Yes it can be difficult when you are making changes in your life. We feel attached to dairy products for many reasons. Could you be addicted to cheese? Or perhaps you are depending on food to give you the nurturing you could get elsewhere. Here are a few tips on how you can nip your dairy cravings in the bud.
One of the major reasons you still view dairy as a food source is because, even if you are keenly aware that the cows suffer, it hasn’t completely sunk in yet. When you have truly accepted that animals are sentient like us, it will become unthinkable to ever exploit them again. You will have given up dairy before you have even consciously decided to do so.
Something happens when you educate yourself on the truth about dairy and watch the videos exposing animal agriculture. Something changes your attitude to our relationship with non-human animals. When you go vegan you never need discipline or will power. You undergo a paradigm shift and it becomes impossible for you to consume animal products again. You simply no longer view animal flesh and animal byproducts as a food source.
If you haven’t reached that point
then you haven’t discovered the truth.
It really is that simple.
You need to discover the truth to help you reach that point. Perhaps you could visit your local ‘humane’ dairy farm when the cows are calving. If you were able to see the distress the mothers go through when they have their calves taken from them, it might help you see the mechanics behind dairy farming. The so-called ‘humane’ dairy farms might look pastoral and pristine, however, they are merely whitewashing the routine practices of rape, kidnap and murder. It is the same thing, just in a pretty package.
You might be giving up dairy products, but you definitely do not have to give up cheese, milk, yoghurt, pizza, chocolate, cheesecake, lasagna or ice cream. All of these delicious food choices can be made from plant-based foods with all of the flavour and none of the cholesterol. You can either make your own, or buy them ready-made. There are tons of vegan substitutes.
When you feel like having dairy, think carefully about what flavours and consistency you are craving, and try to find a foodstuff which satisfies those requirements.
Try different combinations. Orley Whip is great in hot cocoa. Coconut milk is stunning in coffee (you can freeze it in an ice tray and use the cubes as and when you need them). Woolworths South Africa makes a delicious rice milk that has a subtle vanilla/almond flavour. Almond milk powder is absolutely divine. Instead of plant-based milks, you could try adding a little ground vanilla or cinnamon to your hot drinks.
Nut cheeses are very moreish. Cheezly and Sheese cheeses take a while to grow on you and you will only truly like them after completely abstaining from dairy cheese for a couple of months. In the meantime, try other alternatives like humus and guacamole. You could also add coconut milk to tomato pastas to get that creaminess.
Keep on experimenting. As you find one alternative that works for you in a specific situation then draw a line in the sand and stand firm on that particular vegan step forward. Work on each instance individually. You don’t have to conquer everything at once.
You will only be able to give up dairy products when you give them up absolutely. Any time you have the tiniest little bit of dairy, you will be back at square one. The good news is that cravings for cheese and dairy products reduce markedly after a period of complete abstinence.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Our bodies are designed to stop producing the lactase enzyme required to digest the lactose sugars in breast milk, when we are weaned, which at the latest would be between 4 and 5 years of age. We have passed that milestone years ago and the change is long overdue. So if you give up all forms of dairy for at least 10 days, your digestive system will have had time to find its natural balance.
Your taste buds take a little longer. You will only really like dairy substitutes after you have given up dairy completely. You will find that your taste buds come alive after you have ceased to coat them with saturated animal fats. They become more responsive to subtler flavours. Dairy is a bit like a sledgehammer packed with cholesterol and mucous forming substances. It takes a while for our taste sensations to appreciate the nuances of the natural plant-based alternatives. Be patient. Your body will adjust.
Rather than ‘giving up’ dairy, think of it as expanding your food choices. Fill up on the abundant range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes that come in a rainbow of colours. Try new varieties of fruits and vegetables that you have never tried before. Increase your meal portion size to accommodate for the reduced calorie content of your new low fat, high fibre diet. Start your day, every day, with an Essential Early Morning Green Smoothie. Invest some time in researching meal plans that work for you. Planning ahead will ensure you don’t find yourself hungry without a healthy snack at hand.
Another reason we find cheese so hard to give up is because all breast milk from mammals (even humans) contains the protein casein which breaks down into casomorphins when digested and produces an opiate effect. This helps to soothe the baby and strengthens the mother-child bond thus ensuring the baby will get all the nutrition he needs to grow strong and healthy. In cheese, the amount of casein is concentrated, therefore the amounts of casomorphin produced are higher. Cheese is also high in saturated fat. Our bodies are genetically designed to crave high fat, high calorie foods to stave off starvation. This gives cheese a double whammy.
So, is that it then, are you addicted to cheese? The real question is: does it matter? Would you tolerate an addiction if it were to any other substance, or would you take steps to be the master of your own destiny and take your power back?
Whether dairy is physically addictive or not, by associating it with nurturing it can be emotionally habit forming. Just like the calves, we are still looking for that feeling of safety and security we felt (or longed for) as a baby. Dairy is also the food we often equate with love and nurturing. The ice cream treats we were rewarded with when we were good, the warm milk and honey our Mothers prepared as a bedtime treat and the boxes of chocolates we received as gifts from loved ones. We have confused nurturing with nutritional nourishment. We need to find other ways to help ourselves feel nurtured, loved and secure.
A few suggestions:
- Exercise is a great way to nurture yourself. By participating in just 30 minutes of exercise, three days a week; your body will release the equivalent feel-good hormones you would get from taking an anti-depressant.
- Ensure you get enough sleep and keep to the same sleep routine. Try not to alter your sleep cycle, not even by one hour, as this would upset your circadian rhythm. The rewards are priceless.
- Invest time in building a social support network that includes those close friends and family members who will offer you positive reinforcement.
Having milk in our tea and on our cereal is a man made convention. It is absolutely unnecessary, but we have bought into the concept so completely that we feel like something is missing if it isn’t there. It is possible to change our mindset about this. Dairy is not an essential ingredient in our daily life. We can drink black tea. We can have muesli with water. We really can. It is just a case of training our taste buds and changing our perspective. We are the architects of our own lives. Overcoming these minor inconveniences is easily accomplished.
Your number one priority for being vegan needs to be that you respect the rights of animals. Nobody wants to be on a ‘diet’ for the rest of their life and diets are made to be broken. Keep reminding yourself in a logical manner, not a guilt provoking way, that animals have the right to life, freedom and bodily integrity. That means no rape, enforced childbirth or lactation. These are absolute rights and no violation of their rights is acceptable.
Now you know the truth about diary production; you know there are compassionate and ethical plant-based alternatives to dairy products; and you know how to nurture yourself without self-medicating with cheese, ice cream and milk chocolate. It is time to make the commitment to draw a line in the sand. If you have decided to exclude dairy products from your life, that is wonderful! Make a conscious choice to stick to that decision and start using the plant-based substitutes right away.
On the other hand, if you are still not ready to let go of dairy products, then do not let this one issue make you give up on your vegan journey. Make a commitment to being vegan in every other aspect of your life. Do not replace animal products with dairy — that is not a step forwards, it is a step backwards. However, as long as you are replacing the other animal products you used to consume with vegan alternatives, then you are saving the lives of animals.
Be clear about what steps you are willing to take towards introducing compassion, health and moral congruence into your lifestyle; then stick with them. You don’t have to be perfect. It is possible to transition towards being vegan as long as you are taking vegan steps that are moving you towards your goal of being vegan.
Thank you for being on a vegan journey. Together we make the world a better place! Get in touch with me if you need more information, support or advice on being vegan.