Archive for August, 2013

Well, if you have been following my blog you have noticed I’ve been out of commission for a while. Part of that was some changes in my personal life and part was as a result of my Preparing to Survive experiment. In my last post I explained the difference between preparing to survive an urban disaster and practicing the skills necessary to survive an urban disaster.

Practicing urban survival skills is not that easy. Somethings that may be perfectly appropriate in an emergency may be frowned upon in everyday life. Like the day I was practicing alternative fire starting on the Highline in NYC. The cops were not amused.

What I wanted to explore recently was how my body would react if there was an urban catastrophe and, as predicted, there was a shortage of food from the usual places we urbanites obtain our food from (e.g. The Cheesecake Factory, Dominos and the local Bodega). Since there are a ton of rules we have to follow in the city, I could not pull a Les Stroud and hang out as a homeless person in NYC to see if I could find food, water and shelter. Some socialite would call the police and I would just be taken to a homeless shelter where they would provide me with food, clothing and shelter plus bed bugs.

So I thought I would just see if I could duplicate what it would be like to restrict my diet to what would be available to me if there was no more food on the store shelves. What would I eat? There are no wild berries and caribou crossing Central Park. What we do have though are a lot of squirrels.

squirrel factssquirrel

So 313 grams equals about 11 ounces of squirrel meat.  An average squirrel yields about 3 ounces of meat so this chart equals almost 4 squirrels.   Okay, that is doable.  I think I can go on a squirrel diet for a week and see how my body reacts.

police stop

Unfortunately, according to the City of New York and PETA, squirrels are a protected species.  So are pigeons (I suggested an alternative).

So, how do I ascertain how my body and mind would react to a drastic change in diet?  The answer came from an unusual place. A chubby colleague of mine was going in for gastric bypass surgery and was told he needed lose 100 lbs. before he could have the surgery to lose weight. Huh? I still don’t understand that rationale but fortunately for me he was given a diet of high protein meal replacement shakes to help him lose the weight.  The shakes have almost the exact nutritional value of squirrels!  So I bought a week’s worth of shakes from him (felt like I was buying on the black market) and started my experiment.

For the next seven days all I would eat was 3-4 shakes per day and record my experience in a daily diary.  I can sum up the whole week with the one phrase “it sucked!”

Day one:  Surprisingly not hungry.  Noticed a diminished cognitive capacity, but not sure if it was related to my advanced age or the shakes.  Urinating a lot, but figured I’m drinking shakes, so it makes sense. Felt a little hungry at night but got through the day okay.

Day two: Seriously, I’m not thinking straight.  At the end of the day, I ask my colleague if he had similar experiences, and he said that it was probably due to dehydration.  A little tidbit of information he failed to tell me at the beginning.  Apparently you have to drink a LOT of water.  I drank additional water that night.  My energy level has tanked.

Day three: Have not caught up hydrating and it is apparent I lost some weight. As the day progressed  I hydrated more frequently.  I’m getting used to not physically eating.

Day four to day seven.  Uneventful.  I slowly regained my physical strength and what little cognition I previously had.  I lost a total of 10 lbs but felt like I could still go on just having shakes for nutrition.  I opted to stop the experiment as planned.  I slowly went back to eating normally.

Day 10: I sat down to write this blog post.  I felt a weird feeling in my right kidney.  Similar to what it feels like days after getting a bad kidney punch.  Plus I had an overwhelming urge to use the bathroom.  Both the pain in my kidney and the urge to relieve myself grew increasingly worrisome.  Within in four hours, I was at the ER with a morphine drip in one arm and a very nice nurse on my other side assuring me it was okay to cry.  Yes folks, I was passing a kidney stone.  Apparently, another thing my colleague failed to mention was that there was a high incidence of contracting kidney stones while taking these shakes.  Combine that with my initial dehydration and I was down for the count.

But, the experiment was a success.  I now have the experience of feeling what it would be like to have my diet drastically change such as what may happen in an urban crisis.  Although I already knew hydrating was important, I now know that I underestimated how much water I need to function at peak performance.  Lastly, I realized that the decisions I make at the beginning of a crisis can and will have a profound effect later.  I kept the kidney stone as a reminder of that.

Keep practicing!

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