Let’s talk coffee, allergies, inflammation, and weight. I tried to find my posts from last year that discussed this already, but after finding all these different pieces in multiple posts, I decided to compile this in one place. So for a quick recap:
- Prior to late 2013, I didn’t drink coffee at all. I began drinking coffee drinks at Starbucks maybe 1-2 times per month in autumn 2013 while I was going through a really rough emotional time.
- For Christmas 2013, Jason got me a Keurig. I began drinking coffee more often in early 2014, becoming a once-a-day habit by about March, and I began drinking it twice a day in May 2014.
- May 2014 is when I began gaining weight after maintaining with no problem for almost 1.5 years. I didn’t connect it with the coffee because there were other factors involved – my stupid attempt at doing Whole30, a lot of family issues, and an upcoming cross-country move (aka lots of stress).
- From May 2014 to early this July, I had at least one cup of coffee every single day. My weight gain went from May 2014 to March 2016 in a bit of a roller coaster, then leveled off at 75-80 lbs of regain from March 2016 to October 2020. (I’ll get to October and beyond later.)
Now, I began suspecting that coffee might be an issue in the spring of 2017. I started a personal 100-day experiment with the intent to cut out alcohol altogether and see if it affected my ability to lose weight. I also cut coffee down to once a day by chance. The experiment only lasted a few weeks because my family entered our Summer of Nightmares, and when you’re living under that much trauma and stress, personal experiments kinda lose priority. But I did lose a small amount of weight in that time, which I attributed to the alcohol abstinence.
Only by spring 2018, I’d mostly given up alcohol, and I hit a stride for about two months where I actually managed to lose about 7.5 lbs (equal to what My Fitness Pal predicted per my tracking). I tried to compare this 65-day period to the one I’d kept track of in later 2017, during which I lost nothing even though MFP thought I should lose 5-6 lbs. There were a lot of potential factors, but one I didn’t mention on that post was that in 2017, I drank 2-3 cups of coffee per day, and in spring 2018, I only had one daily. That’s when things really got suspicious in my mind.
Yet, it still took me until 2020 before I was willing to publicly call out coffee as a possible suspect in my health problems, and to design some coffee experiments to determine if the coffee itself, or caffeine, or some other factor related to coffee was the problem. I had a lot of realizations in 2020: I could have potentially given myself a metabolic disorder via coffee; I craved coffee to soothe anxiety over being hungry; coffee was clearly bad for my body as it caused severe hypoglycemia attacks. None of that was enough to overcome my addiction, which grew worse the longer I thought about giving it up. Honestly, I’m not sure if I ever would have managed to quit if I hadn’t landed in the hospital on July 10th. I saw the opportunity, and caffeine-headaches be damned, I ran with it.
Now, to change the subject slightly, I want to go back to the October 2020 to July 2021 weight story. Because in October 2020, my many-years of maintaining suddenly disappeared. I wasn’t eating or exercising any differently, but I started gaining about 3 lbs per month. At first, I blamed this on the new medication my doctor had put me on, but even after I got off it, I continued to gain. (Likely, this medication was the cause, because it’s literally designed to affect your metabolism, and I didn’t actually fit the criteria for taking it – didn’t have diabetes or PCOS – so it affected me badly.) I’ve fought like hell for the last nine months, and nothing I’ve done has made a difference. I just kept gaining. By the time I went into the hospital on July 10th, I was up a total of 26.5 lbs. (And yes, I was gaining even during the three weeks where I couldn’t keep down any food – I was gaining faster, in fact.)
When I got out of the hospital, I didn’t weigh in for a few days. Normally, I get on the scale most days, but I knew that with the amount of water they’d pumped into me – I had the fattest, most swollen hands ever – I didn’t want to see a number affected by water weight. When I did weigh in on the 16th, my weight was down about 1.5 lbs from before I went into the hospital. And over the rest of July – as my digestive system stabilized and I was able to keep food down – I lost a further 3 lbs. Y’all, I was no paragon of good health. I hardly exercised because I was recovering from sepsis. I could only eat very simple, processed foods because anything too complex would cause stomach issues. There was a lot of ice cream, cereal, and bread-and-butter eaten in the second half of July!
Now, it is too early to say 100% that things have turned around for me. The weight loss may simply have had to do with the giant influx of antibiotics changing around my gut flora. Maybe I’ll get another 2-3 months down the road and find out that cutting coffee has changed nothing at all. However, I suspect (and hope!) that this is, indeed, the answer. Whether an allergy or an interference with my metabolic system or something else entirely, hopefully cutting coffee will be the key that unlocks the door I’ve been searching for these last seven years.