Being lactose intolerant is tough. Becoming lactose intolerant later in life is really tough. I wouldn't have considered milk, cheese, or ice cream to be the loves of my foodie life, but they impact your life immensely when you can't eat any of them ever again without regretting it almost instantaneously. A favorite snack of mine used to be a slice of fresh American cheese before I made my famous toaster grilled cheese. And I loved a glass of really cold milk after a long day, just because (or after enjoying a delicious cupcake). I also lived for whipped cream on my Starbucks and Dunkin' lattes (is it even a latte if you don't have that whip on it?). And then, all of a sudden, my body began to reject all of them. Every single dairy-filled treat and snack cannot be broken down by my traitorous stomach. Oh, the struggles of being lactose intolerant.
You know what else made it obvious and hard to live with? Living in Italy. I studied abroad there only a month after I became lactose intolerant and it was almost a nightmare. The dairy over there is just so pure and literally every Italian cuisine has dairy -- copious amounts, may I add. Pizza? Yikes. Pasta? Nope. Gelato? Just tragic. Did I stay completely dairy-free? Hell to the no. It really put into perspective just how different this thing called life was going to be from now on. But, there is definitely solidarity with other non-dairy eating people, and with that, we all go through these moments.
1. Dancing On The Thin Line Of “Is It Worth It?” And “Is It Really Worth It?"
Like I conceded above, I didn't fully refrain from eating dairy altogether, at least not right away. There was a sense of denial, for sure, and also the fact that I was in Europe right after I found out. There wasn't room in my heart to stop. And due to this, I definitely suffered, and eventually, I had to decide if what I was going to eat would be worth the aftermath. Is this gelato worth the painful stomachache later? In Europe, the answer was usually yes, but once I returned back home, I decided to really stick to a dairy-free diet. More recently, there are only a few things worth it to me now. Frozen custard and pizza are on that list.
2. Getting Frustrated When You Can Only Go To Whole Foods
Once I decided to really take care of my body and adhere to this new diet, I had to find alternatives to lactose. I love bagels, but cream cheese was a huge no-no, and the only place close by that sells lactose-free cream cheese is Whole Foods. I had never shopped there before, and having to do so now is still a pain in the butt, just because the stuff is more expensive than regular cream cheese, and it's just a hassle to go there for that one item. But, I will admit that Whole Foods has a good selection that caters to lactose intolerant folks, so I will keep going back for the foreseeable future.
3. Being An Expert On All Lactose-Free Options
In addition to finding new options to fill your dairy intake, lactose-free people know the alternatives like the back of their hand. We are able to list off the countless ice cream substitutes we've had (I've tried coconut milk, almond milk, and vegan ice cream; none come close to the real deal, but it's something). Vegan options become your friend, and the Lactaid cow is your new icon.
4. Being Able To Detect If Something Has Dairy The Moment It Passes Your Lips
Avoiding obvious dairy products is one easy thing, but staying away from anything made with dairy is a whole other battle. I can eat milk chocolate with no adverse effects and I can eat butter without my body batting an eyelash. But smoothies are tricky, and so are other dishes, like mashed potatoes. Certain places put a ton of milk in their smoothies (some even use yogurt, which is even worse for me), and other places will use real cream in their potato recipes. And while this ultimately sucks, my taste buds have become dairy detectors like no other.
5. Having The Most Intense Milk Cravings
Despite doing all of these things, I still want dairy all of the time. Cow's milk is no excuse. I just loved chugging that delicious drink down and letting it refresh me like only milk and water can. One day recently, I was really thirsty and had water on hand, but my mind just kept going to that damn cow's milk, and realizing I hadn't had pure milk in almost half a year. It killed my soul just a tad.
6. Deflecting The Looks Of Pity From Virtually Everyone
“Oh, I can't eat that” is one of the most cringe-worthy things I say nowadays. My friends all know, but often forget (because dairy is everywhere), so this is something I say often and it induces the most pitying faces from those I love. I know how annoying this situation is, and now I know you know how sucky it is, but let's try and pretend I'm having a grand 'ole time, shall we? Sympathy is much-needed, let me tell you, however, I do like to move on from it. Like, yeah my mouth is watering over that mac and cheese, but neither of us wants to deal with me after I have it.