Monday, May 20, 2013

What I Learned from My Failed Attempt to Cut Out Cheese

So. Today is technically "Day 4 of NO CHEESE WEEK".

I will admit that I have already failed on day 3.

My Naturopath, bless her, suggested quite firmly on Thursday, that I should "just cut out dairy (ie cheese) for a week and see how it goes". Implication: If I just see how miraculous my life would be without dairy (ie my IBS and bloating, sorry if this is TMI), I would accept that life sans fromage is an acceptable sacrifice.

She was sadly mistaken.

However, I will admit that I did learn a few things over these past four days during the terrible week of doom that I thought was worth the experience at least.

Firstly, I want to be clear that for all of my fellow IBS-ers who have found that cutting out dairy from their diet has been extremely helpful in their IBS treatment- I am so happy for you. That is great. Dairy is a typical trigger for many people for all sorts of digestive issues and often it is the best decision to cut it out. Excellent.

For myself, my IBS, as I've said often, is linked to two things: emotional stress and raw fruits and vegetables (ok, 3 things). Mostly on the emotional stress part. This means: I could be eating the BEST that I could possibly eat, only white pasta with no dairy or leaves and stuff, and if I'm stressed or upset it doesn't matter. OR I could eat ice cream no problem if I'm having a really great stress week. My IBS really is tied to my STRESS, not diet.

No really, I have spent 13 years specifically figuring this out, and my entire life since I was 5 years old living it. I tried to explain this to the Naturopath... but she really just wasn't having it. Dairy is evil.

I also have a very restricted diet to begin with, mostly due to my IBS (over the years I have been conditioned to accumulate aversions to foods), and a brother who REALLY loves condiments. This means that my meal options have slowly evolved to always always involve cheese. But ONLY cheddar cheese (white extra old cheddar to be precise). I don't like many other cheeses.

And here is the crux of the matter: most of my meals involve cheddar cheese, I LOVE how it tastes and I do not like the alternatives. Like, they would make me gag.

So, not surprising that come day 3 Andrew and I had completely run out of "no cheese meals" options. And so, not only did I fall off the "no cheese bandwagon" I fell right into a cheese and bacon nachos bandwagon. They were DELICIOUS.

Ok, but back to what I have learned.

  1. I will not be cutting out cheese or dairy from my life. That is ok. My good feelings around eating and meal time require I keep cheese and not feel guilty around eating a certain food group.
  2. Restricting and "cutting out" an entire food group resulted in my obsessing about this group. I thought about cheese ALL THE TIME. How good it tastes and stressing about how I was going to figure out a meal without cheese... It was so unhealthy and not fun. I've decided that I really just want a more healthy relationship with what I eat and this extra restriction just wasn't helping.
  3. I can eat a sandwich without cheese, and replacing it with thinly cut apple and extra pesto is not disgusting. Now, it's not cheese, but I didn't barf. Bonus. This I will take forward- Yes!
  4. I will be cutting thinner slices of cheese and adding less to our meals. And I will be ok.
  5. I am lucky that cheese doesn't cause me pain...

(Oh, and today I didn't have ANY dairy... and it was just circumstance... and the fact that the nachos used up ALL the cheddar we had in the apartment lol).


  1. My naturopath also had me cut out dairy for 2 weeks, but I didn't notice a difference. I still wonder if maybe certain types of dairy might cause me problems though. I could definitely cut down on dairy and not have a problem, but I would never want to cut it out completely. I might have to experiment and see if certain types of dairy are what causes problems. Like, yogurt is ok, but I think milk maybe isn't.

    Do you eat cheese with almost every meal? I like lots of different kinds of cheese, even goats cheese. I also wonder if the days I am really bloated if it's because I don't eat enough fiber. Well, I know I don't eat enough, but I am working on that.

    1. we do eat cheese with almost every meal... which is part of the problem. :S
      Like you though- it's not dairy in general, but certain things- like ice cream is BAD most of the time (although, if my stress levels are good, I can eat ice cream so....).

      i think trying to isolate different kinds of dairy is a great idea :)

  2. I can relate to this. I completely cut out dairy (along with anything else that tastes remotely good) for almost year before having kids, due to advice from a naturopath. I was certainly thinner (not the reason for doing it) but I felt extremely deprived. I missed cheese the most out of everything I gave up (breads, chocolate, sugar, corn). I know that as long as I don't have cheese (or any dairy) too frequently (limiting to 2-3 times / week) and in smaller amounts I am ok now.

    Perhaps it is stress for me as well, because when I have regular exercise and meditate I have fewer food issues.

    1. that sounds like what it's going to be for me as well....

  3. it actually takes a minimum of three weeks when trying an elimination of a certain food group before you can test its effects :)

    i've been without it for 2 months now and while i occasionally have a hankering for goat cheese or something fancy and french, the tummy aches i had at reintroduction remind me that it's worth it (and I love Daiya's fake cheese, it's the only one that is soy free and is great in grilled cheese, yay!).

    1. oh i'm glad that it's working for you!
      Thankfully cheese doesn't hurt my stomach- it's more just bloating. but i'm sure that as I decrease it will help.

  4. On the issue of #3: Did your sandwich pesto have traditional pesto in it? If so, the Parmesan factor might mean it doesn't really qualify as "cheese-free." :)

    I feel your pain though. I'd say that life is too short to cut out something you love so much. If you know it's not making you sick, don't stress about it and stick to cutting out what does (stress).

  5. a must. I'm with you there. My naturopath told me to cut cheese and wheat and I was completely unwilling to do it! I know, I know... I could have at least tried but honestly, as a vegetarian I find it challenging enough sometimes to go out with friends for a meal... and pasta + cheese make me happy. Very happy. As in, they're my comfort foods! You can't ask someone to give up their comfort foods, can you?

    Maybe this is super flaky as a suggestion... but if your IBS is mostly stress related, are there practices that you could bring into your life that would help more with the stress end of things. You know... beyond the yoga? I don't know, like more meditation? Or more running to release the stress? Just a thought (totally unscientific as it is).


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