Positive Constraints: A Round Up

As you know, I’ve been trying all kinds of different positive constraints over the last month. These aren’t just happening in a weird blogging vacuum – this is my life. So I thought it’d be interesting to let you know whether I’m still getting on with them.

The titles link back to the original posts.

No Hot Showers

I have had exactly two hot showers in the last 5 weeks, both in the last two days because I’m currently the proud owner of a stinking cold. No excuses, but I’m going back to No Hot Showers tomorrow, for that icy thrill of electricity in the mornings.

No Pressing the Open Door Button on Public Transportation

This was a deeply silly positive constraint, but one that I still enjoy. Except when I’m the only person getting off.

Excitingly, though, I did get an actual train driver commenting on my post:

People don’t seem to understand that you have to wait for the buttons to light up before pressing them will do anything. I wait until they light up and press it but always get someone tutting and pushing forward to press it before the driver has released the doors.

No Meat

As you’d expect, such a radical change to my diet is still having repercussions on my life. So here are a few more short observations.

I’m still finding the No Meat diet a little hard on my stomach. I find I’m uncomfortably bloated more often than I’d like, particularly at night when I’m trying to sleep. I’ve also had multiple bouts of heartburn or acid reflux, which were previously very rare. I suspected this might be down to increased nut intake, but that hypothesis doesn’t seem to stack up. Any ideas?

On the plus side, I managed to train for and run a half marathon as a vegetarian without any discernible impact on my performance. Unfortunately, I didn’t do any before and after controlled testing, but I don’t feel any weaker. I ran the half marathon in 1:29:12, which is perfectly respectable, especially with the aforementioned stinking cold.

People expect me to have spent less money on groceries since going vegetarian. I have not found this to be the case, or only slightly. On a meat diet, I average £47 per week on food shopping. Since going meatless, I have spent an average of £45.50 per week, rising to £50 if you include supplements (these are bulk bought, so I’ve adjusted for approximate per week consumption).

What has been interesting is that, aside from one slightly extravagent trip to Waitrose at the beginning of the experiment, I haven’t been to any supermarkets. It simply isn’t necessary. I can get almost all of the food I need from my local greengrocer and anything else from markets or from the Suma food cooperative.

This is a good example of how two positive constraints can dove-tail quite nicely, and No Meat and No Supermarkets are far from the only such cases.

Experiment with something like No Hot Showers and suddenly you start to question why we need things like boilers or central heating. Could there be a better way? Likewise with No Toilet Paper – I had an interesting discussion with a fellow coop member about installing a compost toilet in our garden. No Plumbing. Why not?

All in all, digestive struggles aside, I’m very happy with my No Meat experiment and it shall continue.

No Toilet Paper

I have used toilet paper only once and that was on Sunday, just before the Oxford Half Marathon, when I had to use a public portaloo. I didn’t really want to run without washing!

Otherwise, I’ve been very pleased with the experiment. I feel cleaner and more thoughtful about what I’m doing in the bathroom. A tiny little part of my brain is free from worries over whether or not there is any toilet paper left on the roll.

I have, however, found that some public toilets are better suited to my new habits than others. My mum recently got home from Sweden and reported that, over there, public toilet cubicles have wash basins inside, as well as outside. That would certainly help clean people like me.

A friend of mine also pointed out that, in my original article, I didn’t mention any toilet techniques for reducing faecal filth. In many cultures around the world, people squat when they shit. This opens up the colonic passage, meaning the waste comes out more cleanly. (There’s also less straining involved, which means you won’t rupture a spleen or something.)

The squatting technique, I discovered on a podcast yesterday, is also enjoyed by Hollywood director and screenwriter Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Interview). Evan’s comedy partner Seth Rogen even bought him a special toilet modification so that he can squat on Western style toilets.

You should be squatting when you shit. It’s natural, it’s better for you. It’s bad for your back, it’s bad for your bowels to sit on a toilet. Pop a squat.

Who am I to argue? This experiment, too, shall continue. Possibly with unicorns.

No Facebook

I’m still not on Facebook. However, I am noticing that Facebook is becoming an increasingly public-facing network. I can still read much of the information on public profiles, groups and events, even though I am not part of the network. (At least overtly – Facebook actually still store all of my old data and there is evidence and suspicion that they collect data on individuals even if they are not on Facebook – yet…)

Recently, many people have insisted that I simply have to be on Facebook in order to promote the Unbound crowdfunder for my book. One of my friends, also a writer, opened a blank profile so that she could create a page for her book. I would love not to have to do this, but we’ll see. I’m not ruling it out.

Help me prove that we don’t need Facebook!

No Plastic Bags

In this post, I didn’t really write about my relationship with plastic bags. It was more of a comment on the efficacy of positive constraints (where you decide) versus negative constraints (in this case, government imposed).

So what’s my plastic bag use like? I very rarely ask for them or accept them when offered, but since writing this post, I have become much more aware of the frequency with which I nevertheless use them.

Staying at a friend’s house last week, he uses plastic bags to store his litter and recycling. I did too. At least this does extend their life-span, but it does make me uneasy. There simply must be a better way of dealing with waste and our plastiphilic culture.

After the half marathon yesterday, for example, I was given a plastic bag with all kinds of nutritional freebies inside. I’m now using that plastic bag to transport some leftovers back to London. Once home, however, I’m sure it will go straight into the recycling.

Must try harder.

No Clothes

I have not been naked in public since recording the video for You Are What You Don’t – which you can watch here.

Pledge now, pledge now!

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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