Ditch the Dairy

by Liz Caskey on March 28, 2011

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I suspect these words may cause a mutiny among us food and wine lovers. I am a former cheese junkie. It was, and still is, a passion. I would pick cheese over chocolate any day. However, how and when I eat it has shifted enormously in the past month. Let me tell you—it shows, physically, for the better.

Stop reading this post and go open your refrigerator right now. Take a stock of how much dairy is in there. Milk, yogurt, a selection of cheeses (maybe 5-7?) is pretty standard in many households both in Chile & the U.S. That’s right, the dairy industry (a billion-dollar industry, I may add) has convinced us since birth that a balanced diet must include dairy. Says who? Ever noticed we are the only mammal on planet Earth consuming milk intended for other baby animals? Have Asians ever really consumed dairy and been unhealthy? Taste aside, just stop to think about it for a minute and where this idea comes from. Wanting it is not the same thing as needing it.

I am not putting dairy into some “bad” food category. However, I think most people don’t understand the effect it has on our bodies and our metabolism. It is an area that you need to think about if you’re trying to lose weight, tone up and get ripped, or have chronic bloating/gas/digestive and/or sinus/mucus problems, which can be signs of intolerance and allergies. In this light, I want to share my new approach to dairy with you all and how you can tame that beast.

I find that people generally overeat dairy and put it—especially cheese—in the protein category as a “substitution” for lean proteins like meat, fish, poultry, or pork. While it does contain some protein, the simple sugar load outweighs the protein component. Why does this matter? Your body is a perfect machine and processes food as information. When it eats dairy and takes in the information contained in the genetic make up of the food, it essentially tells your body what to do with it. Said another way, it determines how your body metabolizes and processes it, utilizing it as energy or depositing it as fat. In this case, dairy is made up mostly of lactose (a simple sugar) and casein protein causes an increased insulin response, which is really to be avoided when you’re trying to drop fat and make your body a fat-burning furnace—you are looking for steady blood sugar all day. Cheese also happens to be a “domino food,” according to author Tim Ferriss of the Four Hour Body. What happens when you start eating a particularly delicious piece or grating it over your quesadilla? The 1-ounce portion goes fast. You get addicted to dairy too, just like sugar. When I have discussed this approach with dairy junkies, they go nuts. You eat more. And more. And where do the excess calories/sugar go? It becomes fat.

Another point is that most dairy (save natural milk and yogurt) has salt added to it. Extra sodium in your diet is going to make your body retain water. Cut the dairy for even a week and you’ll start seeing the puffiness in your arms, legs, etc. go down quickly. I realize a lot of you are going to disagree with me. However, the proof is in the pudding. I have been adhering to a strictly no dairy approach except one “cheat” day per week (along with a vegetable-heavy diet). The results are inspiring. Abs are emerging, the fat is coming off with little exercise, I may add (try 15-20 minutes, 5 times per week of bodyweight HIIT circuits).

Do I still have cheese? Totally. On my cheat day. I splurge on amazing, flavorful artisan cheeses that satisfy my palate. That make me swoon. Those glorious smelly-as-feet varieties, usually gooey with a mature rind. In fact, in cutting back and ditching the dairy, 6 days at least, my palate is more attune to it. When I taste it, it feels like ecstasy, momentarily at least.

So, in my experience, daily dairy has simply not been compatible moving towards my leanest, most healthy self. What has your experience been? Let’s discuss, and above all experiment on yourself to see the results.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt March 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I love your blog Liz, but your posts really upset me sometimes!

I am a total cheese addict. The one thing I miss most from the UK is good cheese.

Now however it may be a good thing.

Funnily enough the chinese for cheese translated means “sour milk”!

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Andi Lee March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Great post! I totally agree with you and am thinking about cutting dairy along with a vegetarian diet to help with weight loss. I have done it in the past – the other thing I noticed was an increased sense of smell when I was dairy free!

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Liz Caskey March 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Totally! You clear out all the mucus gunk. I think the cheat day is good for mental sanity purposes and honestly, once the addiction is broken, the cravings disappear. A little piece of super intense, good quality cheese (akin to doing an espresso), is all it takes now. Thanks for reading!

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Liz Caskey March 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Sorry Matt, it’s not on purpose! Just try it. It really is amazing how it can help in transforming body composition. that being said, I wasn’t saying never eat it. God knows that good Stilton is a transcendental experience.

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Matt March 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I’m starting the non dairy today. Got a trip to the UK in July, so I’ll eat some Stilton for us both then, and make up for it

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Gio May 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for posting your experience with this.
I have to confess I read it while eating a Havarti sandwich, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything to change the next meal, and the next, etc :)
I had a good scare from some minor and fairly common nerve irritation that I had never heard of before it happened to me, and that prompted me to clean up what I put into my mouth. I started with taking the fluoride out of my toothpaste and drinking water, and I felt so much better in a few days that I decided to keep going, slowly but surely.
I am still hooked on Pro-biotic yogurt. It makes my tummy feel better, and I even give a tablespoon to the dog if he’s having tummy problems. I drink almond milk, but I love me a good cheese once in a while, but I can do without regular cheese for the most part. Sometimes, like now, it’s more convenience than craving, really, because I thought cheese wasn’t so bad for you, but after reading about your experiences, I’d like to experiment and cut it out as well and see what happens with me.
It’s been hard to diminish the gluten, but not impossible. I have started making my own gluten free bread at home once a week, and have combined that with lots of veggies, fruits, and some meats and eggs. Half of what I eat is also organic, which might be making a difference. I don’t have headaches every day, my sinuses are getting better, and I might have lost a couple of pounds already, but haven’t looked yet.
I didn’t know dairy could irritate the sinuses, even though I’ve heard it creates more mucus in the body, so I will be cutting out dairy as soon as I can. I need to find another digestive aid for the tummy that doesn’t come in pill form :)
Last week I was thinking about making my own cheese and yogurt, to control additives, sugar and salt, but I don’t think I can take out the lactose, so maybe not.
In any case, thanks again for sharing. It’s great to hear you are loosing weight as well :) I am hoping that will be one of the side effects of cleaning up my food, even though I am mainly doing it to feel better and not feel sick all the time.

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