In short, my motivations for going dairy free are: the animals, the world, and my health.
Since sophomore year of high school I started getting chronic tonsilitis infections. I thought I ate pretty healthy: fish, grilled chicken, greek yogurt with honey, pasta, salads… but whatever I did, the infections just kept coming and coming. I would get nasty tonsil stones and get fevers for days with intense pain in my swollen lymph nodes in my neck. I frequently had to take time off from school as the pain was so severe. It was terrible and I didn’t know how to make it better other than getting a tonsillectomy (which I finally got in May 2017).
It really hit me when I was studying abroad in Greece my freshman year. Me and the other students came to the program all pretty much healthy and active. Then it hit us. After months of inhaling greasy gyros stuffed with tzatziki and french fries, creamy Greek yogurt and potatoes, having gelato every night, and huge oreo chocolate bars from the kiosk as a “study snack”, it started to catch up with us.
By the end of Greece, I had put on about 15 lbs and started getting very frequently sick. It seemed as though every other week I would have a sore throat, a fever, fatigue, or allergies. The worst was when I got a full-body rash that lasted 6 weeks — my immune system was failing me and I knew something was wrong with me.
When I returned from Greece I made the decision to stop eating dairy. This was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made. At first it was frustrating not being able to eat a classic pizza with my friends or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while watching a movie. Then, I started getting much more used to it and found out there is just about a dairy-free replacement for everything! From Daiya cheese to coconut ice cream, I was and still am loving it.
Now, I feel lighter, more energetic, and definitely get sick less often. My skin has cleared up and I lost all the weight I gained in Greece.
Another point I would like to make is for sustainability and animal welfare. The dairy industry is extremely corrupt (watch documentaries & stay educated) and dairy is actually very unnecessary for the human body. Dairy cows are heavily mistreated and live miserable lives being milked to death. The campaign that “milk builds strong bones” is all just propaganda. No, kids do not need milk for calcium to build strong bones — cow’s milk is unnatural and unethical. What kids needs is calcium from plant-based sources such as leafy greens such as collard, kale and mustard greens, plus other sources like butternut squash, soybeans, soymilk, and tofu. I am a strong supporter that the dairy industry is unnecessary and minimizing our dairy intake will certainly have a positive effect on sustainability efforts and reducing humans’ footprints on our precious earth.
Trust me, if you think you can never give up cheese, don’t put it past yourself to try something new. Nowadays it is easier than ever to switch to this lifestyle with vegan/vegetarian/dairy-free alternatives popping up across the globe. I promise you that there will always be a tasty alternative to whatever dairy product you think you can’t live without.