My 4-Step “Do Less” Method for Weaning Off Coffee (and Why I’ve Given Up My Only Vice)

My 4-Step “Do Less” Method for Weaning Off Coffee (and Why I’ve Given Up My Only Vice)

“To put it really simply, your brakes and your gas are both really low.”

 My amazing functional medicine doctor was giving me the skinny on the results from my hormone panel.

I was in the early stages of adrenal fatigue with ridiculously low GABA, cortisol, and epinephrine levels. They weren’t even close to the normal range, let alone optimal.

“So, what do I do about it?”

He listed off a whole bunch of things under the category of “things that shouldn’t be coming into your body that are,” and caffeine was the only one I go near.

And I have historically loved going near it.

I’m the kind of person who falls asleep relishing the fact that I get to get up and have coffee the next morning.

The reason I got on the horn with him is because I’ve been waking up at night a ton to pee. I’m not pregnant and I’m not drinking tons of fluid before bed, so there’s no good reason for it.

And with the current state of my life, I really need all the rest I can get.

My body has been gently nudging me that it needs attention, and now it’s starting to get louder. I don’t want it to have to scream to get me to give it what it needs (or stop giving it something it doesn’t, as the case may be) so I decided it was time.

I’ve quit coffee here and there for this cleanse or that detox but always cold turkey, and it’s always been brutal.

This time, I decided I would take a more gentle, loving approach. (I’m practicing softening, after all.)

I’m very curious to see how it feels to fuel my days from the innate energy source of my body without the synthetic addition of coffee. 

(BTW, I have no judgment of coffee drinkers. I have been a joyous one for 16 years, and I wouldn’t be giving it up if my body didn’t really want me to.)

Here’s my 4-step, “do less” method for weaning off coffee:

  1. On day 1, reduce the amount of coffee grounds you put into your coffee maker by 25%. (Feel free to replace the 25% with decaf.) Drink the same amount of coffee on day 2 as day 1.
  2. On day 3, reduce the amount of coffee grounds by another 25%. (Feel free to replace  with decaf.) Drink the same amount of coffee on day 4 as you did on day 3. 
  3. Repeat the same rhythm, reducing by 25% every other day, until you’re no longer drinking any caffeinated coffee at all.
  4. If you’ve replaced your caffeinated coffee with decaf, repeat steps 1-3 and wean from the decaf to something like Teeccino or Dandy Blend.

And, voila! You’re now off the juice.

I shall report on Instagram as I continue this coffee-free living experiment and let you know how it’s going.

One thing I do know is this:

Our bodies are our #1 most important business asset. If we don’t treat them with exquisite care, no number of customers or goals achieved will buy back our health and true radiance.

Now, I’d love to hear from you:

Have you ever quit coffee? Did you go cold turkey or wean off? Are you going to try weaning off with me? What’s your favorite morning beverage if it isn’t coffee? I’m here for all of the ideas, so leave a comment!

P.S. I wrote a piece for Harvard Business Review about why the 5-year plan is dead and how the heck those of us who always liked knowing what the future held can cope with these times from a planning perspective. Read it here and share it with anyone you know who’s struggling with uncertainty right now.

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30 comments

  • Bevan

    I quit coffee two weeks ago and feel great. I’ve replaced it with MUD/WTR which has some caffeine in it (1/7th), so eventually the plan will be to nix that as well.

    • Kate Northrup

      Yes – I’ve tried that as well! Right now I’m doing no caffeine but just for a season so I may try it again in the future!

  • Erin

    I gave up coffee for the same reason — at the advice of my functional medicine practitioner. Like you, it was my ONE big vice and I was so sad about it. I transitioned to tea, in particular, matcha. I allow myself one cup a day (drinking other teas throughout the day) and I found the best quality one I could find from a company that triple screens for heavy metals and toxins like mold etc. Adding a coconut milk MCT oil creamer from a local company that includes some nootropics to support my flow state helped me feel good about the change because it was easy to rationalize why I made the change when I looked at the list of health benefits. The first couple of weeks, it felt like a let down because I felt like I was compromising, even though I always loved tea and drank it throughout the day. The added l-theanine, however, supported my stress levels and I started to feel the beneficial effects more cumulatively. Then, with coffee in the rear view mirror, it was an easy “see ya later, bye!” I was sleeping better, less flushed face in the afternoon, and I was replenishing my adrenals and supporting my digestion! Good luck with your transition and congrats for supporting a more balanced and healthier you! Everyone has their thing and the ritual of a morning warm and tasty beverage is powerful!

    • Kate Northrup

      I love this Erin – the health benefits are already palpable and I’ve replaced the ritual with Teeccino and will be experimenting with other things. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Wow. I love reading your emails and they always resonate. But today? Today, I gave up coffee, too. I’ve been working toward it as my body has been sending me gentle nudges and I, too, do not want to make it scream. Your email is just further confirmation that I am listening and giving her the respect she so deeply deserves.

    Thanks, Kate!

  • I should wean from coffee, I know I should because my body is a healing mess. But I do not want to. I have given up all the other good stuff…grains, sugar, dairy,( cheesecake!!), alcohol. I want to keep coffee. I limit it to mornings, but I could cut back on that half a pot for sure.

  • Linda Neeb

    I have quit coffee as well on and off and it was my only vice too, I do love it but managed to give it up on my last Yogi Detox, I replaced it with Dandelion tea, then some Chai . Its been 5 months now but I will admit, the smell of it still tempts me but I am standing firm. Its a really tough habit to release so brave to you Kate,

  • Linda Neeb

    Bravo to you Kate

  • Love the Harvard article and have done that for the past 30 plus years … I’m guessing that’s why I get so much done over the years (have been called a workaholic) since retiring early 5years ago from teaching , I include more body conscious activities for sure !
    Still a coffee drinker in the AM & a tea drinker in the PM . I usually drink what my daughter calls watered down coffee , since I only use a small filter of coffee in my mr coffee maker!
    Thanks for your inspiration- I purchase and send out your Do Less book to many of my coaching clients & it’s my mantra for the year! 💚💚💚

  • I gave up coffee at 22. At first when I drank coffee, it perked me up and gave me energy. I worked at a coffee shop in my teens, which is how I started.
    I realized that coffee was no longer perking me up in my early twenties when I lived in NYC. Instead, coffee was giving me stomachaches when I drank it and headaches when I didn’t. And instead of waking me up, it made me only slightly nicer. I knew it was time to quit and did it cold turkey (sort of by accident — I thought I was drinking caffeinated tea when in fact it was herbal).
    It’s been nearly 18 years since I quit coffee and I don’t miss it. I am a mom of 3 kids and I never once wanted to go back to coffee after having kids, either

  • Hi! I have weaned myself off coffee for similar reasons. I replaced it with tea or cacao. I have since come back and drink less than I did before. The most amazing thing is that I know I don’t need it and I could go off it again now that I’ve done it before. Plus I feel good. And it’s all about feeling good.

  • Congrats on getting off the caffeine! I’ve done the same and my body and sleep thank me for it. I’m curious if you think decaf is also bad, or is it ok to just replace with decaf?

    • Kate Northrup

      From a ph perspective decaf isn’t ideal and there’s still some caffeine in it, but I would listen to your body!

  • Congrats on giving up coffee! I gave it up years ago after having digestive issues and then a panic attack. The fear of having one allowed me to quit cold turkey, but I still love the smell. 😄

  • I have always said coffee is my only vice! I feel if I gave it up along with the half and half, my middle section of my body would slim right down and thank me for it:)
    I actually said I’d quit a few weeks ago then a Dunkin’ Donuts opened less than a mile from my house. I haven’t gotten a coffee there yet-however, I’m obsessed with their matcha latte with oat milk! So if I could switch to matcha- I think I could quit coffee. I’ve cut back to one cup. I supposed I could pop a CBD If I get headaches at first- or is that just adding to the problem? I’m ready to have a clean and clear system in my body! Love everything you do Kate! Thanks for the inspiration once again!

  • Emma Mitton

    Hmmmm – great timing for your article Kate. I am starting the FAST800 in a couple of weeks and the only thing I am worried about is my morning cappuccino. I only have a very weak one but I have noticed that if I leave it for a few hours – I start to get a headache :( I already drink black tea so that part is all sorted.

  • Hi Kate – I loved this article it really resonated with me. I’ve been trying to ween myself off caffeine since i turned 40. I have it down to 1 (good) cup per day.

    I’m definitely that person that goes to bed excited for that first cup in the morning but equally know in my current season that it probably doesn’t best serve me.

    So I’m going to watch with interest to see how you get on in the hope I feel inspired enough to take the plunge!

  • I also love coffee, but have only drank it some days and only in the morning one or two cups for a long time. I realised by tracking my cycle that me and coffee in the luteal phase are really not good. So I drink caffeine-free those days and gradually this cycle I’ve been mostly drinking caffeine-free. So interesting! And yes for a long-time I’ve been putting a mix of caffeinated and decaffeinated in the bialetti, so it’s strong tasting, but not strong on the caffeine hit!

  • Katarina

    Hello, i have stopped drinking coffe two weeks ago, because of my stomack pain, because of its wild influence on my life- i mean at first moments very high beats of heart then energy goes quickly down, then i run on my toilet after drinking- it is not normal and my reflexoterapist suggested this and i love myself now more..

  • I gave up my morning coffee when I switched to eating AIP 3 years ago and replaced it with homemade bone broth. It gives me the same warmth with way more nutrients and energy, and even allows me a to follow a version of intermittent fasting. I can now tolerate coffee but I still prefer my bone broth!

  • I gave up coffee last year for the same reason – my body was telling me I needed to take better care of it due to intense stress so I gave it up! I never thought I would be able to do that, and I drank decaf : ) It was my morning ritual though and went to bed looking forward to it as well. I replaced it with Teecino like you and am so used to that now. Now on to some more lifestyle changes to help manage the stress better but feel like if I can give up coffee I can do anything! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Margaret Heisey

    HI Kate,
    Thanks for sharing your method. I’m near the end of a bag of some really good coffee, but, like you, my body (mostly my heart) is telling me it is time…I love the ritual, the smell, all of it. BUT, I love my heart more! I’ll report back…luckily, spring is around the corner, so I won’t be needing the warmth. My struggle is that tea in the morning makes me sick to my stomach. What is Teecino like? xo Maggie

  • Margaret Heisey

    HI Kate,
    I’m near the end of a bag of some really good coffee, but, like you, my body (mostly my heart) is telling me it is time…I love the ritual, the smell, all of it. BUT, I love my heart more! I’ll report back…luckily, spring is around the corner, so I won’t be needing the warmth. My struggle is that tea in the morning makes me sick to my stomach. What is Teecino like? xo Maggie

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