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.
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.