Team Dairy Free This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 6, 2012
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Yes, I'm lactose intolerant. And yes, I'm ­addicted to dairy.
Milk, ice cream, pizza, cheese, frozen ­yogurt, double Stuf Oreos, chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, granola bars, cereal and milk, cream cheese, icing, fruit crisps, Pop Tarts, brownies, mozzarella sticks, buttermilk pancakes, butter, and fried chicken – those are just a few of my favorite foods. They are also all foods I can't eat, due to my newly discovered lactose intolerance. I don't remember the last time I ate any of those foods, and they're all I've been craving for the past month.

I often think to myself, Maybe just a little bite of a brownie … that couldn't hurt, right? Wrong. The other day I ate just one Hershey kiss and I felt sick for the rest of the day, and then I got sick the next day. Eating the chocolate was worth it though.

Most of my friends assumed I was faking my dairy intolerance. I can see why, considering I had been eating pizza just three days before I told them about my diagnosis. But they should know I would never joke about something like that. It's serious! This is probably the most difficult obstacle I've had to face, and it's only been a few months.

My suspicions started in June when I was at a friend's house. Every time we got together we would eat Double Stuf Oreos with milk. Sometimes we would even have corn chips and queso or Bob Evans mashed potatoes (my favorite). Keep in mind, this was typically around 11 p.m., which is really too late to be eating much of anything, let alone all that dairy. We did this two or three times a week.

This particular time I felt fine until about 4 a.m., when we were on our tenth episode of “Gossip Girl” for the night. Suddenly I could feel my stomach telling me that all that food wasn't such a good idea after all. Little did I know that that stomach ache was a symptom of a much bigger problem. I did get sick the next day, but I figured it was because I had overeaten the night before. For the next two months, this would happen every time I chowed down with my friend. I know I should have realized there was a problem sooner, but like I said, I love milk.

Finally one day I got really sick after eating pizza and chocolate chip cookies, and I told my mom. When I explained what had been happening for the past few months whenever I ate those foods, she said, “Maybe you should cut dairy out of your diet for a while.”

CUT DAIRY OUT OF MY DIET?! ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? She knew how much I loved milk. She knew I could never pull it off. But I thought about it and decided to try it for one weekend, just to see what would happen.

No big surprise: that weekend I felt the best I'd felt in months. At first I thought it was all in my head – that I was just making myself believe I felt better – but once I realized it was actually true I knew I couldn't go back to my old eating habits. That meant I could have milk at most once a day, but I figured that was a pretty fair trade for feeling so much better.

Around the same time, I developed a bad cough. So my mom took me to the doctor. I figured I might as well tell the doctor about my dietary changes while we were there. The doctor recommended that I cut out all dairy from my diet for a month. An entire month!? Didn't these people understand that I couldn't live without some sort of chocolate every day? After my initial shock, I decided that since the doctor had gone to medical school and all, he probably knew what he was talking about. Challenge ­accepted. I would go dairy free for a month. That wouldn't be so hard, right? WRONG.

Practically every food item on the planet has ­lactose in it. Well, that's not entirely true, but it is really hard to find lactose-free foods that taste good. Every time my mom and I went to the store it was a struggle. “Mom, I found something! Oh wait, never mind … It has milk.” At first I thought I'd only have to avoid products with actual milk in them. That worked for the first week or so, but then I felt sick after eating an oats and honey granola bar. So I knew I had to cut all lactose from my diet. Every day I want a brownie, and every day I have to force myself not to eat one. I'm waging a constant battle with my self control, and I don't know how long I can keep it up.

Adjusting to my lactose intolerance has obviously not been easy for me – or my family. They've had to hear me complain about not being able to eat cafeteria food, not being able to have dessert after family dinners, and most importantly, never getting to enjoy my favorite foods. My mom is convinced that I developed this intolerance because I overindulged in milk products for the past fifteen years.

Being strictly cut off from dairy is one of the hardest challenges I have had to face. Despite the hardships, I can think of one benefit to my dietary changes: I'm becoming a healthier person. I've lost some weight and I feel and look great. And in the end, being healthy is much more satisfying than bingeing on Double Stuf Oreos, no matter how much I love them.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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