I have always loved the idea of rationing. The word conjures up adventure and danger, scarcity and self-sacrifice. So many of the things that I actively seek in my life. The attraction started early.
When I was a kid, my sisters and I played a game we call boat. It was a very simple game. We chose a piece of furniture to be the boat – generally either a bed or a couch – and spent a good amount of time gathering all the things we would need to bring with us on the boat. We piled all our favourite things, and some things that were only used for this game. I had a green satin purse with a gold (coloured) clasp and chain which I deemed too valuable to be actually taken out of the house. Instead, I filled it with my ‘treasures’. Beaded necklaces and marbles that became pearls, mismatched earrings and broken broaches that became precious jewels. For some unknown reason, this purse, and the treasures it contained, were vitally important on each boat journey. The other items varied. Once the bed was piled high with our respective belongings, each having been carefully chosen, and the reasons for those choices meticulously explained to the other passengers, we set off.
We never reached our destination. We never even had one in mind. The point was just being on the boat. Surviving in a sea of nothingness, with nothing but the things we had brought along with us. If one of us wanted something they’d forgotten to bring, so badly that they left the boat to retrieve it, the game was over.
It was a silly game. Most of it was spent in preparation for the journey – once begun, we soon found that our time was up, and we usually had to put everything away before anyone lost the game for us. But I loved it. I loved the idea that I had brought just enough. That everything would be meticulously rationed – from the pages of my colouring book to the food and water. I could colour this many pages each day. I could eat this much for each meal – no more, no less. No choices. No excess. There was something about just enough that I found thrilling.
The Appeal of Scarcity
Looking back, I can see that philosophy extending itself into other areas of my life – particularly my choices in books. I sometimes joke that I can remember the books I read as a child better than I remember my actual childhood. My favourites all seemed to involve hardship, particularly in the form of scarcity. The Little House on the Prairie books were fantastic for that. From descriptions of preparing and storing food for the winter in Little House in the Big Woods, to the near-starvation experienced in The Long Winter – I loved that stuff. Books about war were usually promising – there was lots of rationing. Books about children abandoned in the woods or running away from home or crash-landing in the wilderness, and having to build their shelter and hunt or gather their food. Droughts and famines. Starving missionaries. Post-apocalyptic fiction. Those were the stories I liked. The ones I could imagine myself in. Even when I discovered Jane Austen, in university, half of the enjoyment was in the calculation of expenses. Emma, with its heroine of independent means, is a lovely fantasy world; but the pages devoted to budgeting at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility, as a widow and her 3 daughters try to scrounge up enough money to live on, speaks more directly to my heart.
Today, I am finding myself enjoying Bright Line Eating in the same way. I like measuring and weighing my food. I like planning it all out the day before – sometimes I plan up to a week in advance, just for the sake of seeing it all written out and official. I like thinking about what I have in my freezer, or put away in jars, and how long it will last. About what will soon be in season that I can supplement with. And I love the feeling of sitting down to a meal that has been precisely portioned out. Just the right amount to keep me alive, and let me lose weight. No more, no less.
I like rationing.
I like it so much, I think I could do this for the rest of my life. And not just enjoy it, but thrill to it. I’m living out my childhood dream.
Why do I like it so much? There is something very comforting about it. I hate waste, for one, and eating this way practically eliminates that: I’m never preparing or consuming more than I need. Never deciding whether to eat or save the leftovers, because there are none. The limitation of choice goes a long way, too. I’m eating foods that have been in my freezer for years, and as a result, doing much less grocery shopping, where I am always confronted with an overwhelming array of choices. I have green beans and zucchini in my freezer, and applesauce in my cupboard, so that’s what I’m eating. Simple as that.
And then, I suppose it feels like a bit of an accomplishment. Like I’ve figured out how to do one adult thing correctly: I can now eat in correct portions. Precisely. From the time I moved away from home for university, until now, I’ve been second-guessing myself on that one. My 1st year on my own, I didn’t think I was eating more than I should, but I gained a huge amount of weight, so I was doing something wrong – and I haven’t really trusted myself since then. Even WeightWatchers left me with too many decisions to make. It was anxiety-inducing. Now, I have simple rules. I follow them, and I’m healthy. Well, getting there.
I suppose I also enjoy the voluntary nature of it. That I am choosing to forego the indulgences and delicacies available to me. They’re there, and I could buy them and eat them, if I wanted. I could make them, which would be even more fun. But I’m choosing not to. That makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel powerful, because I am not at the mercy of market forces or societal norms. I can say no. The last time I did this, I let it make me feel sorry for myself. Not now. I’m seeing it in a completely different way. I don’t know how it happened, but it’s the truth.
I used to wish I lived in a more interesting time. When people had to grow their food and cook it from scratch, and plan and prepare long in advance in order to feed themselves and their families. When they knew exactly what they would eat, and how much. Now, I get to do that, without figuring out time travel. Well, a significant portion of that. I won’t have a garden again till next year.
I may be cold. I may be tired. I may be navigating existential and spiritual crises. But in the middle of all that, I am definitely having fun with this.