A Dairy Free Diet: What I Noticed.

I have been on and off dairy free for the last 3 years. My current stint of being dairy free is approximately 3 months and counting (minus 1 day because it was my mum’s birthday and i allowed myself a piece of cake which consisted of dairy products).

I went dairy free, initially, in 2017 when i was in my 2nd year of University. I did a healthcare based course which meant doing placements. This consisted of shift work which i had never done before. Unfortunately, over a period of time this started to affect my bowels and i started to have cramps and really erratic bowel movements (to put it nicely). Essentially, i was having IBS type symptoms which is very common amongst shift workers. It took me a while to eventually figure out that dairy (in all forms) was exacerbating these symptoms massively, so i cut it out. Prior to this, i could eat a whole bucket of dairy based products with ease, no problemo and now suddenly i was lactose intolerant. It was a big change.

It isn’t hugely suprising i have developed an intolerance to dairy. In the UK, Asians and Afro-Caribbean people are commonly known to have intolerances to lactose. I’m South Asian. As i discovered my intolerance, funnily enough, lots of my friends who were also either Black or Asian, started to find that eating dairy would make them feel terrible. At least we were in it together, eh?

Anyway, when i first cut out dairy i noticed changes within a couple of weeks. Just to clarify, when i say cut out, i don’t just mean milk and cheese. I mean the whole shabang: pastries, dairy based biscuits, cakes and even crisps with whey powder were ALL off bounds because that is how sensitive my bowels became.

I noticed i felt a lot less bloated. I began to lose weight despite the fact i was doing no exercise. My bowels became more regular and normal. Overall, i just felt so much better. This was probably partly because i was snacking a lot less due to lack of dairy free munchies in my household, as everyone else in my family eat dairy. Any snacks i did have were dairy-free.

Throughout the last few years, i’ve had multiple “relapses” for varying periods of time where i went back to eating dairy. During these “relapses” i would gain a lot of weight, i’d feel bloated and, of course, my bowels were constantly causing me issues. I’d eat a lot more junk food as i wasn’t keeping an eye on my food intake, whereas when i avoided dairy i became far more aware of what i was putting into my body which led to less over-eating and over-indulging.

As mentioned at the start, i am currently dairy-free and have been for the last few months. I’ve lost weight again and have less stomach cramps. I also have more regular bowel motions and feel like i have more energy. I don’t feel bloated all the time and have less gas.

Apart from the physical, being dairy-free opens a whole new, different world of food. It forces me to be more creative and find alternatives when i do make a meal that traditionally uses dairy. For example, i made my own vegan parmesan cheese the other day, which i never would have done before.

I made a whole butter chicken curry with no dairy AT ALL. I’ve started looking into vegan baking so i can enjoy a chocolate cake, now and then. It has allowed me to adapt and develop my cooking skills.
Even when i go out to eat, i am far more inclined to go for the vegan option (if there is one) to avoid the potential of consuming dairy.

Overall, it is a huge positive for me and i 100% recommend everyone to go dairy free. There is enough research out there to inform us as to why dairy is so unhealthy for us. Since i have gone dairy free, lots of people around me have done the same. My husband rarely consumes dairy productes now. My parents have dairy free milk in the fridge now, which would never have happened before. It is great!
It has been a liberating process, in a way. I feel more empowered having that control over my diet. It also makes me feel more able to cut out other unhealthy things out of my diet, like overly sugary and fatty foods.

I leave you with this:
“The human body has no more need for cows’ milk than it does for dogs’ milk, horses’ milk, or giraffes

Why Everyone Should Cook!

Because it is great fun!

Cooking is an underrated and undervalued skill in this generation. With ease of access to fast food, deliveries straight to the front door, microwave meals (ew) and sheer laziness, people just cannot be bothered to cook for themselves anymore. I genuinely wonder what people eat most of the time because i genuinely cannot go without cooking.

Countless times, colleagues have been shocked and surprised that i take home cooked food to work almost everyday. People are genuinely impressed that i cook. This is because most people i work with either survive on microwave meals at work or sandwiches and even when they do rustle something up in the kitchen, it doesn’t look very appetising if i am honest.

Butter Chicken cooked by me.

I think the other thing is that people genuinely do not have any skill whatsoever in the kitchen. This is simply because they don’t practice cooking. They don’t know their way around flavours and seasoning. They don’t have an inherent sense of “too much,” “too little,” and “just right.” Having said that, it can be learned but people don’t want to learn.

People think that it takes up too much time out of their day. It is too much effort for them to wash and chop and cook. Instead they fill themselves with saturated fats, heaps of salt and various other unhealthy “quick” options. I don’t know how people do it. Food is one thing that is so enjoyable. It brings people together and it is pure joy. Eating a delicious, home cooked meal with fresh ingredients is up there with one of the best things that we can enjoy in this life. And people just don’t value it at all! It is saddening that we have lost that passion that we should have for food, a vital part of our survival. It is saddening that we have many opportunities to learn to cook, to hone in on our skills, to put delicious and good things into our bodies and we choose not to. It is no surprise that obesity is on the rise and more and more people can’t cook and don’t cook.

I was taught to cook by my mum from the age of 13. I have been cooking for 10 years at this point and would consider myself a very good home cook. My passion is for South Asian food, specifically Bengali food, as this is my ethnic background and the food i have grown up eating. I do cook other types of food and i enjoy cooking. I am not a massive experimental cook and the traditional food i cook is cooked straight from the heart using my mum’s recipes that i know like the back of my hand. My husband is definitely the more experimental cook and can whip up delicious dishes just by knowing his way around flavours. Recently, he has also been mastering his traditional cooking by learning more traditional Jamaican dishes. He is 30, and still learning stuff in the kitchen. The same as me, and the way that it should be for everyone!

Lebanese Flatbread, with cumin fried rice, homemade chicken kebabs and salad, made by myself and my husband.

The great thing about cooking is it is never too late to start. It all starts with one dish. When you sit down and enjoy that meal, having cooked it fresh yourself… well, there is nothing that beats it! The more you practice, the better you get. The better you get, the more confident you will feel. The more confident you feel, the more you will want to learn and the more you will want to share your awesome recipes and food with others.

A dinner party i held for friends. On the menu was white rice, parathas, bengali roast chicken, lentil curry, palestinian lamb stew and keema canapes, All homemade by ME!

Cooking is a skill. An art form. It can be challenging and difficult. It is not just a chore that women do. It can be a hobby. A passion. It can be something you enjoy with your loved one(s). Food is life (literally!) and as a generation, we need to stop filling our bodies with the easy option, with fat and salt, with heart attacks and diabetes on a plate, with microwave meals and takeaways. To practice healthy eating doesn’t just mean tossing salads together. You can enjoy all your favourites, just home cooked with a controlled amount of salt, less fats, fresh ingredients, real nutrients and no nasty chemicals. Enjoy your curries, enjoy a pizza, enjoy a spag bol, all from your own kitchen.

If i have failed to convince you, well… that’s unfortunate. But for those of you reading this who haven’t cooked in a little while: Get up, go to the supermarket, buy ingredients for your fave dish and make it from scratch. You will see how much more rewarding it will be, much tastier and HEALTHIER!

Remember… it all starts with one dish.

My anxiety is coming back…

I write this as i am sat in bed. I have been off work for almost 2 months now due to severe work related anxiety. I am due to start work next month.

Last week, i felt like everything was great. I had never felt so happy. I was enjoying my time with my husband, enjoying my time doing things that bought me joy and made me feel relaxed. I felt like i had an endless amount of time to heal. Fast forward to today and work is creeping back up on me.

Every night, for the last couple of nights, as soon as i get into bed to sleep i feel a heaviness in my chest. I know that my night is about to be filled with tossing and turning from an anxious restlessness. I don’t necessarily ponder over work the whole night, but my mind just fixates on anything that has happened throughout the day and just runs it over in my head. Again. And again. And again. I see my husband sleeping next to me which brings me some comfort but i just can’t stop moving around. I eventually fall asleep from sheer tiredness and this has been the cycle the last few days and will probably be what happens tonight after i publish this.

I am sick of feeling like this and i don’t know what to do. The thought of going back into work, the thought of seeing people at work and being in that environment fills me with absolute terror. I feel the terror rise in my chest and crawl it’s way up into the forefront of my mind. I can’t push those dark clouds out of my head.

During the day i am fine. I am occupied. But the night is long and never ending and all there is to do is think.

I thought i was healing but i was wrong. The healing cannot be completed for as long i stay working in that place. I can never heal. The damage has been done. This is years of grinding down, from the moment i started University until now. And i have completely, truly, wholly been grinded down to dust. I can’t do it anymore.

I don’t know what to do to overcome this mountain. God, please help me.

Vaginismus: How It Almost Killed Me.

I won’t bore you with the definition. You either know or you don’t. It is either your reality or it isn’t.

It was my reality for close to 5 years. I discovered i had vaginismus when i was around 18 years old and attempted to have sex for the first time. It was my first relationship (also my only relationship as i am now married to the same man). We tried to have sex and were met with a brick wall. I thought nothing of it, thought i must be “too tight” and it is because i am a virgin, felt it would be okay after a few more time. We tried a few more times and nothing. Nothing would go in and by that time the pain and anxiety of it all completely put me off wanting to have sex.

We continued the sexual aspects of our relationship with other sexual activities but i knew something wasn’t right. Anytime we would try vaginal penetration, it would end up in tears and panic and anger. After some time, i thought it may be down to my childhood sexual abuse. I was sexually abused from around the ages of 10/11 to about 12 years old by a family friend. He exposed me to lots of porn, would try to touch my breasts and would constantly make me feel uncomfortable. The exposure to sex through porn at such a young age must have traumatised me leading to vaginismus which led to the pain-avoidance cycle that is so common with this condition.

I actively avoided sex with my (at the time) boyfriend. I avoided help. Even talking about it out loud broke me down into a river of tears. I hated my body. I hated myself. I felt that i did not deserve to live, that i did not deserve to have a normal sex life. I felt my body was broken. I felt disabled, abnormal, alien. I would cry myself to sleep many nights. Sometimes there would be a painful ache in my chest, like i could physically feel my heart breaking into pieces. I was riddled with guilt – the guilt of not being able to “pleasure” my boyfriend, i felt guilty for having someone love me because i believed that someone with my condition is not worthy of love.

My boyfriend (now my husband) was very supportive of me. He loved me regardless. He encouraged me continuously to get support, wiped my tears when i cried, kissed me when i was sad and gave so much, so selflessly. I cannot thank him enough for loving me so wonderfully, for loving me with his whole spirit. The support and encouragement i got from him was a massive reason why i eventually recovered.

My recovery took a long time. It was not easy at all. It was emotionally draining and there were real pinnacle moments where i really did not want to live anymore. I felt like i was a vessel. Just a vessel. I felt like i was dead inside, like i had nothing to offer the world. I couldn’t even do something as “simple” as having penis-in-vagina sex and i convinced myself that life was worthless. I self harmed greatly over those years leading to my recovery. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in a hole and be left to die, on some days. I would imagine myself lying flat on my back and just bleeding to death. I considered taking overdoses. I told my boyfriend to cheat on me so that he could have sex (which of course he would never even contemplate doing). I was so far gone that i genuinely believed that the person i love should be unfaithful to me and that it would be justifiable.

Looking back, i realise how ridiculous that all is but healing took so long. I am still healing, almost 6 years later. I placed so much value on my vagina that i thought death was better. My then-boyfriend now-husband married me whilst i still had the vaginismus. We had been together 4 and a half years at that point and we married each other. He married me knowing we may never have a “normal” sex life and he may never have penis-in-vagina sex with me, ever. We married for love and love, only. He loved me beyond my vagina and i knew then that my vagina was not worthy losing such a beautiful life for.

Life can be wonderful and full of beauty. For a lot of us with vaginismus, we can become so tunnel visioned and fixated on the problem, that we forget to appreciate the goodness that can sometimes come from an awful thing. I learned slowly to look beyond my vagina. I hope women with the same or similiar conditions who are reading this can start looking beyond their vagina too.

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