Welcome to The Healthy Pauper!
Money doesn't buy happiness but it certainly provides access to a lot more tools and opportunities. This site is about achieving health and wellness as a member of the working poor or being unemployed and having a very limited income due to disability or other circumstances. Its based on my own experiences and those of people I've talked to, books I've read, websites I've frequented and movies/videos that I've watched. While diet and weight loss are the launching pad, the scope goes well beyond into how to feel generally good without dependence on alcohol, prescription and/or recreational drugs. Its about building economic security by doing more with less, earning "enough" income to live simply but comfortably, about both giving and receiving charity from friends, family and your local community.
Addictions, anxiety, depression, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, unhappiness and selfishness are rampant in our post-modern culture. We don't seem to like ourselves or each other very much as a general rule. Life shouldn't be like that and it doesn't have to be. The Healthy Pauper lifestyle starts with turning away from the standard American diet (SAD) completely. It branches out from there into all the other aspects of our personal and family life to re-learn how to treat ourselves and everyone else well. C
Chances are, if you are reading these words in the first place, you already want a happier life and to live in a kinder and gentler world. If you have a great job or other means of financial security and don't think of yourself as economically poor? Keep reading any way. Consider making the same life choices any way. Instead of shopping at your local food bank or pantry, start making sizable monthly donations of HP-type foods or volunteering at one. Make the diet changes, drink mostly water and lots of it, walk and work out and swim. Tackle your addictions and let go of people, products and beliefs that are harmful to you. Talk warmly to people. Give more, indulge less. Keep track of what you are eating, doing and feeling and then take stock of your new lifestyle after three months. Are you happier? Do you feel healthier? Was all the change worth it? Are there more changes to make? Take a deep breath and plunge back in for another three months and do the same thing again.
Who Am I?
My name is Laurel Stuart. You can read the brief history of my own fall from the gainfully employed to pauperhood because of unwellness here. In December of 2017, I weighed 377 lbs and was suffering from fibromyalgia and related illnesses. My $1050/mo SSDI check and $96 in SNAP had barely covered my $600 rent, $300 in other monthly bills and food but I was "scraping by". Then I received a modest $34,000 inheritance which got me off SNAP, made me ineligible for my Medicaid (still received Medicare) but opened a wide range of paths called "new choices".
As the end of the year holidays approached? I made a leap. Instead of planning how to live more healthy-happy, I began daily choices that created a sense of health-happy. I cleaned my house. I organized my things. I gave up cereal grains. I created the beta version of Healthy Pauper Diet for myself. I ate accordingly. Every day. I bought a fitbit and set daily goals and met them. I self-taught myself nutrition fundamentals and began to educate myself via the Internet and free audio and other books from the library. I stopped planning for the future and started doing my daily life in ways that pushed me forward. I made me stronger, thinner, healthier, happier and smarter. I resisted "cheat days" and stopped (with practice) punishing myself for changing my mind on little daily life choices like what specific food in what specific amount I was going to have for lunch.
This is what came of my 2018 adventures in being a Healthy Pauper (the inheritance is being invested in going back to college and getting a BA in Nutrition Science & Dietetics). I hope you find it helpful.
Why A Radical Diet?
What we eat and drink has a significant effect on our physical, emotional and mental health. The modern grain-based diet is nothing like what our ancestors ate in pre-Industrial agrarian cultures. Cereal grains are cheap and in a subsistence diet, where a food bank might be the source of 90% or more of what I was eating and my focus was on day-to-day survival and not health over the long term, I would not be so high-handed about them. There are things to be said for what whole grains bring to the nutrition table, especially when compared to refined grains. Other people might eat them just fine, even at the recommended 6 servings of grains a day by the well-intentioned American Heart Association.
But the food industry is working hard to keep us consuming bread and other items composed primarily of cereal grains, sugars and additives. They've switched tactics and now merchandise "whole grain" and vanity foods at a premium sticker price that are certainly more nutritional than things made with enriched white flour and high fructose corn syrup. They cost a lot more too. I do not believe that whole wheat, brown rice by the cup, corn, quinoa, barley or any of the other "healthy" grains provide health benefits not adequately covered by the current food list (see buckwheat and whole oats). My HPD is virtually but not completely grain-free. You can easily adapt in more or less grain to satisfy your own wishes.
The Healthy Pauper Diet
This is the result. A low carb, virtually grain-free, limited dairy, limited meat, limited salt real food diet that an adult on SNAP who is receiving $150/mo in food stamps could afford to maintain at current food prices, with a little pre-planning.
The core of the diet is a customizable food list. It covers foods, beverages, condiments, spices and leavening agents- if its going to be purchased and consumed by me, it is found on the list or completely composed of ingredients on the list. Excluding water, there are 108 items. 61 are staple foods and spices. The rest are foods or ingredients that will be purchased and go into weekly meal plans when they are especially cheap or for special occasions.
Every item in my food list was chosen based on the following criteria:
- Affordability: Can I eat this food on a $150/mo budget?
- Nutrition: How does this food help my health?
- Availability: Can I get this food at my local store or Amazon at a reasonable price?
- Versatility: Can I use this food in a wide variety of dishes?
- Satiety: Will this food help me feel full after I eat a single serving?
- Sustainability: What is the ecological and social impact of purchasing this food?
- Satisfaction: Do I enjoy eating this food without risking a binge?
- Uniqueness: What does this food bring to the table that isn't covered by something else?
Not everything I eat is a "superfood". This isn't a vegetarian diet, but one serving of meat or fish a day is the norm. With the exception of rolled oats, it is a completely grain-free diet and there are next to no "baked good" recipes. This isn't keto or paleo, but it is low carb: 150 or less net carbs a day. There is a lot of focus on nutrients with all the buzz words like antioxidants, Omega-3s, and so on attached. But this isn't a fad-chasing healthy way to eat. There isn't a cleansing/detox period at the start or cheat days tossed in. The point isn't to meet a specific weight loss goal (though in my case, there was ALOT of weight that needed to be lost) and then go back to eating bad food.
This is a change in paradigm, a way of approaching simple, healthy food as delicious tasting medicine that isn't going to require a co-pay at a doctor's office or feed the pharmaceutical industry. Its part of a bigger self re-development to improve physical and mental health. The self-empowerment that results from all of it makes achieving financial security abruptly more obtainable. Self-confidence, a positive self image, stress resilience and progressive personality changes are just part of what can result from creating your own Healthy Pauper Food List and making the commitment to yourself to break the cycle of addiction to processed food.
I am not a doctor or a certified nutritionist (yet). The health information I use as a basis for what I "post and host" on this website comes from other websites and book sources. A list of my resources can be found here. This information is meant to be helpful and comes from reputable sources that I've confirmed from other reputable sources. In no way should it be a replacement for consulting your primary care physician. Medical studies are helpful in giving direction in what we should and shouldn't eat or drink. They are not gospel. In addition, the food & health industries intentionally promote certain foods and supplements for personal profit. That doesn't mean what health websites and health magazines say about various foods, vitamins and additives is false, just that there's a lot of hype- and hype generally means that someone is looking to make a personal income somewhere along the information chain. I sometimes promote specific products via commentary and give subjective opinions. I do not receive income or free product from any food manufacturer based on my reviews. Any profits received by me or the Healthy Pauper goes in support of my local foodbanks and homeless shelters.
Macrobiotics & You
Laurel's Food List
Health 101 - What all those big weird words really mean
Exercise - The First Steps
Creating Cope & Hope