Living (and running) Below The Line



I love food, I really do. I’m that person at work throwing date balls and nut butter sandwiches and cookies into my mouth every few minutes while Weight-Watchers-enrolled colleagues look on with mild irritation.

As a runner and breastfeeding mother, I need the calories, right? It sounds good, but part of me suspects it’s just mild greed.

The Live Below The Line intrigued me last year when a friend did it, and seemed like a great cause to support. You spend 5 days living on $2.25 per day, the New Zealand equivalent of the global poverty line, to get a small insight into how 1.2 billion feel using that amount to provide everything. I liked how you could choose a charity from a variety, and the challenge element.

The grocery total (note dahl only part cooked at this pointed).

The grocery total.

In terms of the eating, I made things harder for myself by preferring gluten/dairy free, not wanting to buy non free-range eggs, and not accepting anything free or raiding the garden/orange tree. The latter two are part of the ‘rules’, from what I understood – the $2.25 is meant to be the worth of the food that you consume.

The shopping list:
Buckwheat groats: $3.84
Red lentils: $3
1/2 cabbage: $1
Jumbo oats: 94c
2 onions: 60c
Brown rice: 54c
Cumin seeds: 45c
7 5c bananas from sale box: 35c
Oil: 20c
Salt: 12c
Peppercorns: 11c
Whole cloves: 10c

Total: $11.25

The regime, x 5:

I still enjoyed dahl and buckwheat every time I had it.

I still enjoyed dahl and buckwheat every time I had it.

Breakfast: soaked rolled oats and a banana
Lunch + Dinner: buckwheat groats with lentil dahl and chopped cabbage.

Day 1 wasn’t bad at all. I ran to work to score some distracting morning endorphins, ate a late breakfast of soaked oats with banana, enjoyed both dahl meals on schedule and marvelled at the fact I was actually capable of not constantly snacking. Maybe it is possible to just be hungry and experience the sensation. So far, so zen.

Day 2 went fairly well until about 4pm, when I felt a tad grumpy. After work, I didn’t have much finishing power in the 1500 x 4 hill interval session. This was probably the energy slump beginning.

Tummy rumbling was occasionally noticeable.

Tummy rumbling was occasionally noticeable.

Day 3 was a nosedive. I felt fuzzy and lethargic but stubbornly stuck with my plan of doing a 90 minute easy run. Cue grovelling around the river path with all the momentum and leg-lift of a wet teatowel. The feeling was reminiscent of getting all woozy at the end of Tarawera ’11 – presumably the same sort of wonky depleted homeostasis kicking in. I then got Alba to bed early (miracle!) but had no impetus to do anything remotely constructive with the evening time. Sat drooling aimlessly and seriously considered negotiating some sort of out-clause on health grounds if day 4 was more of the same.

Day 4 dawned, and I felt ok(ish) again. Hooray! Just a nutritional hump-day wall to push through, perhaps? Still constantly hungry, naturally, but I regained faith I wouldn’t randomly keel over. I did postpone the evening tempo run because it just wasn’t going to be worthwhile. Also it was followed by a BBQ which isn’t quite so exciting when you can’t eat the food. Ditto Fringe opening, filled with delectable snacks. Incidentally, my milk production went down around then and Alba was unimpressed. This is no major for a comfort-snacking 2.5-year-old, but would be pretty stressful for someone nursing a small baby.

Sweet dreams.

Sweet dreams.

On day 5 I felt pretty relieved that I was hitting the home straight. Running to work felt ok again but I still had to survive not consuming any of a very impressive farewell morning tea at work (oh, woe is me). Hungry afternoon. I had a decent amount of food left for dinner, and that was that. Write a blog, go to sleep, dream of pancakes and smoothies.

Conclusions? It’s a really worthwhile thing to experience, albeit in a charmed environment with hot showers and a warm house, and the support from friends and colleagues was lovely. I think I chose the food pretty well – the meals were healthy and tasty. If I did it again I’d consider swallowing my scruples and swapping some eggs into the mix, similar to Mikki’s approach. Nutritionally, mine was a bit short on protein and greens but there’s a limit to what you can get for $11.25.

Breakfast on the Saturday was a happy (and early) affair

Breakfast on the Saturday was a happy (and early) affair

It was also short on calories, coming in just under 1000 per day. The omniscient internet backs up at least some of my greed-justification and suggests I need around 2300 (go the snacks). My scales said I either lost no weight or a kilo, depending on their mood within the same 5 minutes. I was very low on energy on Friday but it seemed to flow back over the weekend. The main thing it’s prompted is gratitude, which I imagine is the idea. Gratitude for pancakes and smoothies, variety, and having the choice about whether to subject yourself to such games.

So a loose conclusion: 1.2 billion people are living on a diet potentially leading to lethargy, malnourishment and breastfeeding issues. It’s a sobering thought. Give it a go next year? HUGE thanks again to the people who donated, raising $520! Pranesh, Katie, Yasmin, Andrea, Sandra, Mira, Nicolina, Adrienne, Megan, Linda, Jenni, Helen, Sarah, Julie, Christina, Sarah W, Tania, Geoff, Mary, Jenny, Brian, Dylan, Kovo, Fiona, Tracey, Oscar and Anon x 2 – you’re awesome. Without you I’d just be moping around making dubious food choices.

Strawberry and banana pancakes, I missed you.

Strawberry and banana pancakes, I missed you.



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