The one change that didn’t work: I gave up coffee – and got hooked on energy drinks


Vanity made me do it. I had been to the dentist and, in between poking horrible things into my mouth, she asked if I drank a lot of coffee. “Unhhyeahhhh!” I said, as best I could. (Why do dentists always talk to you when it’s obvious you’re in no position to answer?) “I can tell!” she said. “There’s a lot of staining. Try drinking less coffee.” I gurgled something in agreement, while indignantly thinking that the dentist should try brushing up on her social skills. Still, I immediately resolved to cut down.

Actually, vanity was probably only 90% of the impetus to reduce my coffee intake. The other 10% was patriotic pride. I’m a Brit in the US – and we all know the reputation that Brits have when it comes to their teeth. I felt I had a duty to try and counter that reputation. I decided to give up coffee and tea (equally bad for the teeth), but I didn’t want to give up caffeine, so I came up with a cunning plan: instead of drinking five to eight teas and coffees a day, I started drinking five to eight sugar-free energy drinks a day. With a straw, obviously.

Take it from me: do NOT drink five to eight energy drinks a day. It can be bad for your heart, and your teeth. My experiment, I quickly realised, should have been better researched. Many sugar-free energy drinks are highly acidic and do a number on your tooth enamel. In hindsight, it’s obvious. The experiment only lasted a few days: after lots of very nasty jitters, I gave up on giving up and reverted back to coffee.

Have I tried to quit coffee again since? Yes, quite recently. And, again, vanity was to blame. A friend of mine, who happens to run a coffee shop, gave up coffee and her skin transformed. She looked like someone out of a magazine ad for vitamins. I decided I wanted that for myself, and stopped drinking coffee for 24 hours. Then I got a horrible headache (caffeine withdrawal is no joke) and started again. It turns out I am not quite ready to trade in a cherished ritual for movie-star teeth and glowing skin – and while the idea of life without caffeine may be difficult to swallow, I should probably try drinking it in moderation.

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