Alisa Fleming ~ I was one of the lucky ones. I grew up with a father who supported sports and activities. From a very young age, we would walk to places, kick the ball around, shoot hoops outside our house, and go to the community tennis courts. I wasn’t going to make it to the Olympics in any sports, but we were having fun and staying fit at the same time.
He was also on top of nutrition. He tended to avoid media health claims, reading his own research and judging what actually made him feel good. Overall, he was (and still is – see below!) a really healthy guy, and he passed that awareness onto me.
Unfortunately, dairy made me sick, very sick. But during the many times in my life when I was dairy-free, I got the opportunity to know what healthy feels like. My body understands energy and vibrancy. It’s had the ability to build up a strong immunity and fend off colds and flu. I know what true health feels like and that gives me a huge advantage over so many people. When I’m not well, when I’m sick, or even chronically ill, I can tell. I’m aware that I’m sick, and I have a strong yearning to get that feeling of well-being back.
But I learned firsthand that not everyone is this fortunate. I often find myself frustrated with my husband. Gradually, over the years, sickness took hold. He looked quite healthy when I met him at the young age of 23. He was active, but in a different way from me. His life didn’t have consistent activity, but rather bursts of fun, like skiing or mountain biking. He was a great cook, as long as it didn’t involve vegetables. He ran on empty calories, a lot, mood swings in tow. And comfort food when he got sick? McDonald’s hamburgers.
Trying to get him through chronic sickness has been difficult. The parameters for diet and supplements would be set, but inevitable he would get a little lazy or disheartened, he would cheat, he would find excuses why something was okay. For him to get better, strictness was required, so why wasn’t he sticking to it? Didn’t he want that feeling of wellness again? And then, one day, two years into this illness venture, it finally dawned on me. There is no again for my husband. He has never known what healthy really feels like, not since childhood at the least. Sure, he’s been “healthy” by definition of no colds, flu, or known chronic illness during many of those years, but as an adult he’s never felt that vibrancy, that energy, that special feeling you have when your body isn’t just working “normally,” it’s working optimally.
Understanding this is the key to getting my husband, and so many other people, well. Countless people have lived their entire lives in a slight stage of lethargy. Fast food, bags of chips, store-bought cake, and convenience meals. Once in a while these won’t set you back too much, but they are the norm in our society, and many people actually grow up on these foods … void of nutrients. Gradually, they grow sick. So gradually in fact that they may even lose touch with feeling “normal” let alone healthy. They have nothing left to strive for since they can’t even comprehend or remember the sensation of the real goal.
Do you know what healthy feels like? Vibrancy, energy, an eagerness to awake each morning? If not, just know that it exists, and that you can achieve it. That annoyingly energetic woman who you assume was born that way. The one that you envy deep down … you can be just like her.
And if you are dealing with a loved one who doesn’t know what healthy feels like, stay compassionate and help to guide them one step at a time toward that ultimate goal. Gradually they found their way into disease, so most likely, finding their way out will need to be gradual, too.
Article by Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a freelance writer for several publications, with an emphasis on creating recipes for various types of special diets.
My father and health inspiration – still a runner and "feel good" enthusiast at age 65. He's (mostly) dairy-free too!