Every single one of my favourite foods has dairy in it. Pizza, buttery deserts, hot chocolate, chocolate, brownies, ice cream, lattes, you get the point. I was lactose intolerant growing up, and indulged in these goodies none-the-less. So why give dairy up for a month?
After my lactose intolerance was healed (prayer! what?), it seemed as though I would never have to be mindful of my dairy intake ever again.
Here are some of the reasons I've decided to avoid dairy for the month of February:
Dairy has been known to contribute to acne and unwanted flare ups. According to Huffington Post, our bodies get worse at digesting dairy products as we get older, and that "... 90 percent of Asians, 70 percent of Blacks and Natives, and 50 percent of Hispanics are lactose intolerant, compared with only about 15 percent of people of Northern European descent..." are prone to being lactose intolerant. If you're mildly intolerant, you might not be able to distinguish the connections between the lactose you consume and the negative feelings such as cramping, bloating, and unwanted gas that you can experience a few hours later.
Supposedly, quitting dairy ingestion shouldn't have a negative tract record on your body. As long as you are ingesting calcium and vitamin D from other sources, your health shouldn't suffer. Another interesting fact about dairy is that it isn't as bone protective as previously thought. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption have the lowest rates of osteoporosis (ex. Asia and Africa). Today, milk is a processed food. Dairy farmers modify milk by giving dairy cows antibiotics (rBGH) that artificially increase milk production. This pasteurized form of dairy does not have the same benefits that unpasteurized milk can have. rBGH can increase the drinkers insulin-growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which has been known to lead to several different forms of cancer. Of course, there are some benefits of drinking milk. Milk is fortified with vitamin D and calcium. Some organic milk and unsweetened organic yogurts are filled with benefits, and most yogurt companies have steered away from using rBGH in their production. Despite these triumphs, some people's stomaches are just not built to process dairy.
For the month of February I tried to give up dairy consumption. There were a few reasons that led me to doing this. I got to travel to Thailand for a few months, and while I was there it was easy to avoid dairy and gluten. I felt noticeably better consuming a thai-diet. Finally feeling freed from mild intolerance, I became aware that dieting in this way could be beneficial to my everyday life. Another reason I wanted to try and stop consuming dairy was for my acne and some swelling in my knee. I had heard that dairy can be an inflammatory in more ways then one.
Being dairy free in a westernized culture is next to impossible. While my parents were out of town in the beginning of the month, I did some of my own shopping. At first I was really intense about making sure there was not any dairy in the foods I was consuming. It was helpful to find out that on the labels of most packaged goods, there was a warning list of all possible allergens, including dairy. I was so surprised to find that the majority of items I typically would buy seemed to contain dairy in one way or another. Fortunately, I was able to find some chocolate items that didn't contain any dairy. Oreos, Duncan Hines Brownie Mix, chocolate chip teddy grahams, and even certain dark chocolate bars all avoided actually having dairy in there ingredients. Without knowing this I would have had a much harder time getting through the month.
Going on coffee dates was a bit harder then I expected. It mainly came down to me asking the barista if the Chai mix contained dairy, which in most cases was no (Thank the Lord). I would usually switch between tea and soy/almond milk chai lattes, because I don't drink coffee to begin with. It was my inability to chose hot chocolate that really bothered me.
The biggest frustration was eating out, really. Scanning through a restaurant's menu would usually result in my compromising on my goals in one way or another. Although most places will identify gluten or vegetarian options on their menus, there was never a sign for dairy. And most restaurant items used dairy. I'm the type of person who also buys food a lot of the time on the go. I tend to jam-pack my days with anything from school, to extra curricular and socializing without making time for cooking my own food. This made it nearly impossible to be dairy free. Options were so limited and I felt constantly annoyed at the amount of dairy on the menus that I wasn't supposed to be eating.
So here's where I come clean and say that I didn't make it the whole month with out having dairy. Most of the times that I would fail, I would be eating out. I would forget to tell the server at the counter I wanted a dairy free modification. There were a few instances where I would go to Jugo juice and get a smoothie before remembering about the yogurt. There were also two instances where I willingly decided to eat pizza. Cause I just couldn't. And there were more then a few times where I ordered a Chai latte without remembering to substitute the milk. I also wasn't able to fully avoid fast food, but maybe that's another story.
During this time I didn't experience as much bloating or pain in my stomach, but it wasn't a noticeable difference to me. My skin has never looked better, but I'm not sure if it was because I was trying to avoid dairy. Over all I did feel a bit better. Dairy tends to make me feel a bit lithurgic and I definently felt 'fresher' not having it in my system.
This experience has given my a higher respect for people who diet in this way. Being aware of what you eat takes a lot of endurance, specifically mentally. Being able to control your cravings and to spend the extra time planning your meals isn't an easy task.
Would you give up dairy for a month?