A Wellness Challenge: Quitting coffee, sugar and dairy


wellness challenge cupcake

Can you quit coffee, sugar and dairy without losing your mind?

Some habit change gurus would tell you no, never quit more than one thing at once, but I’m an all or nothing type of woman. 

Do all the things at once? Heck yes, I’m in. Let’s do it. 

Quit everything cold turkey? Well, heck, why not? Let’s change as many habits as we can.

And so for the second time in my life, and against conventional habit wisdom, I’m quitting several things at once. 

Lately, my mind has been filled with thoughts of finishing the healing process. I want to feel good in my body and mind. I want to be full of energy again. 

Bad habits stop us from reaching the life we desire. They wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, and yep, they’re a big time and energy suck.

I’m tired of being tired. I’ve had enough of not being productive and motivated. I’m exhausted from always being amped up from coffee. 

Sure, there are those times in life when things get messy and crazy, nothing adds up, everything is topsy-turvy and it feels good to take comfort in unhealthy things to heal. But you can only overindulge for so long before you start to feel gross, unhealthy, and yes, maybe a dress size (or two) bigger than usual. 

For me, I’ve felt stagnant and stuck. It’s time that I take my wellness in hand, correct a few bad habits (addictions?), and finish the healing process.

I’m no stranger to cutting out all the bad stuff from my diet. I did it in 2009 while I was going through my divorce. It was the best thing I did. I’ve never felt so good in my life. I felt happy, positive, full of energy, and ready to take on the world. 

But, it can be tough making detoxes or wellness changes stick. 

Shortly after my divorce in 2010, I started a new job which quickly became very stressful. Then, I lost that job which sent me spiralling into a grieving period for the loss of a 16-year sales career. Although I tried desperately to hold onto the positive and see it for the opportunity it was, I faltered as many of us do, and some of my old habits came back.

Now, it’s time to replace those bad habits with good ones…

So if you’re up for it, feel free to join in and we can get our lives moving forward together!

A Wellness Challenge: quitting coffee, sugar and dairy

What I’m giving up

My coffee addiction is real. Of course, it doesn’t help that I work part-time at a coffee shop. I’m surrounded by all the bad things for five to eight hours at a time. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it’s going to be to give up my coconut milk Flat White. Those beautifully sweet ristretto shots and coconut milk are perfection.

Then there’s the sweets. Whoever invented oat fudge bars is the evilest person alive. Then there’s chocolate cake pops. And well, we could get into my love of cheese, which I used to eat non-stop as a child. Whenever we had a family get together, you could find me at the cheese platter. Now as an adult, I love an aged English cheddar with a full-bodied glass of wine.

Here’s what I’m going to be up against:

  • At least one espresso beverage a day.
  • One cup of freshly ground French Press coffee at home each morning.
  • All the cheese.
  • All the sweets, pastries, macrons, and homemade madeleines.
Why do a wellness challenge?

It’s rather simple really — I want to transform my life again. Life is full of cycles and stages. Sure it’s easy to keep plugging along as I always have, but will doing that make me happy? Probably not.

I know in my heart that change is upon me and it’s time to travel down another fork in the road.

There are many reasons I’ve decided to take on this challenge. Here goes:

  • I’ve been feeling lethargic, bloated, inflamed, and my joints have begun to ache. When I overindulge, my body lets me know and I’ve learned to listen. If my joints are aching, I’m taking in too much gluten. If I get pimples, it’s too much dairy. If I get itchy spots (especially on my face), that equals too much refined sugar. 
  • I want to feel calm and balanced again. I don’t want to feel irritable, moody, angry, anxiety-ridden, or depressed to the max anymore. I mean, who wants that?
  • My massage therapist said my body is very inflamed and that I need to do something about it. 
  • I want to create a business and life I love. I want to be of service to others. In order to do that, I need to be at optimal health.
  • I want to leave behind fear, doubt, anxiety and depression. Our natural state of being is to operate from a place of love. When your body is not well, you’re not at your highest state of being. It’s hard to give and receive love when you’re feeling less than.

wellness challenge chatting over cupcake

Goals to stay motivated

Goals are like a guiding light. They give us reminders for why we’re doing something. I don’t always form goals in the traditional sense, they’re more along the lines of how I want to feel or live my life.

Here’s a few feel-good goals I’m striving for:

  • To reconnect with my intuition.
  • To feel good in my body (and mind) again. Clear mind, pain-free, and dropping the extra weight.
  • To be strong and energetic.
  • To have healthy routines that are simple and not time-consuming.

You’ll notice these goals focus primarily on how I want to feel, how I envision my ideal well-being and are very simple. They might not work for you. When creating your goals, ask yourself how you’re motivated — is it a numbers game or an ideal feeling that you’re after?

The rules

Without rules, the door is left open for bad habits to creep back in. You create grey area. Rules are rules and there should be no cutting corners or getting around them.

Here are my non-negotiables for this wellness challenge:

  1. Love everything I consume.
  2. No refined sugars. I’m allowing myself only natural sugars from fruits and natural juices. 
  3. No coffee or espresso! I am only allowed tea, preferably green tea. Green tea is loaded with anti-oxidants that have powerful health benefits like improved brain function, increased fat loss, cancer prevention and more.
  4. Minimal alcohol. I’m thinking once a month for girls night.
  5. No dairy! No milk, cheese, butter, or any foods containing dairy.
  6. Track habits and progress using a habit tracker in my bullet journal. I’ll be tracking: hydration, moods, me time, gratitude, no coffee, no sugar, no alcohol, no money spent and of course, exercise.
  7. One cheat day per month. I’m debating this one still. But, we all fail on occasion and this might help make things a bit easier and help me keep these habits in the long-term.
How to jumpstart healthy change in your life
  • Replace bad habits with a good habit. As an example, green tea is replacing coffee. Alcohol and sugar are being replaced with exercise, self-care and gratitude.
  • Visualize yourself healthy and thriving. 
  • Plan to fail – use a cheat day and don’t beat yourself up. We learn a lot from failure, so don’t be afraid of failing.
  • Replace negative self-talk with an “I can” statement. Such as? I can be strong and fit. I can be healthy and wealthy. Using “I can” or “I am” affirms to your brain that you’re already in possession of these states of being.
Routines to stay healthy and overcome side effects
  • Self-care is a must. So, every Sunday I’m making sure I stick to my Self-Care Sunday routine.
  • Staying hydrated and keeping track of it. A lemon water first thing in the morning!
  • Taking care of my mind with gratitude, affirmations, journaling and exercise.

Dealing with side effects

In October, I began experimenting with cutting back. So I’ve prepared myself for all the migraines, episodes of brain fog, crankiness, and cravings. It’s inevitable that they’ll show up. As much as I don’t like taking pain relievers, I’ll be making sure I have them at the ready for the migraines.

The toughest thing is getting past the first week. It’s always the roughest and when you’ll experience the most side effects from detoxing your body. 

Anti-inflammatory foods I’m stocking the pantry with

I already consume a lot of these foods in my diet already, but I could do with a lot more of them. If anything, this challenge is more about eliminating the bad stuff because I already eat the good stuff. 

These superfoods help with cleansing the body.

Here’s what I’ll be reaching for instead of sugar and dairy:

  • Chia seeds – essential fatty acids, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium!
  • Quinoa – amino acids and protein!
  • Gluten-free oatmeal – high in fibre and antioxidants and keeps my tummy full!
  • Leafy greens (kale, chard) – high in calcium and iron!
  • Green tea – antioxidants!
  • Garlic – good for cold and flu!
  • Tumeric – fights inflammation and depression!
  • Lemon – vitamin C and promotes hydration!
  • Ginger – relieves inflammation in the body!

It’s interesting but the more people I talk to about quitting caffeine, sugar, and other bad foods, I realize I’m not alone. A lot of my friends and colleagues drink a cup of coffee or eat too many sweets out of habit and ritual. It’s become a staple in their day. And one that many of them realize is unhealthy.

I’ve given up coffee, sugar, and dairy only one other time in my life — 2009/2010 during my separation and divorce. It was the best thing I did. Even though giving up coffee and sugar is hard, if you have the desire and will to improve your well-being, you won’t regret it.

Isn't it time to set yourself up for success? A healthy body and mind leads to a healthy and wealthy life. A wellness challenge can help set you up for success and a thriving life. Read on for my wellness challenge.

Comments +

  1. Little Plastic Footprint says:

    I’m definitely going to follow along! I’ve given up coffee and sugar on and off over the last few years but never quite managed to stick to it. I found that using honey, dates and maple syrup helped me, and although I still do eat sugar I eat far less of it which is a good thing. I also make sure that I only have caffeinated coffee in the mornings which I’ve found has helped with sleep.

    Good luck!

    • Michelle says:

      Yay! I hope it’ll be helpful for you. It is so hard to give up coffee and sugar, we’re surrounded by it and they’re probably two of the biggest habits that most people have.
      I love using honey, dates and maple syrup for sweeteners! Maple syrup usually goes in my oatmeal or chia pudding. Super yummy!

      Thanks and best of luck to you too! I know we can rock this!

  2. Sandra Simplicity says:

    You are so not alone. I’m one week into a new plan I’m following and the sugar is out of the equation for sure. In my case, I don’t need to cut coffee because I never liked it in first place… hehehe 🙂 Dairy is something that so far I’m also trying to cut. Good luck in your wellness challenge!

    • Michelle says:

      You are so lucky that you never liked coffee! I think it’s more the smell of it that gets me. I read somewhere that Seth Godin loves the smell of coffee but can’t drink it, so he makes a cup just to smell it.

      For dairy, I usually switch to goat cheese when I get a big craving, then I’m able to cut it entirely. That’s what I did in 2009 when I did my first cleanse/detox. Goat’s milk doesn’t have the same impact on your digestive system that cow’s milk does. Different enzymes I believe.

      Good luck to you too! 🙂

  3. Garden Goddess says:

    Good for you! I developed a coffee addiction over a couple of months by having a double espresso each morning. I missed one morning and got a terrible headache and realized I sorely needed to cut back, and so I did. However, I only did one “cut back” vs all the ones you are attempting, so I really have to applaud your ambition! In the future, if you are still having arthritic pains, you might also want to look at the Solanacae family of foods, which include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and chile peppers. I noticed I get arthritic after eating potatoes, which is a real shame as they are one of my favorite foods… These food sensitivities seem to affect you more the older you grow. Anyway, you might be interested in Dr. Michael Greger’s blog: NutritionFacts.org to get science backed nutrition information you might find useful. His weekly email on Sunday had a short article yesterday about green tea vs black tea. Green tea has gotten all the good press, but I prefer black tea and was wondering if it had the same good properties. Apparently it does, but ONLY if you do NOT put dairy milk in it–which negates all the good effects. I like it black, so YEA! Anyway, best wishes on your journey. Cheers

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks! And I hear you on the addiction, coffee is so addictive. For me, it’s habit based, like when I do certain things or as part of my morning routine.

      Thanks for the tips! I think tomatoes may be a problem for me, I’ll have to check out Dr. Greger’s blog.

      While I enjoy green tea, I do also enjoy black tea as well. I love Chai and Oolong which are both black teas. Good to know that it might be okay!

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