In May, I started school … again. I didn’t go back to the MBA program I entered last year. I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I am training to become a certified holistic health counselor, and I couldn’t be more excited! Finally, school is an enlightening, positive influence again (as it should be) instead of a frustrating, stressful chore.
One of the requirements of the IIN health counseling curriculum is that we work with our own health counselor. My health coach, Supreet Sandhu at Yuva Aesthetics & Wellness based in Calgary, Canada, has been helping me create a healthier, happier life.
In my first session with Supreet, we analyzed a typical day’s worth of meals for me. A normal day for me would be a fruit and veggie smoothie for breakfast and a cup of coffee, a homemade deli sandwich for lunch with some fruit, a Kind bar or some pistachios for a snack, if I needed one, and some veggie pasta for dinner with parmesan cheese.
The good news: I eat pretty healthy, overall. I incorporate fruits and veggies into most of my meals.
The bad news: I include dairy in every meal (or most meals). A little dairy is fine, but a lot of dairy can be hard on some people’s digestion, making them more sluggish and bloated, among other health concerns.
I told Supreet that one of my health goals was to have more energy. She suggested that for one week, I eliminate dairy from my diet. Then, on the eighth day, eat normally again and pay attention to how I felt.
Sure, one week of no dairy. No problem. I was prepared; I had a meal plan. Couldn’t be that hard, right?
It was atrocious.
Here are a few of my daily notes:
- Slept almost nine hours, yet found it hard to get up this morning
- Tried rice milk; don’t like it
- Didn’t drink coffee, just peach-flavored green tea and water
- Walked for 40 minutes
- Didn’t notice any side effects from going non-dairy
- Slept about seven hours; still found it hard to get up
- Had one 10-ounce cup of coffee
- Drank lots of water
- Jogged for 40 minutes
- Felt very sluggish and tired all day
- Felt hungry most of the day; constantly felt as if I needed to eat more
- Felt better after the run and great after dinner
- Woke up with dull headache, still hard to get up
- Drank one 10-ounce cup of coffee
- Drank four glasses of water
- Went to Piyo class at the gym
- Again, felt sluggish and tired
- Again, felt hungry
- Felt anxious and had difficult concentrating
- Was sure I would have a terrible workout, but did great
- Felt tired again after dinner though
- Drank two glasses of red wine
The rest of the week’s sentiments echoed similar themes: I felt deprived, tired, irritable, and craved dairy even though I was drinking lots of water, getting at least seven hours of sleep and exercising.
I have quit smoking permanently, given up coffee here and there, given up alcohol here and there, and the willpower this required was more than all of those combined.
Interesting Findings From the No-Dairy Diet Experiment
Another thing I discovered is just how many delicious things have dairy in them! My “whole wheat bread” had milk in it, so I bought barley bread from Trader Joe’s. I couldn’t use any of our salad dressings because those all had buttermilk in them.
Thank goodness for Smart Balance butter: It is gluten-free and contains less than two percent of whey from milk. I also learned along the way that most coffee creamers are lactose-free.
Near the end of the week, I was fantasizing about my smoothies, pizza and gourmet cheeses from The Cellar. When I did eat all of these foods on the eighth day, it was glorious.
And I felt fine.
I’d be lying if I said I felt great, but that was probably because I wasn’t having just a little dairy, I was having a ton of dairy.
I discussed the results from my no-dairy experiment with Supreet on our next session, and we had a good laugh. We agreed that while dairy isn’t for everyone, my body needs it. Eliminating it did not give me more energy. In fact, it did the opposite. Plus, if I try to deprive myself of dairy, I overindulge when I do eat it, which defeats the purpose.
Now I’m back to moderation. I usually have a little bit of dairy in most of my meals. However, I try to have one meal a day that is dairy-free. Plus, I actually really like the barley bread, and I enjoy making my own salad dressings.
Have you tried a no-dairy diet experiment on yourself? What were your results?