The study began nearly a month ago when I was assigned an argumentative paper in my college writing class. For this assignment, we were to choose a topic of interest (whether it be marijuana legalization, paid salary for college athletes, abolishment of the electoral college, etc.) and convince our audience why it is that this change needed to happen. Having noticed the large population of vegan students at my university, I decided to explore the ethics and health benefits that eliminating animal products from one's diet had on the plant and human body.
Because this is a broad subject, I decided to narrow it down to the advantages of just becoming dairy-free so that I could really hone into the study on a much smaller scale. As I began to research online and in the library, I was shocked at what I found.
Being someone who has purchased and enjoyed dairy products throughout my entire life (yes, I love my HaloTop ice cream), I felt completely deceived about what I was putting into my body after reading the statistics. Thus, I decided to challenge myself: no cheese, no milk, no butter, no yogurt, and no ice cream for seven whole days. I already consider myself to be a healthy eater, but when I analyzed my diet, I realized that a lot of what I ate contained some form of dairy. Foods I didn't even think twice about such as cream in my coffee, a slice of cheese on my sandwich, or a tablespoon of butter on toast had to be replaced if I was serious about this. So, what happened?
I felt more energized.
I no longer woke up feeling lethargic or groggy after a full night's sleep, and actually, slept soundly throughout the night without interruption. Unfortunately, I did have trouble actually falling asleep because I was so full of energy until 11 o'clock every night; however, when I did eventually close my eyes, I slept for nearly eight hours straight!
I stopped experiencing discomfort after eating.
Perhaps the most surprising statistic I came across during research was the fact that approximately 60% of the world's population is lactose intolerant - and the thing is, most people don't even know that they are! It always confused me when I would feel bloated, nauseous, and experience abdominal cramping after consuming a product with dairy as the main component (you would think I'd notice something wasn't right, huh?). Anyways, as the week came to a close, I noticed that these uncomfortable symptoms weren't as extreme as before. I could actually exercise or even sit through a class without feeling like my stomach is about to explode... I know, TMI.
My skin cleared up.I am pretty fortunate to say that my skin has never really been acne-ridden in the past (despite those nights when I was too tired to take my makeup off before bed), but after quitting dairy for a week, something felt different. Whether it was psychosomatic or simply just a fluke, my skin decided to thank me for depriving it of hormone-injected cow's milk :-)
It helped clear my cold.
As the colder weather was looming, I inevitably felt a stuffy nose and sore throat coming on. Into the second week of my sickness and the third day of the dairy-free challenge, I finally felt like I was starting to feel better. Because of their high-fat content, dairy products often coat your throat and can create a buildup of phlegm in your system (I know, gross). Since removing milk-based beverages/foods from my diet during that time, I suddenly noticed how quickly I was cured!
Dairy substitutes typically cost more.
Yeah, my bank account took a dent during this 7-day challenge. I found myself spending $1.00 extra for almond milk instead of skim in my lattes, opting out of cheese and dressings on salads, but still paying full price, and occasionally purchasing meals outside of the campus dining hall because of the limited offering of dairy-free foods. I knew this lifestyle would be tough, but I didn't expect it to clear out my wallet, too.
Dairy alternatives are sometimes a rare find in restaurants and cafes.
Searching for somewhere to grab a decent bite to eat can be difficult enough, let alone finding an establishment that can suit your dietary needs. I admit to being that annoying friend who had to look at the menu before heading out, Google ingredients in certain dishes, and ask employees several questions before ordering. I've even had to leave a few cafes when they did not offer a dairy substitute for my coffee or tea. Yikes.
Despite these minor inconveniences, I can wholeheartedly say that this dairy-free week has helped reconfigure and revive my body in ways I couldn't have imagined. Yes, it was hard to completely eliminate an entire food group from my diet, but if I'm being quite honest here, I'll probably continue with this lifestyle. I'm not saying that the occasional slice of cheese won't make it onto my sandwich (let's be realistic here), but from now on I'll be sure to watch how much and how frequently dairy products appear in my everyday meals!
Will you accept the challenge, too?