Are You Hungry?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
A few people have asked about health implications of this and if I’m hungry, so I’m going to write a little bit about the hunger part here, and hopefully will get to the health implications in a later post.
First, I’ll say that I’ve been much less hungry than I thought I would be. I was expecting the first couple of days to be really difficult, that I would really want to eat and it would be hard not to eat too much.
One of my concerns going into the project was that I would be so hungry that I would have to eat everything I bought every day just to get through the day. This would leave me with only a dollar each day, and no stored food to work with, which I knew was not going to work.
I knew that the only way this project would work would be if I could eat for less than a dollar in the beginning so I could build up a small pantry, then use my daily dollar to get fruits and vegetables and things that taste good to combine with the pantry staples. (This is in fact how I work normally, using an average of about $3 a day.)
I thought I’d be able to do that but wasn’t sure.
Fortunately, that’s pretty much how things have turned out so far.
If you read the California vegan people’s blog, you’ll note that they said they felt good the first few days — they actually felt lighter and had more energy. But they ran into trouble as the weeks wore on, and started feeling crabby and tired and run-down. And because they lacked energy, they stopped exercising, which Iikely made them feel even worse.
There are a number of differences between my project and theirs, but one of the biggest is that they ate exactly a dollar’s worth of food every day of the project. (They also ate things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and popcorn, which I think work fine on a $3 a day diet but not so well with $1 a day. With only a dollar, you need to maximize bulk, fiber, and nutrients with everything you eat. Certainly jelly would not be on my list of foods meeting those criteria.)
I am not eating exactly a dollar a day of food. I am eating an average of a dollar a day of food. So I could lowball it in the beginning in an effort to get to a place where I could eat actual meals.
Also I’ve continued to walk and bike — including biking to the stupid SuperTarget, which I realized after biking there two days in a row only seemed like a reasonable ride when I thought about it before the project started because usually when I would go over there I was already out running errands in that part of town so it wasn’t that much farther. To ride from my house to pick up a $0.24 can of tomato sauce is totally ridiculous. It’s like a 12-mile ride. So now I’m trying to manage the SuperTarget trips so I can go less often and get more while I’m there.
But I actually felt much better after my 12-mile bike ride last Monday.
I know that my body has at least 35,000 calories of stored energy in the form of fat available to it. (That’s nearly a month of energy just to work off what I’ve gained since September!) But when you limit your food intake, your body tends to become more efficient and work with fewer calories before it starts accessing its fat stores. (That’s why dieting alone doesn’t work to lose weight; you need to exercise as well.)
So I think exercising actually made my body more likely to dip into some of its stored fat, and that may be why I felt better and had more energy after my bike ride.
I’m not going to say I haven’t been hungry at all, because I have been, but it hasn’t been a crazy “oh my god I want to eat” kind of hunger. More like an undercurrent of hunger, mostly during the first five or six days.
The first weekend was bad because I had stuff going on both days and didn’t get meals at a regular time, so by the time I ate it was really late and I was really hungry. But since getting through the first week (through about Tuesday 2/17), I can honestly say that I’ve felt really good and haven’t really been hungry at all.
The other big difference between how I feel normally and how I’ve felt on the project, even on Saturday and Sunday, was that I didn’t expend hardly any psychic energy thinking about food. I knew what I had, I knew what I was going to eat, and that was that.
There were no internal debates about whether I should get something while I was out or wait until I got home, or get something from a vending machine to get me through, or any of those discussions my brain sometimes decides to have with me when I’m out working and I start to get hungry. It was actually kind of nice to not have to deal with that.
However this is primarily bcause I am doing a project where I said I’m only going to eat a dollar’s worth of food a day and I told everyone I know I was going to eat for a dollar a day and I started writing about it so everyone could see whether I could do it or not. (I am a very strong-willed person. If I decided to stand on my head for three weeks and told everyone I know I was going to stand on my head for three weeks and set up a web cam to record me standing on my head for three weeks, you can be sure that I would figure out some way to stand on my head for three weeks. And I’m sure everyone who knows me will attest to that.)
Also I was fully mentally prepared for hunger as part of this project for at least the first few days.
If I actually had no money and no food and no prospects of food or money in the foreseeable future, I would have spent a lot of psychic energy thinking about money and food and how to get money or food, and I would have felt very hungry.
And also — this is again where my project differs from the others — I’m not doing this to think about how other people would feel, or what this means to people who are subsisting on small amounts of food.
If I were, I would have been much more sensitive to my feelings of hunger, and I would have noted them, and possibly been upset by them. But because I was looking at the first week as a transition period that I needed to get through in order to get closer to where I wanted to be, it didn’t really bother me.
So what I’m saying is that, hunger, like beauty, is in the eye/stomach of the beholder.
It’s not really how hungry you are, it’s how you perceive your hunger. And that is going to depend on external circumstances as much as internal feelings.
So the short answer to the question of “Are you hungry?” is “No, I’m not.”
Thanks for asking.