The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
January 9, 2014

Lose Weight Through Plastic-Free Living?

New Years Resolution #1:  Lose the 35 pounds I’ve gained since I went plastic-free in 2007.

Here’s me in January 2007, minutes after completing my first marathon and 6 months before I decided to go plastic-free.  Look at all that plastic crap, including (gasp!) bottled water.  Well, I’ve lost a heck of a lot of plastic weight since then!


But instead of keeping it off, I seem to have just transferred the weight to my hips, my butt, my tummy, etc.  Here’s me in March 2013 after living plastic-free for almost 6 years.  All natural, organic clothing.  Water in a stainless steel bottle.  Yet I am 35 pounds heavier.


This image is from a talk I gave with Danielle Richardet and Bonnie Monteleone at UNCW in Wilmington, North Carolina.  I was recovering from what would turn out to be only one of many colds I came down with last year.  And while I’m really proud of the talk, I was so embarrassed by my appearance (having gained so much weight over the years) that I never posted the video for anyone to watch.  (I know, that’s probably pretty shallow of me, but I’m human.)  Feel free to watch all or part of it here.  The talk went great, despite the cold I had.

 Wait! Wouldn’t Giving Up Plastic Help You Lose Weight?

Why would I gain so much weight after giving up plastic?  It doesn’t make any sense at first glance because over the years, studies have linked the hormone-disrupting chemicals in many plastics (Bisphenol-A and phthalates, to name a few) to the rise in obesity and diabetes.  Last year, Professor Miquel Porta of Spain and Professor Duk-Hee Lee of South Korea conducted a review of 240 scientific papers and concluded that the evidence suggests chemicals in plastics and other surfaces play an important and avoidable role in obesity and diabetes.  (You can read the entire review here.)

So, you would assume that reducing my plastic exposure would have helped me lose weight.  And I guess it might have if everything else in my life had stayed the same.  But you know what happens when you assume.  Everything else was not the same.  In June of 2007, I started blogging about plastic.  And researching plastic on the Internet.  And a few years later, writing a book.  I stopped running and started spending many hours–whole days in fact–sitting in front of the computer.  Staring at it.  Not moving.  And not paying attention to what and how much I was putting into my mouth at the times that I did manage to tear myself away from the computer long enough to eat something.

Doesn’t Reducing Plastic Packaging Reduce the Amount of Junk Food You Consume?

choc_almonds[1]When you reduce plastic packaging, you inevitably find yourself relying on more whole foods and fewer processed foods.  So the quality of the food you eat gets better, for sure.  But I gotta tell ya, the bulk bins are full of high calorie treats.  Chocolate-covered almonds, for example.  And then there’s plastic-free breadplastic-free cheese…  Even the healthiest foods (nuts, seeds, grains) are not so healthy if you eat too many of them and don’t exercise.

So, this year, one of my goals is to get back down to a healthy weight… what I weighed in 2007, which was not particularly thin but was within the healthy range for my height.   And before you start telling me that I shouldn’t be relying on numbers on a scale, let me stop you right there.  I’m an accountant.  Numbers are my life.  And the only way I have ever found to manage my weight is to pay attention to the numbers (number of calories in, number of calories out, number on the scale).  I can so easily lie to myself otherwise.

My friend Mark and I have been using an online program called My Fitness Pal, which lets us see each other’s numbers and daily diaries and encourage each other.  If you’re a member, please friend me.  I only have 22 more pounds to go (well, 23 after my birthday dinner Tuesday night) because I actually started this project on November 1 and have already taken off 13 pounds in  10 weeks.  I think that’s a good pace.

Can Losing Weight Help Reduce Plastic?

I don’t know if losing weight can help reduce plastic, but there are certainly ways I have found to reduce the plastics that might be involved in diet and exercise programs.  Synthetic workout clothes and technical gear, for example.  Running shoes.  Shoe inserts.  Anti-chaffing products.  Sports “foods” and “drinks”.   not to mention all the bottled water I consumed back then.   Check out all the synthetic crap I brought with me to my marathon in January 2007 (yes, I was so proud of it, I took a picture of my stuff all laid out in my hotel room the night before the race.)  Most of it, I have discovered, is unnecessary.


So, I’ll be blogging this year about strategies that are helping me lose weight and reduce plastic.  And I’ll have a few guest posts from some people who are managing to focus on fitness as well as their environmental impact.  One of them is coming up this week.

I’ve got several more resolutions to write about for this year.  What are yours?

(By the way, Danielle wrote a beautiful new years resolution post.   Check it out and get inspired.)



35 Responses to “Lose Weight Through Plastic-Free Living?”

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  2. BethTerry says:

    EcoCatLady I’m with you on the meat substitutes.  I like to eat food that is what it is.  I don’t miss meat and don’t need to pretend that I’m eating meat.  I do eat cheese and eggs.  But I also eat a lot of nuts, seeds, and legumes.  I guess I would have to eat meat, too, if I had the allergies that you have. Seitan always makes me think of a guy with horns and a pitchfork.  :-)  I’m trying to stay away from wheat, mostly, so I don’t know if it would work for me.  And soy.  I eat very little soy these days.  Like, almost none.  Which sucks because I like tofu.  But it’s hard to find it both unpackaged AND GMO-free.  I have found it in bulk, but it’s not organic.

  3. EcoCatLady says:

    BethTerry EcoCatLady p.s. Scrambled eggs are a fantastic substitute for ground beef in most recipes. They are my go-to food when I’m cooking for CatMan (who is still a vegetarian.)

  4. EcoCatLady says:

    BethTerry EcoCatLady Hey Beth… I actually was a vegetarian until a year or two ago – I had to give it up because a combination of food allergies and sensitivities took soy, most nuts, seeds and legumes, as well as fermented foods off the table – which made it pretty much impossible to get enough protein as a vegetarian! 

    But, when I initially lost the weight I was a veggie – though I still ate eggs & dairy. Of course, my diet back then was full of processed meat substitutes which I’m not sure I’d recommend even if they didn’t come wrapped in plastic. I’m also not wild about soy because it tends to slow down the thyroid gland, which makes losing weight all the more difficult.

    Have you ever tried seitan? I think it’s basically wheat gluten – but it’s a good vegetarian source of protein. It generally comes in plastic, but an Asian grocery store might have it in bulk – I’ve also heard it isn’t hard to make. Other tricks I had back in my veggie days included adding whey or rice protein to things like bread & oatmeal to give them more protein. 

    Anyhow, best of luck with this – I’m pullin’ for you!

  5. BethTerry says:

    TheRogueGinger Hi.  Please leave the link to your post so we can read it.  And stop feeling guilty about your bike helmet!  Until there is an alternative material for helmets, I don’t think you should feel bad about protecting your skull.  Think how much more plastic you would go through in the hospital!

  6. BethTerry says:

    Suzie Nelson Actually, I have the meal part down.  I have a smoothie every morning that contains fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, spices, and kombucha.  (The nuts and seeds all come from bulk bins.)  That is my morning meal.  My afternoon is a combination of some kind of legume, some kind of grain, some crunchy veggies like carrots (I don’t like salad), and usually a hard boiled egg (I boil a dozen at a time and always have them handy in the refrigerator) and an ounce of plastic-free cheese.  In the evening, I see how many calories I have left and what nutrients I am lacking in the day (by checking My Fitness Pal) and fill in what I need.  Sometimes I just have a bit of dark chocolate and tea.  My food prep is super simple.  It just requires a little bit of planning ahead.  Also, on the My Fitness Pal website, you can put ingredients together to make a recipe and then see how many calories are in each serving.  It helps you know how much to eat.  Otherwise, it’s really easy to underestimate how much you are actually consuming.  Does any of this help?

  7. BethTerry says:

    EcoCatLady I just read your post, and I agree with pretty much everything you said.  A lot of common sense there.  I have cut down the simple and processed carbs considerably.  Sleep is super important for losing weight… one area that I always need to work on.  Reducing stress and therefore stress-induced eating, too.  One area where we are different… I’m a vegetarian, so I have to find ways to get enough protein and iron without meat.  I too eat 3 meals per day, my smallest meal in the evening.  It’s a challenge, because I am only 5’3″, so my calorie allotment is a lot smaller than that of taller people.  If I net more than 1200 per day, I gain weight.  Really.  My friend Mark, on the other hand, is losing weight on 1,900 per day.  He’s 6’4″.  I whine all the time about how much more he can eat than I.  I could eat that much too if I spent all day working out.  But I’m just not going to do that.  I have started adding back in some running, and I’ll add strength training soon, so that will help too.  Anyway, thank you for that very practical post.  Much appreciated.

  8. BethTerry says:

    pigbook1 Totally agree!  That’s why I’m going to be adding other resolutions with other numbers.  There will be a running one coming up too.  And I just did one about reducing the number of medication/supplement bottles.  I love counting.  Weight is just one measurement I’m taking this year!

  9. BethTerry says:

    StefanieRose Since I’m an accountant, I am having a blast counting and tallying my foods and exercises with my friends.  And I think I’m making good food choices (for the most part) because already I feel a lot better.  Everyone’s different, and there are lots of different approaches that work for different people.  I’m glad you guys are posting other options here.  I know most people find calorie counting to be total drudgery.  I think counting pretty much anything is fun.  :-)

  10. chicknlil says:

    Beth, you’re doing great!  Last night I noticed my jeans were tight, stress is one of my eat lot’s of crap triggers (:  As busy as you’ve been it’s only natural to compensate by making less healthy choices.  I’ve got some diet reformation to do and I wish you all the best.  Your honesty is wonderful and very helpful.

  11. Beth Terry says:

    Hi Beth! The “other Beth Terry” checking in! Good for you on your New You Resolutions! You can do it. Recognition of a need is the first step in fulfilling it! A couple of observations — 
    1) you have joined my world of traveling and speaking. It’s a lot easier to keep a routine when you are always in home territory. We speakers often run into this “creeping weight gain” thing just from inactivity sitting in airplane seats or even driving for long distances. It doesn’t help to spend hours in an office chair staring at a computer monitor either!  
    2) Age. Yep. With every “zero” birthday, there seems to be a sneaky metabolism shift and those pounds don’t come off as easily. Or maybe we get comfortable with who we are and don’t notice the weight till an unfortunate photo is sent to us. I got a pic from a gig I did in Singapore and was horrified at how I was standing and how much older I looked. It was a great motivator! (I’m now always muttering to myself: Stand up! Shoulders back! Knees slightly bent! — These are things my physical therapist taught me to keep from re-injuring my neck after my surgery.)

    3) This didn’t happen overnight. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Anyone with the discipline to do what you’ve done with the plastic revolution can make whatever little changes you need to make to dump the ounces (go for ounces, not pounds. So much easier to see the progress!)

    A tip – here’s what worked for me. I went to a store that recycles all those exercise machines and found a little stepper type machine. Yes, it has some plastic on it. But it didn’t come wrapped in any packaging, and I’m re-using it from someone else’s castoff, so I felt good about that. (Having the same name as you HAS put some pressure on me to behave when it comes to plastic! <grin>)

    I get on that machine every morning before breakfast and do 15 minutes. If I have to stop for a break at 10 minutes, I get off the machine and use my hand weights or do stretching. I don’t care how long it takes, I am determined each morning to put 15 minutes on that little timer. After 6 months of doing that, I have more energy, I lost 10 pounds, and I notice I started eating better. So for me it was a simple matter of switching up my metabolism. Might work! 

    Just had to check in and wish you a very Happy, Healthy, Successful New Year!!

  12. jonnie says:

    This may seem heretical and I am NOT about to dis your desire to shed some pounds, but you look very happy and healthy in the photo from your talk. It never occurred to me, in looking at any of your pixes or videos, that you “needed” to shed some pounds!
    Just a warning from a Mom who mistakenly helped her adult child (not an oxymoron) lose 20 pounds too quickly: do NOT limit too severely your caloric intake: intake was limited to around 1000 kcal/day + reasonable daily exercise = no hunger, lots weight loss, but ultimately also loss of a lot of scalp hair (? body’s defense against starvation) which has never really come back.
    Things are just better- happier, saner at a slightly higher weight.
    We’re not all meant to be lean, mean, marathoners :-)

  13. CynthiaRuelas says:

    Beth – I’m rooting for you and I’m certain you will reach your workout goal. Looking forward to reading your future blogs about plastic-free exercising :)

  14. EllBell says:

    Going low-plastic is a new revelation for me, since I happened across your book in my local natural grocers.  Well, I’m someone who tries to live low-impact, so I have already made a number of steps, but now I see how far I have to go!  I am very excited about this challenge, and especially the resource of your book and this blog.  So far (a few days in), I am finding that trying to eliminate single-use plastic helps me resist unplanned junk food purchases (hurray!), but I am trying at this point not so much to eliminate all plastic as to be very thoughtful about what I do use it for, and, as a Midwestern bike commuter, I have decided that some neoprene is going to have to stay!  Face mask, booties, leggings, etc.  My thought is that my fossil fuels are going into long term resuable items, instead of into the tank of my car!

  15. StefanieRose says:

    I suggest going with an ancestral approach. Not only is it plastic free friendly, but the pounds just drop off without counting calories or excessive hours at the gym; just listening to your body and eating when you are hungry! has some great resources with amazing science to back it all up! Great cookbook too!
    Good luck! Let me know if you have questions on the ancestral approach!

  16. MotherLodeBeth says:

    I take a back pack with me when I go for a walk around the parks, lakes, rivers in my area of Calaveras County here in the California Sierra and get some exercise and pick up garbage along the way.  In one months time I got $10 worth of recyclables.

  17. Daxle McGee says:

    I did, and sorry if my comment seemed a bit judgy. I am just very passionate about this issue. There is a lot of false thinking out there about weight being equal to health (check out the scientific review I posted). People are told that if they “eat right” and work out, they’ll lose weight and be healthier, but it’s not that simple. As to the cheese, bread, and chocolate covered almonds: those are all tasty foods that deserve a place in your diet, if you enjoy them, and they don’t make you feel bad. However, it may not be your intuition that’s calling for them. Sounds more like cravings, to me. But, in any case, joyful movement/exercise is always a good thing. I hope you find the increased wellness you’re working towards :)

  18. pigbook1 says:

    I love that you focus on numbers I just thing sometimes we only focus on 1 number (weight) instead of multiple numbers (weight, body measurementS, length of endurance, pace of our running etc) just like many things in our lives obsessing on 1 thing is not as healthy as looking at a bigger picture

  19. Danielle Richardet says:

    Ha! Of course :) btw… You should go roller skating again ;) (preferably out here)

  20. My Plastic-free Life says:

    Deborah, I don’t know about that particular diet, but I’m doing a lot of anti-inflammatory eating. Mostly fruits, veg, nuts, seeds, beans with limited whole grains. I have ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and garlic every day. Lots of water. No juice. No white flour or sugar as a rule, although there are days when I make an exception. I do eat a small amount of cheese and one egg (including the shell) every day. But the most important thing is to limit the number of calories. I have to do that or I will eat too much. It’s that simple.

  21. My Plastic-free Life says:

    Daxle did you read the post? My intuition tells me to eat cheese and bread and chocolate covered almonds. Seriously. I’m not promoting weight loss for anyone else, by the way. :-) The title is kind of a teaser.

  22. My Plastic-free Life says:

    Um… Danielle… I subscribe to your blog. :-)

  23. Deborah Hall says:

    I highly recommend Kathy Abascal’s anti-inflammatory diet. It has been tremendously helpful to myself and others. Here is one article about it

  24. Steelys says:

    Beth grooving, lower right corner…

  25. I am about to write a post about how I have become healthier since giving up plastic. You are right about the nuts and seeds. Plus I try to use up all the food so there is no waste each week. It adds up. Sometimes i forget that just because i am eating healthier does not mean i can eat more. 
    I did recently buy a bike to help with shopping and getting to work resulting in incidental exercise as I do both activities. The plastic parts on my bike and my plastic helmet gave me guilt for a few weeks…

  26. Daxle McGee says:

    Oh, no! I am sad to see posts about weight loss from my favorite anti-plastic guru. Please, consider looking into intuitive eating before you go too far into this.

  27. Aww Beth… you are just awesome.  Thank you for being one of my most inspiring friends…. Come visit again soon (or better yet when the warmth creeps back in for beach season ;) ).

  28. Danielle Richardet says:

    Oh wow Beth… I don’t even know how you saw that… thank you :) x

  29. Suzie Nelson says:

    Awesome.  I can’t wait to read it.  I have gained 6 lbs since going much-less-plastic in Sept.  I was thinking that it was the result of not understanding the strategies of cooking from scratch.  I don’t often have meals ready in time and bread and butter/cheese are all too available.  Maybe I can find a real from scratch meal planning strategy and report back.  I’d love to hear how you deal with food prep, although it sounds like you are focusing on the exercise part of the equation right now.  My running shoes have holes in them and I don’t know what to replace them with.  Thanks for sharing your journey.

  30. ErickaAlicea says:

    I too am trying to loose a few extra pounds. Looking forward to more post on plastic free fitness and health. It’s so hard to find plastic free workout gear.

  31. EcoCatLady says:

    Hey Beth – I hear you about the chocolate covered everything in those bulk bins… DANGER ZONE!!!
    Anyhow, I just wrote a post about how I lost 40 pounds and have kept it off for the past 20 years. I’m not sure it has much to do with eco-living, except that running most of my errands on foot or bike is a big part of my program.  I am decidedly NOT a numbers person, but if you’re curious about what worked for me, here’s a link:

    Best of luck in your journey!

  32. Steelys says:

    Yo Beth – you got up & danced at PPC’s Outside Lands booth in San Francisco last year. SUPER FUN time. So let’s all do more of that & watch those pounds melt away!

  33. Becky 'Jochman' Froehlich says:

    This is great timing for me! After two kids in less than two years, I started working on my “baby” weight in September. I’m especially interested in plastic-free workout equipment/clothing as I’m sure most or all of mine is synthetic. Keep up the hard work, Beth!

  34. Tracey TieF says:

    Very cool. Bash on in Majesty!

  35. Beth Terry says:

    Danielle I linked to your awesome blog post. You As A Machine, I’m going to publish your guest post on Saturday. There’s a little teaser about it at the end of this post. Please feel free to comment.