A few weeks ago my sister-in-law, Jeanne, spent a week with my husband and me just after she decided that she wanted to go vegan. We had a great visit with her. It was a blast touring her around SoCal, and showing her the vegan ropes.
Although Jeanne made great strides toward adopting a vegan diet while she was here, she just couldn’t part with cream in her coffee, dairy mocha latte’s and cheese. Since dairy was such a challenge for her, I thought she might give up on veganism and settle for being vegetarian.
I certainly wouldn’t judge her if that was her decision, but I was excited to learn that it’s not. She recently sent me an email telling me that she was finally ready to give up dairy. What convinced her was going to a vegan festival and talking to a woman about The China Study, a study that shows the connection between dairy and cancer.
I sent Jeanne an email back congratulating her. She replied, telling me that she is still struggling with going dairy-free, especially with giving up cheese. “I adore cheese,” she told me, “I miss the oomph and taste it gives to food.”
I feel for Jeanne. I know where she’s coming from – I’ve been there. So today I thought I’d share some tips for giving up dairy. Here’s what worked for me:
7 Tips for Giving Up Dairy
- Recognize that cravings pass – This has both a short-term and a long-term meaning. In the short-term, if you can put off indulging in a craving for 15 to 20 minutes, it will often dissipate. In the long-term, your taste buds adjust to and learn to like what you typically eat. So, once you stop eating dairy for a while your desire for it will go away.
- Distract yourself – As someone who used to make regular late night runs for Ben & Jerry’s, I know it’s challenging to put off indulging in a craving. What may help is distracting yourself. Take a walk, make a phone call or play with your pet until the urge passes. Taking my dog for a walk often worked for me.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you cheat – Chances are you’re going to cheat in the beginning – most of us do. This is normal, nothing to beat yourself up over. Besides, research has shown that beating yourself up will hurt your chances for success. A more helpful way to deal with slips is to treat yourself with compassion. You can do this by imaging what you would say to a friend who cheated on a diet and then saying those same compassionate things to yourself.
- Discover Delicious Dairy Substitutes – There are great products to replace every dairy food you desire, but there are also some not-so-great ones. Sample lots of dairy alternatives and don’t give up if some of them taste like crap. If you keep trying, you will find some you love. For a list of my favorite dairy substitutes, check out Is There Life After Dairy?
- Educate yourself about why dairy is bad – Read The China Study and other plant-based books to see the research that clearly links dairy products to cancer and numerous other illnesses. And find out how drinking milk harms cows.
- Remind yourself of your reasons everyday – The reasons for giving up dairy are compelling, but so is an ice cream sundae. So don’t just read The China Study and put it on a shelf, keep it out and read a passage from it every day. Or make it a point to watch a plant-based movie every week (this worked for me). And continue to expose yourself to the painful reality of life for a dairy cow on a factory farm.
- Connect – It’s easier to achieve something when you have support. So talk to others about your struggles. Let them know how difficult this is for you. Releasing those feelings and hearing encouraging words from others is powerful. Feel free to share on my blog – you’ll definitely get support here.
So those are my tips, but I’d love to hear from other vegans. How did you first give up dairy? Was it challenging? Do you have any suggestions for those transitioning to a plant-based diet?
Image courtesy of marin / http://www.freedigitalphotos.net