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The Truth About LBL

The Truth About LBL

No doubt about it, it’s been a tough year. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve solely relied on the perks of comfort food to get you through the woes of social-distancing. That’s why when I decided to sign up for Live Below the Line, suffice to say I received some quizzical looks from my family and friends.

Because this was my first LBL, I brainstormed what I thought my greatest hurdles were going to be. They were pretty predictable. Food. Caffeine. Sweets… Food.

The truth is, I’ve never signed up for a challenge like this before. As a self-professed lover of all things snacking, I was anxious. Committing to living on the bare minimum sounded gruelling on paper - but with the right planning and the standard staples factored in, it certainly felt doable.

Plus, it was only 5 days, right?

If this seems foreboding, it definitely was.

Challenge Week was absolutely a struggle. But not for the reasons that I brainstormed.

I’ll be honest, during Challenge Week I lost count of how many times I wound up at my refrigerator door, only to bask in the yellow light of the many privileges I couldn’t have. Sadly, my fridge received no such reprieve from the social-distancing rules of Melbourne.

But going hungry wasn’t the problem.

I actually felt full… but wholly unsatisfied. I sometimes chose not to eat due to the lack of variety staring back at me. It felt torturous knowing I had dessert tucked away from the week before - but I had given up the autonomy to eat it. I realised that I wasn’t so much giving up food, but choice. During Challenge Week, I didn’t eat to enjoy - I ate to get by.

My biggest reprieve was knowing that it was temporary. LBL was a bubble that I lived in for 5 days - it highlighted the liberties that I took for granted and tested the confines of my comfort and my version of normalcy. But like my bananas, it had an expiry date.

For me, it was temporary. But for others, it’s a reality.

Over 3 million Australians currently live below the poverty line. That’s 1 in 8 adults and almost 18% of children (which equates to 774,000 children aged under 15) who don’t get to put an end date to their lived reality. A 2020 study by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and University of NSW (UNSW) showed that those who live within the poverty bracket battle unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and insufficient income support - and that’s on top of thoughts about their next meal.

But the injustice of poverty is a global issue. This year, the World Bank estimates that 40-60 million people will fall into extreme poverty - that’s living on less than USD$1.90 per day. While lack of choice and nutrition is an issue, poverty exists outside of going hungry - it comes with invisible struggles such as access to adequate healthcare and medicine. It can affect people mentally and physically, causing distress, anxiety and low self-esteem. Poverty is a symptom of an economy that is leaving people behind. It’s an injustice.

My issues during LBL now feel entirely superficial. While my potential hurdles included caffeine deprivation and sugar cravings, people living below the poverty line struggle everyday with surviving in an economy that is outgrowing them. This reality needs to change.

I discovered that living 5 days below the line is possible… for 5 days. But for those who face this injustice daily, it’s a breach of human rights. It’s not only about food - it’s about living more than to just survive.

With Anti-Poverty week coming up, the obstacles I faced with LBL now feel even more trivial. I walked in the shoes of someone living on the bare minimum… and I did it on the most minute of levels. I was able to commit to it because I knew it wasn’t permanent.

I encourage you to use your LBL experience as a conversation-starter. Use it to tell your peers what difficulties you faced, how it affected you and why. Though it feels like I’m still detoxing from an eternity of oats, I’d say it was worth it because of the lessons I gained. Knowing that I can wake up and enjoy my breakfast everyday is a privilege that I’m lucky to have.

LBL captured me in a setting that I was wholly unfamiliar with and took away the comforts that I had so readily relied on. It shone a spotlight on the basic entitlements that I had taken for granted - something that I’ll never do again. For me, it was such a surreal and rewarding experience and one that I’ll truly never forget.