Monday, September 30, 2013

Kissing Dairy Goodbye

If you’re anything like me, then you have grown up loving and enjoying an array of dairy products. From gallons of whole cows’ milk and cheese, to butter, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream.  These products are high in fat and they’re extremely hard for us to digest. Learning how difficult it is for the human digestive tract to digest dairy has made me rethink this classic food product in my life.  Keeping my cheese or keeping my expanding midsection at 36, has become a very real question for me.  My taste buds are beginning to come very secondary to my heart-health.  What I didn’t prepare for was how difficult walking away from these products would actually be.  Think about it, we’re told that yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese sticks are excellent low-calorie snack options when trying to maintain a healthy diet. Add those I listed, plus my morning cup of coffee with half-and-half and my morning bowl of cereal with milk and by midday, my diet mostly consisted of dairy products. My body virtually struggles for the remainder of the day trying to break what I’ve digested down.  In my previous article, I discussed our intimacy with our favorite foods.  We have this passionate love affair with foods and with desserts so much so that giving them up can be worse than breaking up with a beau.  Before I started this challenge, I had to identify how many of my favorite dishes and vegetarian meals actually incorporated dairy and I was nearly floored when I realized that there was nearly nothing in my diet that didn’t consist of it.  That was extremely eye-opening for me.  I immediately wondered how I was going to clean this up.  Have you ever dreaded cleaning your closet? Well this was how I was feeling.  Fall is an extraordinary time of year that makes me feel fearless!  My openness to try new things during this particular time of year never ceases to amaze me.   With the cool crisp air in the wind, I feel motivated and encouraged to change with the season.  The vibrant colors of the leaves inspire me and I know that I can push myself outside of my own comfort zone.

 I initially started by being aware at all times of what I was eating or drinking. As a vegetarian I was very use to doing this anyway.  I swapped out dairy in the places that I found it easiest like Silk Milk for cow milk, Earth Balance for butter, and veggie cheese for whole cheese.  Sounds easy so far right? Not so much.  I quickly realized that my morning coffee on the go wasn’t as easy as it once was; if I was unable to drink my coffee black (which I wasn’t), I had to leave Dunkin Donuts behind and make the switch to Starbucks that at least conveniently serves vanilla soy milk and makes delicious soy latte’s.  Of course, when I have time I make my coffee at home but that isn’t always an option. My newest challenge was kicking my ass, because some days I just didn’t want soy milk or veggie cheese or Earth Balance for butter.  Some days I just wanted what I was habitually accustomed to eating and drinking.  Here’s where your self-discipline must kick in. I will be brutally honest with you in this, we can train ourselves to get used to anything as long as we have the willingness to work through the resistance and the power to quiet our minds.  My first two-weeks without dairy I realized that I would have to go the fight in very small intervals.  I didn’t always have the willpower to pass up a cannoli dessert or a piece of spinach lasagna.  Even my favorite salads were garnished with cheese shavings or feta crumbles. I initially couldn’t believe from breakfast to dinner how many dishes used dairy products. At one point I even considered the fact that I was ok with my expanding waistline and maybe dairy wasn’t so bad but WAIT!  I was taking a daily CLA supplement, which goes deep into the body’s stored fat pockets and flushes them out.  What in the world would make me take this supplement only to be reloading those same fat pockets with dairy products that my body was unable to digest?  The numbers wouldn’t add up mentally so each time I fell I just got right back up.  If I slipped up on a Saturday and ate a slice of cheese, by Sunday I was back on my, “No Dairy Bandwagon”.  The faster you regain your focus, the more control you’ll have over the change. You must be reading this thinking, “What a vicious cycle this is”, and I have to tell you it really is.  I never thought that what I ate would take so much consideration and effort on my behalf, but we all know that nothing worth having comes easy.  We’re taught to watch portion size and to eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables but when do you really hear people say, “Dairy doesn’t digest well, it keeps you bloated and your stomach will continue expanding if you keep eating it”.  On a more positive note, I did start to hear, “Your skin is glowing”, “You look amazing”, and these were the compliments that assured me that I had to keep fighting my addiction against dairy products.  “We are what we eat” and this statement is so underrated here in the United States. The beauty of our bodies is that they tend to work with us. When we move it moves yet, when I’m doing too much of anything, I either suffer the consequences or reap the benefits.  For example, if I successfully make it 5-10 days without dairy and then decide to indulge, guess what happens next?  My stomach is typically unsettled for days which is an instant indication that my body handling the shift in diet well. The discomfort I feel reminds me that the indulgence wasn’t worth it.

Finally, what’s been working best for me is an increase in both fresh vegetables and fresh fruit.  There is such a variation of both in the market today that it would be impossible for one to get bored or to be limited in options.  I feel less guilt, when I snack on fruits rather than the traditional dairy options that I was once loved.  Ladies, if you struggle with cellulite you will especially want to stay away from dairy even in your morning cup of coffee.  A licensed-esthetician recently explained to me that it’s not the coffee we drink that contributes to our cellulite but what we put in the coffee, (milk & sugar).  She also advised me never to eat ice cream or pastries, EVER! For help with unsightly cellulite, (if you are serious about changing your diet), I recommend VelaShape massage treatments; again only if you’re serious about changing your diet (If you’re going to eat the same, and have these massage treatments which gently reduce the appearance of cellulite on the top surface of the skin by heating it and smoothing it out you will definitely be wasting your money). If I wasn’t seeing the results on my own skin, I might be willing to argue with the esthetician but seemingly she is absolutely right.  Will all of these tips work out perfectly all of the time?  Of course they won’t, yet I imagine that these small intervals of trial and error are far better than never having tried at all. It’s all about implementing valuable substitutions. Starting with the little things like waking up the water in your home with a twist of lime, mint, and cucumbers (altogether in a pitcher) and gradually working your way up to bigger changes.  I drink this every morning before doing anything.  It’s a natural way to detoxify.  I would also suggest drinking one glass of this right before going to bed. I’ve also replaced my regular carbs with slow carbs like quinoa, and brown rice.  I go gluten-free whenever I can and when I just can’t resist a craving for something like eggplant parmigiana, I make it myself!  This way I have total control over what goes into it.  Instead of using eggs to coat the eggplant I use Original Silk Milk, and instead of my once beloved mozzarella cheese I use, “Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds”.  I find beauty in all of the dietary options I have and I hope you will too.   My advice for someone just starting out would be to pack your own snacks and meals for the day.  Lunch bags have become so trendy these days that carrying one around actually makes you look smart not cheap lol.  By having your snacks and meals pre-packed you will completely bypass the root of evil/tasteful temptation.  Wishing you all success with this Fall Fitness Challenge Series, and if you need any assistance please don’t hesitate to reach out.  God Bless You All.
Much Luv,

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  1. I couldn't help but smile where you stated how some mornings you hardly felt like consuming soy milk or veggie cheese, and I'm absolutely positive I'd feel the exact same. Touching upon why you said about dairy products running rampant within our everyday diet is so true. Of course it's no secret here in America how chemicals placed in food are just as detrimental. I agree, you looked healthy and stunning. To the point where I wondered the need to overhaul your previous diet. It appeared to be working just fine for you.

    I'm not a big fan of milk, but I do respect what it does for the body in moderation. So I could probably entertain soy milk. But the love I have for omelets makes it difficult for me to imagine doing away with eggs. Also, I like eating Ritz crackers and slices of cheddar cheese while working on assignments. Though I imagine slices of cucumbers would work magic as a replacement.

    Allow me to pose a question: do you suppose healthy eating habits aren't as accepted due to being somewhat expensive to maintain?

  2. Hi Don:

    I truly don't believe that expense plays a role. I believe it's easy to, "say", that healthier living concludes higher expenses BUT that really isn't exactly the truth. Fast food chains have hiked up their prices so much that I haven't seen a menu meal item priced less than $7.

    There's a salad from Trader Joe's that I love having for lunch. It's called, "Super Spinach Salad", and it's $3.99. The large liter water at Trader Joe's is $0.69. I'll add an organic banana and still stay under $7. It's all about exploring options and researching healthy food vs unhealthy fast food. Many would be super surprised at what they discover.

    A healthier option to the Ritz and cheddar (one of my old favs); would be a brown rice Triscuit with rice cheddar solid cheese substitute...delicious!

    Much Luv,