The Auschwitz Diet
Last Wednesday, I was forced to work well beyond lunch time. When we were done, I said to a coworker, "I need to get some food or I'll starve to death." Coincidentally, I was reading a book about the Holocaust titled: Auschwitz: A New History . The book cites starvation as one of the many atrocities that the SS subjected the Jews to. The average working prisoner could expect to live 3 months on the sustenance provided by the Nazis. This caused me to contemplate my statement and conclude that I had no inkling what I was talking about. I wasn't starving nor have I ever been. In fact, upon further reflection, I realized that I don't think I've ever met anyone who has suffered starvation.
A survey of the internet yielded various estimates of the caloric content of the rations provided at Auschwitz. The estimates ranged from 400-1300 calories/day. I believe that this large variation is accurate and reflects the inability of the German supply chain to maintain constant efficiency as a result of waning Nazi fortunes. Regardless, since last Wednesday I have attempted to limit my caloric intake to a daily value of 500-600. I have never attempted dieting or making any attempt at monitoring any of the nutritional aspects of my diet, so it's difficult to estimate what my average daily caloric intake had been. The USDA recommends a daily caloric intake of 2000 and I have reason to believe that I was consuming more than that.
Today will be the 7th consecutive day of this exercise. To date, I have been able to keep my calorie intake between 500 and 600. This has been accomplished by eating a single Subway 6" Italian BMT per day which provides approximately 450 calories. An additional 100 calories have come from consuming either coffee or sports drinks. Consequently, by USDA recommendations I should have consumed 14000 calories in the last week. By my calculations, I have consumed about 4000, leading to a deficiency of 10000 calories.
I can assure you that this exercise is not the result of mental instability or even an attempt at losing weight. I simply want to know what the effects of a significant caloric deficiency will be on my physical and mental well being. Here is what I've noticed:
1. The first two days were the worst and they really weren't insufferable. Initially, I was noticeably hungry, but after 7 days this sensation is noticeably less marked. I also had difficulty concentrating during the first two days, but this problem has also disappeared.
2. I have more energy now than I have in years. Previously, I was constantly tired, particularly in the afternoons. This makes me wonder about some of the additives in the foods that I was eating.
3. I can't describe how good a Subway BMT tastes. This is suprising because prior to last Wednesday, I thought that Subway sucked. I only selected Subway because they are everywhere and had a menu item that was close to 500 calories.
4. Per the cargo scale on my employer's loading dock, I weighed 185 lbs last Wednesday. Yesterday, I weighed 177 lb. My ideal weight is somewhere between 160 and 170 lbs.
5. Muscle cramps started on the third day. I attributed this to an electrolyte imbalance and compensated with sports drinks. I haven't had any cramps since.
6. My mental outlook has actually improved. When I started, I assumed that I would become difficult to deal with after the first few days. This hasn't happened, although I am still not eager to deal with idiots.
Although I might be simulating the caloric intake of Auschwitz victims, I don't pretend that what I'm doing is comparable. For one, I may be starving myself from an energy standpoint, but I am not malnourished due to vitamin and mineral supplements that I take daily. Additionally, my work is fairly sedentary. I sit in front of a computer most of the time. In comparison, Auschwitz inmates were forced to perform physical labor for 11 hours per day. Moreover, I am not prone to the unimaginable mental stress associated with knowing that every physical exertation is a step closer to death. I know that, at anytime, I can open my refrigerator and consume thousands of calories.
In closing, I am well aware that this is not very healthy and have no intention of letting my weight drop below 170 lb. At the current rate, this will occur early next week. Aside from ramping up to 2000 calories/day, I'm not sure what I will do at that point, but I'd wager that it's going to involve an enormous cheesesteak.