How and When to Start Curbing Your Coffee Habit

“I need to quit coffee.”

How often have you heard a friend say this or said it yourself? The list of reasons people may decide to curb or flat out quit their coffee habit can be long. For many of us, it’s a daily habit that can break the bank over time — $3 to $5 every morning at Starbucks can add up to more than $1,500 in a year on the high end. Meanwhile, if you’re a specialty latte drinker, you’re consuming extra calories that are mostly made up of sugars and simple carbs. Those calories add up faster over time than that daily bill. So unless you’re drinking your coffee black, you’re consuming empty calories on a daily basis and killing any weight loss goals you may have. On top of that, it can affect your mood, your sleep, and even heighten anxiety, cause jitters, or other potentially serious health problems. And of course, there’s the fact that caffeine is essentially a drug. It comes with side effects, withdrawal symptoms, full-on dependency when it’s consumed at a regular enough rate. Sometimes that can mean headaches when your brain notices it’s not getting something it’s used to. And sometimes coffee withdrawals can turn into full-on nausea and lightheadedness.

If you’re somebody who can’t quit coffee cold turkey but wants to curb the dependency, there are ways to at least minimize the withdrawals. Consuming it daily actually encourages your body to develop a tolerance to it, so for some, it’s just beneficial to avoid daily use in the first place. Once you do develop a tolerance it will require more and more caffeine for your body to feel a baseline level of energy rather than the euphoric feeling you used to get from coffee when your habit first started – another obvious parallel to drug addiction. One of the most basic reasons to temper your use is just recognizing when you’re in this mode of dependency and find yourself chasing that initial high.

The first step in curbing your coffee habit is to avoid going cold turkey. Allow yourself several months of cutting back by reducing consumption by about 10% every two weeks. The benefit of taking the slow and steady route is it allows your body to be truly caffeine free and avoid withdrawals at any stage. At this point, taking an inventory of your overall caffeine intake will help you see all the ways it slips into your day unnoticed. From non-coffee drinks that are caffeinated to over the counter painkillers, it’s not just the cups of coffee that make up the habit you’ve decided to break. And if or when you do get cravings somewhere along the road, drinking decaffeinated substitutes have been shown to trick your brain. Something as simple as an herbal tea, which has no caffeine, or decaf coffee can have a placebo effect if you’re starting to get withdrawal headaches.

And of course, if you really find yourself dependent on a daily hit of coffee in the morning just to get moving, there’s no better time than the present to start building better sleep habits that will leave you energized in the morning without needing caffeine.

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