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What I Learned from 21 Days Dairy-Free

What I Learned from 21 Days Dairy-Free

With every New Year, rather than attempting to stick to a New Year’s resolution of “eating healthy” or “losing X pounds” I like to experiment with cutting out something from my diet. I generally try to eat healthy and avoid fattening foods (at least during the week) so this is a way for me to see if there’s a certain type of food that is an integral contributor to my lack of weight loss.

The Experiment

I have always said that no matter what diet I go on I could never give up cheese – pizza to be more specific. I’m Italian and I praise my heritage’s food with overconsumption on a weekly basis. This overconsumption led to me to challenge myself to the one thing I said I could never live without. For 21 days, I decided to give up dairy. I tracked my progress and emotions below.

Disclaimer: Every person is different and every body reacts differently to different foods. My 2009 experiment of a month without bread or sugar resulted in a total of one lost pound – the result (hopefully) would not be the same for you. This experiment was to teach me about the effect dairy has on my body. This experiment could go very differently for yours.

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The Timeline

Day 1 – 2: I eased into my transition. I didn’t necessarily eat healthy but I avoided dairy (to my knowledge). This gradual transition helped me avoid giving up.

Day 3: One of my favorite snacks is pesto and matzo – try it, you’ll see why. While diving into my daily fix, I took a look at the ingredients for pesto…which included Parmesan cheese. I quickly, and very reluctantly, returned the pesto to the fridge to wait out the duration of my sentence.

Day 5: I had a minor panic attack. In my research of all things dairy, I almost thought I had read that olive oil had dairy in it. It was then that I wanted to give up. I felt like dairy products were secretly hidden in almost everything. After taking a deep breathe and reading on, I discovered that (duh) olive oil does not contain dairy. To my ignorant surprise, I also found out that eggs are not considering dairy. This is a common misconception, considering eggs are found in the dairy aisle, but are free of dairy, nonetheless.

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Day 6: Second day in a row with a migraine. Is it possible to have withdrawals from cheese?

Day 7: My daily breakfast is a protein shake. It did not occur to me until I was a full week into non-dairy to check the ingredients of my protein powder, which contain whey protein concentrate which next to it says (milk); as do my protein bars I keep on reserve for “hangry” instances. In trying to find a breakfast replacement, I discovered that dairy-free yogurts and protein bars supplement lack of milk with high sugar content, albeit healthy sugars (like those found in fruit). This was a very interesting find.

Day 10: I lifted a 24-pack of water over my head onto the top of my fridge with ease. Meanwhile, I’ve never been able to lift my suitcase on to the top of airport bins without assistance. Am I getting stronger?

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Day 14: I’m in a groove. Although it is frustrating not being able to even walk into an Italian restaurant, eating dairy-free isn’t too difficult anymore. Going out to eat, in general, is stressful. You can’t be sure that any menu item isn’t cooked with butter. However, I’ve made it this far and I’m excited for the home stretch. The last two weeks went by relatively fast and were not nearly as depressing as I had always imagined them to be.

Day 21: Give me cheese, please! Oh, and a side of ice cream. It’s not like I was necessarily craving it, but what’s a challenge without a reward?

Overall, I never felt too different being off dairy. I felt stronger, but not necessarily healthier. In total I managed to lose 3 pounds, about one per week, which seemed easy considering I never really felt like I was on a strict diet. After all, I could still eat bread and – fun fact – Oreos are dairy free. I wasn’t unhappy with my weight loss but it wasn’t overly exciting either.

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The Lesson

This experiment overall taught me how many foods secretly have dairy in them (and how thankful I am that I don’t have a dairy allergy). I learned that, moving forward, there are certain things that I can keep dairy out of, specifically coffee and salads.

This experiment was something I’m glad I did, but not something I would necessarily enjoy doing again. I appreciate pizza even more than before and I will enjoy my cake, and eat it too.

More than learning that I should stay away from dairy, I learned how easy it really is to cut out a food you thought you could never live without. It truly is all about your mindset and not letting yourself give in to giving up. That’s all it really takes to make eating healthy a habit. Once your mind is in the right place, the opportunities are virtually endless.

If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself and please share your experiences with me!

Featured photo credit: diapicard via pixabay.com

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What I Learned from 21 Days Dairy-Free

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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