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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 July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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