by Lucy Miller Robinson
Two years ago, I wrote a post about giving up dairy. That lasted about two weeks, maybe less.
Well, I’m still trying to figure this “best health” thing out, and I’ve hopped back on the dairy-weary train for many reasons, the biggest being my intuition. While I love cheese, yogurt and butter, I dislike milk.
Even as a child, I found it unappealing, but I often drank it anyway, because I was supposed to. Since it takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of my beloved cheese, and since I’m learning to eat mindfully and actually contemplate the origins of everything I put in my body, I’ve become suspicious.
Cow’s milk is designed for calves. Our ancestors started drinking another species’ milk because they were hungry, but I am not hungry. I have an abundance of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, fats and sugars to consume on a daily basis. I have farmer’s markets and grocery stores and cafes on every corner. As a modern human in a developed nation, I am well-stocked.
There’s a host of other reasons as well. Did you know that we barely absorb the calcium in cow’s milk? Cow’s milk actually increases calcium loss from human bones. The 12 year long Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that those who consumed the most calcium from dairy foods broke more bones than those who rarely drank milk. (http://saveourbones.com/osteoporosis-milk-myth/).
“Consumption of dairy products, particularly at age 20 years, was associated with an increased risk of hip fracture in old age. (“Case-Control Study of Risk Factors for Hip Fractures in the Elderly”. American Journal of Epidemiology. Vol. 139, No. 5, 1994).
Since I have a genetic history of osteoporosis, and very fine bones, I can no longer ignore these studies, I would like my hips to stay where they are, and I would like to pursue an active lifestyle for as long as I am alive. The universe willing.
Dairy is also recognized by some experts to be the main cause of iron-deficiency anemia in women. Caseins from milk and certain forms of calcium inhibit iron absorption. I have low iron levels and my daughter has slightly low iron levels, and while this is only a minor problem, it is certainly an imbalance I would like to correct.
This time around, as I endeavor to clean up my diet, I have a new philosophy: I will limit my dairy consumption. If I don’t allow minor “cheats” every once in a while, I will eventually cave to milk’s seduction, which comes in many forms, and I’ll lose my grasp on the edge. I’ll fall back into the creamy abyss and I’ll be stuck forever in the quicksands of lactose and casein.
Yesterday, when James got a frozen yogurt, I had a few licks. But I didn’t get my own frozen yogurt. I stole one mac and cheese elbow off of Giovanna’s plate, too. But that’s nothing.
Speaking of my family, they are going to see a lot less dairy on their plates. I’m not going to stop Giovanna from eating cheese at preschool or cake and ice cream at birthday parties. I won’t lecture my husband about his choices at restaurants. I have control over one area of their culinary lives, and since we cook and eat at home for the majority of our meals, it’s a well-portioned area.
So I will stop buying dairy products (cheese, milk, butter, etc) and most products containing dairy (with the exception of butternut squash ravioli and a few other relatively healthy favorites). At least for a while, to see how our bodies respond.
I don’t know why I need to grant myself permission for little cheats to fully commit to a new habit. It’s like I refuse to do anything too extreme, even in the name of research to know the truth about dairy: is it serving my highest good, or is it not? When I look at dairy, my brain sees sickness rather than health. Meanwhile, my stomach and my palate see something to devour. With gusto.
What’s the deal? Why do our bodies find that which isn’t good for us to be attractive? It’s not only food. Remember the bad boy? Even the smart girl who knows the bad boy isn’t good for her cannot resist his charms. Even the girl who knows she doesn’t need to buy one more sequined dress because it’s bad for her bank account will fall for the dress. Even the girl who wants to lose weight will indulge in a cupcake. Even the girl who knows she will be sick in the morning will take one (or more) too many tequila shots.
Addictions come in all forms: food, sugar, sex, shopping, internet, exercise, TV, caffeine. Am I addicted to dairy? Maybe. I think a lot of people are (sugar, too). But the more I learn about plant-based nutrition, the less I want animal products and processed foods. Whether or not you are intolerant or allergic or neither, dairy creates an acidic environment in the body, which is supposed to be an alkaline place.
On the other hand, if you eat it in moderation, it’s not like dairy is going to kill you. (I don’t think. Especially if you choose organic.) But why would I waste precious time in the kitchen preparing something I don’t feel 100% good about serving to my beautiful family?
My husband will likely eat dairy every day while he’s at work anyways. My stepson will continue to drink milk at school and his mom’s house. My daughter will continue to consume dairy products at school and probably restaurants, too. I will continue to cheat at well-appointed intervals, when I know it’s worth it, when I let my stomach’s priorities trump what my brain knows. I can only do so much, and for now, it means I will stop buying and cooking with most dairy products.
So, that’s it. Let the change unfold. I’ll be back with a progress report.
Lucy Miller Robinson is a mother, stepmother, writer, and health entrepreneur. She founded Herbal Philosophy Teas upon the belief that Mother Nature is mankind’s greatest chemist. Lucy is currently writing her second novel and editing her first novel. She blogs about living for your highest self (or at least trying to) at Lucille in the Sky, and about herbal medicine at the Herbal Philosophy site. Follow her on Twitter and please introduce yourself. She likes making new friends.