Saturday, February 9, 2008

NonDairy Queen

Mary Engelbreit has those drawings saying "Queen of Quite-a-lot" or "Queen of Everything" and as much as I love Mary Engelbreit, I have never identified with any of that. I'd rather call myself the NonDairy Queen -- never out loud or anything, but I thought if there's a Dairy Queen out there, I'm pretty much the opposite (although technically that might be the Non-Dairy Peasant girl :)). I just don't depend on dairy anymore. Like I mentioned before, I used to question anyone who didn't eat or drink dairy products. It seemed like such a leap to cut out a whole food group like that -- especially one that I'd been brought up on. Remember the slogan, "Milk: It does a body good!" and "Milk has something for EVERYbody." We drank whole milk practically with every meal. I loved "washing down" my dinner, or especially COOKIES with a big cold glass of milk.

Ice cream was another food I couldn't imagine living without. If I eat a High Raw diet now, I think I ate a High Ice Cream diet for many years. I remember, especially, the time I was pregnant with my second daughter. I would buy 2-4 gallons of ice cream a week (and really only my husband and I were eating it). My plan was to have 2 of each flavor so they could be one in front of the over in the freezer (hiding the other like-flavors behind) so if I ate a whole carton in one day, it wouldn't look like I did because the other would end up in its place. Deceitful, I know!

I used to eat the ice cream in a variety of ways each day -- in a bowl, in a cone, with fruit on top, or chocolate syrup on top, as a shake, as a float, in between some cookies or graham crackers. I really loved my ice cream.

Even years later when we had more children, we'd get the kids to bed and would eat ice cream while watching TV. It was such a relaxing way to end the day. You're going to think I'm psycho if I admit to this, but I even remember many times, over a period of years, needing some space from my children, and making a huge bowl of ice cream without them seeing, then locking myself in the bathroom to eat it in peace. One bathroom that comes to mind was so small if you sat down on the only obvious sitting place that bathrooms always have, if either door opened, it would hit me in the knee. But it was a haven. The house we live in now has a huge attic room above the garage, only accessed by a 12 foot ladder. There's a freezer out in the garage that I've kept ice cream in in the past. I remember having a bowl and spoon out there and repeatingly going down the ladder to eat ice cream "in peace" high up above in that storage room.

So giving up ice cream never seemed likely to me. Pizza is a similar love. I think I stated once that I could eat pizza every day and be happy (I said the same thing once about Taco Bell -- ugh!)

But a few years ago when I hit a low with my allergies and asthma, I knew I couldn't go on living like this. I used to cry in the winter when I knew allergy season was just around the corner again. We'd talked about moving for a few years just to get me out of this green place, but that didn't happen (and when I researched to see where the allergy-free place in this country was, it seemed like it didn't exist). I fasted and prayed and tried to figure out how to help my allergies. I got the idea to look into giving up dairy.

I went to the library with the memory of Marilu Henner on a talk show discussing nondairy eating. I found a book of hers and a few others and started reading. I found that dairy products are mucus forming, that they contribute to allergies. I learned a lot of things about dairy that grossed me out, but the thought of pizza and ice cream seemed to cancel that out if I really compared the two.

I bought a few more books of Marilu's (Total Health Makeover being the key one) and even joined her paid forum Bootcamps a few times. I was able to give up dairy for the most part and saw huge improvements. Every once in awhile, I'd cave to just a little pizza or just ice cream this time and would suffer greatly as a result. The sneeze attacks would happen within the hour, many times within 20 minutes.

The longer I go without dairy, the less I care about it. I started out trying to substitute my favorite dairy products with soy or whatever is on the market. I found that if I had too many soy products, I had digestive problems. Now I mainly use soy milk for recipes (pancakes and waffles mostly) and use Blue Diamond original Almond Milk if I eat cereal. I bought soy cheese once and that was enough to make me never want to buy it again -- it's pretty awful stuff (and much of it actually contains casein, which is a milk product). Most soy ice creams have a horrid aftertaste and some of them have refined sugars in them (I don't eat refined sugar or flour anymore either). The only soy ice cream I think is okay (but I rarely buy it) is Soy Delicious. Their chocolate is pretty tasty.

An interesting thing I found after being away from cheese for awhile is that the smell becomes much stronger that I ever noticed before. When someone's cooking lasagna or even when pizza comes out of the oven, it's strong enough to make me want to throw up (sorry for the visual) -- but it isn't a pleasant smell. Nice to know that things can change.
I knew I'd really changed a few years ago when I was at a family pizza night gathering. We were all making our own pizzas and I was putting veggies right on top of my marinara sauce (skipping the cheese). A friend was watching me and said, "I'm so sorry you can't have dairy." He was well-meaning, I'm sure, but it seemed so odd that he would feel sorry for such a joyous healthy discovery in my life. My whole quality of life for 3/4 the months of the year had improved TREMENDOUSLY because I'd found that dairy was contributing to it (for whatever reason -- I'm not sure). I thought this was more of a reason to celebrate than to feel sorry for someone. I told him that I didn't mind at all -- I was glad to know that by cutting out dairy, my allergies weren't near the problem they'd been for so long. I realized afterwards that I'd hit a point of maturity with my eating -- I could take it or leave it with knowledge in hand. Knowledge truly is power.

If you're looking for information on why it's healthier to give up dairy than to eat it, there's a plethora of information on the internet and in books, but my favorite resource is from Steve Ross's book "Happy Yoga." He's the yogi who teaches on the Oxygen Network's show called "Inhale." He's really fun and has great music with his yoga (I have them all recorded onto dvd). But his book is amazingly insightful on many aspects and is pretty convincing with the research given on dairy products. My husband and most of my children still eat dairy, but I only buy organic for them now because I learned what's in the regular. And since my youngest son tested allergic to milk a few years ago, everyone's cut back on how much dairy they consume. I used to buy 8 gallons of milk a week and now it's probably more like 4. I don't buy cheese much because my youngest son misses it too much and it's hard for him to see. We do still buy pizza though. And I'm able to pass it up just fine. I do have my curious moments a few times a year like I wonder if my body will all of the sudden accept it with open arms. But it never does.

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