There can be no doubt that hunger and deprivation sharpen the taste buds; not that I consider for one minute that this short experiment can be compared to the very real hunger that exists in our world, and even in our own country. I have had the luxury of knowing that this is only for a week – you can put up with a lot for only a very short amount of time. I have also benefitted from having a car and computer, with which to determine where the best bargains are, and to travel in luxury to buy them. I have a very good kitchen, filled with equipment to prepare and cook my food, a dining room table upon which I can serve it, and family members with whom I can share it. Doing this week has brought all of these luxuries into sharp focus, not to mention the lavish food I eat normally, in comparison to many others, and my diet this week. I have a new perspective, and new eyes, through which to view the supermarket shelves, an increased focus on budget and waste, on sharing and giving, and a renewed vigour to test, research and try out new recipes and ways of living, and to be able to pass on and share this knowledge with as many people as possible.
An interesting thing I have noticed, since finishing the ‘Week Without,’ is that I really don’t fancy any of the foods that previously I would have considered a ‘treat’; foods such as sugar, cakes, crisps etc. They just taste horrible now, and really, anything sweet is a bit of a job to eat. This is not a bad thing really, as it is very easy for sugar consumption to get out of hand, in a country where it is easily on offer constantly. I also get full very quickly, and so consider carefully what I am going to eat, to make sure I am getting a balanced meal, rather than just filling a hole.
Although relieved that I have finished, there are certain things that were great about this experiment; not having to do lots of cooking every day, savouring food that had been seasoned by hunger, appreciating every mouthful, the clean palate that I experienced from no dairy and sugar, not wrestling every day trying to figure out what we all fancied for dinner. Some of these things I genuinely don’t want to lose.
I would encourage everyone to try a ‘Week Without’; I have learned so much experientially from it, and recalibrated my relationship to food entirely….all in 1 week. The great thing is, it’s not just about you – you can help others whilst taking this journey too.
Prior to this experiment, I had not actually appreciated just how bombarded we are with food industry advertising. It seems that every second commercial on TV is for food of some description, billboards scream it out, magazines and newspapers are full of adverts; no wonder there’s an obesity crisis. I know the problem is more complicated than that, but surely having tempting pictures thrust at you at every turn does not help. The food industry in this country is worth billions; and the bottom line is that there profits are worth more to them than your health. This rather puts the ball back in our court, to take responsibility for our own health, and the health of our children. The trouble is, the advice is so conflicting; for years we were told not to eat too many eggs – now we can eat as many as we like. Then fat was the enemy – now it is sugar. Carbs got bad press, and then it was the turn of all the diets that restricted them. Detoxing, coffee, alcohol, fasting, meat, soya, nuts, even water – all declared the enemy at some point; we are a society of confused consumers.
During both World Wars in Scandinavian countries, when meat was severely restricted, the authorities found that disease, and health in general changed dramatically for the better. It then dropped again when diets returned to normal, and meat was back on the menu.
During World Wars I and II, wartime food restrictions that virtually eliminated meat consumption in Scandinavian countries were followed by a decline in the mortality rate (by ≈2 deaths/1000) that returned to prewar levels after the restriction was lifted
Whilst I am not necessarily advocating a vegetarian lifestyle, clearly moderation of meat can be linked to better health and longer life.
This was again played out in Britain during the rationing of the WWII years and beyond; although a relatively boring diet compared to our standards, the limitations on intake of sugar and meat, and the increased and natural exercise of the nation produced a much healthier population. Perhaps, as we are experiencing austerity times now, we could take a leaf out of history’s books, and try to employ our own rationing system, that would improve the health of the nation once again. I doubt there’s a politician in the land that would attempt that one! We could, however, do it for ourselves. The old adages ‘less is more’ and ‘a little of what you fancy’ are principles that could be employed, to good benefit.
In the spirit of further experimentation, we shall, as a family, be testing the War Years Rationing diet in the next month – again for a week. Watch this site for further info. I expect it to be as enlightening as the last week has been.