In C'mon, It's Just 7 Days, members of the Food52 team share what it was like to take on a personal challenge for one week: skipping caffeine, going plastic-free, and more. (Spoiler alert: We all survived.)
For the past decade, I’ve started each day more or less the same way: I wake up with the sun, hit the snooze button twice, get up halfway through the second snooze, and then jump out of bed. I immediately make a beeline for the kitchen to fill my little electric espresso maker with freshly ground beans. After brewing, I’ll brush my teeth, read the news, and drink one cup of coffee before heading out for a run. And after that, there’s the second cup, either post-run or post-shower. No matter how rested (or unrested) I am, I always have two cups of coffee to start my day.
In the last 10 years, my morning routine alone has amounted to roughly 7,300 cups of coffee, over half a million coffee beans (figuring 70-plus beans a cup), and upwards of 1,200 hours of my time (assuming 10 minutes a cup)—that’s 50 full days! And this is not to speak of my long and storied past with caffeine, even before then: countless all-nighters in high school and college, fueled by Venti Caramel Macchiatos with extra shots of espresso; Red Bulls and Monsters aplenty; swigs of 5-hour Energy. It left my sleep cycle a mess and set the stage for my current caffeine-dependency.
Many of my colleagues are participating in our C'mon, It's Just 7 Days challenge. Some folks are trying new recipes every day for a week; others are spending $0; others are eliminating all animal products and animal-derived products. So when I thought about a way to challenge myself, to really push me outside of my comfort zone, it seemed like giving up caffeine was a good place to start—after all, it was just for seven days. But even then, I had doubts. Could I function normally without coffee? Or tea? How would it impact the start of each day, and affect my energy levels throughout? There was only one way to find out.
Woke up craving caffeine; tried replacing coffee with hot apple cider (did not work). Fully exhausted myself by searching for ibuprofen, taking a nap, and boarding an airplane. Things are off to a solid start!
Went for the hardest run of my life; felt slightly like a woolly mammoth attempting underwater aerobics. Was so grumpy I picked fights with literally everyone I came across. Drank a single glass of wine and fell asleep at the dinner table… at 9 p.m. Merry freakin’ Christmas.
Cheated today (but just a little!) because my sister made some pretty incredible pour-over coffee. Was it worth it? Yes. Was I consumed by guilt the rest of the day? Also yes.
Tried becoming an “herbal tea” person (also did not work). Developed a raging–monster headache that didn’t go away, even with multiple doses of ibuprofen.
Experimented with golden milk, which I’d never tried before—and it’s actually pretty good. Cheated again with a teeny-tiny afternoon coffee, but also went to Barry’s Bootcamp, which I honestly would not have made it through without caffeine. Went to bed, woke up at 2 a.m., and couldn’t get back to bed for about an hour. Blast.
Slept in until 10:30 a.m. (oops). Drank an In-N-Out milkshake with dinner, and couldn’t sleep until, like, 3 a.m. At least my sleeping hours are... consistent?
Woke up late again, but went for a long walk and cooked all day to distract myself, and it kinda worked? Noticeably no headache or foul mood (not more than usual, at least). Is this what caffeine-free people feel like all the time?
Attempted a rather virtuous eighth day, to make up for my bouts of cheating. Unsurprisingly, very non-virtuously cheated again, but only the itsiest bit (a few sips of sea salt–jasmine tea from my all-time favorite bakery, 85°C Bakery Café. I regret nothing.). I GET TO DRINK (sanctioned) COFFEE TOMORROW!
So, I barely made it through the week. But while plumbing the depths of (seemingly never-ending) despair, I arrived at some important takeaways:
Overall, I’ll give myself a C+ for this challenge. It was definitely not easy (and would’ve been even less easy if I’d kept myself honest the whole time). But it forced me to sleep more, and drink more water, and those are good and important things that I’ll try to continue outside of this week-long experiment. It also made me realize that I follow my morning routine for a reason—it’s something small and stable I look forward to each day—and I don’t really want or need to give that up again. If anything, I’ll drop my second cup of the morning, because I am so sensitive to caffeine. But then again, maybe I won’t. And that seems OK, too.
Have you ever given up caffeine? Let me know how it went for you in the comments!