It all started in 2014. I was a sophomore at UNH and something wasn't right. I never wanted to eat, my stomach was always hurting and I was not getting the nutrients I needed to live a healthy life. It took me another year to figure out I had become lactose intolerant.
To me, the weirdest part is that I went an entire 20 years with no issues. I was allergic to berries up to age 16 and then grew out of it. Besides that, which was very easy to avoid, I had no dietary issues. So when I started to have so many stomach aches, I was confused. I thought it was the dining hall food at first, but I soon ruled that out because it wasn't only after eating there. "What is wrong with me," was always on my mind.
My junior year I went to the UNH nutritionist to talk about what might be going on. At this point, I still didn't know what was wrong. I actually realized it was officially a problem when one of my friends said, "you know you complain of a stomach ache every time we eat?" Oh, hm. Interesting. I suddenly had a realization that this was a health problem and I needed to address it professionally.
After talking with the nutritionist, she suggested taking gluten and dairy out of my diet for two weeks and then introducing them back into my diet weeks apart. These two weeks I was infinitely better! I felt amazing and I was totally fine. But it was REALLY hard to make the change and after the two weeks, I decided to let gluten back in first. I was fine.
Then I ate ice cream.
I was not fine.
And then I knew. I went to an allergist and told her about this experience and she said I didn't even need to be tested. If I get a stomach ache every time I eat dairy, it was pretty self-explanatory. I was lactose-intolerant.
For another year I really struggled with this new dietary restriction. I didn't pay close attention to ingredients and I still struggled with stomach pain. Actually, every year the severity of it is seeming to get worse and worse. Finally, I started to adjust to the dairy-free lifestyle.
Now, I'm a pro.
Here are some important things I have learned about becoming and being lactose-intolerant.
The scientific and medical facts:
- Lactose is an enzyme and when someone who is not lactose-intolerant consumes something with lactose (dairy) in it, the enzyme in their small intestine called lactase can break it down into a simpler form. Someone who is lactose-intolerant does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme to break down lactose.
- What about the Lactaid pill? For those of you who don't know, there is an enzyme supplement pill you can take right before eating dairy that helps the body break down lactose. It might work for you. Everyone is different. It kind of works for me, but only if I take 3-4 pills before eating dairy. I used to use them ALL the time, but now I find it easy to avoid dairy. I'll get more into that soon.
- It is VERY common to become lactose-intolerant later in life. According to the National Institute of Health, about 65 percent of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy.
- If you are experiencing issues and experiment with taking different foods out of your diet, you should still consult a professional nutritionist or allergist. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or IBD (irritable bowel disease) have similar symptoms and call for more professional attention.
How tf do you not eat cheese?!
- CHEESE IS CRACK!
According to MANY studies (but if you want to read one, you can read this study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine) cheese is extremely addictive! An ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products, releases opiates called casomorphins. These play with dopamine receptors and trigger addictive elements.
- Not going to lie, at first this was definitely the hardest part. I mean who doesn't love cheese? I thought I needed it on EVERYTHING! But once I stopped eating it, I stopped caring. Now I seriously do not even realize. I don't even want it.
- There are some cheeses I can eat!
Everyone with a lactose-intolerance is different, but for me, there are some exceptions.
1. I can eat goat cheese. Not everyone with lactose-intolerance can, but I'm ok with it.
2. CABOT CHEDDAR CHEESE!! Cabot cheese is the best thing ever. It's totally normal cheese containing 0g of lactose! Amazing. It is AMAZING.
3. A lot of lactose-intolerance people can eat "hard cheese" such as Parmesan, cheddar and Swiss. These contain less lactose than soft cheeses. I can't really eat any of these... Parmesan seems to be ok in small doses. This is why some pizza is ok for me!
4. Yes, I still eat mac and cheese. I just make it with vegan butter and soy mylk and then take a few Lactaid pills. It's not good with Almond or any nut mylk though, it tastes weird and nutty.
5. Fake cheese/vegan cheese is terrible, don't bother. Daiya, Go Veggie, just no. Vegan cream cheese is pretty good! The Tofutti brand is the best I've had. For butter, I use Earth Balance and for mylk I use Califia Farms...Actually, LOVE Califa Farms products!
- WHAT ABOUT ICE CREAM AND DESSERT?!
Have you ever had vegan ice cream? It's so good! If you visit NYC definitely find a Van Leeuwen. I do have to say, dessert is the hardest part of being lactose-intolerant. It's just something I have had to deal with. A really awesome brand for chocolate is Hail Merry. You have to try different certified vegan treats to find your favorite, but you can find some really delicious options when you're looking!
- What's the deal with yogurt?
A lot of lactose-intolerant people can eat yogurt because it is probiotic which helps digest lactose! Especially Greek yogurt because during its production process, a lot of lactose is removed. There are also brands that produce 100 percent lactose-free Greek yogurt. I eat only Chobani Greek yogurt but there are other options. Look out for yogurt made with "whole milk" that has, for me, been the WORST. You just have to experiment with what is best for your body.
At this point, I'm not even tempted by dairy-heavy treats. I know it's going to make me sick and it's not worth it to me anymore. And honestly, being lactose-intolerant isn't that bad. It's a very healthy lifestyle overall because foods with cream, cheese, butter and/or milk in them are typically very high in fat.
If you are lactose-intolerant, start following different dairy free and vegan Instagram pages for cooking inspiration and to learn about different places that serve dairy-free meals! It's honestly so fun to find these places and try them out.
Here are some of my favorite social media follows:
*Things that are annoying about being lactose-intolerant:
- Having to ask about ingredients and seeming "picky" when I go out to eat.
- Places that don't have milk alternatives for their coffee. This is a HUGE struggle. AND THEN when they do have soy or almond mylk, it's an extra charge. And yes I spell it "mylk" because it is not milk.
- People who say "that sucks!" Like COOL it's my life, not yours, and it honestly doesn't suck.
- No cannolis. Sigh. I'm waiting for a vegan Italian pastry spot to become a thing.
I think the most important thing to remember when dealing with a lactose-intolerance is to read the ingredients when buying foods at the grocery store. You'd be surprised how many things "contain milk" and there isn't really any section in the grocery store for these products besides any sort of "vegan" section... which is hard to come across. You just have to keep trying different snacks and find your favorites!
At the end of the day, it's really not a big deal. It's something that becomes a lot easier over time. Listening to your body is so important and becoming as happy and healthy as possible is just another element of living your best life!
If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out! Don't forget, everyone's body is different so when it comes down to it, your dietary journey will always be unique to your needs.
Follow your gut! ;)
* Do you want more posts about being dairy free? What do I cook? Places I eat out in NYC? Let me know! Comment below or DM me. I love hearing feedback.
Hey everyone, sorry it has been SO long. I have just about successfully battled the flu, and I am BEYOND ready to get back to life. I definitely do not recommend the flu to anyone and I highly recommend the flu shot. Since I am finally feeling better, I figured I would write a little something while I am stuck up in my apartment on a Saturday night, sparing the city of New York from my germs.
Weeks ago my friend Miranda tagged me in her blog post, "My 5 Words" where she chose 5 words (self-explanatory) that she wants to be inspired by and remembered every day.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the question, "what makes one happy?" I suppose this is also the timeless question of any writer, poet and human on earth. Being happy is a personal thing, it doesn't have to do with anything or anyone but yourself. It is a choice and can only come from you. But that doesn't make it easy because the hardest thing to find in this life, in my experience, is your ever-changing self.
So keeping this in mind, here are my 5 words.
I've been so stressed over the thought of finding my new groove. I find myself worrying that I won't discover where I fit in or where I belong. But I think sitting in my apartment for the past few days really taught me that nothing will change if I don't get out there and find the things that make me happy. A huge part of this is being completely fearless in trying new things. It is so easy to be shy but I know that isn't truly me. Taking the risk and trusting yourself takes a fearless attitude.
I am trying to take the step back and find happiness and satisfaction in the non-materialistic things in life. We don't need things. I downsized moving here for a reason and I am striving to live my life this way from now on. I am also starting to spend more and more time without makeup on. If you know me, you know I love makeup. I love putting it on, trying different products and watching beauty YouTubers. But I am saving the makeup for work and nights out. I am so surprised with how comfortable I am becoming in my own natural skin. The more I see myself with a bare face, the more beautiful I start to feel with it.
I am embracing the simple state of mind, environment and body.
I am applying the word "nourish" into two aspects of my life.
The first is working towards a diet that consists of no processed foods, dairy or anything that does not make my body feel its best. I'm starting to discover a new level of a well-nourished body and how it positively affects one's life. I am learning more each day about the "right" times to eat, the best snacks for the metabolism, exercise strategies and just the overall best well-rounded way to a healthy life.
The second way I think about the word nourish is the nourishment of the mind. I want to focus more on finding "extracurriculars" like writing groups, poetry clubs or maybe a volunteer group that can really help me hone in on mental nourishment. If any New Yorkers out there have suggestions, let me know!
On a semi-related note, does anyone have any meditation tips?
It is very easy to get too wrapped up in wanting a specific way of life that we are too controlling of every move and don't leave room for the unexpected. With any journey or experience I face, I am trying to remember that things can always take a turn and present something never expected. I think a lot of the time these unexpected twists are what change your life the most.
Solitude (a lot of "S" words)
I honestly love spending time with myself. Some people always like being with other people, but I love being alone. Don't get me wrong, I also love hanging out, I have always been quite the social butterfly...I mean, that's what my teachers always told my parents at conferences! I think that it is important to spend time on your own though, really reflect on yourself and your path. Remember that it's ok to just take a walk alone or go enjoy a book or a coffee shop by yourself. When life gets crazy, taking some "me" time is never a bad thing.
Those are my 5 words to live by, for now.
Before I start this post, I just want to say that I am trying to be a little more open and honest /transparent with my blog posts. After the overwhelming response to "Life update: 6 important post- grad lessons," I have a stronger feel for how sharing my thoughts and emotions can help others. So I'm going to try and incorporate that more.
Keep reaching out! I seriously love hearing how you are all relating.
So, I made it. I'm writing my first blog post sitting in my new apartment in the one and only New York City. I honestly still can't believe it happened. OnJuly 14, 2017, I wrote this post on how I had decided I was going to "move" to the city. "Moving" then was just coming here with a suitcase and hoping for the best. And through many ups and downs, learning how to navigate the subway and walking blocks in the wrong direction, the vision came true...I still walk blocks in the wrong direction but that just means I need to do less cardio at the gym. A silver lining, people.
In my mind, I pictured the second I moved here to be some sort of cure-all. As if my life would be suddenly perfect and I would be the happiest human on the earth. Don't get me wrong, I am happy. I have (out of pure luck) an awesome roommate, who happens to be a childhood friend, I work with cool people for a brand that I really love (check it out Jo + Jax) and I am totally loving my new apartment. So, you may ask, "Allie, what could possibly be wrong?"
The thing is, these factors don't take away from the fact that a place can't really feel like home overnight. Starting a new job is hard, no matter how great the circumstance may be. Living in a new place is hard, even if it's your dream location. I still miss my friends from school SO MUCH, every day. I miss the feeling of really knowing where I was and what I was doing. It's all a major adjustment.
I had such a strong sense of identity and now that identity, in a way, doesn't exist anymore. It will always be a part of who I am, but it's part of my past now. I have to find myself all over again. This feeling reminds me a lot of my freshman year of college actually. I wanted to transfer after my first year but realized that it would be the same anywhere I went. New is new.
Two weeks ago I moved into this apartment. My dad and I drove his Pathfinder from WeHa to the big apple, packed to the brim. My mom had to take the Metro-North separately because there was no room.
But let's rewind. How did I even find this place?
Let me tell you, apartment hunting in NYC is cut throat af. First of all, if you are looking for an apartment here, you best go see it first. Most listings are actually just stock photos of what the apartment "similar" to. And (shockingly) it is not anything close to similar. I mostly used an app called Street Easy, which is also a website. NYBits is a good resource as well. If you are looking to sublet or find a random roommate there are many Facebook groups you can apply to join, for example NYC Gypsy Housing. The day before I knew I was going to look at places, I scheduled all the viewings via the app. I was planning on seeing 6 places in one day.
I think that is the best way to do it because then you have them all fresh in your mind. Be sure to take video and photos of each place so you don't mix them up in your head. Also, the apartments go very quickly. Out of the 6 I had set up to view, I was only able to see 4 because 2 of them were rented out that morning. The first few places I went to were a complete dump! Hence why you must go look in person. Then we (Colleen and I) got lucky and viewed our current apartment. We knew right away that it was a steal and we told the guy we wanted to apply.
Things to look for in the apartment:
- Where is the closest subway stop? Is it a good subway line?
- How far would your commute be?
- Where is the laundry?
- Where is the grocery store?
- Does the apartment building door lock? And can you buzz people in? (Safer)
- Do the toilets flush?
- Is the shower gross?
- How are the appliances? Do they work? Check. Turn on the stove and sinks.
- Is heat/hot water included? What utilities do you pay?
- Go to the neighborhood at night. Is it sketchy?
- IS THERE A HISTORY OF RODENTS OR BUGS? (Idk about you all, but this was a very important part for me. You can google it for most buildings also.)
Logistical things to know about getting an apartment in NYC:
Have a lot of money saved. You will (possibly/probably) need financially:
- Credit check application fee ~ $100
- First and last months rent
- A security deposit
- A brokers fee which is 12-15 percent of year rent (sometimes not always)
Get ready for HELLA paperwork:
- Photocopy of your ID
- Verification of employment
- Tax Returns
- Bank statement
- Last 3 pay stubs
- A possible guarantor
If you are just out of college, most private places will require a guarantor even if you and your roommate are making (or making over) the annual amount required. Don't dilly dally with this paperwork! If other people come along and apply faster than you do, you'll lose it. We may or may not have done that to someone trying to get this place... YA GOTTA BE QUICKER THAN THAT! (remember that commercial? lol.)
We signed the lease, we had the keys. Next step was moving in. We went and measured the room and I decided on a full-size bed instead of a queen to save space. We also don't have any closets in our rooms so getting a garment rack was key. Also, make sure you measure the width of the door openings because our bedroom doors are only 15 inches wide!
We are in a 5 story walk up on the 5th floor! So moving in was really fun!!
We moved in on a Saturday and I moved in earlier than Colleen which honestly worked out very well. If you try to move in at the same time it would just be so crazy and unorganized. By the time she got here, I had most of my things set up and put away. That gave her space to take over the living room with her things while she set up.
We ended up purchasing a couch on Amazon, my friend Lex gave us a coffee table (amazing) and then using an app called "Offer Up" to find our "kitchen" table. It's an app where people post things they are selling or putting on the street for free and all you have to do is figure out how to transport it. So although the furniture may be cheap, don't forget you'll probably need a $30-$50 Uber XL to transport your purchases. This is still a more economical option to buying it new.
We still aren't quite done decorating, so I don't want to reveal too many shots of the place before I feel we are ready to showcase our place to the world. Don't worry, full apartment tour will happen soon.
Overall, the process is very stressful but also really exciting which takes away from the negative stress energy. Everyday New York City and Lexington Ave will start to feel more like home.
As always, I'll be keeping you posted.
So, I haven't updated readers on my life in quite a while. This is for a few reasons. The first being it has been a very crazy 7 months. I was in Portsmouth, NH for June and July then NYC for August, September, October, November and THEN West Hartford, CT for December. Part of me just simply didn't want to explain everything because I didn't even know what was going on. And part of me was really insecure about it. Graduating and figuring out life is really hard. I dreamed of living in one place, New York City, and didn't want to look anywhere else for a job.
At first, I was really nervous but very optimistic. But as the months went on, rejection after rejection, I started to get very anxious, insecure and a little depressed. I wanted the right thing to come along so badly. I applied to over 100 jobs, got rejected from at least 10 post-interview because of my, "lack of experience" which drove me crazy because I really felt like I really worked my butt off in college!
I started to look at D.C., Boston and Hartford but didn't feel happy about it at all. I am very blessed and lucky to have parents and family who kept encouraging me, I babysat for an awesome and supportive family in New York, I had people left and right letting me stay at their apartments and I have the BEST best friends ever who kept telling me I could do it. So, thanks, everyone. You've helped me more than I can ever put into words.
But, living out of a suitcase with the majority of my things in my grandma's basement was draining and I wanted to start my life...
I am very beyond excited to announce that I have officially landed a job. Better yet, a job IN NEW YORK CITY! I can not be any happier and now I am in the middle of the next adventure of finding an apartment. I will be working at a dance clothing company called Jo + Jax located in the Financial District. It's honestly so perfect for me because I get to work within the dance world, which I had only dreamed about, and I get to use a lot of my journalistic skills sets!
Explaining the past 6 months in a nutshell like this makes it sound somewhat easy...or something. But, looking back, there are a lot of things I have learned along the way that I want to share with everyone for 2 reasons.
The first is for anyone who is soon graduating or in the first year of post-grad life. Although, I think that these are all things people can only truly learn through their own experience. I hope it helps people realize that it's totally normal and ok to feel this way...You are not alone.
The second is for the "adult" crowd. I hope this can remind you of how tough it is and how small, judgemental comments can really bring someone in this situation down. I hope it can make people more understanding and sensitive towards someone who is, "just trying to figure it out."