Thursday, January 06, 2005

Experiment in Frugalitation

Every year, one of my friends half-starves himself for a week just before Christmas. As a protest against the dietary excesses of the "holiday season", he eats nothing but rice, cous-cous, and fruit juice for seven straight days. I joined him in this pursuit twice. Neither of us has much extra weight to burn, and we both work in hospitals-- where the nursing staff tends to flood the break rooms with cookies, cake, and candy around Christmas. These two facts added to the challenge for us. What I learned from this experiment:

1) The process was not as easy as it sounds. My hand reaches for cookies without my brain's permission. More than once, the cookie was in my mouth before I remembered I wasn't supposed to eat it. Constant discipline was necessary to avoid eating items not made of rice or cous-cous.

2) I eat as much for entertainment as for nutrition. It was a boring week, eating the same bland thing over and over. Each "meal" (loosely defined) became a challenge to get calories into my body before my brain, exhausted from the tedium, revolted and "closed the hanger door" prematurely. By the end, I could see how spices were worth fighting wars over (not lately-- I mean back in the Dark Ages and all.)

3) Being short on calories led first to grouchy irritability. Next, around day three, came unpleasant dizziness and fatigue, which interfered somewhat with my work as a shrink. I hoped that my friend, a surgeon, was not having similar symptoms. Finally, though, came a real sense of lightness and liberation. By the end of the week, a bowl of rice looked almost as good as a brownie sundae. Almost.

4) I really missed beer and coffee. A lot. And pizza.

I have no wish to repeat this experiment again. But I'm thinking of a different one: trying a week of eating on some fixed, minimal amount of money. The idea is not to eat less, nor to live ascetically-- rather, to see just how delicious (and nutritious) a week can be coaxed out of, say, $25.

The Rules as I envision them:

a) Must be a self-contained experiment (no using leftovers, no sneaking pinches from the spice rack, no free eats at friends' houses, etc.)
b) Must pay for everything straight up. No pro-rating one cup of flour out of a five-pound bag or one squirt of ketchup out of that big bottle.

Obviously, I won't be eating organic kiwis for breakfast. But with some creativity, perhaps they won't be missed. Anyone want to join in this venture and compare notes?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would be an interesting experiment. I hope you post about the week of $25- eating. I often eat for entertainment (sometimes boredom), if I didn't go out for lunch with some of my friends, I would never see them. It's difficult to convince my current set of friends to socialize by going for a run or bike ride.

1/13/05, 4:44 PM  

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