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.

IMG 3785 - My Caffeine Addiction StoryI 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!