by: Lily Lin
Growing up in a Chinese-American family, I learned very early on to eat anything and everything, no matter how much my taste buds disagreed with me. As a child, I resented my parents’ strict rule about clearing my plate and not leaving the table until every morsel was gone. However, looking back now, I’m grateful for their insistence as I now eat anything and everything, unlike many of my friends.
One major food group I grew up with was dairy, especially the three glasses of milk I had to consume every day according to my doctor’s instructions. Imagine my surprise when I started to get stomach pains and nausea every time I consumed large quantities of dairy. As I’ve never had allergies growing up, it was a hard concept to accept that there was something that I loved that I couldn’t eat. For the first year or so, I lived every day in denial of my lactose intolerance, still choosing to drink milk, eat cheese, and enjoy ice cream despite the consequences.
Finally connecting the dots a couple years ago, I started to invest in lactaid pills, convincing myself it would completely fix my eating situation. As more time goes on, as more pills were forgotten, I began wondering if I should completely cut dairy out of my diet. I quietly contemplated my decision as I indulged on cheesy pasta.
My battle with lactose has always been, and will continue to be, a cycle of unending instant gratification and subsequent torment. When I think through how I would alter my diet, my minds reflects back on all the ordinary food items that I would be cutting out and how each meal will be a conscious decision. Mostly, I think about how it’s a burden to those who I eat with and the food spots that we collectively would have to avoid to make sure that I could still find something to eat. There would be no more late-night pizza runs, trips to Kung Fu Tea after pho, and the continual editing of meals I order from restaurants.
As college approaches, I think over how it’ll possibly be easier to finally go lactose-free since I’m going to a college in LA that has tremendous vegetarian/vegan food options. However, I also struggle with the fact that lactose-tolerance is inducible, so cutting dairy out would prevent any future of eating dairy again if I cave. When I cave. Thinking over my diet changes, I start to think of other changes I’ll have to make in the future as my life enters a new chapter of adulthood and self-discovery. Who knew that the biggest thing I would leave behind wouldn’t be my friends or family or high school memories, but my lifelong relationship with lactose.