I tried to write a post about coffee way back in March, which is National Caffeine Month, but I was in the midst of a great caffeine struggle. You know how you can logically be aware that a particular behavior or habit is a factor in a health problem but not be willing to acknowledge that reality in your own life?

One of the most important things I learned about in grad school was the stages of change as they relate to health behavior modification. Knowing where a person is at in regards to making a change is key to knowing where to start with a new client and to help clients I’ve worked with for some time progress to the next phase as they move towards their goals.

Silly coffee mugI must have spent about 10 years in the contemplation stage regarding my caffeine addiction. Another 8-10 before that in the pre-contemplation stage…I struggled for years with insomnia but just couldn’t seem to get over the hurdle of “Maybe I should cut back on coffee.” It was just never a good time, or if I did try to cut back, because I lacked structure and motivation, I reverted right back to old ways of lots of coffee all day, every day.

Then this past winter I started experiencing heart palpitations in addition to worsening sleep. I felt like my whole life was falling apart, so I finally decided to see my doctor. She helped me formulate a comprehensive plan to get my intake to a level much closer to the recommended safe range of 300 to 400 milligrams per day.

In my recent Shape story I wrote about my experience and shared some tips for getting a handle on your coffee habit.

What worked for me: 

  • brewing less coffee first thing in the morning
  • changing my order from a medium to a small
  • cutting myself off after noon
  • drinking more water when I felt tired
  • establishing a sleep routine where I go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, even weekends

I’m currently holding steady at my shorter-term goal of 24-32 ounces per day (instead of my old usual 48+). The next step is getting down to 16-24 ounces per day. One day I’d like to cap it at 16 ounces per day, but I’m okay with that being a few years away still. I’d rather take the time to form a stable pattern that scramble to temporarily meet an arbitrary deadline. I have no intention of quitting coffee 100% (I love it too much, and it actually has some health benefits), but feeling so much better has me motivated to keep working towards my goal.

Semi-related: I was interviewed a while back for a Women’s Health story on what dietitians order when they go to Starbucks. Here’s a link where you can see what some of my go-to items are.

Are you addicted to caffeine? Have you ever tried to quit and failed? Or succeeded at cutting back? I’d love to hear what worked for you! 

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