye-opening for me. If my dermographism continues to improve, then that alone is a great reason for me to avoid caffeine.

What's next?

A week is not a long enough time to conclusively decide anything, but so far, the pros of not drinking coffee are outweighing the cons.

I don't feel like I want to reintroduce it into my diet just yet...especially since my anxiety and skin condition have improved. An unintended bonus: I'm saving a little bit of money from not buying those coffees!

Because I'm so used to having something to drink, I'm also drinking more water, so that might also account for some of the pros on the list. For now, I'm going to go with it—

Besides, being on the other side of the caffeine headache is good enough for me!

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