5 Ways Quitting Coffee, Sugar and Dairy Helped Improve My Life

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wellness challenge grapefruit tea magazine

Taking my wellness seriously has been long overdue. Like, 2012ish overdue. The job I had at the time was taking its toll on me physically, mentally and emotionally. And it only got worse. Before a layoff in 2015, I had all the stress dumped on my shoulders. My health was at an all-time low. 

So a golden opportunity came when I was laid off, or so I thought. 

I faced a court battle, grieving my 16-year career, the loss of a loved one, and all the doubt, fear and anxiety life could throw at me with trying to take this blog full-time and start a freelance writing business. 

I let bad habits take over. I wallowed, avoided, and resisted. And I was stressed out the max. I’d been working on overdrive for so long; my body was overwhelmed. The little bit of self-care I had been doing wasn’t keeping up with my overtaxed mind, body, and soul.

In case you haven’t been following along, I took on the big task of quitting coffee, sugar and dairy for November. I know, I know, all the wellness and self-help gurus would laugh at me. But you know what? It’s not that hard, and it’s left me feeling so much better.

When I walked into my naturopath appointment on November 13th and answered all her questions, she told me one thing — you’re stressed out. She said I’d been through a lot and my body hasn’t been able to slow down. But it wasn’t all bad news, she walked me through my recent blood work and told me I’m very healthy in spite of it all. And, I’d been doing the right thing with the supplements I’d been taking.

In case you haven’t been to a naturopath, I found it to be super awesome! This first appointment took over an hour but was worth it. I’d never had anyone explain my bloodwork to me before and being able to talk to someone honestly about all that I’ve been through the past few years and whether what I’d been doing to help my wellbeing was working was a breath of fresh air. 

For the first time in a long time, I felt relieved. And a release. 

Her recommendation? 

Continue my wellness challenge (she said it was the best thing I was doing). Completely eliminate dairy, gluten, and sugar.

Take AOR Orthoadapt to help my system calm down.*

*Please research this product and consult a professional before taking.

Focus on journalling my moods and feelings and commit to the bullet journal I started. 

My Progress (How I did) wellness challenge bullet journal

Month to date (November 26) – I’m being fully transparent here.

  • Bullet Journal – 20 out of 30 days
  • Exercise – 16 out of 30 days
  • No coffee – 16 out of 30 days
  • No alcohol – 16 out of 30 days (meaning a glass or two of wine)
  • No sugar – 16 out of 30 days
  • No dairy – 12 out of 30 days (can you tell I love cheese? *sigh*)
  • Hydrate – 22 out of 30 days
How I did it

Accepted my current state and envisioned my future state.

Challenged myself to stop avoiding my emotions and life.

Focused more on self-care: not just hot baths and salt soaks, but also less phone time, and more quiet just sitting and being time.

Enlisted the help of others:

  • Naturopath – I had an initial consultation with a follow up booked for Dec 13th.
  • Dentist – I had a full cleaning with a follow up to fill two small cavities.
  • Massage Therapist – I had a deep massage, with a relaxing massage booked for this week. And, you’ll be so proud of me, I booked my next appointment for January!
  • Eye Doctor – Went back for my regular checkup (I hadn’t been in two years!) and got my eyes checked, prescription renewed and ordered contact lenses.

Focused on simple, healthy meals.

I cut out a lot more than coffee, sugar, and dairy. I also removed alcohol and gluten as much as possible. 

wellness challenge grapefruit magazine

5 Ways Quitting Coffee, Sugar and Dairy Helped Improve My Life

1. I embraced forgiveness, self-love and acceptance.

I’m a super stubborn woman. I’m a Taurus after all, so it’s in my nature. It can be hard for me to forgive and show myself love. One thing people have always told me? Stop being so hard on yourself Michelle! So, on the weekend, in my evening prayer, I forgave myself for the last two and a half years and everything that’s happened. I forgave myself for falling into a pit of despair and for all the bad habits I accumulated again. This simple act made me cry. It’s funny, you can do all the self-care you like and believe it’s helping you, but it’s not always helping.

The greatest act of self-care? Taking a few moments to clean up your life and then forgive yourself for whatever made you go astray. 

2. Clarity.

If it’s possible to be in a fog for several years, I was in it. But, I know from experience that a significant life change can do that to you. 

By embracing healthier habits, I’ve found clarity, calm, and direction. One of my goals for this wellness challenge was to seek clarity and reconnect with my intuition. I’m happy to say, that it’s coming back. 

3. Discipline.

Something I’d been seriously lacking in my life was discipline. And because of it, I’d fallen out of a regular exercise routine, and allowed unhealthy eating habits to take over. 

We always think of discipline as something negative, something that forces us to do what we don’t want. But honestly? I believe discipline is a form of self-love. As strange as that may sound, it’s true. 

Without discipline, our unhealthy habits can run our lives. We accumulate stuff, debt, and a few extra pounds. We forget to enlist the help of others. And, most importantly, we put off all the dentist, doctor and massage appointments we shouldn’t have been avoiding. 

Discipline helped me to challenge the anxiety and uncomfortableness. When you remove coffee, sugar, and dairy, you’re bound to face some withdrawal symptoms. I faced moodiness, irritability and headaches during this past month, but by being disciplined and doing my very best to stick to healthier habits, I’m feeling much better this week. 

4. Learned to face my procrastination, avoidance and resistance.

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. 

This second, we can sit down and do our work.” ~ Steven Pressfield

I’ve always found reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art to be calming. The book is a diamond in the rough that gives you a kick in the arse. I keep a copy and refuse to lend it out to anyone on pain of death because it’s one of those books I go back to repeatedly. And it’s not just for creatives, a lot of it applies to everyday life. It explains every reason why we resist and avoid doing things that are most important to us. 

And so, I learned to face head on all the things that were destroying my life. Procrastination was holding me back from writing, making healthcare appointments, and taking care of myself. 

Avoidance and resistance had evolved to such a fever pitch that it was almost unendurable. I’d grown frustrated and often felt I was on the outside looking in at my life wondering what on earth was happening. It’s such a strange feeling. You know what you need to do, and yet, you have this invisible force, called avoidance and resistance, holding you back from what is most crucial.

So each day, I faced it. I dealt with it. I felt all the uncomfortable feelings.  I fought the easy way out and took the hard path. Day in and day out, I battled with what had once felt comfortable. And, with grace, I slowly began to wake up to a new life. I still have a ways to go yet, but I’m happy with my imperfect progress.

5. I challenged the “easy” things. 

If anything, fear and the easy way out were the biggest things I had to conquer. What I thought was relaxing and giving myself space, was instead me taking the easy way out. I’d fallen deep into my comfort zone again. Sure, sometimes you need it, but it can be destructive when taken in several year doses at a time. Self-awareness in all areas of your life is more important than you know!

I’ll leave you with this — if you’re stuck, a little lost, and unhappy with where you’re at in life, what harm could a simple wellness challenge do? You could come out the other side finding another part of yourself and increasing your happiness. More does not always get us to the finish line, and to be honest, less doesn’t always cut it either — it’s how you show up for every moment of your life. By all means, embrace simple. But remember to be mindful each step of the way.

Have you ever wanted to try a wellness challenge but wondered what you'd actually learn from it? Here's my month long journey and 5 ways quitting coffee, sugar and dairy helped improve my life.

Comments +

  1. Sandra Simplicity says:

    Hey Michelle, loved your honesty… The important thing is to never give up and keep pushing. Thanks for sharing how your small changes improved your life. Keep going 🙂

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