I used to be a caffeine addict, and I know how tough it can be to kick that habit. As a kid, I would drink 2 liters of soda a day; post-college, it was a gallon of green tea. Last year I was finally able to kick my caffeine habit once and for all, and now I sleep better, eat better, and have more energy without the pains and crashes that come from caffeine abuse. If you’ve tried to quit caffeine before, you know it’s not as simple as “just stop drinking coffee.” You can wean yourself off of caffeine in a way that not only helps you avoid the worst of withdrawal symptoms, but also feels easy.
1. Record Your Caffeine Consumption
As the old saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” Simply being conscious of your caffeine consumption will usually be enough to make you start cutting back. Track every caffeinated beverage you consume and make note of roughly how much caffeine was in it.
2. Drink Water—Lots of Water
Most people go through life in a state of mild dehydration. Dehydration causes your energy to drop and, when that happens, you’re likely to turn to caffeine in a misguided attempt to restore your energy level. Aim to drink at least a gallon of (preferably cold) water a day. This will also help prevent overeating.
3. Find a New Favorite Beverage
Many people find it difficult to adjust to drinking water all day, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is switching from coffee to non-caffeinated soda. Replace your bad habit with a good one by finding a new beverage of choice, such as decaffeinated coffee or tea, or flavor water with lemon or cucumber.
4. Avoid Insulin Spikes
Binging on starches and sugars will spike your blood sugar and, in turn, your insulin. An insulin crash will make you feel tired, much like dehydration. Avoiding insulin crashes will keep your energy levels high without caffeine. Eat foods that have a low glycemic index and insulin index, and avoid added sugars and excess liquid calories.
5. Leverage Public and Private Accountability
People behave better when they know others are watching. Find an accountability partner to check up on you periodically. You can ask a friend to fill this role, or find one through the MyFitnessPal community. It’s also helpful to make a public commitment to your goal. The prospect of public embarrassment can be an additional motivator—Facebook and online fitness communities are both good venues for this.
6. Cut Back Slowly
One of the biggest mistakes you can make on your journey to better health: Commit to something overly ambitious and unsustainable. If you try to go cold turkey, you’ll suffer from devastating withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, mood swings and fatigue. Instead, cut back over the course of two or three weeks. Better yet, set a schedule with specific caffeine consumption milestones.
7. If All Else Fails: Aversion Therapy
OK, so I didn’t want to have to add this part. Hopefully the first six techniques work for you but, a few weeks from now, if you’ve failed to make progress, it’s time for plan B. Instead of making quitting enjoyable, you need to make drinking caffeine miserable. And that means listening to Friday by Rebecca Black (link safe for work, but not your sanity) on repeat. I won’t mince words: This song is a crime against humanity. So just remember what plan B is, and do everything you can to make plan A work!