Before you can fix the world, you have to fix yourself. Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.
When doing year-long projects, I have found that it’s good to check in. What are the effects of what I am doing? Am I happy doing this? Does this still feel meaningful?
So. Thirteen weeks of cutting out as much plastic and processed food as possible and this is what has happened so far:
1. I have lost 19 pounds.
Well, hello everyone, so now I have your attention. So it does take diet and exercise to lose weight. I’ve done taekwondo for more than 20 years now, and it got me to lose a lot of pounds when I was younger, but there is still a bit of excess that I could never shed because of the food I ate. Now, I eat the same, if not more, amounts, but they no longer have the poisonous and addicting things with them. It’s ironic that the only time I’m losing weight is when I finally stopped trying. Though this is unplanned, it would be nice to reach a healthier weight range since heart disease runs in my family.
I had a feeling during the first few weeks that something was different—that I’m finally on a lifestyle that I believe in. Unlike in previous occasions when I ate while depriving myself, now I eat with the principles of sustainability, abundance, and common sense.
2. I have more energy.
I’m juggling so many things right now, from traveling to do art and climate change workshops in remote areas, to writing grant applications, to planning what happens when I do get a grant, to helping my parents with paperwork, to helping my brother design his wedding invitation, to running my projects, to creating new projects… you get the idea. But I feel like I can do them all without passing out from exhaustion because the things I am eating are no longer killing me.
One thing to note is that I didn’t just change one thing. I started to apply what I learned in eating to other parts of my life. I had so much more headspace that I changed my workouts too. Because of my busy life right now, instead of spending my usual 1-2 hours in the gym plus another hour for the commute, I stay at home and do HIIT workouts for 30 minutes, which according to my genetic tests are more suited for me. I use up less carbon since this stopped my commute and I don’t have to inhale so much air pollution.
3. I have shunned all plastic bags.
And this includes shopping for clothing. I have three reusable flower-patterned bags I take with me wherever I go—one for the wet or loose food (like tofu and produce), one for dry stuff, and one for when I have to buy a dress or a sketchbook. After using these, I wash, dry, and fold them back in my purse. I even shun paper bags when I can, since even though they’re compostable, I just don’t need them.
4. I’m not changing the world, but occasionally I do change someone’s mind.
When I’m at the checkout and ask the cashier that I won’t need plastic, there have been two occasions when the person next to me said no to them as well. I know that their decision was partly because of me because the cashier mistakenly placed my purchases in a plastic bag and I asked her to remove them. Everyone looked a bit confused, while I looked liked I wasn’t someone to be messed with. Hey, it’s not like I blew up or anything. I was just being, you know, firm.
5. I spend way less.
I’m still just one of those emerging artists/designers/writers and so I’m in what I’d like to call the Gauntlet of Endurance—a stage after graduate school when the call of money and stability might eventually take over the call of creating my own work and my own life. I’m still surprised I haven’t caved in and gone to work for a bank or something. Year for the Planet is giving my insights on how I can still go for what I want to do, because I realize I don’t really need that much money because I just don’t need a lot of stuff.
6. I have more time.
Before, it was a life-sucking cycle of buying sugary food when I felt stressed, to panicking when I ran out of them, and then buying different brands because hey it’s great to try something new. Without all of that unnecessary consumerist chatter in my head, and because I only need to go to the grocery store once a week, there is more time to do things that really give actual value to my life.
7. I am less prone to advertising.
When you quit processed stuff, there’s just no inclination to buy them even if they have cute mascots begging you to try some. I don’t even order home delivery or anything—I haven’t eaten fast food at all. It’s not even something I have to think about. Saying no to crap becomes a habit.
8. I feel great.
In the beginning I wrote that I kept losing my temper because people I meet usually have a completely different mindset when it comes to consumption and the environment, but lately because I’m so used to my system, I don’t even notice their reactions anymore. I love everything I eat except for the apple cider vinegar (no one in their right mind will love that stuff, hello) that I just had to learn to get used to. If I just like it a dish, I try to find ways to upgrade it from meh to yummy. I have much more time, money, energy, and mental clarity to do things I really want. In the end, we don’t have a lot of time in the world—make sure every day counts.
There is always room for improvement—something my mother would always tell me when I was in high school even though I graduated valedictorian, so if I were to tell you what I want to work on in the near future (it’s a Year for the Planet, not 3 Months for the Planet), it would be on: 1) how to grow some food myself, 2) how cheap a healthy lifestyle can get (I am after all based in the developing world where people live on less than a dollar a day), and 3) what other options are out there (can I really live on sweet potatoes for dinner forever?). I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring.
As I post this, I’m on the way to the airport to a remote island to give an art workshop to kids—it would be a great test of how my new lifestyle will fare when I’m on the road. I hope no one will try to give me a plastic straw. See you next week!