Coffee: That million dollar international industry that drags us out of bed every morning with its rich, warm smells. The average American can’t start their day without it, but lucky for you, I gave it up for a whole month so you could all find out what it’s like. Throughout my month-long journey, I learned a thing or two about my caffeine addiction, and it totally made me think twice before picking the habit back up again.

Coffee Has a Major Social Aspect

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Getting together with someone for the first time? No one ever goes for an apple juice date, a chocolate milk date, or even a tea date – it’s always a coffee date. Whether it’s a first date with someone special or a date to catch up with your BFF from high school, people seems to love getting together over a warm cup of Joe.

During my month living without coffee, I was surprised to realize how social coffee is. I found myself constantly explaining why I could not grab a quick latte with a friend between classes. Yeah sure, I could go get tea with people, but no one ever invites a friend to get tea, and tea shops are way less common than coffee shops.

Who knew coffee was more than a drink, but a social catalyst as well (shout out to all my chemistry fans out there).

The Calories Really Add Up

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Photo By Olivia Bonevento

Since I was 16, I had been starting my day off with, “can I get a medium non-fat Vanilla Latte with two Splenda, please?” I thought that everything would be fine since I was ordering my latte with non-fat milk and an artificial sweetener, but after a month, I realized that I was wrong.

A medium vanilla latte from Starbucks is still 150 calories, even without whole milk or sugar, and 150 extra calories in my day every day adds up to 4,500 extra calories a month. 4,500 calories. Just take a second to digest that (see what I did there?). As a foodie, I was stoked to figure this out because now I can spend my extra calories on other culinary wonders, and as a health nut, I was excited to have some calories eliminated from my diet.

Now that I am drinking coffee again, I have started to order just a regular coffee with skim milk. Eliminating the vanilla and extra milk used in a latte has helped me avoid drinking all of my calories.

The Money Adds Up, Too

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So remember when I did that little math equation about all the calories I saved? Let’s do the same thing with the price of coffee too. I think you’ll be as surprised as I was to see how expensive a coffee habit is.

1 cup of coffee a day at $2.35 for a caramel iced coffee or $3.95 for a caramel latte times 30 days in a month adds up to a whopping $70.50 for the iced coffee or $118.50 for the latte. Almost $120? On coffee? Man, that’s a lot, and that’s assuming you only get coffee once a day.

Like many of my fellow caffeine-addicted college peers, I usually consume 3-4 cups a day, and will buy 2-3 of them. Not buying your daily coffee may not seem like it’s saving you that much cash, but the cost adds up over the month, and giving it up definitely made me more aware of this.

On a budget but need your coffee fix? Check out  these tips on how to make coffee in your Keurig that will make you think it’s from Starbucks.

Caffeine Alertness Isn’t Authentic

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The jitters, the giggles, and even that restless feeling are all common symptoms of drinking coffee. Every morning, I was convinced that I needed coffee to wake up, and I started to equate being jumpy with being awake. The first three days of giving up coffee were terrible: I felt like I had the worst hangover of my life and I was really sleepy. Caffeine withdrawals are real, people. Tylenol can’t touch a headache like that.

After the first week or so, the headaches had subsided, which I suspected would happen, but something else happened that I wasn’t expecting: I was more awake. Rather than feeling that artificial awareness that is so common when drinking coffee, I felt refreshed and ready to go, using natural energy rather than a caffeine rush.

I fell asleep easier and slept longer, which made it so much easier to wake up in the morning. Coffee, and caffeine in general, gave me a false sense of alertness that was usually kind of hazy, versus the true energy I get when I’m well rested.

Your Body Definitely Builds Up a Tolerance to Caffeine

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Rumor has it that the more coffee you drink, the more you need for that caffeine high to take effect. I did a little digging (Nancy Drew style) and discovered that this is totally true. I’ll spare you the super science-y details, but basically, your brain becomes dependent on caffeine to function, and the more you drink, the more your brain will start to expect.

Eventually, it will take a certain amount just to feel normal, and an extra cup to get that energy boost. Going on a caffeine detox was terrible at first because my body wasn’t getting what it thought that it needed to wake up, but after awhile, my brain became less dependent on espresso… and so did I.

Now that I’m back to drinking coffee, it only takes me one cup to feel that fabulous caffeine buzz.

I Had a Lot Less Anxiety

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So you know how they say that coffee can give you the jitters? While sometimes it’s helpful to be extra energetic in the morning, other times I found that my mind would be spinning a million miles a minute.

I’ve always been a high-strung and anxious person, but I noticed that my anxiety got wayyyy worse when I went to college. At first, I attributed this to the increased workload and stress that comes with it, but I was freaking out about some pretty random stuff, like whether or not I had matching socks for that class with the cute boy in it.

As it turns out, excess caffeine can have some pretty nasty side effects, including heart palpitations, light-headedness, nausea, and you guessed it, anxiety. Check out this link about the science of caffeine if you want to get your nerd on.

Now that I know why I was sweating the small stuff, I can take a minute to step back and ask myself if my dilemma is really worth a meltdown, or if I’m just too highly caffeinated.

Finally, The Caffeine Crash Is Legit

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It’s 2 pm. You had your morning fix six hours ago. Your limbs and eyelids feel heavy. You’re getting sleeeeeepy and you know that the caffeine crash is in full swing. Ugh. That afternoon slump is the literal worst. Unfortunately, the easiest way to avoid the crash is to refuel with another cup of coffee.

Since I had given up coffee, I was desperate to find something to keep me awake during my afternoon classes. Once again, I turned to my trusty cellphone and googled “ways to stay awake without coffee.” Check out what I found.

Staying active was obviously the best way, but that’s kinda hard to do when you’re stuck in class, it’s not like you can bust out a yoga pose in the middle of your lecture. So I chose the next best thing: ice. I didn’t want to chow down on too many calories during class, so I decided to go the ice cube route.

I brought a cup filled with ice to class and crunched on it in the back of the class. It worked out pretty well, and I continued to do it even after I went back to drinking coffee. The only downside was the weird looks I got when I bit down on the ice, but who doesn’t like turning heads, right?

Even with my little experiment behind me, I definitely learned a lot about my relationship with caffeine and have modified my intake so that I’m not so dependent on those magical beans.