Last week I tweeted, facebooked, instagrammed and vlogged my way through the Live Below The Line challenge in aid of Unicef, first I would like to thank all the amazing people who sponsored me, you rock and Unicef thanks you too.
Video Blog Day 1
Video Blog Day 2
Video Blog Day 3
Video Blog Day 4
Video Blog Day 5
I survived the whole week with only one slip up on day three (where I mindlessly ate a cookie left on a plate by a child before I even thought about what I was doing) living under £1 every day and under a total of £5. It’s been a total lifechanger for me. Genuinely it’s had a large affect on my outlook and attitude towards food. I want to talk a little bit about how my week has been in practice.
In practice I have been massively under nourished.
I got less than 1/5 of my expected and recommended fat consumption
1/2 my recommended carb allowance
Only 177g of my recommended 1201 g of protein.
I ate 6506 calories LESS than I should have done in order to lose weight.
Obviously this isn’t a massive issue over 5 days, although I struggled to concentrate, struggled to sleep properly and generally felt yucky, if I was eating like this forever I would lose significant weight, probably mostly muscle, and would suffer quite serious health issues after a time. I know that I have lost weight, because I can’t have failed to (I’ll find out tonight how much), but it’s far from the usual feeling I get when I’m losing weight through eating a balanced and healthy diet.
My diet was extremely carb heavy. Veg is expensive, meat completely beyond my reach, so grains were the staple part of my diet and my stomach HATED me for it. I suffered considerable discomfort, bloating and general yuckness.
I’ve been frequently in a total rage at the press coverage given by the media, smug bastards totally ignoring the actual point of the challenge and proving “how easy” it is to live on £1 a day. This blog post sums up my feelings about this bbc offering completely but a few snippets if you don’t want to read the whole thing are
“In other words, the diet Mr Milligan provided for himself was not healthy, since it left him significantly undernourished.”
“…to get his 8.7p egg Mr Milligan actually had to spend £2.61 on eggs – that’s over half his total five day budget blown on one food item. Needless to say, if he had been doing this for real (rather than as a fun, pretendy game), Mr Milligan would have spent his 5 days eating eggs for pretty much every meal: a poached egg on toast for breakfast, a hard-boiled egg sandwich for lunch, omelette in the evening, and so on. So much for the idea of a varied diet, you might think. But, actually, having crowed over his first breakfast egg (did you see what I did there?), Mr Milligan never eats another one.”
“On his second day, Mr Milligan prices his lunchtime BLT sandwich at 26p: that includes a single lettuce leaf at 4p. Yes, you read that right – he is asking us to swallow the idea that a person on a tight budget can buy a single lettuce leaf. He does a similar thing with courgettes – buys a 6-pack for £1.60, uses ¼ of one courgette, then pretends that he only spent 7p. And the same thing again with sweet peppers – buys 6 for £1.51, uses ¼ of one, and pretends he only spent 6p. Potatoes costing £2.40 for 2.5kg make it into his budget as 6p for half of one potato. Celery actually bought for 89p is priced as 2p for a single stick.”
“would mean that Mr Milligan actually spent well over 8 times his budget – £40. And keep in mind that, even overspending by that much, the diet he ate still left him undernourished.”
The reason that this article really really yanked my chain is not because he cheated, not even because its shoddy journalism and disingenuous but because this article is no more than hastily written propaganda which further demonises the poor and propagates the myth that people can live on those kinds of funds and don’t need or deserve more. I strongly object to this. STRONGLY. The government currently leading the country feels that people in the UK can live on £53 a week, to cover everything that they need to survive, I believe that rent and council tax are excluded from this (for me that’s just shy of £200 a week alone) however my other basic expenses (water, electric, gas, food for Charlie and I) this week were around the £80 mark without including petrol costs or car running costs, internet costs, tv license, home insurance, mobile phone costs, telephone costs).
1.2 billion people live for less than £5 a week EVERY week. They don’t just pick it up and put it down as a piece of tourism like I have this week, they don’t buy in bulk because they can’t afford the initial outlay, rich people buy in bulk not poor people.
They don’t just have stuff “in the cupboards” because they can’t stockpile food.
The reason I started to do this challenge is because I was so distressed by peoples attitude to foreign aid. We spend 0.7 % of our entire countries budget on foreign aid, in a strange twist – because I rarely agree with our government – they have ring-fenced this funding. I absolutely believe this decision makes us a civilised country who understands that, even in the deepest financial storm in living memory, we have wealth as a nation. As a collective. We have become far more clever about our foreign aid spending, its target driven, we see the benefits and results from it on paper and on a people scale. Bill Gates spoke about how he sees Britain as world leaders, saving lives, and understanding the moral and practical reasons for aid.
The last five days have dragged, I can’t imagine how it must feel to live every single week like this but 1.2 billion people do. How is that possible in a world with people who have billions of pounds just sat in a bank somewhere? People who hoard diamonds like they are sweets and people who can’t afford to keep their children warm at night. When you look at it like that we don’t seem to have come far in the last hundred years.
I don’t have the answers, I certainly don’t know how to fix it, I know I will not be part of the onslaught of abuse aimed at our most vulnerable. I will support those who need and want support and I am happy to hand over part of my earnings to the tax man who will support those here and abroad who don’t have the basics or the luxuries. I will not fall in to the trap of wondering why they have more than me when I work so hard, because I understand it’s none of my damn business and I don’t know their circumstances. Most of all I will not fall in to trap of using other countries as an excuse to back out of what we know is the right thing to do, just because we are better than them doesn’t give us an opportunity to get lazy. We need to realise we are privileged and I hope to never forget that again.