The 30-day Challenge #8: No Caffeine

From Coffeeholic to Caffeine-free

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I was originally meant to be doing this challenge in December, but decided that was a terrible idea, as it would be Christmas and that season is all about treating yourself, not punishing yourself, right?

Of course, I utterly forgot when I moved it to March that I would be doing this challenge over Easter instead. Idiot.

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An average day's caffeine consumption for me would be: x2 coffees and x2 teas before lunch, x1 Diet Coke at lunch, x1/2 coffee(s) and x2/3 teas after lunch but before bed. And, of course, then there's chocolate…I think it's safe to say that I am fairly addicted to caffeine. 

In fact, I did an online test called 'Caffeine Addiction Diagnosis' on caffeineinformer.com which scored me 8/10, falling in the bracket of 'You are highly addicted to caffeine and need it to function normally.'

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Hmm. I think I got myself out of the top bracket by answering 'no' to the questions 'do you take caffeine pills if drinking a caffeinated beverage isn't possible', (thankfully, I'm not there) and 'do you use caffeine instead of sleep' – hell no, I LOVE my sleep.

We drink nearly 123 million cups of tea per day, on average in the UK, and 90 million cups of coffee.

WHAT IS CAFFEINE?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines caffeine as: 'an alkaloid compound which is found especially in tea and coffee plants and is a stimulant of the central nervous system'.

According to drugwise.org.uk, we drink nearly 123 million cups of tea per day, on average in the UK and 90 million cups of coffee.

It also stated that 'people who drink more than 6 to 8 cups of normal strength tea or coffee a day usually become dependent. They may find it difficult to stop using and experience withdrawal symptoms if they try. This can include feeling tired and anxious and suffering headaches'.

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WITHDRAWAL

This challenge was going to be tough for me. And instead of being a sensible person and slowly weaning myself off caffeine in the weeks leading up to my challenge, I decided to have as much caffeine as possible in the final week before I quit. A 'take it while you can!' sort of attitude, which was definitely the worst thing I could have done. The first week of my caffeine-free challenge was horrific.

'Irritable' would have been the understatement of the century. I was the wicked witch of the west with the most horrendous headaches, nausea, and Dale, my fiancé, said it was the most tired he had ever seen me. 

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In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association included Caffeine Withdrawal in the latest edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), defining it as 'a syndrome resulting from abrupt cessation or reduction in caffeine, following prolonged daily use', noting that the symptoms 'can be altogether avoided if caffeine intake is decreased progressively'. What was I thinking?!

THE HALFWAY POINT

Luckily, the horror didn't last much longer than a week. After which point I was feeling good about the amount of water I was drinking in place of teas and coffees.

Interestingly, I noticed I missed tea more than coffee, which I was very surprised about. There's just something about the warmth of a lovely cup of tea, tucked up in bed on a Sunday morning that you can't beat, and having Dale drink it next to me was torture.

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As was seeing all of the endless amounts of chocolate arriving and being devoured by everyone around me at the office the whole month of Easter. The only joy being when I found out - albeit three weeks into my challenge - that there was no caffeine in white chocolate. MINE!

THE RESULT?

One of the best things about doing this challenge was working out how much money I had saved. If we were to base an average weekday daily spend at £4.48 (a white filter at £0.99, a diet coke at £0.99 and a cappuccino at £2.50 – obviously this could and would vary, but for argument's sake), then £4.48 x20 = £89.60. That's quite a monthly saving just from cutting out a couple of daily beverages. Plus, if you add in a couple of coffees bought over the weekends you're easily at £100. That's incentive right there.

One of the best things about doing this challenge was working out how much money I had saved.

I'm not going to pretend that I am converted and will spend the rest of my days caffeine-free. I have gone back to my teas and coffees, but definitely not to the extent that I was consuming before. I don't need to, in any case, as my body's tolerance of the stimulant went right back down after my month off! I would, however, recommend that if you drink anywhere near the amount of caffeine that I used to that it's definitely a challenge worth doing, just with perhaps a tad more consideration…

TOP TIPS

  1. DO NOT GO COLD TURKEY. I repeat, DO NOT GO COLD TURKEY.
  2. Make sure you don't plan to do it over a period that will make the challenge more difficult / stressful than it needs to be!
  3. Establish, in advance, if there are any suitable alternatives that you could enjoy in place of a morning tea or coffee – fruit tea, anyone?
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