By Ben Abramowitz, Noom Content Writer
As a Content Writer at Noom, I feel lucky to spend so much time in the headspace of health journeys. There’s a great deal of empowerment to be found in the psychology of behavior change, and my work to enhance Noomers’ experience of our programs often teaches me lessons that I can apply to my personal life. Pretty sweet perk, right?
Recently, I realized that the answer to an enduring source of tension in my life—the struggle to figure out the best daily amount of caffeine for me—was staring me right in the face, in the form of a fundamental Noom principle.
To say that I love coffee isn’t just an understatement; it doesn’t begin to capture the state of affairs. I like everything related to coffee. I like listening to its tiny drip through my pour-over filter; watching the grounds lightly swirl like a lava lamp in my French press; and hearing my phone remind me that it’s time to check on my homemade 24-hour cold brew. I like ordering it at my favorite cafes (if you visit Brooklyn, check out Baba Cool). I like holding it; I believe that sometimes the right coffee cup can complete an outfit. And when it’s in my hand, I can sometimes feel its love entering through my palm and traveling up my arm, straight to my heart.
Maybe you’re also a coffee addict, or maybe you can relate because there’s a specific food that you can count on to bring you joy or put you at ease. I understand how coffee can be about so much more than feeling more awake or alert. For some time, a 16-ounce cold brew felt like a simple and effective answer to everything. If I felt tired, I took a few sips. If I felt stressed, I took a few more. If I needed to hyper-focus on work, I gulped it down.
But then there’s what I don’t love about coffee. There’s the jittery feeling when what you most want to do is get some shut-eye but your head and heart are racing too fast for you to sleep. Scientifically, this is because caffeine works by blocking a molecule called adenosine, which makes you feel tired, from binding to receptors in your brain. This means that caffeine doesn’t really give you energy—it just prevents you, temporarily, from feeling how tired you are. Which brings me to the next thing I don’t love about coffee: the crash. After the peak of the buzz, I’d always be a lot more tired (or anxious, or stressed out) than I was when I took that habitual first sip. Like many comfort foods, coffee comes with consequences, some of them harmful to me.
Okay, we’re getting close to the Noom principle now. Among the hundreds of psychological ideas discussed in the Noom Weight and Noom Mood programs, one of them is thought distortions. Thought distortions are basically tricks our minds play on us to convince us of things that aren’t true. When a voice in your head says, “I scarfed down a cupcake during my break, so the whole day is already ruined,” that’s a thought distortion. Many thought distortions fall into the category of “all-or-nothing thinking.” Like many people, I’m highly susceptible to all-or-nothing thinking.
Sometimes, I believe, my all-or-nothing thinking makes me funnier. Its reductiveness lends itself to some surprising punchlines. But when it comes to more serious things, it’s a big-time obstacle. It’s what led me to decide that—my mood be damned—I needed to quit coffee completely. I was either going to be a coffee freak or get rid of it forever. Because I hadn’t yet identified my thought distortion, I started the process of quitting.
The transition was challenging, but I got support from decaf, half-caff, tea, other energy supplements (my favorite one was a mushroom-based powder called Everyday DOSE), and my own team here at Noom. (Yeah, we’re all obsessed with behavior change.) And after about a month of feeling like a laundry bag full of bricks in the mornings then navigating days like some kind of robot running on fumes, I started to feel okay.
Just okay. Not amazing.
I was proud that I accomplished my goal—I was fully functioning without any caffeine—but the pride wore off fast when I accepted that I just wasn’t happy. For me, living without coffee wasn’t sustainable.
Sustainability—of course! At Noom, sustainability is everything. So many Noomers keep the weight off for good because they don’t renounce doughnuts or any other foods they might love. Instead, Noom helps guide people to be more mindful about such foods: How often do you eat them? Do you take a moment to appreciate them when you do? Can you moderate your portion sizes? How much of them can you eat to stay happy, while also staying on track toward your health goals? Like I said, the answer was staring me right in the face. I needed to enjoy coffee in a way that was sustainable.
After being off of it for a few months, my first sip of coffee—it was a short Starbucks cold brew, on my way to the gym—really felt amazing. My head and my whole body felt lighter. I suddenly became very excited about doing sit-ups and also taken with the beauty of the block I was standing on. (It is actually a severely congested street lined with industrial garbage bags). Now, I have a 6-ounce cup of coffee every morning, and it doesn’t give me that high of the first sip after a hiatus (probably for the best), but it does make me feel energized. And happy. I appreciate it, and I do my best to hold onto it through the day. And if I have a 2:30 p.m. slump or something extra-important to focus on, I might have a cup of green tea, which has about a third of the caffeine of coffee. By limiting my coffee intake, I get the joy of caffeine without the nerves. That’s sustainable, and lovely.
What if I slip? What if I start needing more and more caffeine to feel good, and I get to the point where I’m crashing again? No worries on my end: I’ll have the confidence to know that I got myself to a sustainable place before, and I can do it again.
The point is this: if swearing off coffee made me unhappy, then it wasn’t worth it. It was the wrong choice, for my mood and my health. My journey led me to find a routine I could actually stick to—happily—in the long term.
And that’s exactly what Noom Weight and Noom Mood provide. Noom’s personalized health journeys are sustainable. They’re designed to help people build new habits that they can stick in the context of their real lives. The result? A healthier you that’s happier, too.