Dairy Free Weekend, 6 Months Later

How many vegetarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
I don’t know, but where do you get your protein!?

The biggest challenge was a week-long family reunion in Florida 3 months into my altered diet. Grilled fish. Coke floats. Pancakes. Pizza. Burgers. Food I would’ve indulged in had I not jumped in with both feet on a challenge from my arch nemesis Nick Shell late March 2014. But avoiding those meals wasn’t difficult at all. No, it was explaining why I felt the need to bring bags and a cooler full of my own food for the week. It wasn’t just about being competitive (Nick challenged me to a dairy-free weekend). It was about making a positive change in my diet. What I didn’t know at the time was that it’s also changing my life.

My dad’s dad had a heart attack in his 60s. My dad had a heart attack in his 50s. I suspect my brother and I will, too, at some point. I can’t believe I sat on that information for so long without thinking what I put in my body can, at the very least, maybe help me avoid the same fate. Thankfully, they both survived, but I don’t want to survive a heart attack. I want to avoid it at all costs. Did I think this way 7 months ago? Not so much. But 6 months ago the wheels started turning, thanks to that challenge from Nick I mentioned. Since I suffer from allergies, Nick proposed that eliminating dairy might reduce the symptoms of these attacks. I thought, “I’m on board with that!” My unofficial motto became, “I hate allergies more than I love ____.” Fill in the blank with cheese, milk, ice cream, whatever.

Long story short, I took it a step further by adopting a “vegan plus” diet for at least a month. It’s been that way for over 6 months now. The “plus” is because I eat honey, and I don’t think vegans smile upon that. Whatever. I like local Tennessee honey. For me, it’s not about saying I’m a vegan, it’s about having a healthy body. But the craziest thing happened… this diet didn’t just change my meals, it’s changing my life. I’m almost ashamed of what I used to eat. I even have recurring dreams where I eat a burger, or most recently, a Gigi’s cupcake. Even in the dreams, I feel remorseful after. Waking up is a feeling of relief! And that’s exactly what this has done for me. I had to wake up. Funny that it wasn’t my dad’s or granddad’s heart attack, but it was a friendly dairy challenge that woke me up. Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, just want to shed some weight, or you’re curious how food can affect your overall health, there’s basically an alternative for everything you currently enjoy. But you have to want it. You have to love your goal more than you love the food your giving up. I’m also beginning to see how what I eat relates to sleeping better, playing sports better, being stronger, being a better Christian, and with hope, avoiding any sort of heart failure later in life. Not to mention, I haven’t taken an allergy pill since day 1 of this challenge and only recently have dealt with sinusitis (which I believe is unrelated to allergies, although it has similar symptoms).

Half of this journey is about adding in healthy food, but the other half is about cutting out unhealthy food… things like boxed dinners, pop tarts, soda, frozen pizzas, high fructose corn syrup, any sort of dye, etc. I recently stumbled upon some information that I can’t not share. I’ve been editing a documentary about Autism produced by a friend of mine (click here for the trailer), and have been enlightened on the disorder in many areas. One of which is diet. It seems that food plays a major part on the behavior of kids and adults who have the diagnosis. And what’s even more startling, the very disorder itself might be caused by the diet of the parents before conception! There’s a lot of talk about dyes in food, artificial food coloring, heavy metals in food, sugar, gluten, casein, and more, that play a direct role in the behavior of people with autism. That stuff has got to affect the behavior of every person, don’t you think?

This all started with a dairy-free weekend challenge but it’s become so much more. Whether it’s learning about my own diet through an autism video, discovering that I don’t crave the food I once did, or loving God more through treating my own body well, 2014 is about getting roots. Digging into a healthier way of living that will change the rest of my life, and possibly generations to come. That’s enough motivation to keep on keepin’ on.

-Out of the Wilderness

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