Recently, I have started feeling run down almost constantly. It’s been more than just being tired; I feel almost sick and totally lethargic. At first, I attributed it to a tough school year and keeping up with the new house. However, after I started getting some pretty nasty breakouts again, I took a look at my diet. I had started eating meat again after six years of being totally vegetarian and two more years of eating seafood but no other meat, but I was constantly eating heavy foods filled with cheese, bread and pasta, and very few vegetables or anything else with, well, any nutrients at all. When I would get home from a difficult day of work, all I would want was a piece of pizza and to curl up on the couch in front of the television. We were eating pizza, lasagna, or pasta with cream-based sauces at least once a week. Each of those once a week. You are probably thinking, “Duh, Ashley. No wonder you felt awful,” but it wasn’t clear to me right away. Sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees, and I was attributing my exhaustion to my difficult school year and the changes in our lifestyle.
I started reading up on what foods can cause acne and, although most of the research has not found a direct correlation between diet and breakouts, many people will tell you that dairy and refined carbohydrates can mess with your insulin levels and your hormones which may produce more breakouts. Similarly, pretty much everyone will tell you that eating all the carbs and cheese and cream that we were eating will make you tired all the time.
So I decided to do a complete overhaul of my diet. I actually sort of feel like I’m becoming Rob Lowe’s character from Parks and Recreation with all of the healthy alternatives, supplements, and teas I’ve been intaking, but whatever. What counts is that I’m feeling better, right?
Anyway, I start each day with a green smoothie – literally, the thing is green. It’s made of soy milk, a banana, some honey, some peanut butter, and a bunch of baby spinach. If it sounds disgusting, you are half right. The first time I made it, I had to plug my nose to drink it, but after a few weeks of experimenting, I’ve gotten the right ratio of ingredients so it tastes mostly like peanut butter and bananas. I drink this for breakfast every morning along with my multivitamin. For lunch, I’ve been eating a lot of carrots, celery, and hummus with the occasional tuna salad. Oh, and trail mix. Trader Joes makes the best trail mix ever. For dinner, we usually eat some kind of slow cooked meat, because I have been obsessed with the slow cooker. Seriously, I can make the meal in the morning and have the meal ready when I come home with almost zero cleanup? Count me in. I’ve also started drinking lots of various herbal teas.
You may note from this menu that I have completely cut out dairy and have significantly reduced my intake of refined carbohydrates. No cheese, cream, or milk. If I eat bread or pasta, it is whole grain. I am actually on week two of a no-dairy diet, and I feel awesome. Granted, the spinach smoothie (Seriously, spinach is really good for you. Popeye wasn’t kidding. 1 ) and increase of other healthy, raw foods such as vegetables and trail mix definitely also have something to do with that, but I probably wouldn’t be eating all of that were it not for restricting the dairy because I’ve now had to find other things to eat.
At two weeks, I’ve been able to completely stop drinking coffee. Coming from the woman who inhaled at least four cups of coffee a day for the past ten years of her life, this is huge. I now drink one cup of green tea in the morning, and that’s enough. The rest of the tea I drink is caffeine free. The energy I have now is also sustainable. Every day last week, I was able to make it through a whole day of teaching, an hour at the gym, and then come home and write an article or two before bed. Since you’ve seen the dip in productivity on this blog over the past semester, you know that was impossible for me before now. I also have a significant reduction in stomach problems. I haven’t seen a decrease in breakouts yet (and, even if I did, it could definitely also be attributed to my change in skincare routine and medication I’m on for it rather than the dairy), but since I’m feeling so great, I’m willing to give it a while longer to see what happens.
Obviously, completely eliminating dairy from my diet is not sustainable. I mean, I really, really love cheese. We give the dogs cheese when they go in their crates at night, and sometimes I get really jealous that they can have cheese and I can’t. I do think, though, that if I maintain this kind of healthy eating and add dairy back in moderation, I can maintain this level of energy while still enjoying some of the foods I love once in a while. For now, though, I’m just excited that I feel like I’m back to my old self.
Author’s note: DO NOT start on a new diet or start taking things out of your current diet without talking to a doctor. I was able to do this because I’ve spoken extensively with a number of professionals, and I’m also able to get important nutrients that dairy has from elsewhere. If you are not able to do that, don’t try this. Calcium is really important, and diary has a lot of calcium, among other things! Just be safe with your food choices.
Featured Image Credit: HealthGauge
- If you don’t believe that spinach gives you crazy awesome energy, here’s an anecdote for you. We ran out of spinach yesterday, so I had to eat a bagel with peanut butter on it for breakfast. By noon, I needed a nap, and by dinnertime, I felt like I was carrying around an extra 100 pounds all day, that’s how tired I was. True story. ↩