Do you have problems with dairy? Maybe you didn’t think so until all the attention dairy started getting with the Vegan and Paleo diet movements. Or maybe you knew you had problems with dairy from the way it made you feel. Or better yet, the way it made you feel when you didn’t have dairy (addiction anyone?).
Did I have problems with dairy? Let’s take a look.
I didn’t think I had any problems with dairy, but for my August Action Item of the Month (AIM), I went off of it to find out. The verdict after 30 days of not eating dairy? DRUMROLL… I felt no discernible difference whatsoever. I was almost disappointed by this. I was expecting something revolutionary based on the way some folks talk about their problems with dairy. But when I stopped to think about this, it made a lot of sense seeing as how I don’t eat a ton of dairy to begin with (hindsight is 20/20… duh!). The hardest time for me to not have dairy was on my weekly cheat meal (yes… I cheat… and here’s how you can cheat on your diet too). No queso burrito. No cheeseburger. No big ol’ pizza for me. There were several times we made homemade pizzas, but I had to resort to vegan cheese. Word to the wise: All vegan cheese is not made equal. While I don’t encourage men to eat too much soy, I will only eat soy-based Vegan cheese from this point forward. You have been warned.
If I don’t have problems with dairy, I should eat it, right?
So the question now becomes, if I don’t feel any different, I guess I should go back on dairy, right? Well, yes and no. I mean there are things that aren’t necessarily good for us that might not affect the way we feel, such as onion rings or friend mozzarella sticks.
So whether or not we eat something shouldn’t be based on how it makes us feel, it should be based on our fitness goals. My plan has been to slowly move to a 60-70% plant-based diet and to start going organic where I can. Going back on regular dairy makes that transition a little harder. So I’m going to cut back on what little dairy I already eat. I rarely have milk anyway (much prefer almond milk these days). I will avoid having both cottage cheese and yogurt on the same day. I don’t eat much ice cream (not because I don’t like it, but because we don’t generally keep it in the house … because we do like it), so it will remain reserved for a cheat dessert. That just leaves butter (which I don’t use a whole lot of anyway) and regular cheeses, which fortunately for me, aren’t a huge temptation. I’ll try to hold out for healthier cheeses like organic string.
You see, chances are, problems with dairy aren’t because dairy is “bad” in and of itself. In fact, it can be quite healthy with beneficial enzymes, proteins, and the infamous calcium benefit, among other things. The way I see it, there are two problems with dairy. The first problem is that the quality of the dairy is bad. Take for instance the iconic American Cheese slice, wrapped up all cute and ‘purty. Did you know that technically it has to be called “cheese product“? Not a good sign. Reminds me of movie popcorn “butter flavoring.” So not only are dairy products highly processed much of the time, but they’re also coming from non-organic milk sources, which means the cows have been given medicines and hormones to keep them productive.
The second problem with dairy is the quantities in which we eat it. Our diet in this country has our ratios ALL screwed up. Too much simple sugar. Too much meat. Too many carbs. Too much dairy. Not enough fresh produce. But it doesn’t mean that some meat, carbs, or dairy is bad.
TIP #1: Any diet that recommends completely avoiding a particular food / food group I think misses the point and sets up its’ particpants for failure as such diets tend to be unrealistic for most people.
So put these two problems together and what do you get? Highly processed dairy from poor quality sources consumed in large quantities. It’s no wonder people report feeling better when they stop eating it.
TIP #2: The “problems with dairy” can also be applied to the problems with sugar, meat, carbs, and so on. It’s not that these foods are inherently evil, it’s that the quality and quantities in which we’re consuming them are not healthy.
So there’s my experience with forgoing dairy for a month. And this is the very point of taking AIM at your health: to learn something about yourself, see how you feel, what you notice, what is realistic, what isn’t, and what will help you move towards your fitness goals. It may lead to a permanent lifestyle change, it may not. But it’s only 30 days, so it’s not a huge deal, especially when you take it one day at a time.
So let me encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, give up something for a month, and see what you learn. You can always add it back, but you may find that you don’t want to.