Kaitlyn Duling

Don’t get me wrong, coffee drinkers — I like coffee, too. In fact, I love it. You can bet I’m drinking a giant mug of the stuff right now, at this very moment. Black coffee. And for the better part of my life, my preferred coffee time was morning time, first thing upon waking up. I would start with black coffee from my own 10-cup maker, and after I was significantly caffeinated, I would move onto the brew offered for free at my office. I would drink a cup after lunch for my coffee break. And then I'd drink another regular coffee at 3 p.m. during prime I-desire-to-nap time. And maybe one more cup of coffee before right before I left work, just to wring out whatever “free” things I could from my day. (It’s fine, I’m fine.) 

That's a lot of coffee drinking, even for the most fervent of coffee drinkers.

This was all okay for a time, but I recently (read: as a New Year’s Resolution) started experimenting with a change in my caffeine habits — and I'm not talking about ditching the coffee beans altogether, despite the health benefits that'd bring. We're not talking replacing it with decaffeinated coffee or even green tea. I simply cut my coffee consumption to just one or two cups a day. I moved those cups to the early afternoon, when my brain starts to get sleepy. And in doing so, I encountered some seriously amazing results — I had more time in my mornings to focus on other things, I was less jittery, my “awake” self felt more real than ever, and so much more.

So, I bring you the following tips on how to cut down on your cups of coffee per day. Here are my professional recommendations for stuff to replace coffee. Go ahead: I dare you to try it, just once or twice a week. If it doesn’t feel good, you can always get back on the beans. But I promise you that, if you give it some time, you can start to get yourself amped up without it. Good luck!

1. Get more sleep.

Yes, you heard that right. The first thing I replaced coffee with when I cut it out of my mornings was a few extra ZZZ’s and some sweet dreams. An extra 10 or 15 minutes can make a huge difference — just cut the virtual pillow talk on your phone and close your eyes. When I woke up, I was more awake. My brain began to feel a little more capable of thinking through hard things, like remembering if I locked my apartment door before I got on the bus, or what sort of snarky reply I could give to the meninist in my office each day. Anyway, I love sleep, so it wasn’t a hard trade-off to convince myself to take. I didn't feel the need to drink coffee when I had enough sleep.

2. Eat more breakfast.

Really! Eat! You already know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (more important than it is for you to drink coffee). It gets your metabolism going. It keeps you full and energized for a productive day. Plus, breakfast food is objectively the best. Cereal, juice, pancakes, bacon. Chia pudding. Avocado toast. Whatever, it’s just great. And when I don’t have to grind beans, fill my Brita, and sip down a couple hot cups of coffee, I have even more time to prepare a sexy and leisurely breakfast, all for myself. You know you want to. Do it.

3. Take the best shower ever.

I used to believe that a strong shot of espresso was all I needed to power me through a hard Monday. That is, until I discovered lemon-peppermint body scrub. Y’all. This is the stuff, people. In the first couple weeks post-coffee, I did everything I could to pump myself up and get going each morning, including investing in fancy body products. Not all of them are expensive, and some I even made myself! A tingly, exfoliating scrub not only has the power to make your skin soft-as-hell, it can also be the difference between a groggy morning and an awake, ready-to-go day. My favorite place to pick up new scrubs? The grocery store. Trader Joe’s sells one that’s actually made with coffee so I can still enjoy my favorite smell. And Whole Foods now have a whole bath bar with scrubs, soaps, and all kinds of delightful things to bring coffee notes into the shower.

4. Make morning time your time.

Sometimes we think of self-care as an evening activity best paired with a glass of wine and facemask. But morning time is my new “me” time. And I am loving it. Okay, this is going to look a little different for everyone. For me, it looks like pushing myself out of bed a couple times a week to go on an invigorating early-morning run, all by myself. No headphones. No running buddy. Just me, before the cars are on the road, running around like I own the whole world. Sometimes I run over a bridge and watch the sunrise over the river. Other times I run in the market district and duck around street vendors who are just opening up for the day. I love to run, and I love when that energy lives in my body, even hours later. For other people this might mean an early-morning yoga session, or spin class, or weightlifting — or even just stretching on the bedroom floor. Doing a few planks. Lifting a kettlebell a few times today, and then a few more times tomorrow. It doesn’t really matter what it looks like. Movement has the potential to be healthy and happy, and cutting out my coffee habit gave me a few extra minutes to invest in my own #fitlesbianlife, even just three times a week.

5. Drink a glass of water.

Then another, and another, and…see what I’m saying? Whereas coffee has always dried me out and made me thirsty, jittery, and emotional, water seems to get me. And it should. Water makes up a huge percentage of our bodies! It’s meant to be there! And we are meant to be hydrated. So, next time you feel like going for a cup of coffee, get a couple cups of water instead. Your energy levels will rebound, your skin will look better, you won’t use as much lotion, and you’ll simply feel better. I promise. (For real!)

Okay, if all those above suggestions to kick your coffee drinking habits sound really awesome, but you still love coffee… drink the coffee on your coffee break, but maybe try to incorporate some of these things, too! More sleep, food, showers, exercise and water certainly won’t hurt. I feel your pain, I do. But I also have faith in you. If I could do this, you could do this and so could the next person.