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The day I went into labor, the scale read a number I never in a million years thought I’d see. Sure, I was weighing in for two, but to be honest I’d officially been deemed “overweight” in my last pre-pregnancy checkup.
My “Before”: Pre-pregnancy (left) and 40 weeks pregnant (right).
For the most part I loved my overweight body as-is. I’m a big proponent of self-love and celebrating every body. As long as you’re making a reasonable effort to be “healthy” — whatever that means for you — then you’re good.
But, I found myself in an unexpected position in which I dropped 75 pounds without trying. At first, dropping this weight was upsetting for me. It impacted my milk supply, which was super stressful. But now, five months later, my weight has stabilized and I feel incredible. Much better than when I weighed this same amount in my college days. Which is why, despite my feelings on celebrating postpartum weight loss, I wanted to share my secret with you.
So what is my trick exactly?
- Having a baby. That’s probably 15 pounds of tiny human, said human’s little house and fluids.
- Breastfeeding. This burns ~500 calories a day. Easiest exercise ever.
- This is the good part — the one you can actually incorporate: changing my diet.
Diet change #1: Cut out ALL the cow’s milk
Why dairy, maker of milk mustaches and strengthener of bones?
Well, around 3 or 4 months my son was diagnosed with Milk Soy Protein Intolerance. I removed dairy and soy (as well as other allergens) from my diet, as they were transferring to my breast milk and impacting his health.
I learned some interesting lessons from that time.
- Dairy is in things you would never expect. For example, sometimes a form of dairy is used in wine as a preservative. It can also be hidden in “natural flavors” or “caramel coloring.” And mammary glands can be ground up in your hamburger. So people who stop eating cheese and drinking milk and think they’re “dairy free” are blissfully unaware.
- The top allergens are in almost all processed foods. If you’re hoping to buy something pre-made at the grocery store, good luck. Even your vitamins and breath mints are likely allergen culprits. Start reading ingredients lists carefully and you’ll be shocked how many things contain dairy and/or soy, or are processed in manufacturing facilities that have a possibility of cross-contamination.
- When you essentially can’t eat out or buy processed foods, you learn how to cook more things for yourself. Homemade granola bars, banana-based ice cream. And you start to become more conscientious of what’s going into your foods. How much sugar you’re using. What seasonings you’re using and how they compliment (rather than mask) the natural flavors. It forces you to come to terms with the reality of your eating habits, and make some healthier choices.
- Some ingredients mess with your body. When I added soy back to my diet, I starting getting deep, annoying acne. When my son passed the first few stages of the dairy ladder (i.e. he could eat dairy baked into foods, like pancakes), I started to feel tired. When we tried cheese, I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep because it felt like I had a brick in my stomach. Normally if I saw acne I would blame genes or hormones. If I was tired I’d blame my lifestyle. It didn’t occur to me that these things could be tied back to my diet.
Right now you’re probably thinking I’m a big fat liar with my title about eating a pint of ice cream. But… it’s coconut milk or almond milk ice cream. Still full of calories and fat, and still delicious (especially once your taste buds aren’t used to their daily dose of cow’s milk).
So today, here I am, holding steady at a healthy weight. Sleeping less than my pre-mom days, but enjoying a fountain of energy!
I want to encourage 75% of you to eliminate dairy, too. Because according to research, 3/4 of us actually lack the enzyme to properly digest cow’s milk. After all, cow’s milk is ultimately designed for calves, so they can grow into 2,000 pound animals! When you think about it that way, it makes sense that dairy might not be the best for you. Here are some other potential impacts of dairy:
- Higher risk of heart disease (Health.com)
- Higher risk of ovarian cancer (Nutritionstudies.org)
- Raised cholesterol levels (Self.com)
If you’re part of the quarter who tolerates cow’s milk, and aren’t vegan, then go for it — enjoy your milkshake. Make that cheese platter. But the bulk of us will feel better than we even realize by cutting dairy.
Pro-tip #2: Trial a total elimination diet
I also recommend everyone try a total elimination diet at some point. With this diet, you essentially cut back to some core foods, then slowly introduce things. It’s possible that something you eat is causing you an issue you didn’t know existed. For me, fatigue, skin issues and bloating were the big giveaways. But for you, they could be:
- Rashes and skin changes
- Joint pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in breathing
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Changes in bowel habits
In the beginning of my son’s MSPI journey, he struggled with the top 8 allergens: dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. Over time we were able to add everything but dairy back, though I can now tell you my body has some negative reactions to soy.
Pro-tip #3: Add plant-based alternatives to your diet
Consider subbing some dairy-containing foods in your diet with plant-based alternatives. Even if you just choose to cut back on dairy, rather than eliminating it entirely, you may notice a big difference. Here are some of my favorite dairy-free products:
- Milk: Silk coconut milk or Silk original soy milk (Note: not all soy milk is created equal! This original recipe truly is the best!)
- Butter: Earth Balance buttery spread
- Chocolate: Enjoy Life
- Cheese: Miyokos Creamery
- Ice cream: So Delicious (chocolate peanut butter swirl is my FAVE!)
Also, try cooking with more olive oil rather than butter. It’s often cheaper, always healthier and generally brings the natural flavors of your foods out. Huzzah!
Again, at the end of the day it’s all about being healthy – mentally, physically, spiritually. Try not to obsess over a number on a scale or in your jeans. Easier said than done, I know, but 75 pounds gone means nothing to me if I don’t feel better physically and emotionally.
My “After”: No exercise, all dairy-free diet!
So with your 2019 resolutions in tow, my wish for you is that you’ll discover what helps your body thrive.
Questions about going dairy-free? Comment below and I’ll help however I can!