Like any good basic bitch, I love my Fitbit fitness tracker. I wear it religiously. Recently, my millennial self-obsession drove me to pore over my fitness data, including information about my heart rate.
I noticed an unexpected, positive change since I started my zero-waste escapades: My resting heart rate has gone down significantly since I started changing my lifestyle about four months ago.
According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy resting heart rates for adults range between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Very fit or active adults may have healthy resting heart rates as low as 40 beats per minute. A lower resting heart rate usually correlates to higher levels of cardiovascular fitness and overall health. If your resting heart rate is on the lower end of the range, your heart is able to pump blood throughout your body more efficiently with fewer beats per minute. If you’ve been werkin’ it at the gym, your resting heart rate is likely to be on the lower end of the spectrum.
In December, my average heart rate was around 70 beats per minute, and now it’s down to almost 50. That’s almost a 30% reduction! I suspect there are a few reasons for this, all of which I can attribute to the zero-waste lifestyle changes I’ve made. Let’s examine.
1. A Girl’s Gotta Eat
I’ve always loved cooking, but now that I’ve adopted a zero-waste lifestyle, I make almost all of my own meals at home. I love a good pile of takeout as much as the next urban twenty-something, but cooking is one of the most impactful ways we can minimize our effects on the environment. Because I try to avoid unnecessary packaging and food waste, I avoid fast food and takeout almost entirely. In order to not be a hangry mess all the time, I cook like a fiend, take my own lunches and dinners to work, and carry around my own snacks.
(I even made my own barbecue sauce the other day because I didn’t want to buy a plastic bottle at the grocery store. Call me obsessive, but someday when all the polar bears are dead, that blood will be on the hands of people who bought plastic bottles of barbecue sauce, not mine.)
By making my own meals, I control how much fat, salt, and sugar go into each of my recipes. Diets that are high in fat, salt, and processed foods are known to affect heart health, so minimizing the amount of fat and salt in my diet has likely had a not insignificant effect on my resting heart rate. As a white Midwesterner, it would be sacrilegious of me to say I don’t get emotional about a good fried appetizer platter, but those rarely make appearances in my zero-waste diet.
2. Food for Thought
In addition to cooking more, my zero-waste diet is largely vegetarian. I started eating less meat initially to lessen water consumption. Ninety-two percent of the water we consume is used to produce the food we eat. For example, it takes almost 5000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, whereas it takes only about 600 gallons of water to produce one pound of rice. Because I’m not a monster and want my fellow Californians to be able to shower, I decided to tweak my diet to lessen the amount of water I inadvertently consume.
I stuck with my veggie-laden diet because it’s much easier to find vegetables without packaging instead of meat or processed foods. I can buy nearly all of my vegetables package-free at farmer’s markets or in the produce section of my grocery store, and I can buy beans, rice, and other grains in bulk. Plus, it’s cheap AF, since in-season vegetables are significantly cheaper than meat.
According to the American Heart Association, research suggests that vegetarians have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, some forms of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Thus, it’s possible that I can thank eating fewer things with faces for my lower resting heart rate.
3. Snack on This
I stopped consuming packaged snacks almost entirely since I started going zero waste. This was no small feat: Like any self-respecting, Bay-Area millennial, I work at a startup that plies us with free meals and snacks, so employees never have to take care of themselves like real adults. However, after doing a little research, I discovered that I could recycle or compost almost none of the packaging that lovingly surrounds my favorite junk food. Begrudgingly, I stopped consuming five bags of Cheez-Its a day when I realized how much space those bags take up in landfills.
Instead, I started eating fruit and bringing my own home-cooked or bulk snacks into work with me. Because there are fewer package-free snack options available to me, I simply eat less—not because I intended to, but because I can forego eating multiple granola bars in one sitting if it means I’m being less of a dick to the environment.
4. These Boots Are Made for Walking
When I started going zero-waste, I decided that I should also stop being a lazy asshole who takes cabs everywhere when she’s had three margaritas at happy hour and doesn’t feel like walking four blocks. After all, cars and trucks on our roadways are singularly responsible for about 20% of all emissions that are slowly gnawing away at the ozone layer.
Because I’m a member of the San Francisco Bay Area’s plebeian class, I’ve been an avid user of public transportation for years. Luckily, it’s readily available to me and can get me most places I want to go without too much trouble. I now try to walk for as much of any commute as I can, and I take the train, buses, or the Bay Area’s awesome carpool system the rest of the way to my destination. By resisting the seduction of Lyft and Uber, I walk an average of about five miles per day between commuting to and from work and bouncing around town.
Again, according to the American Heart Association, walking briskly can lower your risk of heart attack, heart disease, and high blood pressure as much as running can.
What You Can Do
The positive changes I’ve experienced in my own health are a pleasant side effect of my zero-waste lifestyle; I didn’t necessarily start making changes to change my health, but hey, I guess I’ll take it.
If you’re interested in adopting some zero-waste changes that can impact your health, try some of these on for size:
- Cook! Buy food without packaging, if possible, and make it yourself. After all, a dolphin can’t choke on that plastic bag that surrounds your Hot Pocket if you don’t eat Hot Pockets in the first place.
- Listen to your mother: Eat your vegetables. Veggies have a significantly smaller negative impact on the environment and water consumption; plus, they’re good for you. Eat greens to be green, yo.
- Nix as much packaged food as possible. Even just one fewer bag in a landfill makes a difference…especially since some of those bags can take literally centuries to degrade in landfills. Yeeee-ikes.
- Get that cute little booty of yours in gear! Walking and taking public transportation significantly reduces the amount of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide that are released into the atmosphere (though you’re so hot walkin’ down that street that you’re heating my atmosphere right up, mmm-MMM).