The Lactose Free Story

So, it must’ve been about three years ago now. Summertime came and my family and I had jet setted off for our annual hot holiday — not my cup of tea but a bit of sun on my pale skin I suppose is okay.

We arrived in the most beautiful place in Menorca, not too hot as we were right on the sea front so there was a breeze. Would strongly recommend it!! Now, I was the biggest I’ve ever been on this holiday and hadn’t felt great flying over; I never respond well to flying I can tell you. My body is a fragile one for sure. I was staying hydrated but felt dizzy and every time I’d eat the – what I call it now – bloated belly came on. It was after three days of not being able to eat a single morsel of food that my medic sister suggested it was a food intolerance issue. I went through all of the foods I’d had the week previous; it consisted of, pasta alla carbonara, cheese and ham toasties, cream cheese and salmon bagels, cereal with milk, fish pie… There seemed to be a common denominator that I had been consuming a lot of dairy!!

It’s worth mentioning that I had a year before this where I’d gone vegan, I heard that it was really good for helping with your digestion and making you a healthier person. If you hadn’t noticed I’ve always had a bit of a problem with digestion and my best friend the bloated belly. The effect Veganism had on me was mass weight gain and skin problems — I’m not against vegan meals at all and in fact I now don’t eat much red meat or poultry at all and love a good Vegan option at pret-a-manger. It later transpired that perhaps as I’d been vegan for such a longtime I had lost my ability to digest the enzyme lactose. I felt so down when I found this out, I had self inflicted this illness (or so I saw it) and caused the ability to eat my favourite substance CHEESE to be gone forever. A little dramatic I know. What followed this holiday was a complete diet change, I went cold turkey and stomach slowly decided to calm down and become less hard and bloated – cheese never tasted as satisfying as this feeling of comfort. And I really am a strong believer now more than ever that we shouldn’t consume dairy products as our bodies do struggle to digest it (some  more than others I know). The doctor helped back up all  of my stomach issues and recommended that dairy just isn’t for me.

At this point I really went from strength to strength, my portion sizes decreased, I’d committed to eating slower which then also helped my digestion immensely. I discovered my beloved Mango smoothies and just general fruit and vegetable grazing!! I developed a knack for making gorgeous salmon or chicken salads and had my beloved wholewheat pasta dishes for supper. I started doing yoga which suited me perfectly as I really didn’t enjoy the gym as this time of my life and it suited me being able to be creative on the matt. I managed to reach my perfect weight (which is around 9st 7lbs for a 5″ 7 lady I think that’s about right) and was really feeling on top of the world. Then I graduated uni..

I joined my new job as a manager and have never felt so busy in my life — such a big shift in lifestyle was exhilarating but really caused stress. When I get stressed it goes straight to my stomach let me tell you. What a delicate flower I am… I never had time to eat anything so the weight stayed low and potentially went the other way because I was working too hard. I then was promoted and my health and fitness really took a turn for the worst – I visited my family for the one day off I got a Christmas, it will be forever known as my fat Christmas. I really had gained a lot of weight when I look back, I know when I’ve gone a little bit large because I get the grimace from my mother. Not that she’s disapproving of me being bigger but she knows I prefer to be healthy and I just wasn’t at all.

So, I took a step back and looked at my work life balance.. To be perfectly honest that’s what I thought I was doing but I really wasn’t, I genuinely would have one meal a day and as soon as I got home I was so tried that I’d collapse in a great heap and tumble in to bed. I lost weight as quickly as I’d gained it but again was not being healthy at all. But, my career was going strength to strength so I didn’t seem to notice it as much. And to be perfectly honest I really thought because I was looking thin I was healthy – it’s all bullshit.

So where am I now? I’ve got to a point where this cycle of having fluctuating weight and not really listening to my body is really effecting my digestion, energy and therefore my motivation to do things. I still have a stressful job with unpredictable shifts but that doesn’t mean that I can’t take the time to do what’s necessary for my health. My biggest tips for all of you lactose free bloated belly sufferers like myself is to:

  • Eat slower – honestly your body will thank you for it and you’ll genuinely enjoy your food.
  • Drink enough water – not fizzy drinks – water! One thing I’m trying to get in to is having a warm water and lemon every morning. It will do wonders for your digestion.
  • Eat whole foods! I know it sounds cliche but honestly eat things that you know all of the ingredients of and can pronounce them.
  • Don’t convince yourself you’re restricted. Yes you can’t consume dairy but at the end of the day, it makes you feel like shit! Why put your body through that? And you can find alternative.. There’s loads of lactose free cheeses and cream cheeses (Yeah they’re not ideal for your digestion but every now and again is okay) And it terms of sweet snacks Loving earth chocolate is the one.. You heard it here first!
  • Consider taking probiotics or food supplements to help your pesky stomach along – I can discuss my experiences in another blog.

So if your an awkward eater like me, don’t fret there are plenty of options these days and recipes that I love to make. Don’t stress all fellow bloated belly beauties!

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