If you can walk into my home on any given day, you’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmers market, natural soy candles burning in the living room, wine – oh the wine – pouring steadily, and natural, organic snacks in the pantry. What you will not find is milk, cheese, or even yogurt for that matter. I’ve never been a huge advocate for dairy. In fact, I can vividly remember intense stomach pains as a child after every bowl of cereal or a grilled cheese. My mom chalked it up to me trying to skip out on school, but I always knew it was something more. I wouldn’t stretch to say that I am lactose intolerant. But the days when I feel the most sluggish or bloated are usually the days that start with Greek yogurt and end with mozzarella stuffed grilled chicken. I began to do some research on what would happen if I gave up dairy for a set period. On top of uncovering some disturbing documentaries, I realized that it was not only doable but that it could be my ticket to clearer skin – something I’ve struggled with my entire life. So, I did the unthinkable and committed to ditching ice cream. Here’s what happened:

My daily bloat disappeared. There are two things I can count on in this world: girl scouts conning me to buy $50 worth of cookies outside of a Kroger and my morning abs disappearing by breakfast.  I thought that the discomfort and irregularity were just an inevitable fact of life, but the results of giving up my morning parfait were almost instant. Just a few days after going dairy free, I noticed that my digestive issues were improving. Turns out saying goodbye to dairy was a simultaneous hello to looser fitting tops.

My 3:00 slump was a distant memory. Everyone knows that when the clock strikes three, it’s time for a nap. The only problem is that when you’re working 8-5, napping on the job is frowned upon for reasons beyond my understanding. Ditching dairy was the best thing I could have done for my afternoon fatigue and brain fog. Some of the most common food allergies are due to milk and milk byproducts. These allergies tend to induce a drug-like effect on our nervous system which leads to brain fog. While I don’t consider myself intolerant, I can sense that my body has issues digesting and absorbing the protein in milk. Without dairy, I realized I was able to think clearer and function at a higher level at all times throughout the day.

My skin actually started to clear up. I know this is why I began down this path in the first place, but I was skeptical that I would reap this benefit of going sans dairy. Perhaps it’s because I have always had terrible skin. For teenagers, acne is a rite of passage in the transition from middle school to high school. When you’re an adult, there’s only so much concealer you can pack on. The clearer skin didn’t come in the first week, but I did notice that my skin flare-ups were farther and fewer between. I’ve discovered that the secret to clear skin is less what we put on our skin and more what we put into our bodies. Read more about how to Eat Pretty on Sarah’s beauty column.

I won’t lie and say it was easy to give up dairy. Despite the discomfort it brings, I’m a Texas girl, and Blue Bell ice cream has been in my veins since 1992. I started off with the goal of just going dairy free for thirty days, but it’s become a lifestyle that I enjoy. I have more energy, better skin, and less bloating when I’m living life primarily dairy free.

Interested in giving this lifestyle a try with me? Here are a few quick tips to get you started. Start small. Try one day a week or one meal a day. Find a healthy swap.  Use almond milk instead of regular, ghee swapped for butter, or coconut yogurt for Greek. Don’t go at this alone. You’re not the first to go dairy free, and you won’t be the last, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Try ditching the dairy – even if just temporarily – and see if you enjoy it as much as I have!

Disclaimer: This is an account of my personal experience giving up dairy. I left out my personal convictions concerning dairy consumption but encourage you to do your own research. We were all created uniquely, so you may not have the same convictions as I do; but if you struggle with bloating, lethargy or bad skin, it’s worth a try!