Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Conclusion of No Dairy January

Happy February!  The first day of the shortest, sometimes coldest month of the year was an absolute stunner. I actually went for a walk in my flip flops if you can believe it (and if you know me well, you probably can).

Almost more importantly, I ate cheese.  And oh, it was so good.

After 31 days of abstaining from one of my favorite food groups, it felt overwhelming to finally go back over to the cheese section and know I could grab whatever my little heart desired.  And I did - I now have French brie, organic pepperjack, organic goat cheese, and cheap but tasty Trader Joe's parmesan chilling in the fridge.  I couldn't refrain from snatching all of them, but I can at least refrain from eating them all at the same time.  Small victories.

So how do I feel after this unique little experiment?

I hate to be anticlimactic, but I don't feel too dramatically different.  I do feel lighter, that much I can say.  I didn't really need to lose much weight, but everyone has their trouble spots that they're not crazy about, and mine definitely felt less troublesome throughout this month.  I also did notice an improvement in my skin, most notably in the absence of any red spots on either side of my nose and a lessening of the eczema patches on my ankles that have given me a lot of grief this year.

It wasn't a magical cure-all though, alas.  I didn't really expect it to be, because dairy isn't the only thing I have an allergy to, but there's always a part of you that hopes there'll be on magic thing that will cure you / make you look how you always wanted / make all your hopes and dreams come true.  But I'm really glad I did it anyway, and not just because I felt lighter and noticed some improvements in my skin and health woes.  It helped me cement the fact that I'm not a slave to my identity as a cheese-a-holic, or a choco-holic, or a take-your-pick.  I have things I love to indulge in, I struggle just like the next guy, but I'm the one who defines my choices, not my history.  Regardless of how many, many boxes of mac & cheese I could eat in high school, that's not who I am.  I can change myself anytime.

This is turning into a lot more of a Jillian Michaels affirmation than I'd planned, but I've been watching a lot of old school Biggest Loser, so I guess those notions have been on my mind this week.  It comes down to feeling empowered over my physical, emotional, and mental health.  It's one of the many, many things that drew me to yoga in the first place, and it's something I love about the yoga community here in NYC.  Even though it can be a little mentally draining seeing article after article about the evils and virtues of meat, gluten, dairy, veggies, organic, local, paleo, whole grain, take your pick - the crux is that we all care about taking care of our bodies so that our true selves are unencumbered to do whatever it is we love in this world.

I'm not going to ignore the ills that I've read about dairy and the downsides of it.  I'm already planning to stick to coconut milk for my morning cereal, and to avoid eating cheese with every meal as was my custom.  (Except, of course, when I'm in Paris!)  What will be very interesting to see is if I notice any big changes now that I'm introducing cheese back into my diet.  Maybe I will notice a worsening of the eczema or asthma - I'll certainly be on the lookout for it.  I'm taking what worked about this month with me, while still knowing that my life is too short to cut the goat cheese out of my salad.

Speaking of Jillian Michaels, though, I've got my next challenge underway - I'm doing her 30 Day Shred.  I've been feeling a little less stable and a little overly stretchy in some of my muscles, and this feels like a great way to build strength, shake things up, give myself a good at-home workout option for when the true February chill hits, and something to focus on so I don't wile away the hours daydreaming of April in Paris.

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