Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Am Dairy Free

With The Canary Files nearing its one-month anniversary of virtual life, I feel very proud of what's been accomplished.  So many ideas trapped in my mind are now finding their way into the universe.  And just like pruning back a tree or removing spent flowers from a rose bush, letting go of those thoughts and inspirations has allowed for even more growth, more ideas blossoming into fruition, and more motivation to share and to give. 

Some of that motivation springs from recognizing what has not made it out of my mind.  Thus far, The Canary Files has concentrated largely on gluten-free living.  And given the coincidence of National Celiac Awareness Month and the media attention surrounding the gluten-free lifestyle, that makes sense.  But the description of my blog is, "gluten-free & dairy-free: my recipe for Happy."  And so I'd like to promote just a little more balance with this post explaining how I came to be dairy-free as well.

Around 2000, I started consciously reducing lactose and casein in my diet.  I had filled all those sleepless nights in undergrad with Hostess treats, pizza, fried mozzarella sticks, and lots of ranch dressing.  Not pretty.  An intervention was desperately needed.  I had been experimenting with lactase supplements and lactose free cow milk, but I still experienced the painful bloating, indigestion, and embarrassing gaseousness.  So I began integrating soy and rice milk into my diet and started to decrease my consumption of cow-related dairy products.  At the time, I thought I was doing my best.  But living in a college town and working at an ice cream shop at the time, I was far from diligent.  Very far.

Fast forward to the spring of 2008, approximately one year after making the decision to eliminate gluten from my diet.  I noticed that a few of my coworkers were both gluten-free and dairy-free and it peaked my curiosity.  It's cool to know that someone does something, but what's even cooler to me is why.  So after talking it over with them, I sucked it up, and decided to add dairy to my list of things I would choose not to consume. 

And I would do it for real this time. 

In addition to cow dairy products, I would also avoid goat and sheep dairy products.  No fresh mozzarella, no ranch dressing, no white pizzas, no Chunky Monkey ice cream, etc., etc.  And lo and behold, after a few weeks I started to feel my body change again, like it was shedding an old skin.  Speaking of skin, my complexion started clearing up.  Soon after, I noticed my sinus issues were becoming more manageable.  Headaches diminished even more in frequency and as a singer, my voice was stronger, more present and reliable.  It felt really, really good. 

Later, when Lauren, one of the coworkers who helped convince me to eliminate dairy from my diet (she has "GF/DF" tattooed on her wrist, by the way) brought up the Blood Type Diet, I found further justification for my decisions.   My blood type corresponded to "no gluten and no dairy."  Will wonders never cease, right?  Perhaps it would have saved me a few years of agony if someone would have just said, "Hey, you shouldn't eat gluten or dairy because they make you sick.  This doctor says so.  Give it a try."  But there was something about finally coming to terms with my body through listening, asking questions, and following through with my intuition that was extremely gratifying.  It was like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time, all on my own.  Now looking back on all those years of "kind of" watching what I ate and "kind of" taking care of my body, it's hard to fathom going back.  I watch what I eat.  I take care of my body.  Period. 

So that's the story of how I came to be DF.  Does it throw a wrench into the works to be both gluten-free and dairy-free?  Sometimes, it does.  Am I tempted to sometimes turn a blind eye to dairy if something extremely appetizing is gluten-free?  Very rarely, but yes.  Is it frustrating to explain my diet to others?  Especially around the holidays.  Do I regret further "complicating" my already heavily "restricted" diet by "depriving" myself of dairy products?  Absolutely not. :)

Sometimes I hear others say that they wish they could be gluten-free or dairy-free all the time, but "they just can't." 

Those words can only be true if you give them permission to be. 

Eliminating dairy, gluten, or anything you eat, is a choice you make.  If that choice allows you access to an improved quality of life, why would you say "no" to that?  Of course, I realize that it can be more complicated than just "yes" or "no," and you're well aware that I didn't always feel so strongly on the subject.  But I do believe that feeling better is worth it.

What kept me from completely eliminating dairy more than a decade ago, when all the red flags were waving in my face?  Fear.  I knew that dairy was making me unwell, I knew what I could do to remedy the situation, and still I was scared to take that leap.  And it is a risk, because there are so many emotions and sentiments that we entangle into our food choices.  But when I thought long and hard on it, and I opened my eyes, I was finally  ready to admit that happiness was not one of sentiments.  Yes, there was "remembered happiness" and "hypothetical happiness," but when it all boiled down, there was no happiness I could consider "intrinsic" or "sustainable."  And that's what I wanted.  Not happiness you see in the movies or read about in romance novels.  I wanted happiness that was a result of living, and being able to enjoy the life I was blessed with.  Happiness every day.

1 comment:

  1. Not anonymous, google accounts is being weird right now and won't let me post with my own account. Ridiculous.


    You (Senor Joe!) know very well how 'interesting' and difficult it is to explain why or how it is possible that I am a vegetarian. It's a pretty similar situation for anybody with dietary restrictions. I think what it boils down to is that your body tells you what it needs and does not need and it's up to you to listen to it and receive the messages loud and clear. It's your choice as to what you will do with that information. In regards to being dairy free; since my first years of being a Vegetarian; I've cut down considerably on the amount of dairy that I consume. I have not had cow milk for more than a decade (I mostly drink Almond or Rice Milk these days) and the cheeses that I do still have are particular and I don't really have a lot of them anymore. I may eventually go DF, but it's a process just like anything else. It takes commitment and if you're determined to do it; then you will succeed. Good luck to everybody!



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