…and then I quit dairy

dairy cattle

Another 30-day challenge

I’m doing a little experiment: I’m quitting dairy for at least 30 days to see if it might be an allergen for me and to give my digestive system a little break. I don’t eat that much dairy to begin with, so it shouldn’t be too difficult, except it means I can’t eat feta cheese.

I AM HEARTBROKEN.

I’ll probably never quit feta cheese completely (and it is goat cheese after all, which is a lot better than anything made from cow’s milk), but for the sake of this elimination diet, it has to go… Tears have been shed, that’s all I’m sayin’.

cheesecake and berry tart

So, why would I choose to quit dairy?

Basically, I want to see what all the fuss is about…!

When you start reading up on nutrition and health, the “dairy debate” pops up all over the place. Everyone seems to think that in order to achieve optimal health, you must. quit. dairy. right. this. second.

There’s no getting around it. Like I said, I’m not a huge dairy-eater to begin with. I take my coffee black, I don’t drink milk, or eat dubious amounts of pizza with cheddar cheese. It’s basically going to be feta cheese, butter, and yoghurt that I’m giving up.

I want to be strict about this for 30 days to make it a bit of cleanse and see if I can tell a difference. I’m don’t know if I’m expecting anything major, but it’ll be interesting to see if I end up discovering that dairy needs to go for good.

Ice cream

My main points for motivation:

  • Most people cannot digest dairy. After the age of 4, that is. You then stop producing the enzyme lactase – which is the enzyme that digests lactose (the main sugar in milk). The fact that we (Westerners…) can digest it to some extent is a weird form of gene mutation. From a biological standpoint, I’m just not convinced that we’re meant to be drinking milk as adults… especially not milk from another species.
  • Osteoporosis. The countries in the world who chug down the most milk, actually have the highest rates of osteoporisis… Say, whaaat? I know, I know. This goes against everything we learned as kids. Read The China Study – it’ll answer all your questions.
  • Cows are often given steroids and hormones to produces more and “better” milk. These hormones can negatively affect the human hormone balance.
  • Calcium. I knew you were going to bring that up. “But what about the calcium???” You get calcium from plants too, you know. For instance, kale contains more calcium per calorie than milk. Milk made from sesame seeds contains up to 10 times more calcium than cow’s milk.
  • Cows are often fed inappropriate food. Cows eat grass – we all know that. Well, factory cows, or commercially fed cows, don’t get to eat grass. They’re fed grains and soy and corn and all sorts of genetically modified ingredients , and all this can often make them sick. To keep them from getting sick, it’s very common to keep them on antibiotics constantly – putting two and two together, all of that goes into the dairy that we consume.
  • Dairy is mucous forming, which means that – among other things – it can contribute to respiratory disorders. I’ve had asthma my whole life, and a long-term goal of mine is to see if I can heal myself and stop taking asthma medication.

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Ready, set, go! 

As I’m writing this, I’ve already gone over a week without any dairy at all. Can’t say I feel much different yet, but I’m thinking that I’ll find out more when I try to put dairy back into my diet after a month without it. That way I’ll see how it affects me.    

I’ll keep you posted on the no-dairy experiment as time goes by!
Hopefully I’ll learn something useful from it 🙂 

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Am I becoming a health food snob?

Tomato, feta, pumpkin seed salad

The Brown, Mushy Lunch Option

A little while ago I was at the cafeteria at my university standing in line for the 5$ lunch, trying to see if they might have some sort of veggie option that I could get my hands on. On the handwritten board with today’s specials, it said “Vegetarian: Chickpea & Vegetable Casserole”.

Awesome! It’s no secret I’m quite fond of chickpeas… Smiling, I went up to the lady who worked behind the buffet and asked for the vegetarian option. She smiled back and reached for a large pot of brown, gushy, unrecognizable something.

“Oh God, no! No, no, no, no”

… is what I blurted out, as I hurriedly backed away from the buffet, and went home to make myself lunch.

Feel free to scoff (I cringe while typing this), but I was initially quite satisfied with myself for that immediate reaction. Because it was proof that eating fresh and just real food, basically, is now such a huge part of me that I wouldn’t even consider eating a lunch cafeteria’s brown mush. It’s instinct. If I’m going to eat something that’s the color brown, it’s going to be something I made in my own kitchen from scratch so I at least know what’s in it.

But later that week, I kept picturing that poor cafeteria lady’s puzzled look.

Was I incredibly rude to blurt out an expression of being horrified at the vegetarian dish? 

YES. Oh boy. Yes, I was.

Collage - Health Food

I don’t want to be a food snob

I don’t want to come across as though I think I know better than you do because I’ve chosen to eat a certain way.

I don’t want anyone ever to feel like I’m peeking at their lunch/dinner from the corner of my eye and making judgements.

I don’t want to be that person who sits on their high horse and looks down on all those other people who just don’t get it like I do.

I fear that sometimes, however well-meaning my intentions are, I risk coming across as that person. Not because I consciously judge other people or think that I’m “better” somehow for choosing this route – I really don’t. But because it’s really freakin’ hard to have experienced a major wake-up call, and to learn about things I believe every person deserves to know, and not want to share that message with everyone around me.

Being passionate about something, as I have become about and nutrition and eating real food, means having an urge to express that passion and to spread the seed, so to speak. But there’s a very fine line to thread, there… And sometimes I lose my balance.

To the lady in the cafeteria – I’m so sorry I behaved like a brat…! If I’m that picky about the things I eat, I really have no business being in a cafeteria buffet in the first place. Point taken.

organic health food

Always be humble, always be kind

We’re at that stage now where my male roommates are starting to catch on to the fact that I eat differently than they do. My American roommate, who I’ve been living with for 7 weeks and cook side-by-side with daily, glanced over at my green salad the other day. He stopped for a second, and then he turned to me:

“Are you a vegetarian or something?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“Ohhhhhh…… That makes so much sense now. I thought it was a little weird that there’s always 3 tons of vegetables in the fridge.”

He chuckled and turned to the stove again where he was frying up thick slices of ham in 5 tablespoons of butter. Cue awkward moment as he looked over at my dinner, and then back at his dinner, and the separation of the two diet-worlds we live in just became uncomfortably clear.

The truth is that, Yes. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my roommate eating white bread with cake sprinkles, or bacon fried in butter, and I think, “Oh dear lord… He’s committing the slowest form of suicide right before my eyes. Please, someone throw that guy a carrot stick before it’s too late.”

But at the end of the day, it’s not my place to pass any judgements at all. Not with food, not in any areas of life. It’s not about how other people eat or don’t eat. It’s about being the healthiest I can be, while keeping myself in check to make sure that I don’t ever become that person who makes someone else feel bad about their eating habits.

Picture quote - don't have to attend every argument invited to

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Reaping the benefits

Anyone who’s ever moved someplace new knows that you need to push through a period of chaos, both externally and internally, before you start to feel like yourself and find a rhythm in everyday life. I know how this goes; it’s not new to me. What is new to me is how quickly I found my stride here in little Sippy Downs in the Sunshine Coast in terms of my wellbeing.

Me moving to a new place (which this far in life has almost always meant a completely new country) usually goes a little bit something like this: 
+ Running around like a headless chicken the first few of days, high as a kite on adrenalin
+ Eating my weight in ready-made or frozen meals because figuring out the way to the grocery store and actually cooking is too much to deal with
+ Lots of coffee and coca-cola to stay awake (because getting used to new surroundings and new people is exhausting)
Jabbering away like it’s my job to anyone I make eye contact with. I talk a lot in any normal situation, so imagine when I’m nervous and/or confused
+ Staying up all night watching The Office. Being mentally transported to something very familiar is the most soothing thing in the world when you’re in a new and strange place
+ Terrible digestion, in case you were wondering.
+ And then, of course, I always catch a cold. Always.

This time around the transition has been about twenty times easier than in the past, and I’m pretty sure I know what I have to thank for that. I’ve done a major overhaul this past year in terms of health and wellness, and I honestly had no idea how much it was paying off until just now. Giving up meat and eating the ‘cleanest’ diet I can realistically pull off is easily the one of the best decisions I ever made for myself. I’ve never felt this good in my life; even in this overwhelmingly new and different environment I spring out of bed at 6 am, like I would back home, and show up for the day.

food be thy medicine

another food collage

In comparison, here’s how I’ve handled this particular move:
+ Running around like a headless chicken the first few of days, high as a kite on adrenalin – some things never change, right? 😉
+ Immediately locating the grocery store and stocking up on veggies, grains and my beloved chickpeas
+ Lacing up my running shoes and getting back to my regular morning exercise routine soon as possible. Moving my body every single day is still nonnegotiable even though I normally would have given myself some slack in the first couple of weeks. It makes a huge difference, folks. I’m such a loyal convert to this philosophy. 30 minutes every day does the trick.
+ I feel so much more calm and “unstressable” (oops! I just made up a word…. I just mean that I don’t get stressed out about things the way I used to. Yeah, school is probably going to be stressful at times. And things take time here which is a huge trigger for impatient people like me. But I refuse to get worked up about it – it is what it is. Let’s sit in the sun and have a laugh about the fun we had last night. Much better use of our time, I reckon.)
+ I haven’t had a sip of soda in months and months, and I’m down to 1 or 2 cups of coffee per day. It’s a big deal! I used to be one of those people who would gladly drink 6 cups of coffee before lunch, so this is what I call progress. And it’s true what they say – you really do feel more energised even though you’d expect the opposite.
+ And finally; I haven’t gotten sick! Trust me – I’ve never even gone on vacation without catching some sort of virus, so this is to me the very proof I needed. It shows that making my health and wellness my number one priority this past year is paying off big-time.

run collage

This morning I woke up at 5.30 am, waited for the sun to rise, and then went for a 6K run around a nearby lake. I had the world all to myself and felt completely content with where I was. I got home and made breakfast (dark rye toast with raw spinach and hard-boiled eggs) and sat down on my computer to read some of my favourite food blogs. And this feeling of gratitude washed over me; similar to when I first went to the beach here. I am so grateful for where I am right now. For everything I’ve learnt about nutrition, self-love and the power of mindfulness, and about pursuing what makes me feel good in all areas of life. I had to move all the way across the world to really see how all my hard work is paying off. I’m now reaping the benefits shamelessly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Xx Christine