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I gave up coffee for 30 days…

Ashleigh Went

My god, I love coffee.

I love the taste, the smell, the ritual of drinking coffee in the morning.

I also loved how it gave me that extra little buzz – that spring in my step, you know? A little burst of energy to power me through my morning workout, a boost to clear the morning mental fogginess and a sweet little pick me up in the afternoons.

And so it was, I found myself – cup of black coffee in hand – at the Business Chicks Workshop on February 18 with nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver.

Dr Libby spoke about a lot of things that day. After all, she coined the term “Rushing Women’s Syndrome” to describe the biochemical reaction that occurs in reaction to real or perceived stress.

It’s something we can all relate to – balancing family life, our careers, friendships, eating well, exercising, social media, hobbies… it’s no wonder we’re stressed.

I could relate to every bit of what Dr Libby spoke about that day, and what really hit home for me was when she started to talk about coffee.

Firstly, she explained the body’s reaction to caffeine. You see, when we drink coffee, the pituitary gland in our brand sends a message to our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and/or cortisol – the stress hormones. This causes our blood sugar to spike, raises our blood pressure and heart rate, which often leads to short, shallow breathing.

Not only that, it can interfere with the way that your body burns fuel. High blood sugar leads to sugar cravings and can interfere with our body accessing our fat cells as fuel. It also means that insulin is released into our bodies, converting glucose into glycogen, which if unused, is converted into body fat.

Seriously? I could have sprayed my mouthful of coffee straight across our crisp white tablecloth.

The thing was, as Dr Libby ran through the various effects that caffeine can have – increased levels of anxiety, dull skin, inability to focus, shaking, high blood pressure and poor sleep – I was checking every box.

I’d fallen into a cycle of drinking too much coffee in the day, not being able to sleep at night (because of all the coffee I’d been chugging) and then drinking even more coffee the next day because I was so exhausted.

Dr Libby said that it’s not about necessarily giving caffeine up completely, but about figuring out where your personal threshold lies.

For me, I knew that to give up any unhealthy bad habits (smoking, binge drinking, toxic ex-boyfriends, and indeed coffee) the only way to go was cold turkey.

So I did – I gave up coffee for 30 whole days.

How did it feel?

At one point in the first few days, I actually fell asleep whilst sitting upright at my desk (I suspect I had my eyes open and drool running from the corner of my mouth. Hot.). That was ok though, because it gave me temporary reprieve from the incessant, pulsing headache. Add in the urge to vomit and extreme irritability, I was almost ready to give up.

It was about then that I realised that if this was how my body was functioning without coffee, was it really functioning that well at all? Did I really want to make something that was causing me to have withdrawal symptoms to be not just part of my daily life, but the very fuel that got me through each and every day?

These thoughts gave me the motivation to power through, and within about 10 days the unpleasant symptoms cleared and gave way to bundles of energy, the ability to focus, clear skin, less sugar cravings… and the sleep? I haven’t slept this well in years.

I did lose some body fat but I also made changes to my diet and training, so it’s difficult to draw any conclusions there.

I had my first coffee the other day in between a morning of paddle boarding and a strongman session at the gym and it was glorious. Standing with a group of friends on the Kingston Foreshore, I realised that this is what I savoured most: the experience. As much as I needed the energy that day, it was more about appreciating the moment.

Since that time I’ve only one or two coffees. I’m not sure I will go back to having it every day, and certainly not 3 or 4 times a day as I was before.

As a ‘Rushing Woman’, I thought coffee helped me but now I can see that it was really holding me back. It’s hard to feel in control or centred when your body is in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ response. Ditching coffee has helped me to calm down, focus and feel more abundantly healthy and energetic.

Why not give it a try yourself? You don’t have to give up coffee cold turkey the way I did, but I think you’ll be surprised at the effect that cutting down can have on your health and energy.


Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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