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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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