What Happens to Your Body When You Give up Dairy

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This post originally appeared on Byrdie

As summer approaches and I begin looking to shed my winter weight gain (it’s not so much, but I’d be happy to lose it), I’m starting to think more about healthy choices. I did a little Googling, and found that Khloé Kardashian—that girl looks incredible—has been discussing her recent decision to give up dairy.

“I’m obsessed with cheese and milk, but eliminating them from my diet made the biggest difference,” she told PopSugar. “In a month and a half, I lost 11 pounds just from not eating dairy, without doing anything else different, and that totally blew my mind.”

Seriously, that is mind-blowing. And, agreed, I love cheese and milk too, Khlo. But perhaps I could take one for the team (the team being my body) and forgo the milk in my coffee and the wedges of cheese I can’t help but order for a month. It’s for the greater good, after all.

Before making such a drastic change to my diet, I decided to discuss it with Brooke Alpert, nutritionist and author of The Sugar Detox.

Will cutting dairy cause rapid weight loss?

“Eliminating dairy can help with weight loss, if you are not overeating other things to compensate for removing this food group. If the rest of your diet stays the same, you will definitely drop some of those last stubborn pounds because you are eating less sugar (yes, dairy contains sugar) and calories than you’re used to.

“A lot of people find that when they give up or cut down on dairy, they feel less bloated. Even if you are not lactose intolerant, dairy can sometimes contribute to bloat, gas, and abdominal distention, which no one wants, especially leading up to summer! Additionally, limiting your dairy intake can improve your skin, helping it stay clearer with fewer breakouts.

“I never recommend removing an entire food group from someone’s diet unless you have a medical reason for it, so no, removing dairy is not the best way to lose weight. However, a good way to keep dairy in your life and lose weight is to limit your portions to only twice a day. So that would be a six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt, an ounce of cheese, or eight ounces of milk—no more than two times per day. This way you can still get your cheese fix while keeping your calories and sugar in check.”

How does it work?

“Dairy is not ‘bad for digestion’ overall; however, some people are sensitive to it and have a harder time breaking down the casein in the dairy (a type of milk protein). Bloating, gas, constipation, and inflammation occur when you are unable to properly digest dairy."

Sensitivity to casein is not the same thing as lactose intolerance, which is the inability to breakdown and digest the lactose (milk sugar). If you’re not sure if you fall into that group, she says, “try eliminating all dairy products for two weeks and see if you notice any changes in your belly—less bloat, less constipation or cramps, or no change whatsoever. If you have no change, reintroduce dairy and continue to enjoy up to two servings a day. If you notice that your stomach has been feeling a lot better without dairy, then continue to leave it out. But note that this is not about weight.”

“If you are someone who is unable to digest dairy properly, that could take a toll on your skin too, as your skin can reflect your diet just as much as your waistline does. If you are sensitive to a food, you can break out more frequently. So in your at-home experiment, make sure you pay attention to how your skin is reacting as well.”

What, if any, dairy foods should I cut out?

“The dairy items you want to avoid are items that are nonfat and low-fat versions. The processing methods remove the healthy fat and add in sugar and sodium, making them more processed and less healthy than their full-fat counterparts. And when it comes to weight loss, you always want to avoid products with added sugar, because that usually means added calories.”

“Fat does not make you fat; sugar is the real enemy,” Alpert put it simply. The added sugar gets quickly absorbed and stored in your body. Alpert recommends good fats like grass-fed butter, cheese, and whole grass-fed milk. “I’d much rather have a client having a full-fat plain flavored yogurt than eating a banana.”

In addition to having less sugar, full-fat products are more easily absorbed by your body. "When you eat a salad and don’t add any fat from avocado or olive oil, your body is not able to properly absorb specific vitamins. When you eat meals with some fat, you feel full and are less likely to overeat."

“Plain Greek yogurt is a great dairy staple for your diet because it is loaded in protein that will help you stay full and focused all day long, preventing over-snacking between meals. Other great options are whole milk and fresh cheese like feta and mozzarella.”

After our conversation, I realized I could give up dairy to lose a few lingering pounds, or I could just choose to be smarter with my choices. In the end, it’s up to you how you treat your body and what you feel like eating. For me, I’m going to lay off the ice cream sundaes and pizza for a while and see what happens. (I’ll let you know.)

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By Hallie Gould for Byrdie
This post originally appeared on Byrdie

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