Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dairy-Free Queen

I was imaging what my super hero name would be (like ya do), if I had one, and I thought "Dairy Queen" would be pretty fitting, if it weren't already trademarked. My weapon of choice would be a stick of butter. But right now, my little heart made of butter is melting into a pile of butter tears that I can't even spread on a bagel. Good analogy, huh? I know, that's why you all love me. [an illustration of me, in costume]

This is the deal: Ira had been vomiting violently during and after eating, and it was becoming noticeably painful for him. If it was just spit up, no big deal. Even if it was a bit more than spit up, I wouldn't diet - I mean, kids throw up, right? It's just a kid thing. But after a few days, it was no longer spit up or fresh milk throw up, but curdled vomit, which is kind of a problem.

After talking with Mrs. Sears (future-brother-in-law's mother), I decided to try a dairy-free diet, as lactose intolerance is the #1 reason that an infant might be vomiting. As I write this, it's been about a week that I've been used to this news, and I'm finally to the point where I don't get kind of weepy about the entire concept of being dairy-free. I can't think of anything less drastic than my offspring being in pain that would cause me to go on a diet. And yet, I think I might be dying. Yes. Yes, I am definitely having withdrawals leading to a miserable death. When I'm gone, please, just fill my casket with alfredo sauce.

I've been trying to put my finger on why this is so hard for me, but it turns out that I needed all ten fingers, because I hate it on so many levels. First of all (and this is by far the most selfless reason), it's rough to see your baby in discomfort, and sad to think that you - or a habit of yours - could be the cause of their pain. In conjunction with not wanting to believe that I was hurting my own son, I've always struggled believing people who go on about how what they eat affects them physically in any remotely drastic way.

Although I believe that it's probably true in some cases, I've always scoffed at the idea of "eating this makes my body do this". Plus, I'm really bad at making correlations in general, so it never occurs to me that some discomfort in my body could be related to an eating pattern, and I tend to roll my eyes when other people say things like that. I think a lot of people go on special diets because it makes their brains feel better - they think that being gluten free will help, and so they're happier being gluten free (and b*tching about how terrible their gluten-free life is), even if there's no scientific change in their body. Now all of a sudden, I'm that irritating person constantly whining about how much I wish I could eat dairy, but I can't.

I'm a picky eater in that there are a fair amount of things I don't like the taste of, but God forbid I be one of THOSE people with a trendy dietary restriction. Yet here I am, THAT person in the grocery store, asking the lady if the breaded chicken has any milk in it. Nooooooooooo!

I have never dieted in my life, except going sugar free for a Lent one year. I don't know if that even counts, because my parents decided we were doing that as a family, and I didn't really get a say. I thought it was going to be a breeze, since I definitely didn't have a sweet tooth at the time, but it was actually harder than I thought it would be. Going dairy-free is about 10 times harder. You would not believe how common dairy is in a regular diet - and I don't even drink milk!

It enrages me. It sounds so ridiculous, but this truly feels like one of the hardest parenting experiences I have yet to face. I take food very, very seriously. Crying over spilled milk? Pleaseeee. Try NO MILK PRODUCTS, EVER! That'll give you something to cry about. Apart from missing actual dairy products, this whole experience just messes with my groove. I hate that I'm confronted with "can't", rather than "want". Of course, I spend all my spare time torturing myself with the names and photos of all the things that are off limits to me right now. I obsess over how much whipped cream I'm going to eat in one sitting when I am eventually off this diet. I will stare at ice cream coming out of the machine and say in a soft whisper, "hello, lover...".

I'm not very good at being on a diet. I'm beginning to understand how people eat themselves into enormous proportions. I've developed a "don't ask, don't tell" policy with food I suspect might have butter or a trace of cheese or cream in it (ahem, molasses cookies. It's impossible for something so good not to have butter in it, I assume), because as long as I don't know they're off limits, I can't be accused of straying from the diet, right? It's like I'm a closet drunk, except, I'm a closet dairy queen...

Part of the reason that I find this so hard is because I'n surrounded by the opportunity to eat dairy products. I'll see a picture or read a recipe that sounds fantastic, and then there's this wretched realization 3 seconds later that it contains something that's forbidden. It's such a cruel cycle, and it plays out many times during the day. Like when I just oogled this photo in my Pinterest feed, only to realize this is the real meaning of "food porn." I can't look away, and sometimes I can't even resist taking a small taste. Today at lunch, Ishmael had macaroni and cheese. I love macaroni and cheese. I had a macaroni and cheese festival on my calendar, and I have a whole board on Pinterest that's just mac n cheese recipes. I think I ordered Ishmael's lunch for him because it sounded good to ME. He ended up not eating very much of it, so I finished it for him, telling myself it wasn't a very large amount, and it would be a test to see how it affected Ira. I realize my willingness to potentially cause my child discomfort make me a miserable person. Ira hasn't throw up yet, but he did seem a little extra fussy, I think?? But I'll tell ya, that macaroni and cheese was so good.

I'm kind of terrified that my own body will react to dairy when I stop breastfeeding if I don't keep little bits of it in my own diet here and there. So I have to cheat on my diet occasionally, right? And occasionally means like every other day, right?! In fact, in order to keep enough calcium in my diet, I'm supposed to eat dark greens (yah.........), almonds, and sardines. Hm. How ironic would it be if I lost so much body fat on this diet that I couldn't produce enough milk for Ira?! I would be livid...

I know I'm going about this all wrong, but just think of all the things that you couldn't eat if you couldn't have dairy products! If I were seriously hard-core about absolutely no dairy of any kind, it would be incredibly hard. This list freaked me out, and when I started reading a few labels (a first for me!) at Trader Joe's earlier this week, I was mortified at what things unexpectedly contained whey and other dairy products. Even healthy things, like yogurt in savory foods (one of my favorite cooking go-tos, recently) are now a no-no.

Just have an In-N-Out double-double without the cheese, you say? The cheese is the best part, dammit! In the spirit of actually trying to help myself not be tempted by dairy, I leave the room when Jonas is eating yogurt or has cheese on something, but inevitably, I still see the empty packages in the trash and it makes me shrivel up inside. I know I'm being really dramatic about this whole thing, but I think I'm genuinely mourning this little loss in my life.

At least when I have all this extra time not being taken up by eating dairy products, I have time to look this fabulous while nursing.

Just kidding. I have to tell people that come to the door to wait while I put some cloth on my body.
Honestly, it's pretty hard to find an upside to this whole thing. Except that Ira isn't vomiting. And supposedly all the baby weight will come off me faster. But I'd take dairy over that (losing weight) any day.

In an effort to rally myself, though, I'm trying to see this period of time as a challenge - almost like a game. Believe it or not, I used to hate cooking, but once I saw it as a sort of art project, with the plate as my canvas and an infinite amount of creativity wrapped up in combinations of ingredients, I began to enjoy it. If I can see a dairy-free diet as an excuse to make the BEST dairy-free food possible, I may just be able to bare it.

Although I believe in my Aunt Cathy's advice to not bother with substitutes too much, as they will only disappoint me, I have found a few things so far that may help me cope with a lack of butter or milk. For example, Duncan Heinz cake mixes (which happen to be my favorite anyway) are reportedly all dairy-free. Coconut cream, coconut milk, and coconut oil, as well as Trader Joe's dark chocoloate, mayonaise, avacado, ghee, sorbets, and most Asian foods are my friends. For the less-intense dieter, some aged cheeses are apparently lactose-free, though not free of the protein in milk that can be a stomach irritant. You can be sure that I used that as an excuse to put a few shavings of parmesan on top of my cauliflower the other night. (Here's my Pinterest board of dairy-free recipes to try)

Some substitutes I've been encouraged to try are Tofutti cream "cheeses", Miracle Tarts, Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss ice cream, and coconut yogurt from New Frontiers in SLO. Have you ever had any of these? Did you like them?

I still struggle with being selfless, even after having two kids. People say, "being a parent forces you to focus on people other than yourself," which is true to an extent, but I guess I thought I would literally be unable to be selfish once I had kids (hahaha). Instead, I'm fighting an urge to grill Ira about why he has chosen to punish me in this way. Doesn't he realize that if his mama is so strongly against dieting, that he should be too? Doesn't he trust me that dairy products are THE BEST? Then again, I'm pretty sure I've heard other parents say that if I am passionate about something, at least one of my children is bound to put all their energy into being completely different than me.

The things we do for love, right? As much energy as I've put into complaining about this, sacrificing my comfort is actually worth it to give my son comfort. But don't get me wrong, when this phase is over, you can find me on the floor in the corner of the kitchen, eating whipped cream out of a huge bowl with my bare hands.

P.S. In case you wanted to have this entire post summed up in a 4 minute video, this... You're welcome. 


  1. I suspect I would follow my dietary restrictions much better if they caused someone else pain. Some days it's too easy to say "sure, these berries will give me a headache but damnit, it will be WORTH IT!" I first became aware of the broader salicylic intolerance as a teenager, but it took me more than a decade to get really serious about it. It seemed much too big and fussy to worry about all the little things, and it makes me look like a spoiled brat picky eater and I *like* fruit and olives and chili. But when I finally got serious about getting as much of it out of my system as possible the difference was HUGE!!!! Sure, it's a lot harder to eat well, but for the first time in my life I don't have chronic pain. But I still cheat...

    1. I had no idea so many people I know are on diets due to a legit health issue - which makes me proud of everyone for not making everyone else feel terrible by bringing it up their diet all the time!

      In the end, I think you have it way harder than me. :( It's a bummer to be dairy-free right now for someone else, but at least I can go back to eating what I want eventually!

      I'm glad you were able to figure out your dietary needs and that it helps you feel [truly] better!


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