Saturday, March 12, 2011

Community Hunger Day

I committed to Community Hunger Day this week.

The goal was to go without food for a day and, while doing so, reflect on the situation of our many friends and neighbors who often go hungry.

I wasn't too excited about going without food (I really like food and I don't like being hungry). I also was a little concerned because Community Hunger Day was on a Wednesday. My biggest workout of the week is on Wednesday nights. It's a class that I attend so I have no control on how long it lasts or how hard the workout is.

I've often thought that working out would be hard on an empty stomach...and I don't understand how we can expect poor people to have this holistic view of health when there are so many other factors that prevent them from being healthy.

So, as I thought about it, my mind said, "I could skip the Wednesday night class since I won't have eaten." That didn't seem fair. If my goal was to reflect on the difficulties of poverty, I needed to try to go about life as usual and see how it affects me.

At about 10:00 p.m. the night before Community Hunger Day, I realized I hadn't eaten dinner. Thinking that my fast would be much more challenging if I hadn't eaten since 1:00 the day before, I hurried to grab a banana and peanut butter before going to bed (which isn't real either, considering that many people don't get to choose to eat something before they decidedly go hungry).

The next morning I went ahead and had my two cups of coffee, but no other breakfast. By about 11:00, my stomach was growling and I kept almost getting up from the computer to go find something to eat. By about 3:00, I had settled into work and had kind of let the hunger go because of the many other things I had to do. At 6:30, I left for my martial arts class.

Once in class, I was fine for about the first 30 minutes. Martial arts takes a lot of concentration. As I worked on my forms, my mind wandered. I kept thinking about how hungry I was and hoping that class would be over early so I could go home, go to bed, and forget about being hungry until the morning when I could wake up and eat.

After about 45 minutes of working on forms, I was placed on the mat with a higher ranking belt to practice sparring. Of all nights, I was left on that mat to spar for about 45 extremely long time that takes an enormous amount of energy. I was completely zapped by the time we were told to stop. I thought sure the class would be over by then, but it wasn't. We then began working on a drill that I thought I would get left out of because I had been sparring for so long. However, luck wasn't on my side that night. I continued to have to expend energy on drills that weren't normally that difficult, but without any food in my stomach had become very physically and mentally challenging. I kept hoping, praying, pleading in my mind that he would end the class, but no such luck. Of all nights, our class went on for 3 1/2 hours! Toward the end, I had finally gotten to the point where I felt dizzy and weak to the point I couldn't stand. I'm guessing my body could only afford to expend so many calories without taking some in. Three times, I had to sit off to the side to recover.

On the way home, I had to break my fast. I had absolutely no energy and was feeling pretty sick. I stopped at a gas station to pick up a protein bar. Sure enough, just that small snack made me feel much better.

The next morning I woke up and couldn't wait to eat something. I started thinking about how I could eat more because I had eaten nothing the day before. I had to straighten myself out a few times as I told myself that eating more today wasn't going to help anything. Eating regular portion sizes would be just fine.

It made me think about kids and families I know who seem to way overeat every time they get a plate of food. I had just watched a young boy come into one of our gatherings at CityWalk and refill his plate three times, heaping over each time. I wondered if he might have been like me...thinking he might as well take advantage of having food while it's there...even if it doesn't fix yesterday and won't keep you full until tomorrow.

It wasn't a fun day for me and has made me completely hesitant about signing up for the Food Stamp Challenge after watching the FoodStamped documentary. Going hungry for a day or living on a food stamp allocation for a week and professing that I now know what that's like seems like it could be a little insulting to someone who has to deal with hunger on a regular basis. Hunger is a on-going problem that needs to be solved systemically so that my annual hunger fasts aren't a slap in the face to my friends and neighbors who don't have the luxury of only fasting one day out of the year.

(You can check out a petition generated by the FoodStamped people here)

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