I began my ration challenge today. It’s a program where I experience a week eating similar food that Syrian refugees get access to. Through sponsorship we’ll raise money to provide more food and assistance to refugees. You can sponsor me and read more about the program here. The program also has softer benefits such as influencing our awareness about some of the challenges these people face.
Prior to the challenge, I sponsored myself which allowed me to use a specific spice as much as I want. After much thought, I chose peppercorns, although garlic powder and cumin were high on the list. I did have to substitute a few ingredients for health reasons: olive oil for vegetable oil, whole wheat flour for bleached, and brown rice for white. Because I know refugees don’t get a choice in what they get, I did decide to keep the sardines which I’m not a fan of in lieu of swapping it out for something like tuna.
Breakfast* Calories: 1739 (!)
Lunch Calories: 366
Snack Calories: 154
Dinner Calories: 161
Total Daily Caloric Intake: 2420
* Breakfast wasn’t following the ration challenge. Also: holy shit that’s a lot of calories.
I started the program by accidentally cheating. My grad school mentor came to town and so we got breakfast at a diner catching up. The plan was that I would just offset my meals by one, and it’d be all good, but what I didn’t expect was that the large chicken fried steak I stuffed myself with really kept me full for the rest of the day. I should have really waited a full day to start because at the end of the first day, I’d actually saved a bit of food that I think I would have otherwise scarfed down. It probably won’t make much of a difference in the course of a week though.
The program provides a meal plan or we are free to choose our own options. I decided to follow the meal plan since it involves less thinking, and there’s less of a chance I’ll run out of ingredients by the end if I’m forced to follow the plan. They also provide a recipe book to make it easy.
So for lunch, I had mujadara which was basically rice and lentils with a little bit of olive oil. I also added a ton of peppercorns. It was rather tasty, but bland because of the lack of salt. Nevertheless, I was very grateful for the peppercorns. This meal frankly reminded me of the rice I’ve been served in just about every country I’ve been to, so I scarfed it down easily. This is definitely something I’d eat more of, particularly with onions, tomatoes, and salt. Maybe some sausage… damn, I have to stop thinking of food!
I’ve a lot of experience making tortillas and flatbreads were the snack for the first 3 days. The recipe was just oil and water, so I did that, although I normally put butter or oil in my tortillas. The recipe then had us fry it in a tiny bit of oil, but unfortunately I put mine in a bit early and it soaked up all the oil. To do it again, I’d just add the oil to the recipe and fry it as normal without any oil on the pan.
One thing I added was a whole lot of…you guessed it: peppercorns. This makes me wonder what I’m going to think about peppercorns by the end of the week. Will I be tired of them? Frankly, as I ate my flatbread slices, I was so glad the peppercorns where there and there liberally.
I made enough flatbread for 3 days and divided it up carefully between morning and afternoon snacks. Since I was still full from breakfast, I only ate my afternoon snack today, so I have an extra portion for sometime when I’ll need it later.
One unexpected experience as I ate my flatbread was that I experienced a moment of mindfulness. I only had these three slices, so I ate them really slowly, savoring them. This is the sort of thing I’m trying to accomplish more in my life, so I was excited to have the experience. I hope I can use this week to connect more with my fellow humans but also with a healthier way of eating, and learning to slow down, savor, and appreciate the food I have access to. I’m also trying to teach myself how to have smaller portions, so this week will definitely provide experience in that!
Dinner was rice, and not much of it. I was still rather full from my prior meals, so I didn’t even add the lentils to it even though that was suggested in my meal plan. Hopefully that’ll come in handy later when I’m hungrier.
With smaller portions like this, I think I’m going to need to start putting my meals on smaller plates so I feel less uncomfortable with the small size. I really hope that after the week I’ll be more comfortable with smaller portion sizes and can keep going with eating less in one go.
It is kind of nice to know that I have some meals already prepped for tomorrow, that will make life easier. If I prep more in the future I’ll likely have an easier time eating healthy since I usually eat my worst food when I don’t prepare.
I’ve Got Sponsors!
As I write this post, I went to my dashboard to get the link to share, and I was surprised to see that I’ve had a few sponsors including one who sponsored quite a bit! I’m so grateful for this! It’s so exciting to know that a significant amount of money will be going to provide food to people who need it. A good friend of mine is a refugee and I know that this challenge won’t amount to a fraction of the trauma he has endured in his life, so thank you to everyone who has contributed!
On a personal note, this means I can now add salt which will make me happier than you can imagine! I can also add a vegetable, which is worth its weight in gold. I was a bit worried going a week without veggies, and so even though it’s a small amount, it will help assuage that fear. But I have to choose which veggie will give me the most bang for my buck. I’m currently thinking spinach…