quitting coffee

sometimes saying ‘no’ can be the hardest thing

After years of being a coffee addict, I made a decision to quit drinking coffee.

The decision process started in late winter when I began getting excruciating cramps in my legs and hips every time I was working out. The pain from the cramps were so severe, I would writhe in pain on the sofa with tears in my eyes for a good five minutes. I’d never experienced anything like it all my life, so I was genuinely freaked out when these episodes repeated themselves for weeks afterwards. Apart from cycling to and from work and light workouts, I didn’t do any other forms of exercise, haunted by memories of the cramps.

As the weather warmed up and the possibility of going on long-distance cycling trips became more apparent, I fell into depression thinking I won’t be able to do another long-distance cycling trip if the leg cramps persisted. I confided in anyone I met about my bouts of pain. Most people had no clue as to why I had these cramps and suggested I should see a doctor about the problem. The one or two who’s had persistent health issues would suggest it was due to a lack of iron or a side effect of my thyroid meds.caffe habitu hk

During my next visit to the endocrinologist, I worked up the courage to ask if I was iron deficient. The endocrinologist glanced at my blood test and said that wasn’t the case. It was only then I decided I could discuss my cramps with the doctor. Without hesitation, she said it sounded like I was calcium deficient. I was taken aback by her answer because I’ve been taking calcium supplements everyday for the good part of a year. How could I be possibly calcium deficient?

Strangely enough, I recalled a conversation with my aunt years ago when she told me how her coffee addiction was making it difficult to retain calcium in her body. Normally I would’ve done research rather than take her word for it. But this time round, I made a snap decision there and then: I’m going to quit coffee and see if the cramps go away.

This was probably one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. My family, friends and colleagues were well aware I couldn’t survive on less than 3 cups of coffee a day during the week — an espresso with breakfast, a soy latte late morning and an Americano late afternoon.  Whenever I knew I was travelling to a Chinese town where I had no way of getting a decent cup of joe, I’d pack my own ground coffee and french press to make my own coffee. Even when I made the decision to quit coffee, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually carry through with it.

Since April, I’ve been limiting myself to one cup of coffee a day during the work week, and avoiding coffee altogether on the weekend. The good news is, I no longer get the debilitating leg cramps since I’ve drastically cut down my coffee intake. I’ve survived quite a few long-distance and uphill rides since late March without getting off and pushing my bike. And thankfully, I’ve learnt that I don’t need coffee to stay awake at work after lunch. A short nap on my desk can do wonders no amount of caffeine can. When desperate, drinking black tea works too.

The bad news is, I haven’t exactly quit coffee altogether. I’ve been convincing myself that indulging in the occasional espresso or soy latte during the week is okay as long as I drank none before a ride, ate bananas regularly and drank coconut water after an intense ride.

I often wonder if there’ll ever be enough incentive for me to quit coffee altogether, but these days, I’ve learnt to be content with whatever progress I make when it comes to resolutions, be it ever so small.

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