Living Below the Line – Hungry Thoughts Part II

Day 4: Surprising Clarity

Today started off particularly strong after a big bowl of porridge oats (as bland as they are). Mornings usually pass with little difficulty, but the afternoons bring clouded mental states and insatiable cravings. However I seemed to have endured an exhaustion-free afternoon with only a minor bout of cravings when my lecturer showed blown-up pictures of chocolate and a hambuger. I have been doubly surprised by my ability to lose tea/coffee cravings in such a short period of time, however being around cafeterias or walking past restaurants is torture – I’ve had to remove myself from food areas for fear of temptation. It’s frustrating not being able to exercise during this challenge, but what a luxury to be able to choose not to – I can’t imagine how those who actually live below the line feel when they have to endure back-breaking labour regardless of how much they ate. Eating has become much less of an enjoyment and more of a routine to fill myself with calories to get through the day. I didn’t realize how much I depend on food as a source of happiness, enjoyment and social cohesion. Lastly, my vegan roommate and I had a good laugh when she realized what I was eating was basically her daily meal plan (minus some flavorings, fruits and veg). She shared an interesting thought: I mentioned I’d lost my ability to be excited about the food I was eating and she told me that she just feels that way about food in general as a vegan. She doesn’t get excited to go out to eat or have very intense cravings for particular foods often and overall eating has developed into just being a means to an end. Of course there are exceptions (such as bacon-flavored vegan crisps), but it was interesting to relate my challenge experience to her daily vegan eating patterns and behaviors. She’s actually going to try and take up the challenge!

Day 5: Finally

I gulped down my porridge oats and rejoiced with my one banana I bought this morning as I entered the final day of the challenge. I was in better spirits this morning as I looked toward planning my post-challenge meal, but they subsided fairly quickly as I tried to wrap up two assignments due today – my critical thinking was slowed as well as my overall physical movements. I’m usually always in a rush or multi-tasking, but I just couldn’t keep up that same energy level, nor be bothered to care. Looking at my leftovers, I had at least 3 servings of lentils left, 2 servings of chickpeas, 4 carrots, and 1 servings of porridge oats, plus a dash of leftover spices. I wish I had portioned my dry goods better so I could have added more fruit or other luxury items.

What have I concluded?

– Living on 1 pound/day was as much of a physical challenge as it was mental.

-I was less affected by the feeling of hunger, but felt the change of lacking/missing nutrients.

-Eating went from an enjoyable activity to just a calculated means of sourcing energy to get me through the day.

-5 days seemed like an excruciating amount of time at the onset, but now that it’s over, I feel silly for my initial trepidation and consequently very humbled by the experience. Those who are suffering from hunger often face added challenges of disease, unstable incomes, supporting a family, and much more, these issues often exacerbating each other. I didn’t have to make difficult trade-offs or choices in these areas – therein where the challenge lies.

And now, I am off to celebrate by making my favorite dish: baked macaroni & cheese pie with a side of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream, washed down with a Brew Dog Imperial Stout craft beer. Just typing that made me salivate.

Oh, and the Live Below the Line Challenge is going on until May 1st, so I invite you to take on the challenge and find as Bonnie Wright, actress and proponent of the campaign put it, “empathy is more effective than sympathy.”

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