SELCO: Hunger vs. Habit (and How It Affects Your Performance in Survival Situations)

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Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp

Having enough food stored is an important topic in prepping, but we fail to go deeper into the topics of food and hunger because of the way of modern living today.

What does it actually mean to “be hungry?”

Well, again, because of the habits that most of us have today being hungry usually means that we are hungry if we do not consume something all the time.

So it is many of those “snacks” in-between our regular meals, or in other words, we are used to eating something much more often than we need.

How many times you find yourself eating out of habit, or because you are bored, or simply because you “have to do something with yourself” so you simply snack on something.


That “oh I have to eat something or I will go crazy” is more often coming from your brain-not from your stomach.  To put it more precisely it is not a need, it is a habit. Are you really hungry or you need just temporary (false) jump of happiness?

All this may sound and look completely irrelevant for the topic of preparedness, but it is actually very important.

You need to figure out how your body works concerning the intake (or absence) of food and different quantities and qualities of food.

What can you endure?

We can talk here a lot about how long the human body can live without food, but that is not really the important topic. The real question is how well you can perform without proper food intake.

In short, you can do A LOT without food, or without proper food, but you need to figure out what kind of food (and drink) is really important for survival, and what that does to your performance.

For example, most of the students on courses act like they will not survive without a morning coffee, or without snacks all the time, so it becomes a matter of “survival” if the student did not take his morning coffee because somehow all of the sudden he can not do anything.

I am a big-time coffee lover, and the type of coffee that Americans drink is like tea for me. (Very “low power” coffee in comparison to the coffee in the Balkans.) So, in other words, I drink it a lot, and really strong, and you know what the absence of coffee gonna do to me in terms of survival?

Nothing, except mild headache first few days and occasional grumpiness.

So the point here is: do not confuse food (and drinks) that makes you “happy” on short-run with items that make you alive, item like protein food for example.

You can live without coffee, snacks, Coke, and similar. No, you are not going to “die if you do not have your morning coffee”. You will actually be shocked to see how you perform without the food you normally eat. (You can learn more about functioning while truly hungry in my course.)

And yes, you should try to “survive” for a couple of days without your favorite stuff like snacks, coffee, and similar, and see what that is gonna do to you, and test yourself.

Comfort food

Do not take the suggestion above like to mean that you do not have to store that kind of food, but consider it as comfort food.

There is huge benefit of having your comfort food (whatever that food is for you) available from time to time when SHTF, for a simple reason: yes, it may make you happy. It may make you feel normal again.

Also it is good to have it from the point of trade.

But do not hold on that stuff so hard once when SHTF because that kind of “instant happiness” is not real, if that makes sense.

Hunger and eating habits

Do a test period for yourself.

Expel all your favorite foods (including comfort food) for some period of time, and eat only stuff that you do not usually eat because you do not like it.

And live your life like that for a certain amount of time, preferably for a week, but if not possible do it for 3 days.

Eat only 3 meals per day, of food that you do not really like. Without snacks, sodas, or anything between meals, and then see how that affects your everyday life and the tasks you usually do during your regular time.

Food has a huge impact on how we make decisions, react, and perform.

It is not only about how you will perform, but it can be also will you decide to perform at all. You need to test that and see what happens.

It is nothing new, for ages it was used for example prior big tasks or similar.

In the simplest way, hunger was motivation for many things during the SHTF. The man with a full stomach simply would not make the decision to do something that the man with an empty stomach would do.

You should not go so far in researching it, there’s no need to starve. It is perfectly enough to change your eating habits for some time and check what that does to you in terms of prepping. Again, it is not about not eating anything for a week and checking what is gonna be like. That is stupid and not necessary.

In the real world

Here is another example.

Students during a course were bragging all the time about snacks, Cokes, candies, etc. in between their meals. They were not even aware that they were eating it. They were eating it because it is a habit that we all have more or less.

Then during some of the exercises they were out in the field, active for 16 hours straight, no snacks, Cokes, coffees, sandwiches, nothing.

And they performed great. They finished all their tasks.

They were sharp.

Probably none of them imagined they can perform so good without anything, not to mention “my morning cup of coffee” or whatever.

We all have habits. Break those habits voluntarily at least for one day and see what that is gonna do to you and your performance or sharpness.

Break it now voluntarily, so you may realize a few things before some SHTF event breaks that habit without asking you.

You’ll be prepared in a better way.

The funny fact here is that you will most probably realize that you are performing much better after breaking some of those habits.

You will not know if you do not try.

About Selco:

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. He is currently accepting students for his next physical course here.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.



Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Read more of Selco's articles here. Buy his PDF books here. Take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge by signing up for his unrivaled online course. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

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  • Intermittent fasting, weekly or daily, must become your lifestyle. We are conditioned to eat all the time. This is wrong. The latest dietary research indicates that eating less often is the key to solving the health issues of today, such as excess weight, diabetes and heart disease. It changes all your hormones for the better. Look up Dr Jason Fung.

    When I stayed started eating a single big meal once a day, I felt like I upgraded my mind and body to the new model. Took two weeks to adjust, and I’ve never felt better. Hunger is to be embraced, not avoided. The difference between hunger and starvation is the difference between exercise and hard labour. Don’t fall for food industry propaganda.

    • I could not agree more, Canadian. I have also adopted an intermittent fasting lifestyle and the clarity of mind that comes from giving your digestive system a break is astonishing. A slight feeling of hunger keeps you energized! This so-called health advice of eating every couple of hours is the worst thing for your body, but it sure keeps the unhealthfood industry booming…

  • Long story… I spent 10 months living off of the land. Went into it with wilderness knowledge and nothing more than a pocket knife, half a book of paper matches, and one change of clothing I’d grabbed and stuffed in a paper grocery bag.
    I learned my best eating pattern is something an hour or so after I get up and a meal around dark whatever time of year it so I don’t go to bed hungry. Not at bed time but within a couple of hours. I tend to work all I can while its daylight. If the days are really long some hot tea and a light snack is nice around mid day.
    My husband is 81 with Alzheimer’s and failing slowly. He needs little snacks and light meals to get through the day. Without that his confusion is much worse. I buy flavors for our well water and fix bottles for him to get through the day. They taste good even at room temperature and it keeps him hydrated. I drink some with him but mostly plain water.
    In the woods I ate what I could find then added snares for mostly rabbits. I know the problem with just a rabbit diet is lack of fat. There are two long strips of fat that stay with the skin. I cooked with those. Packrats were prevalent where I was and they save seeds. I’d rob that stash now and then. The mixture of sunflower seeds and wild grasses also added bits of fat and variety to my diet. I found where someone had dumped trash along a dirt road that was really little more than a path. I saved a can from there to cook in. Later I found a 1 lb coffee can and that became my soup pot. I would drop in a rock and leave a soup cooking in the hot coals of my fire. The stone stirred the bottom while it boiled. I just washed the can and stone when I cleaned up. All I had to do was check the water level in the can once in a while. That sure was handy when your daylight hours are spent in survival mode fixing camps and hunting food. Had to move in cycles between 6 basic camps so plants could regrow or as new things came into season. I kept my knife sharpened on a certain granite boulder that worked pretty well. I drank Polywogs and minnows from the stream. Swallowed them whole.
    I sure don’t recommend that for everyone but some will thrive there.
    I still love to cook outside over real wood fires. We have an unused gas Bbq. A sometimes used charcoal Bbq with a homemade mechanism to raise the cooking level. I have an old half barrel in a bed frame stand with expanded metal for under the fire and a higher one to cook on. A layer of sand under the fire keeps it from burning through. I cook there a lot. I burn branches from trimming the ancient apricot and piles of branches from the neighbors apple trees. My favorite meals still taste of a good wood fire. I can lift of the top layer of metal for cooking on and roast marshmallows for my husband over the hot coals. In the woods I cooked on a flat rock laying in the fire pit. It worked for meats nicely. So did a long stick leaning onto a forked stick to hold it for me. Had to weigh down the end on the dirt with rocks.
    I didn’t learn to preserve food as a prepper. It was my families way of life.
    Not much to can this year but I’m getting ready to can Amaranth, a few green beans, yellow squash, and sweet sour cinnamon pickled apples. I’ve picked up the drops and by Tuesday there should be enough to can a few pints. They are great in baked deserts, over vanilla ice cream, or with fried pork chops. Nothing goes to waste. I’ll get everyone packed and can them together in the pressure canner.

  • I always wondered how well American businesses would do if, due to some conflict, the supply of coffee, chocolate and cigarettes ( … include photocopier toner for measure) were cut off?
    There would be alot of crankly people for the first few days.

    Cody Lundin’s analogy of trail mix to starting a fire is apt. Sugars would be the kindling to start digesting the proteins or heavier logs.
    After between six-hundred to two-thousand calories more blood is diverted from the brain to digest food in the stomach and intestines (our second brain) making us sluggish. Plus a overfull stomach will push up against the diaphragm of the lungs making breathing harder. Just a thought if you’re about to go into combat. But then at the first shot fired the body will eject what is in the lower intestines. You’re gonna poo in your pants.

    It’s funny how after a while you can tell what branch of service a person is in by their body features. Navy personnel in general usually have slight double chins from eating a starchy diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I guess to keep them docile. While Air Force personnel are remarkably slim considering they have the best and most varied amounts of food available.

    Read that Genghis Khan fed his troops a diet mostly of beets to keep them on edge.

    Perhaps something to consider during the SHTF, your diet will determine your body odors. During Vietnam some people could tell the different odors like they were the sounds of a M-16 an an Ak-47.
    To blend in you ate what the other side ate.
    (Spoiler: In the movie “Book of Eli” while the lead character was blind he could tell where people were by their smells. Of course it’s a Hollywood movie but it had a grain of truth.
    Then again during SHTF everyone is going to smell bad … except for royalty. As in the ‘Holy Grail’, “How can you tell he’s the King?”. Because he doesn’t have ‘dreck’ on him.”)

    • A story. While not related to Selco’s article it’s about food during SHTF.

      During WWII the German Army as occupiers rationed a few potatoes per person a month. The children were fed first and had extra rations since they were the future generation. Older people were too set in their ways and were expendable.

      When the Germans retreated for a time the Russians* came in. Then when the German Army came back people were so glad they waved them in.

      During SHTF a potatoe can mean the difference between life and death.

      * (A Russian soldier not knowing what a toilet was for tried washing food in it. Accidentally flushing the toilet and losing the food he submachined-gunned it.)

    • Late addendum:

      During Vietnam to stem the flow of North Vietnamese troops and supplies into the south the “McNarama Line” was attemped, a very high-tech for the time, and expensive, defensive buffer zone to ‘sense’ personnel movement. One line device chemically detected odors. The enemy then hung metal cans filled with urine from the trees. An example of high-tech versus low-tech.

      While the line was never completed parts of it were used during the seige of Khe Sanh for perimeter defense. One officer commenting on the surrounding massive troop built-up said he could smell the enemy.

      German shepherds made excellent patrol and defensive dogs during Vietnam. They are very intelligent and have a good sense of smell and hearing. Unfortunately they were left behind only to be used for a protein source for the South Vietnamese.

      Rhodesian Ridgebacks would also be a good choice.

  • Sometimes fasting for longer periods of time is appropriate. The first five days are the toughest. But then after that there is amazing clarity and heightened awareness. Fasted for 40 days over 20 years ago for a personal spiritual discipline. There was energy to feed my family the copious amounts of favorite food that teenaged boys can eat. I even kept up my walking routine and ran our homeschool. This is absolutely not for everyone. I lost a lot of hair….

    Coming off a fast longer than 10 days should be done slowly. This was all pre-Y2K. My purpose was to get some answers to the many questions I had about my own ability to handle the future — especially when it came to being attached to food. Could I give up a meal for a child? The hair grew back.

    Now I regularly skip meals on purpose. But mix it up and don’t do it with any pattern. My body is really good at homeostasis.

    This is a good topic Selco. Westerners are so used to the abundance. It’s good to know we can survive without so much of it. That’s really the way it’s going to be when the SHTF.

  • I live a fasting focused lifestyle. The trick is to keep your electrolytes up. You can fast for a very long time by simply adding electroyltes to your water and sipping it throughout the day.

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