Year for the Planet Week 16: How I Ate for the Planet When I Was Sick

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.

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So this week I was down with the flu because of the Tenth Circle of Hell known as Boracay. Just kidding; last week, the weather on the island went from hot to wet and stormy to scorching, and finally my immune system couldn’t take it.

But thankfully it was a great time to view this project from a different lens. How to have a healthy, affordable, and sustainable diet when the environment isn’t exactly on the top of your priorities at the moment? Excuse me, ah-choo!

1. I used what I had.

One thing that was wonderful about getting sick and stuck at home was that I had to forage in the pantry for food instead of going to the supermarket. It was like going through my closet and having to go through old clothing. I ate food that I usually relegated to the back—stuff that were bought on a whim or were excess ingredients that I couldn’t incorporate anywhere else. It was great to go through everything in the kitchen cabinets, and I ended up throwing out lots of expired canned goods and bottles of opened sauces from years ago (sigh). Now, everything edible in the house is accounted for, and I will prevent any more waste from happening.

2. I looked at food as medicine.

“Food as medicine” is a popular idea, and we all know this intrinsically. But it hits us on a deeper level when we’re actually sick. With this mindset, subtle things will change even though you’re already eating right. I saw food as something that will fill a more basic need than satisfying hunger: the need to go through my day without feeling awful.

This part was awesome. When peeling a banana, I was more conscious of getting all the fleshy strings from the peel—hurray, potassium! I looked forward to eating vegetable peelings not just for the sake of zero waste, but also for the health boosts. Berries are alright to me, but I intentionally placed them in my smoothies more for their restorative and antioxidant properties than their taste (I’m more of a peanut butter fan). I would add more spices to my dinner thinking about the benefits of each of them. I don’t recall another bout of flu that required less medicines in capsule form.

3. I made more food.

When you’re sick and bored at home with a project like Year for the Planet, you’ll end up making other things to eat, because ha, what else can I write about for the week? This time, I ended up making bowls of “energy balls”. It’s a term that feels like a trend, but it’s something I think I’ll keep for years because they’re easy to make and helps me give in to cravings without falling off the wagon.

For this dish, I mixed oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, flax seeds, and a bit of honey and rolled them into small balls. I would eat two as a snack if I got hungry in between meals. It’s another of those flexible recipes where I can switch ingredients depending on what I have, so this is definitely a keeper in my arsenal of strategies. The past few weeks have been exhausting with work and travel, and I’ve noticed that I needed more food to fuel me up. Best of all, I left a bowl in the fridge and my brother actually ate some. Maybe some of what I’ve been learning can actually influence someone else. I’m tired of screeching, “No plastic!” to people.

***

Maybe it’s all in my head, but I do feel like I’ve recovered faster because I’ve been mostly eating right. I wasn’t bedridden at all, and when I was exercising or working I was a bit surprised when my nose was still running. “Oh, I’m still sick,” I thought, startled. When you’re on “the path”, any blips like this one won’t hold you down for very long.

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