By Laura Mullins
We all have our favorite foods, right? Foods we look forward to enjoying at the end of a busy day. Foods that we think about, visualize as we go about our normal, daily routines. Foods we feel we could NEVER live without.
I never imagined my life without cheese. My mom has always affectionately called me her “little mouse” because I ate so much cheese. Grilled cheese, mac and cheese, cheese and crackers, cheese pizza – anything with cheese was a sure fire hit on my personal menu. I used to joke with my family that I was addicted to cheese because no meal felt complete without it.
Although I joked about being addicted to cheese, I secretly began to wonder if it was true. It’s safe to say I was probably consuming about 6 ounces (or 160 grams, equivalent to 33 teaspoons!) of cheese per day. At first glance, that may not seem like too much, but it’s still 3 times the recommended serving size, not to mention all the added fat! The more I thought about my “love” for cheese, the more I had to consider if I truly had control over my eating, or did my eating have control over me? I decided to take action and see for myself if I truly was hooked on cheese.
My first step was to decrease the frequency of how often I ate cheese by eliminating my consumption at work. That seemed like a safe enough starting point since I get so busy as a teacher that I don’t have access to food all day long. I traded in my low-fat cheese stick (or 3) for some hummus with pretzels for a midday snack. Such a small change didn’t feel hard, just a conscious choice. But I soon noticed that my body was quite fond of the old routine and missed the taste of cheese. Even though I felt satisfied with my hummus, my brain was still thinking about the lovely cheese sticks it usually consumed at this time each day. Before long, I anxiously counted the minutes until I could get home and “reward” myself with a small portion of cheese for being so “good” at work.
By the time 4:00 rolled around, I was ravenous for cheese, despite the fact that I had eaten a delicious cheese-free lunch! I kicked off my shoes, threw my bags in a heap and quickly assembled a delicious plate of nachos. Standing with one hand on the microwave door, I watched the shreds melt smoothly over the chips. I yanked the door open with 1-second left on the display and started pulling the chips apart as I walked to the table. I had been waiting all day for this moment; surely it would live up to the expectations built up in my mind! In less than one minute flat, I had inhaled every morsel and was picking the melted bits of cheese that didn’t land on a chip, off the plate. When I had successfully devoured every edible bit of food on my plate, I leaned back in my chair and for a few minutes, I felt satisfied. In fact, I felt so good I didn’t want it to end. Maybe if I have just a small plate of nachos this time, I will keep this feeling going. Yep. I had a problem. Even though that plate of nachos briefly appeased the craving I fought off all day long, I wanted more! The fact that I was thinking of my next hit of cheese while I barely started digesting what I had just inhaled revealed the truth: I was addicted to cheese.
It was at that point I decided I needed to make a change. What I was experiencing were withdrawal symptoms…from cheese! My body should be in charge of the food it consumes, not the other way around. These symptoms lasted several days. I combatted them by drinking loads of water and by letting the craving pass. After only a week, they diminished greatly and I realized that I didn’t think about it as much anymore. After two weeks with no cheese or dairy, I had lost a few pounds and my skin was noticeably brighter, so much so that even my husband remarked that I was glowing!
About a month after not eating dairy, my husband and I went to a nice dinner and decided to treat ourselves to a yummy cheesecake dessert to share. We both love cheesecake and thought we “deserved” it since we hadn’t eaten dairy in so long. Well, it was delicious! Everything we expected it to be! But 30 minutes later, we ended up having to go home early and lay down because we both felt so incredibly sick! This was another tipping point. How I felt after I ate that cheesecake was in no way worth the three minutes it took to consume it.
During this second “detox” time, I did some research on dairy consumption and how it affects the human body. I thought (or was led to believe) that dairy was part of a healthy diet. But the more I read, in conjunction with how I felt off dairy, made me realize I needed a permanent break once and for all.
My point of this blog is to encourage readers to examine what drives their eating habits. Is the food controlling you or are you controlling food? I never dreamed that I could live a life without dairy, but now that I have gotten to the other side, I am motivated to explore other aspects of my life I once believed to be impossible, too.
Have you experienced intense food cravings that you know may not be healthy for you? Let us know in the comments below.