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About Me

About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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How and Why I Gave Up Coffee (Cold Turkey)

Posted on June 25th, 2015

 

www.iwcstockholm.se

Image source: www.iwcstockholm.se

 

Why I did it

 

Two years ago, I remember running head-first into a tall Arab man in Dubai airport, stammering out half-hearted apologies and practically sprinting forward, unphased by my 15kg carry-on I swaying behind me.

 

No, I wasn’t about to miss my flight.

 

I had just seen my first Starbucks in 4 months, fresh off a flight from an extended business trip in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

“Grande caramel frappuchino,” I practically panted at the counter, whipping out my credit card to pay in Emirati Dirhams, fulfilling so many American stereotypes at once.

 

It’s an embarrassing historical artifact of my past: the first thing I used to do when I got back in the USA after a long stint abroad was to run and have a huge, sugary mess of commercialized coffee. Last year, after working for 8 months in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Paraguay, I nearly got hit by a cab running across Second Avenue to get to the first Starbucks I saw the minute I stepped foot into Manhattan.

 

The short story: I love coffee.

 

As a blogger, it also feeds my lifestyle. I love curling up in cafes everywhere from Brooklyn to Johannesburg, hammering out my thoughts and throwing back a few good cups of fresh brew. But then there were the days I was so wired that I couldn’t write more than a paragraph. I’d have 15 browser tabs open and not a single coherent thought to share with the world. Coffee obviously wasn’t helping me be a better writer; it was just a psychological trigger.

 

My day job fed the addiction, as well. No matter where I was, coffee fueled other unhealthy habits: running out the door without breakfast, drinking only coffee in meetings until lunch, when I would be shaking and scarfing down carbs without thinking, replacing water with more coffee to get me through the rest of the day. Then I would struggle to fall asleep in the evening, and despite being a happy “night-time creative,” I still needed to be on somewhat of a normal person’s schedule to avoid sleeping late and dashing out the door with nothing in my body again.

 

I also knew that coffee is one of the darling products of a multi-billion dollar food and beverage industry that is incentivized to promote its purported benefits and mask its harmful effects. Upon further investigation, I learned that coffee is proven to promote weight gain, bad skin, bad breath, cellulite formation, yellow teeth, and anxiety. Scientifically, it generates its false buzz by stimulating the adrenal glands, which are responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response. By doing so, coffee activates the flow of stress hormones, which cause raised levels of nervousness, irritability, and tension. It also dehydrates the body, and can cause insomnia and digestive problems like heartburn and indigestion. Check out this helpful infographic: http://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-effects-on-body.

 

After doing my research and seeing no conclusive evidence that drinking coffee in any quantity had substantial health benefits that I couldn’t reap from other changes to my diet, I decided to conduct an experiment: I wanted to see how I felt, for the first time in maybe 10 years, without coffee.

 

So I quit. Cold turkey.

 

Since the ultimate culprit of coffee is the caffeine, that meant tea had to go, too. Embarking on this experiment while living in Qatar, a country that runs on thick Arabic brews, would be extra challenging, not to mention that refusing tea or coffee in a meeting is equivalent to rebuking the very core of Arab hospitality, rooted deeply in the nomadic heritage of the Gulf countries. Would I be physically, and culturally, able to do it?

 

How I did it

 

Initially, I threw out all the coffee items in my house so there wouldn’t be any temptation lying around, and I avoided cafes for the first week. For the first 3 days, I suffered from pretty nasty withdrawal headaches (coffee is a DRUG!), so I would take an aspirin mid-morning to get to the other side.

 

Then I decided to replace my afternoon coffee urge with one cup of green tea, which also contains caffeine, but only a fraction of what’s in the usual cup of coffee and boasts enormous additional health benefits. After drinking my green tea, I felt relaxed and sharp for the rest of the day. My “mental chatter” had quieted and my concentration drastically improved. It was nothing like the “wired” feeling I got from coffee. In meetings, I asked for water and a tea with milk (the least amount of caffeine possible), and sipped on it enough to be polite. I also started drinking more water in the morning and throughout the day to boost my natural energy, hydration, and metabolic levels.

 

At the same time, I focused on overhauling my diet and boosting my overall nutrition with 9 servings of fruits and vegetables and a huge reduction in breads, pastas, meat, and dairy. I immediately noticed the positive effect on my energy levels. Because I wasn’t consuming coffee, a notorious hunger suppressant, I had a real appetite and welcomed the new and improved foods with the gusto of a starving street cat.

 

After two weeks, I realized I didn’t need coffee anymore. I had made a purposeful, permanent shift in the direction of total wellness. I didn’t trust coffee either. One cup could throw off this newfound natural bounce in my step, my calm focus, level-headed work sessions, and sound nights of sleep.

 

Then I had another discovery. Three weeks into my new regimen, I ventured for a coffee-free chai latte at a Costa Coffee chain while working on an article. I wasn’t craving coffee, but I was facing a trigger: writing makes me want to drink coffee. I figured a tea-based alternative would be a safe bet. I barely took five sips when I started to feel anxious, my focus abandoned me, and in another ten sips I was visibly shaking. What was happening?

 

I realized that not only coffee, but the amount of sugar I typically consumed along with my coffee, which was absent in my naturally tasty green teas, had the same negative effects as my previous go-to beverage. By giving up coffee, I had significantly lowered my daily sugar intake. This tea, chock full of artificial flavorings and sugars, was just as bad as a coffee, even without the caffeine. I now had two confirmed enemies: caffeine and sugar.

 

Did it work? And do I recommend others to do the same?

 

Yes, and yes.

 

It worked for me, but now it’s your turn to ask yourself if you are using coffee as a tool, if you are relying on it when you have no energy, if you’re out of touch with your natural body because of it, if it seems correlated to constant fatigue. If this is the case, then it might be time to try going without.

 

You know your body best, and it’s great to experiment with adding or removing substances we consume often and without second thought, like coffee, alcohol, and sugar, to see how we personally respond to that change.

 

Many of us have grown up in an American “pop health culture” that we expect a definitive answer to questions like “Is caffeine bad? Should I take diet supplements? How much sugar or red wine or blueberries is right for me?” The truth is, only you can know. Do your own research (hint: many trusted authorities in the USA like the CDC or NHA are funded in large part by pharmaceutical industry giants), and know that while some guidelines make sense across the board, every human body is unique and you will react differently to something than your neighbor.

 

We’ve also been taught “everything in moderation,” but sometimes it’s better to opt for total elimination of something we learn our own body doesn’t like or doesn’t need. We don’t need coffee. But we need water, fresh fruits and vegetables in large quantities, toxin-free meats in smaller quantities, frequent exercise, and close-knit communities that provide emotional and spiritual support.

 

Benefits I realized from giving up coffee:

 

– No more brain fog

– No more caffeine cravings or headaches

– Improved concentration

– Improved memory

– Reduced mental chatter

– Lowered anxiety

– Recovered appetite (especially upon waking)

– Hungry at normal eating times

– Improved sleep (and development of a natural sleep rhythm)

– Better moods

– Saved money

 

Take-aways and what I would advise to others giving up coffee for the first time:

 

– Have a replacement you are excited about. Focus on that instead of what you’re giving up. In my case, green tea was a fantastic alternative and comes highly recommended by the scientific community.

– It’s not just about the coffee, but about the associated sugar intake (at least in my case).

– It’s also about improving your total diet and wellness to achieve natural energy levels and eliminate the caffeine dependency.

– It can be done cold turkey, with no pain and no turning back.

– It doesn’t have to affect your social life: opt for water, juices, and caffeine-free teas with milk when you work or meet friends in cafes after the 30 day mark.

– Learn what triggers your cravings and avoid or change those triggers. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a habit (ie. writing and drinking coffee at the same time) that can be re-programmed.

– Consider taking power naps, which studies show to have a positive affect on energy, instead of relying on coffee.

 

In my case, it worked especially well because coffee was linked to other destructive behaviors (ie. sleeping late, skipping breakfast, and craving a coffee that would unconsciously pacify my hunger and give me a false energy), so taking out one part of the formula helped me re-evaluate the entire equation.

 

Also, eliminating one thing I didn’t need from my diet helped me implement other healthy habits, like drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more frequently, and consuming less sugar overall, thereby creating a positive domino effect in my life.

 

I felt like I was finally in charge.

 

And all things considered, it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and I can’t imagine ever going back.

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About Me

About Me

IMG_5937

Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

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Currently in: Malawi

 

 

Previously in: Berlin

 

img_6015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Hot

Recent Posts

Coaching

Coaching

Step into my office!

 

Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

Now I use Office Hours to help my clients do the same.

 

Do you want to travel but are scared to quit your job?

Do you want to find a job overseas but don’t know where to start?

Do you wake up in the morning dreading what’s ahead?

Read more

Like Me on Facebook

Like Me On Facebook

Follow me on twitter

Follow me on twitter

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