Enough people have asked me how I managed to lose so much weight so fast, and have noticed my extra energy and other good things, that I decided to address what I believe to be the real reason why so many Americans are fat and out of shape.
Nearly all physicians and many traditional nutritionists/dietitians will insist that weight gain is exclusively a result of "calories in vs. calories out." While various foods and types of eating are known to be healthy, many traditional diet experts don't recognize the "other issue." In addition to eating a balanced diet with appropriate calories coming from appropriate sources and getting enough exercise, there's a big difference in addition to the calorie-laden menus of today's fast-food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, and the endless array of pre-prepared meals and treats found in the massive frozen/prepared food aisles that now dwarf the "regular" food areas in all of our supermarkets -- even places that focus on health, quality and sustainability like Whole Foods.
My biggest food sensitivity/allergy is obviously dairy. Many people believe this just means "aww, drink Lactaid." I haven't drunk a glass of milk in many years - Lactose-free or "regular." How do I know that dairy is "the problem?" This is the second time I've removed it from my diet and the first time I stopped cold turkey and haven't had a bit for the past 3 months. The dramatic difference in my weight, energy levels and general sense of well-being is clearly associated in my elimination of dairy foods from my diet.
As most people who've totally cut out an entire major food group (or gone Vegan - and thank you, Vegans - I know genuine Vegan products are safe and dairy-free) know, it's no easy task. Thanks to today's nutrition laws and labeling, I can read carefully to ensure I'm not eating any of the hundreds of dairy derivatives and by-products found in common prepared foods. These additives are called "hidden dairy." Things like bread (80% of store-bought bread contains whey), crackers (whey-filled too) and basically any frozen dinner or other prepared food item. Another dairy-derivative is made from casein, which is a protein found in milk. This has been used to make paint and other industrial products, and may be a source of allergic reactions and sensitivities as great as the well-known lactose (milk sugar) intolerance. Forget store-bought candies, cookies and cakes - except, oddly, the typical cheap store brand cookies for kids. Most of those lack dairy because they are simply made of processed white flour, sugar, cheap vegetable shortening, and minimal levels of flavoring and coloring. This doesn't make them GOOD or good for you, but they're at least - dairy free.
Also, for those of you who are reading this and thinking, "Maybe that's where my spare tire/love handles/pooch came from!" - forget fake cheese. Unless it is vegan cheese, it contains sodium caseinate. In other words, it has all the bad cheese stuff, and none of the good.
Before I continue, I want to emphasize that not every person has the same sensitivities/allergies/intolerances as everyone else. In the case of dairy, I know that sometimes when I suggest it could be the source of unwanted weight gain and other negative health consequences, people get irritated. That irritation is one of the surest signs that a food sensitivity could be at play. Ironically, a number of studies have confirmed empirical observations: often people have strong cravings for the very foods to which they are allergic, intolerant or sensitive. We should all know by watching Super Size Me (2004) that cheese, especially the processed American type so omnipresent in our fast food world, contains actual addictive substances called "casomorphins." Yes, an opiate compound, as found in "morphine." So, there are real substances in dairy products that have effects that mimic those of drugs we know to be addictive. And when questioned, most addicts get angry and defensive about their substance of choice. Who would have thought you could mainline cheese?
I'm going to keep putting nutritional information on different food additives, sensitivities and allergies, but I want to emphasize a benefit to dumping dairy that aids in many different ways in addition to the obvious, rapid weight loss.
You know the "eat healthy" comparisons where the helpful dietitians and health advocates like First Lady Michelle Obama say "which would you rather eat - a piece of chocolate cake or a nice plate of steamed broccoli?"
Yes, some of you cake enthusiasts out there, or you cheeseburger-lovers, or you macaroni-and-cheese cravers . . . let's see - for me, it was my damn salad with blue cheese dressing. I would dream about it. I would imagine ever more complex and delicious dressing-laden concoctions. Ahh . . . . and then there was cheese and crackers. Cheese as a snack. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Where was I?
If you give it up cold turkey, your cravings will be much easier to overcome. After a few days, genuine hunger kicks in.
Not a food craving. Not "It's dinner time, let's have a baked potato with all the . . ." but real hunger. Like, "I'm hungry - I'd better eat something." Hunger. Hungry.
And without the dairy, the plate of broccoli tastes delicious. For the first 2 weeks of this, I replicated the first "dairy free" meal easily accessible to my lazy self at a convenient location. In my case, Starbucks. It is the "Chicken on Flatbread with Hummus Artisan Snack Plate". Those of you who are calorie counters will notice that this treat doesn't have high calories, high fat, or even high sodium. It is relatively high in fiber and it contains basic foods. Other than the "flatbread" which is dairy-free, it has hummus, which is made from chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste), sliced cucumber, a few small grape tomatoes, and carrot sticks. You could totally eat this same snack/lunch with vegan protein instead of chicken. But remember - I didn't swear off meat protein in simple form. I swore off dairy.
That sounds horrible to someone who is accustomed to CHEEZEBARGARS and CHEEZSTEAKS and CHEEZWHIZ. And yummy chocolate cake!
I realized this was the exact right thing for me to eat after I got it on my first day of real hunger. It tasted good, and was the exact right amount and type of food for me at the time. So, I went to the store and bought chicken breasts, which I cooked, portioned out and sliced. I bought trays of the little tomatoes and Persian cucumbers, for like a ridiculously low amount, and got a fiber-rich, whole grain flatbread which I assured myself contained just grain, leavening and water as ingredients. I ate this stuff primarily for the first two weeks of "dairy free." For breakfast I ate one of my favorites of this brand of whole grain oatmeal.
I am eating an organic apple right now. And it tastes sooooooooo gooood. Some people might even think: God made this apple and he's a way better cook than me . . .
So, the moral of this story is, you don't just "eat healthy food." A dairy-industry funded campaign in recent years has told people to eat as many as 4 cups of low- or non-fat yogurt a day. So, dose yourself four times a day with a product you don't particularly like, just so you can keep the constant craving for CHEEZEBARGAR and CHEEZ WHIZ and CHEETOOOSSS going.
And don't get me started on that delicious orange cheese "powder." That's probably 100% casomorphin with some "color" added.