For the past week, I’ve felt like complete crap – and I’m quite happy about it. After two decades of battling with my body, I’m giving it a gift. Rather than listen to all the weight loss experts and continue throwing my money at programs that don’t work for me, I’m listening to the voice inside to finally do what I know my body really needs.

I’m going dairy-free.

The last time I felt good about my body – like super good – was nearly 25 years ago. I was in 8th grade and, months before, a kinesiologist had diagnosed me with a dairy allergy. Cutting it out of my diet was hard. Though I hadn’t realized it, dairy was my drug of choice. As a kid, I would often steal quarters from my dad’s coin jar and ride to the neighborhood Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone. I’d ride around the neighborhood – but not on my own block, for fear someone I knew would see me – eating my ice cream. It calmed me. I knew it was wrong {both the stealing and the cravings}, but I couldn’t help myself.

The doctor said going dairy-free would likely do wonders for my puffy, pimply 13-year-old body. It did. My skin cleared up, my sinuses cleared up, my stomach and head didn’t hurt so much and extra weight melted off me. I remember feeling so euphoric, amazed that I could actually feel comfortable in my own skin.

art by bella sinclair

But after a year or so, I began to slowly ease up on my non-dairy diet. I wanted to have pizza with my friends. And frozen yogurt. And buttered popcorn at the movies. I figured a little dairy here and there wouldn’t hurt – and might even help my body get used to dairy again, little by little. But little by little turned into lots and lots. And since nothing drastic happened right away, I convinced myself my body could handle it.

It couldn’t. I realize now I’ve been abusing my body all these years. I’ve always struggled to maintain a healthy weight {turns out dairy allergies are often responsible for major weight gain}. I often  feel congested and foggy. Headaches are a daily occurrence. I’m tired of my skin breaking out. I’ve had a sense, deep down, that it was all due to dairy – but my inner ice cream cone addict rejected that notion. She had a laundry list of excuses – stress, age, weather, you name it. Anything to avoid giving up chocolate and cheese and ice cream and butter and whipped cream and cupcakes and…well, you get the idea.

My desire to feel good has finally overshadowed my cravings. I dropped dairy from my diet a week ago – and I’ve felt both awful and empowered. My body is mad at me. I’ve had headaches so bad I thought my brain might explode. My stomach is in knots. My skin feels gross. And all of that tells me I’m doing something right. My body’s going through withdrawals; while the side effects are annoying and distracting, they’re also empowering. Confirmation that my real inner voice has been right all along.

I don’t know what will happen. I’d love to feel comfortable in my own skin again, all these years later. I’ve chosen to tell you about this journey to see if you can relate, to collect resources and ideas {anyone have favorite soy/almond/coconut products/recipes/links!?}, and to ask for your support in wishing me well.