Why I Went Dairy-Free | April 2021

Why I Went Dairy-Free | April 2021

I was always aware of the link between what you put into your body, and your overall health. I knew I shouldn’t eat too much fat or sugar, I knew I should eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables and encorporate a balanced, variety of foods into my diet. I knew I should drink lots of water and limit my caffeine and alcohol, and I knew that If I ate rubbish then I’d feel rubbish. I’ve never been able to get away with a poor diet. Whether it be to maintain a healthy weight, or for energy, my body wouldn’t be long in reminding me that I wasn’t fuelling it properly. Despite feeling hard done to as a child, while my friends would live off beige foods and chocolate where as I could only have those foods in moderation, it meant when I became an adult and had control over my diet, it was a much easier transition. It also gave me an interest in nutrition and the relationship between how you fuel your body and how it affects you.

I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disease in 2019 and while it was a sight of relief, knowing there was something wrong with me for so long but not knowing what, it was a new thing in my life to manage which I felt powerless too because it’s incurable, and unpredictable. As I managed the first two years of my diagnosis, my body got used to the medication and it took me to a point where it was under control and we were as far as we could go in terms of medication. I was still frustrated because I was in a lot of pain at times, fatigued, and felt like I was losing control. I’d thought about a homeopathic route but in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt it was too much money to part with for a Skype call. The other thing I wanted to explore was the effect my diet could have on managing my condition. I’d read stories about how diet modification could improve conditions. Ella, from Deliciously Ella turned to a plant based diet to help with her conditions, and Nic Chapman from Pixiwoo has credited her diet in keeping her MS under control. I had read article after article about various diet options but as I have a sensitivity to dairy, I can eat it but if I eat too much I don’t feel great, I was interested to see if cutting it out completely would improve my health.

I made the decision fairly quickly so going cold turkey, seemed like a set up to fail. I decided for the month of March and up until Easter weekend, I would cut it out as much as possible but have the odd cheat day here and there for Mother’s Day, Easter, occasions. I also didn’t want to hassle anyone else with my dairy free diet while I was still tinkering with it. That would give me a solid fortnight off dairy to learn, settle into a new routine and see if I noticed a benefit.

I studied the free from sections of the supermarket and other than them being (at times) eye-wateringly more expensive, there wasn’t anything I found that I could haven’t have a dairy free alternative, which was assuring. From cheese, milk, yoghurt, chocolate, even condensed milk, there were options. Having a sweet tooth, I was nervous about giving up chocolate and even though I’ve found dairy free alternatives that I like, there is also some ‘accidentally’ dairy free products I’ve found which means I can still eat some of my favourite treats, like Bournville and Bourbon biscuits.

I cook a lot so found it pretty easy come mealtimes, but I did do a stock take and was surprised at some of the ready made foods that contain dairy like tinned soups and even some chicken sausages. I swapped cows milk for oat milk, switched cheese for free-from cheese which is coconut based and surprisingly delicious, I started blending cashews to make creamy sauces and swapped ice cream for soya based products. Dairy provides lots of vital nutrients so to supplement this, I made sure I was eating a vast range of veggies, I added more nuts, seeds and pulses to meals and nutritional yeast. I also take Vitamin D supplements so switched to Vitamin D + Calcium and now take a multi B vitamin daily and that seems to be working well so far.

Within the first week, I definitely felt better within myself which was a real positive and I didn’t find the dietary change difficult. My joint pain is definitely calmed down which is a huge benefit (although I’m pretty sure the dairy free has a lot to do with it, these conditions are unpredictable so I can’t say for sure that’s what it is). I’m not crippled with fatigue right now, but I haven’t been since Christmas so I haven’t noticed any direct impact, I suppose I’m moving more so should feel more tired, but I still feel pretty good.

After an indulgent Easter, I now have no interest in dairy products so feel like I’m in a good position to give it a real go and see if it makes a difference to my life. I am slightly worried about eating out, many foods contain hidden dairy so don’t want to eat it unknowingly, but I don’t have an allergy so I’m not as worried about cross contamination as someone with an allergy should be. Time will tell how I get on, but if it’s going to improve my quality of life, then I’m willing to try anything.

I plan to post a lot more dairy free content including things I’ve learned, accidentally dairy free treats and recipes so if you’re interested in that, or have any tips then please leave a comment below.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

My Work From Home Routine | February 21

My Work From Home Routine | February 21

Working from home is my new normal, for the foreseeable and I mentioned in my post Let’s Talk About… Working From Home that I don’t think we’ll ever go back to a five day working week in the office. I went from no working from home, to blended working from home, to fully working from home and I think the key to getting it right is a good routine. A good routine doesn’t have to mean a routine that’s the pinnacle of health, it’s about finding what works for you.

7- 8am – If I’m starting before 7.30, I am known for working the first hour from my soft office with a cup of tea to wake up. I do this when I have quiet jobs I need done, and I know no one will try and call me on Microsoft Teams. If I’m starting nearer 8, then I’ll be sat at my desk, normally washed and dressed.

8am – I normally go through my emails when I log on, or do any jobs I’d planned the night before, to do first thing. Around 8am, I write my list for the day. I write two lists, a work goals and a non-work goals. I find writing non-work goals makes me move, makes me feel like I’m achieving things other than work and therefore keeps me productive and feeling a benefit of working from home. It’s a different way of working, you don’t spend ten minutes having a chat about what everyone is having for lunch, so you have those ten minutes for yourself.
An example list would be:
-Empty bins
– 3 minute YouTube workout (I love Lucy Wyndham-Read for quick workouts)
– Chop vegetables for soup
– Plan monthly blog posts
– Tidy out 1 drawer

8.30 – This is when I put light make-up on, do my hair, spray my perfume and really get ready. I know some people who happily work in their pyjamas but for me, I feel better being ready for the day. Particularly when I’m on calls and thanks to screen-sharing, seeing yourself on camera is a common occurrence.

9.40 – If I’ve not moved from my desk yet, this is my first break of the day.

11.30 – This is normally when I have something to eat. Normally eggs, porridge or yoghurt. I know it’s a bit late for breakfast but I generally try to fast 14 hours a day.

12.45 – Normally I take my half-hour break around this time and I always go for a walk unless I’m in meetings. It’s so important to get some fresh air and clear your head. Sometimes I’ll take the dog, but he’s getting older and likes to doddle so mostly I go myself. I like to listen to a podcast and my current favourite is Shagged, Married, Annoyed.

2.30 – Depending on what I’ve had for breakfast, I’ll grab some soup or a quick bite. When I worked in an office, I used to make a pot of soup at the weekend for lunches through the week. I still try to do this so I’m eating healthy through the week and not spending too much time on it.

3.30 – Since I started working the 9-5, I always had a coffee/ tea at 3.30 pm. My rationale was that by the time you’d drank it, it was about 4pm which was into the final hour before finishing time. Now I’m very lucky that I have flexitime and generally finish at 4pm, but I still have my 3.30 pm coffee and usually a little treat to keep myself going.

4pm – Log off. I generally am more productive in the morning and especially during the winter when it’s dark so early, I struggle to stay productive after 4pm, so I try to finish up sharp. As I was so used to non-flexible working, 4pm – 5pm is like a new hour in my day. During this hour, I write be that my novel or a blog post or sometimes I read. It means that I’m always doing something for myself to be productive every day.

Tips:

  • Get outside every day, go for a walk or even just sit in the garden for ten minutes with a drink (weather permitting), you will feel so much better.
  • Have something handy, that isn’t your phone. There’s no one standing over you to make sure you’re not constantly on your phone, so you need to be that for yourself. I bought an adult colouring book which I have at my desk for when I feel like I’m scrolling too much.
  • You need to work harder to move, but you’ll thank yourself for it. Whether it’s quick workouts, jumping jacks while the kettle boils or ten squats every time you go to the toilet.
  • You generally get business done quicker at home, so take time out to check in with your colleagues. It’s fine to have a twenty minute chat about what you’re watching on Netflix every few weeks, it will make you feel better.
  • Do some online learning. Whether your organisation offers courses, or you seek them out yourself. There are lots of free courses out there and while you might feel like you can’t be bothered, you might surprise yourself with what you take out of it.
  • Speak up if you’re struggling, your boss, your colleagues, friends and family are there to support you so don’t struggle in silence.
  • Remember, right now you are not working from home. You are at home, during a pandemic, trying to work.

Please let me know your home working routine or even if you’re in an office, do you have a routine to keep you productive? I’d love to know about it in the comments below.