I discovered my lactose intolerance almost a year ago, when I started getting horrible stomachaches an hour or two after eating breakfast. At first I thought (to my horror) that maybe it was the copious amounts of coffee I was consuming each morning. I was devastated. I was a junior in culinary school, how would I survive without my daily dose of caffeine?? It wasn’t until someone asked if I put any milk or creamer in my coffee, when I realized that maybe dairy was my problem.
So, I decided to experiment, and go without dairy for one week. And what an amazing week it was. (Of course, I spent most of that week eating salad, for some reason I couldn’t comprehend eating something that didn’t have cheese on it- we ate a lot of macaroni and cheese in my apartment) After a few days I felt wonderful. Not only were my stomach pains gone, but also it made me realize how terrible and lethargic I’d felt eating all those dairy products.
It was extremely difficult going dairy free for me. A few weeks after my experiment I started buying cow’s milk once again, (I was living off a poor college student budget) and went back to my dairy consuming ways. It wasn’t until September of 2010 that I finally put my foot down and realized I needed to give this up. I made a delicious goat cheese pizza and it just didn’t settle well with my stomach- I knew it was time for it all to go.
The first few weeks were awful. I felt depressed and all I wanted to do was eat a big bowl of ice cream. I cried over the thought that I would never be able to eat my favorite beer cheese soup again. I spent ages trying to find a suitable lactose free cheese, never finding one that tasted right to me.
But after a while, the sun came out. I realized that I felt amazing, and I started to learn to simply cook things that didn’t need cheese or dairy, instead of trying to find a substitute for it, and I’ve never felt better. I’ve also suffered from chronic sore throats for as long as I can remember. I’ve gotten my tonsils removed, seen an allergy doctor, and nothing really seemed to help. But once I stopped eating dairy, the scratchiness went away too.
I won’t lie to you though; sometimes I do indulge in dairy products. My intolerance isn’t extremely severe, so for me it’s all about balance. A little bit here and there won’t harm me, but I do prefer to stay away. My throat still flares up each time.
I’m also a vegetarian. I do it for health reasons of course, but mainly for the animals. I’ve always loved animals and I had the pleasure of viewing the PETA video ‘Meet Your Meat’ and it just wasn’t the same ever again. I slowly lost my appetite for animal flesh, and switched over to less cruel ways. I’d like to think of myself as an ovo-vegetarian, but I have to admit I’m a lacto-ovo. That small bit of dairy I do eat still counts I suppose. It was much easier to give up meat for me than dairy. I just decided to stop one day, and I never looked back.