In 2006, my blood pressure tested higher than normal and my doctor ordered me off all caffeine. At the moment he issued this edict, I nodded along in happy agreement (maybe it was just the Lexapro?) but the thought bubble over my head went something like:
“You doctors just don’t understand how real people live. C’mon—me, a TRAINER who gets up at FOUR THIRTY in the MORNING, quit drinking COFFEE?? Yeah, right.”
Still nodding, I agreed to a follow up seven days later so he could re-test my blood pressure and determine whether or not I needed to be placed on “blood pressure meds.”
As I left the office, those three words rang in my head: “Mocha Iced Blended.” I pulled myself out of my daydream and started doing the math. I’d been drinking coffee every day from the time I was 13. More or less EVERY DAY for the past 21 years. Maybe the doctor was right after all. Could I really be a coffee junkie?
I decided to quit.
I started by going cold turkey. That lasted—(not)—for a little less than three days. By the 69th hour, I’d succumbed to a Diet Coke late in the afternoon. I tried to sell all sorts of reasons to myself, but it was really all bullshit. I needed a new plan: a way THROUGH the madness.
MY “PRACTICAL WAY” TO STOP DRINKING CAFFEINE
I created this approach from scratch, and it’s been a pretty easy way for me to reduce the amount of coffee I drink, largely because I haven’t felt deprived, while “tricking” my body.
Taking a tip from a client who suggested coffee drinkers are far more addicted to the ritual of drinking the coffee than the actual beverage, I moved our coffee pot from the central point in the kitchen to the far side, making the coffee “ritual” less central to my morning experience. Next, I took two large clear plastic canisters and placed them on the kitchen counter. I bought a large can of 1/2-Caf, which contains 50 percent less caffeine than regular coffee, and dumped it into one of the canisters. I bought the same sized can of decaffeinated grounds and poured them into the other canister.
When I take a scoop from the 1/2-Caf can, I take an equal amount from the Decaf can and mix it into the 1/2-Caf can, thereby diluting the ultimate caffeine content of the beverage. I’ve mixed about 75 percent of the Decaf into the 1/2-Caf now, which means that I’m mostly drinking mostly decaf now.
I’ve also changed my behavior. Instead of setting the alarm clock for 4:30 AM, now I sleep until 5:15 AM, and immediately hop into the shower, waking up naturally with great lemon-sage aromatherapy products. That gives me an extra 45 minutes of sleep each weekday—that’s almost 8 hours of extra sleep every week. Not a small thing for a trainer.
I’ve done a few of other things too. I’ve stopped using those impossibly huge mugs in favor of smaller mugs. I don’t make as much coffee in the morning, either. And I stop at two mugs, max. This morning, I only had 3/4 of one.
About a week to the day, I returned to my doctor. I could almost hear the pride in his voice when he gave me the good news: “Congratulations Sam. Your blood pressure is normal. You’ve saved yourself from having to start a new medication, and you’ve improved your health.”
I think he was a little surprised that I’d done it.
I was, too.