Most people eat dairy products in their day to day meals whether they even know it or not. Dairy is found in almost any processed food and even other foods that aren’t processed. It is literally everywhere…or at least that’s how I feel.
I was born and raised on the idea that milk will make your bones grow strong. I was required to drink a glass of milk with dinner each night, but that was OK because I loved milk. In the mornings I would fill my bowl of cereal to the brim with milk and make sure to slurp up every last drop that was in that bowl. After school or a sports game, I would come home and just chug a glass of milk. There is nothing better than coming home and having a cold glass of milk. Then dinner would roll around and I would have another glass of milk and then maybe one more glass of milk with some dessert that night. So, clearly I loved milk.
Not only did I love milk, but I just loved dairy in general. I was a macaroni fanatic. Like could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner kind of fanatic. Just a little obsessed. My Grandma used to tell me that I would turn into macaroni one day because that’s how much I ate. My lunches at school always consisted of a cheese stick and then probably some sort of processed food snack that contained dairy as well-like cheese-its.
So, you can see I was surrounded by dairy on a daily basis. That’s all I knew. I didn’t even know a dairy free lifestyle was a thing. This dairy containing diet lasted all through college and even into my early 20’s until one day my world came crashing down.
I had moved to San Francisco about one year after graduating from college and during my first year in SF I began to notice my stomach started hurting almost every day. I felt bloated. I felt nauseous. I felt uncomfortable. But i just equated that to being a girl. I always had heard of girls having stomach issues, so I figured it was just normal and I let it go. I honestly didn’t think much of it nor try to figure out why I constantly felt bloated until I met my boyfriend (now husband).
After complaining all the time about how much my stomach hurt day in and day out. He told me this wasn’t normal and that I really should try to figure the root of the bloating out. I was very reluctant at first. I didn’t want to take the time or energy to figure this out. I was also pretty hesitant that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy foods that I loved, but after many discussions I decided to take the plunge and figure out the issue.
I started with a “diet plan” called Isagenix, which essentially made me strip away all the “delicious” foods and eat clean for 30 days while drinking the Isagenix shakes. After my thirty days I began to re-introduce certain food groups to try to figure out the causes to my bloating.
“My worst nightmare had come true”
After lots of journal and multiple rounds of re-introductions my worst nightmare had come true. It was dairy. All my journal and all the signs had led to dairy=Chelsey bloats. I cried. I cried a lot. I honestly felt like my world was flipped upside down. (I know this sounds dramatic, but I was pretty obsessed with dairy)
My first initial thought was I was going to be stubborn and just suck up the pain and still enjoy my life and eat ALL the dairy I wanted. I tried that for a bit and well the pain just started to become unbearable. My pants always felt tight, I felt fat, my stomach physically hurt, I was so bloated it was hard to breathe at times. All in all not good. I had to do something.
I was scared to make this change. I hated cooking and I knew that making a dairy free lifestyle was going to require a lot of work. A lot of work doing something I hated. I was frustrated and upset and not going to lie at times I still get frustrated and upset about it, but I have slowly learned how to become dairy free (mostly).
So, how did I work my way to being dairy free? Trust me-it’s not something that you can just change over night. It took time-a lot of time. I began this process of living a dairy free lifestyle back in April of 2016. It has been just over a year now and I finally feeling like I have somewhat of a grasp on it. I began by purchasing pills and I would take those pills every time I ate dairy. At first, I was taking those pills with almost every meal. I slowly began to try to do one meal a day without dairy and then I worked my way up to entire days without dairy.
It was definitely a slow transition and such a learning process. I didn’t even know all the forms of dairy that were in foods, like whey and casein and so many other small dairy ingredients that manufacturers sneak into products. I had to re-stock my entire fridge. Through this learning process though I have gained so much knowledge. I have now become way more aware of how many dairy free items exist at grocery stores! There are so many replacements for dairy, such as Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, dairy-free cheese, they even have a dairy free pizza! How cool is that!
I am now at the point of feeling confident enough to attempt to cook dairy free meals. I have learned to try to take joy in making these meals. For example, I made a dairy free Fettuccine Alfredo the other night made out of cashews and to be honest it tasted pretty dang similar to real Fettuccine Alfredo-and that means a lot coming from a picky eater.
I definitely have had to prepare my mind though before going in to eat these made dairy free items like dairy cheese. Personally, I had to lower my expectations and remind myself that it most likely won’t taste like the dairy I once knew. After reminding myself of this a few times though, the taste began to become familiar and I started to get used to it.
Never in my life did I think I would be able to live without dairy. I can now go entire months without dairy though-that’s not to say I don’t cheat at times, but I have finally learned the art of being able to say no to food items containing dairy. It’s just not worth the pain.
It’s been a long journey, but my stomach problems have significantly improved. I now almost feel like I get to choose if my stomach will hurt or not by choosing whether or not to eat dairy.
If you want to check out some of my favorite dairy free recipes that I have tried out then head over to my favorites page. I will intermittently be posting some recipes that I have tried.