Recently, my family and I went to a theme park to celebrate my husband’s recent hard-fought legal victory. There was a security guard looking through bags. As I approached and unsnapped my purse, I pointed to my water bottle and assured him, “This is a plastic bottle.”
I have to admit that it felt surprisingly good to say the word “plastic.” Why? Maybe because in that moment I felt normal, as if I am like everybody else, that I can also drink out of a plastic bottle.
Maybe it felt good to say the word “plastic” because it was as if I had earned enough “credits” to be able to drink out of a plastic bottle without feeling guilt or regret.
I thought back to the moment when I first learned that all types of plastic, even that which claims to be “BPA-free,” may leach estrogen-mimicking chemicals. I was angry and overwhelmed. During the past 5 years of researching consumer products as a full-time occupation, I have learned a lot of other frustrating and overwhelming things, much of which I have shared with you in the pages of this blog.
Yes, there was a time when I felt as if I were sitting on the top of a tall mountain, alone and exposed to a cold wind without any protection. But in the course of my studies, I learned something that has helped me feel empowered, and it may help you as well.
I think when we learn a new piece of information about harmful chemicals – for instance, that all plastic is bad – it is natural to instantly adopt an “all or nothing” approach. We tend to think that we need to eliminate ALL plastic from our lives right away, and we also tend to regret all the past decisions we have made.
Maybe there is another approach. When you learn something frightening and new, I’d like to invite you to be kind to yourself and practice gratitude. Be grateful that you learned this information today, not sometime in the future. See the information as an opportunity to start acting. But know that it is unrealistic to act now on everything. Stress can be the biggest toxin, after all. Focus on one change you can make this week or even this month. Praise yourself for making the change, write it down, tell a friend or do whatever helps to document the change, to embrace it. Then, take time to feel good about it.
When you feel good about the small changes you make, in no time, you will be making more and more healthy changes to your lifestyle.
And then, when you find yourself traveling, for instance, and have to drink out of that plastic bottle, you can focus on all the times when you had made safer choices in the past. You have earned your credits because the truth is that now you are way ahead of 99.9% of Americans. And sadly, I am not exaggerating. Your glass is half full, not half empty.
I want to take a moment here and say thanks to you because you are reading this and have stayed with me for some time now, maybe even years, which means that you are a truly amazing and brave person and should feel good about yourself.
In fact, let’s do an exercise. Write in the comments one change — no matter how small it is — that you have done this year that you feel proud of or should feel proud of. Please set the comment settings to “reply to all” so you can see answers from other amazing and brave people and feel proud of them, too.
The glass is half full! It is. When you reduce your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals, I think it is helpful to adopt a wholesome approach. The journey to optimum health does not happen via eliminating every single chemical out of your environment. In fact, that would lead us to the road of an illness called neuroticism, and that is not healthy at all. Ask yourself the question, “Today, on balance, am I living a healthier life than I lived last year?”
We should also not forget about our bodies’ natural ability to detoxify. A few times, I have checked my body’s ability to detoxify, including how much heavy metals I carry. This helps me know which harmful chemicals I have to focus on in my environment, and which ones I can be more relaxed about. It also gives me a sense of control over the situation.
Thank you for reading! I look forward to your thoughts!
P.S. If you are curious to learn about the plastic water bottle I carried into the theme park, click here.
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