Guest Article: A Recent Experience On An Ultra-Low Calorie Diet, by BadIdeaGuy

Caloric intake, in a post-SHTF, has been mentioned before, but I wanted to share a recent experience with a low-calorie disaster and what its implications are for challenging times that lie ahead. After some health concerns, my doctor asked if I’d like to try their physician-overseen weight loss program. I’m a 38 year old man, who is busy raising a family and performing in a career. I eat what I can when I can. The long workdays following by parental responsibilities have cut into my workout time, which results in my being fatigued, and have resulted in some poor dietary choices in recent years. “Easy isn’t always healthy” might be my mantra. I know that you’ve all been lectured enough by the elite on America’s eating habits. While I agree that a lot of folks eat too much, I’m not here to lecture you on that. I’m here to tell you that if you’re not prepared to provide nominal calories or drop to a nominal calorie diet, you may be in trouble!

So the doctor prescribed a weight loss plan that aims for radical weight loss through drastic calorie reduction. The meal plan consists of five ready-to-eat low-calorie meals that have high soy protein, sugar-free snacks, an allowed “snack” (something like celery but not carrots), lots of water, and a “lean green dinner”. The idea was that if you went from a typical day’s caloric intake of well over 2000 calories of “normal” eating down to 1200-1500 calories a day, you’d lose a lot of weight. Great concept, right?

On day one, I did well. I was probably cruising off of the previous day’s calories as well. I even made it to the gym for a 40 minute workout. The next day was a Saturday, and I took my young son skiing for the day. By the end of a non-strenuous day of skiing, I felt woozy and dull, with a minor headache. The next day, Sunday, I led a Sunday School class with a raging headache. I felt dull, lethargic, and had a headache all day.

On Monday, I went back to work and continued to feel the same. I couldn’t even think at work. Finally, I broke down and had a large salad (lean and green) with some chicken, which picked me up a bit. I didn’t give up completely, but I realized that this diet was hurting me too much. I decided to go back to something that worked before– tracking the easing of my caloric intake on an app on my phone. For three more days after the diet, I felt terrible but was getting better. I wondered if I’m diabetic and just managing it well or if it the lack of calories.

I concluded that I had a “food hangover”. I look around, and I’ve got some weight to lose but not like a lot of folks. I even look at some self-proclaimed “prepper” types at the shooting range and hope they’ve got a lot of money put into stored foods, because they’ll need it to maintain their diets post-SHTF. Then I think about people, like one neighbor, who looks like she eats around 5000 calories a day in prepared foods; I wonder how long until she’s ill-tempered and focused solely on trying to get calories for her and her over-caloried son.

I’ve estimated an 1800 calorie per day intake post-SHTF. I realized that I either need more prep food, or I need to practice living at 1800 calories, so I know what it feels like. Normall,y my body runs on a rich diet of good veggies, good meats, and starches, as my wife is an exceptional cook. Even though I’m not a corpulent glutton, like the neighbor I mentioned, I eat well.

A few other thoughts entered my mind. For one, I didn’t feel as sharp as normal. Coming up with words and thoughts wasn’t as easy as normal. I wondered, if my senses weren’t as keen as usual, would I miss something defensively? In addition to the sluggishness of my mind, my body felt terrible. I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I have been able to hike a significant amount of rugged terrain (20-25 miles) in a day. Of course, a young family would hinder that, but I’ve always pictured myself finding a cart or something to transport my family. I wonder now if that’s realistic.

Now I’ve begun thinking that in a potential SHTF situation (which by the way, I think we’re slinking gradually into, instead of one culminating event), it’s best to get to wherever you need to go early. If you add disease or dysfunction related to diet deficiencies, it only makes travel more difficult. If your personal “Alamo” is where you live and it’s densely populated, be prepared to fortify and drop out of sight. Conversations with hungry neighbors could turn ugly quickly.

In the SHTF plan, I plan to get as far as I can to our shelter-in-progress as soon as possible. I live within five miles of a 100,000 person East Coast city, where many folks not only are accustomed to high calorie intake, they’ve been taught that others are responsible for providing them with these calories. Five miles is not far by foot when one is desperate. Two hundred or so miles further makes a big difference, but it is still concerning, because even with less dense population, there’ll still be a lot of hungry folks looking for calories.

A while ago I bought a book about edible plants in the natural landscape of Pennsylvania. Interestingly, my grandparents used to eat a variety of wild plants, including fried “fiddleheads” (fern plants), which grew in the woods near their shack. They had such delicacies as “dandelion wine”, and this was in the early 20th century. Needless to say, I’m following up on this book now, as that’s where my retreat is, and I think we’ll be hungry even with food storage. Supplementing with other woodland edibles (and being aware of non-edibles!) might add to nourishment. I know that the American Redoubt is probably a better bet for survival, but for now this is where I am.

So, key “takeaways” from my diet disaster are:

  1. It was worth discovering how low-calorie intake effects me,
  2. Plan for nutritional changes, and if you get the chance, try it,
  3. Consider making your “travel arrangements” early (while you have energy and also while there may still be fuel on-hand),
  4. Think about alternative foods, but think out of the box. Remember that “I’ll hunt for deer” is probably everyone else’s SHTF survival plan too, and the deer won’t last long.

Stay safe, plan well, and may God bless you and your families.