The final night of Living Below the Line, I couldn’t get warm. My bed was warm, but I wasn’t. I checked the time – 00.16. In theory I could go downstairs, raid my cupboards for whatever I could find, eat and sleep. Instead, I stuck it out. I’d eaten everything in my cupboards beforehand anyway.
But coming back onto food when your body has been in starvation mode is not as easy as I thought. After all, for the past five days, I have plunged my body into an extreme form of nutritional and metabolic shock.
I took it easy, eating porridge again for breakfast, but this time made with milk, and with a dollop of jam. I got halfway through and got a head rush. I felt slightly drunk, and also ridiculously full. I was superhot, as my body burnt calories at a furious rate, and my face felt flushed.
At lunchtime, the girls in my office and I tripped round the corner to Drink, Shop, Do. I decided to get a salad and a slice of quiche – ‘Nothing too heavy,’ I thought. But even this was ridiculously rich and my body couldn’t really handle it.
After five days of starving, suddenly I couldn’t really eat any more. What’s more, it felt obscene to spend so much money on food, when I’d lived on so little, and thought so much about those who live on so little.
Dealing with food insecurity, malnutrition, famine relief and feeding the starving is a long and complicated task. With one billion children living in this way, it’s a task on an epic scale. And with the risk of changes in politics and economics putting new groups at risk, it’s a task that is constantly moving. Which is why we need long-term, ongoing, committed and ultimately transformative aid work like UNICEF‘s.
It’s pointless to do something for five days if it doesn’t have an impact over the longer term. Already I can feel myself slipping back into old habits. It’s all too easy to spend lots because it’s convenient, to comfort yourself with food or drink, to throw food away. It’s why I need to think again about my own food consumption.
If Lent is about redressing the balance, then this exercise hasn’t just shocked my body, but also my thinking out of the richness of my own life into something that looks a little simpler.
“Live Below the Line” for UNICEF by surviving on £1 of food a day for 5 days and help save and transform a child’s life.
Join the Live Below the Line challenge and raise money for UNICEF’s work with children 7th – 11th May www.livebelowtheline.co.uk/unicef
And you can sponsor me too!