The Year of Being Vegan: 2012 Lessons Learned Part 1

I have always been a plant-based eater; a vegetarian. Over the last year David and I decided to become vegans. It has been an incredible learning experience! Between now and the end of the years I will share some of the things I learned.

Dairy effects more than my digestive system

dairyI have known for years that I’m lactose-sensitive; probably lactose-intolerant. My first clue came from eating ice-cream. A food I dearly love! I tried to chalk up my discomfort to the sugar. Unfortunately for my denial, I found that other things with sugar had a much less dramatic effect. Add sugar to milk and cream – instant IBS.

It didn’t take long to figure that cheese was also a problem. I tried to blame it on the type of rennet. In fairness the rennet did make a difference in the severity of the reaction. But even cheese made with vegetable rennet aggravated my IBS.

Too much butter and even a glass of milk were an invitation to my digestive tract to act up. Seems my gallbladder has gotten more cranky as I’ve aged.

It was easy to give up milk, I didn’t like it anyway. It was even easy to give up ice cream because of the sugar. Giving up butter wasn’t difficult between the gall bladder and the fact that I was always counting calories. I’d rather have peanut butter than butter, any day!

Anytime I seriously went on a diet (like weight-watchers) I gave up cheese – too much fat and too many calories. Of course the minute I hit my goal weight, out came the cheese. As a vegetarian it was always my comfort food of choice. There is nothing quite like Mac and Cheese when you are feeling blue!

At one time or another I gave up everything but the 1/2 and 1/2 in my coffee or tea. That was the thing I just couldn’t/wouldn’t let go of. I mean, what is a cup of coffee without 1/2 and 1/2??

Bottom line, I had never given up dairy. Not really. But this time around I decided to let it go for 6 months and see what happened. And just so you know, it was hellish at first. Honestly, even though I now use hazelnut milk, which actually tastes good, it still isn’t the same

But here’s the thing: I found out that dairy effects things more than my intestinal track. After a month of no dairy, I ate cheese. My body immediately reported back. And here is an inventory of the effects.:

  • My weight – quitting dairy was good for a 5 pound (over three months) weight loss. It was the only dietary/activity change and the weight just kind of fell off. Very cool!!
  • My sinuses – my chronic sinus stuffiness and nasal blockage disappeared. A little cheese and I was having a hard time breathing out of my nose again. The effect was almost immediate! The fact that I had been able to use my nose for the last couple of months was a huge change. Not being able to breath again was misery! That alone is enough of a reason to keep me dairy free for years to come!
  • My skin – my chin broke out. I used to get small sebaceous cysts on my chin and the back of my arms but all the little hard lumps had disappeared. And all of a sudden I was sporting a hard, red lump on my chin. Seemed like a non-coincidence. . .
  • My joints – I woke up the morning after the cheese splurge and my hips ached. I was reminded that over the years I would occasionally feel stiffness in my hips for no apparent reason. I now had a clue as to the reason.
  • My anxiety level – guess what; dairy seems to jack up my adrenals and I become anxious and hyper. Who knew?!

Of course I had to experiment several times to find out if the results were consistent.

They are. I’m convinced! . . . I’m even willing to stay off dairy as a way of life.

Now, I believe that we are all free to do whatever we want as long as we are willing to pay the price. I also know that there will be times when I will just have to eat a piece of cheese or some ice cream. I now have invaluable information – my personal cost of eating dairy.

Since I understand the price I can make an informed decision.

About Genene Cote

Genene Coté -- Nutrition Advocate, Counselor and Coach who is also a Whole Food Plant Based Eater (vegetarian/vegan), cook and gardener.
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