I often say that “dairy is fine and even healthy if you tolerate it.” But what exactly does that mean? How do you know if it’s “not okay”? You could be reacting poorly to the lactose, the casein, the whey, or all of it. You could just ditch all dairy forever more and be perfectly fine – but you shouldn’t eliminate a food group, especially one as delicious, nutrient-dense, and potentially rewarding as dairy, unless you absolutely must. Plus, it’s just good to know what you can and cannot tolerate. You don’t want to tiptoe through life, scared of food because you’ve never taken the time to determine your ability to tolerate it. You want to be empowered with knowledge and venture forth boldly – or carefully, if caution is warranted – through the cheese aisle.
I’ve celebrated the goodness of dairy fat quite enthusiastically in recent weeks. If you were just joining us, you might have gotten the wrong impression that you’d stumbled into a PR wing of the dairy industry, and that the streets of Mark’s Dairy Apple run whitish-yellow with grass-fed milk fat. No, children aren’t busting open fire hydrants on warm days to dance around in the effervescent spray of kefir, and on winter days it doesn’t rain milk and snow globs of thick Greek yogurt in these parts.
I’m well aware of the darker side to dairy, and today I’ll be exploring the common arguments against dairy consumption. Let’s jump right in:
I really enjoy eating. I think many of us do, especially after we’ve been on our Primal journeys for a while and have expanded our cooking talents into new creative territory. My opinion is food can and should make us feel good. It’s part of our evolutionary fabric. We eat for survival but also for enjoyment just as our ancestors did. Our very physiology is set up for it, in fact. We’re treated to a feel-good hit in our brain’s pleasure centers when we eat. That said, we sometimes get emotional satisfaction from the deal as well. For example, while not every meal needs to be a monumental creative accomplishment, those that are offer a unique satisfaction that goes somewhat beyond the physical. Other times, it’s not so much a culinary feat but a familial/cultural tradition that magnifies or deepens the satiation. (This time of year, of course, is prime time for sentimentalizing food – for better and worse.) Still other times, however, the emotional component is less a side bonus than the initial impetus. We’re drawn to eat because of our emotions. (And here’s where we begin to get ourselves in trouble….)
Last week’s “Why Diets Fail” post elicited some great discussion. There was a bit of everything – from wrangling to rallying, appeals to encouragement. It was the kind of conversation that, I feel, really makes the community. People are real. They put their experiences out there. From there the discussion, inquiry, challenge and support get going. It’s spirited and honest – doesn’t get any better than that in my book. I invite you to look back to the conversation yourself. For my part today, I want to address by far the biggest theme of that day – cravings. Your comments explored the issue from all kinds of angles. What do I do with cravings? Can I prevent them – pre-empt them in any way? Is it a bad sign if I have them? Do I need to give it time? Do I need to take a different approach? If I have them, does it mean eating Primally can’t work for me? Let’s take it apart.
Question of the day: what does the term “dieting” conjure up for you? Anecdotes, laughs, regrets, frustration, anxiety? I bet there’s quite a collection of stories to be told. When I think of diets, I think it’s common to think deprivation – of calories, of real food, of satisfaction, of enjoyment, of peace of mind. And that’s how it generally goes in our culture, isn’t it? We diet, we end the diet, we go back on the diet because either it didn’t work the first time or it did but then we fell right back down the same hole again. So, we keep playing the same game of deprivation, white-knuckling it until we get to that glorious sham of an “endpoint,” what I would call the “and they lived happily ever after”
conclusion delusion. From a maybe more humorous angle, I think of deprivation dieting as an extended version of the mental game, “don’t think of a elephant.” Gee, what’s the first and most predominant thing you’re going to think of? How much determination and energy is it going to take to not think of the elephant 40 times per day? How about just forgoing the game altogether? Just eat the elephant already.
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