I’ve never been one for diets. I have been fortunate to date that I don’t have a struggle with my weight. Growing up, I was tall and slim in build. While I have put on a bit of weight slowly over the years which has bugged me a little at times, I’ve stayed within the “normal” BMI range for my height.
The only times I’ve paid close attention to my weight has been after giving birth to my three children. I wanted to lose all the pregnancy weight before having the next child, and feel a sense of accomplishment that I could lose weight if I needed to. It took me about 7-9 months each time to get back to my “old” weight. It wasn’t easy at times, but I did it.
There’s been a few times in my life that I’ve excluded things from my diet:
- As a baby, I was allergic to egg and dairy. Thankfully, I grew out of that.
- I gave up drinking energy drinks like V which I got hooked on for a few years when I was at University. I’ve had a couple of sips of them since, but they were so sickly sweet I really don’t think I could handle drinking a can.
- I gave up drinking alcohol and other potentially-unsafe foods while pregnant. Apart from craving a little bit of sushi, I didn’t miss any of the foods or alcohol.
A couple of months ago, I began to suspect that my baby girl was allergic to dairy. She was suffering from terrible eczema, being a very “spilly” baby and not sleeping very well. After months of frustration (and exhaustion), getting specialist advice, my own research and observations, I decided to eliminate dairy from my diet as I’m still breastfeeding my eight month old daughter. Within a few months, she’s gone from spilling after every feed, sometimes waking every hour at night and having continually weeping eczema to a much happier baby who sometimes sleeps through the night, or most often waking once or twice. Her eczema is better overall – but I’ve learnt a lot about other triggers for her eczema, so it’s a continual battle which I feel I’m winning more than losing.
Going dairy-free has had huge benefits to me too. I get more sleep, which makes me happier and better at coping with life. I think my skin feels better overall too. I have switched what I eat for breakfast, and got used to coffee without milk. I’ve eaten less junk food and I am shocked at how much dairy is in things I’d never expect!
I don’t crave the dairy I’m missing out on so far. Before going dairy-free, I never drunk a glass of milk by itself (always found it too strong), I ate yoghurt occasionally, and I rarely had icecream. I craved chocolate milk when I was pregnant, or it’s a very hot day but neither of those are happening currently! Cheese *is* inconvenient not to have in dinners. I miss chocolate, I think. I’ve found dark chocolate which is dairy-free though, but ended up not really wanting it.
Eating out is more difficult. Going into a bakery is just cruel, there’s basically nothing to eat. Fast-food restaurants helpfully put their allergy menus up on their websites so I’ve resorted to that a few times. Cafes in New Zealand seem to understand what “gluten-free” means, but not “dairy-free”. I asked about dairy-free options in one cafe and was pointed out all the gluten-free options, even when I repeated what I was wanting to know! Another cafe said the item was dairy-free because it didn’t have milk. When asked if it had butter in it, they said yes – sounding like it wasn’t dairy!
I’ve had my eyes opened to how life must be for so many people excluding something from their diet. Checking labels, asking questions, *thinking* about what you’re putting into your mouth.
So I’m getting used to dairy-free life. I’m not even thinking about counting down how long before I can start eating it again. It’s more the inconvenience of checking food carefully, rather than the missing out on enjoying it for me.
And, now for the sugar-free part.
A while ago a friend mentioned he had gone sugar-free. I thought he was a little crazy. Doesn’t that mean stopping any sort of enjoyment of food? Isn’t it a cruel way to live? I remember feeling a little sorry for my Grandmother who gave up sugar on medical advice to prevent getting diabetes. She couldn’t enjoy chocolate, candy, jam, desserts, juice, soft drinks, cakes, most baking, any sort of treat etc etc. I just assumed people who went without sugar would feel like they were missing out, every day of their lives. I think I felt uncomfortable about his decision because of *my* attachment to sugar.
I asked him a little about why he went sugar-free and he mentioned a book called Sweet Poison. After going dairy-free, I wondered if going sugar-free wouldn’t be as hard as I imagined. I ordered the book and read it in a couple of days – it was riveting reading. I read a bunch of other articles where people critiqued and criticized the book, saw a YouTube lecture on the topic, explored some blogs, read the sugar industry’s response and pondered. If there’s no health benefits to having artificially-added sugar, and considerable evidence of serious harms, could I do it? Could I really do it?
I don’t like a lot of rich sweet foods (e.g. cheesecake, caramel slices). I don’t eat biscuits, rarely have ice-cream or cake or home baking. I have candy every so often and usually feel ill afterwards, regretting I ate any. I *do* love chocolate.
My sugar weakness is really in what I drink. I like to have hot chocolate in my coffee, prefer to drink large quantities of apple, cranberry or orange juice over water and often have a soft drink as a treat. I love sweet drinks.
So. I decided to give it a try and see how I went. I’m shocked at how much sugar is added to things. If I thought it was hard to buy food without dairy in it, sugar is a whole new level. Staying away from sugar means less buying of food, more preparing of food.
Today is day 2 of no sugar. I’ve thought a lot about soft-drinks today but have refrained. Not having it in the house helps.
I’ve discovered there’s a lot of other people doing this sugar-free thing too. Apparently you don’t crave it after a little while and life isn’t miserable without sugar.
Will see how I go.