Soylent, the good, the bad, and the ugly

So, Soylent… I will go back a few months when I read about it. I was rather excited about it. I mean, it looked cool, they said it tasted like, and I quote, “A vanilla milkshake.” So, I went ahead and bought it.

At this point, I feel I should explain a few things. First and foremost, I am not an overly healthy person. I do not get up and think “Hmm, I think an asparagus and lettuce shake will make my day just swell.” No, I typically avoid breakfast, tending to eat a lunch and dinner. I also do not eat healthy type foods regularly. I will eat a hearty home cooked meal from time to time, but I have a habit of eating out.

My eating schedule aside, I also eat more than I should.  This leads to an upset stomach more often than not.  Additionally, I drink way too many sodas leading to a pained stomach, and acid reflux.

I understand all this talk about my bad diet and eating habits seems mundain and pointless, I feel that a discussion about a shift to a new diet requires a bit of back story on the subject who is shifting, in this case me, to be relavent and useful.

I started out on Saturday morning.  I opened the box which was very nicely packaged.  In the package, I noticed a booklet which looked to have instructions, and I also found 2 boxes inside which contained packets of powder and oils.  Finally I found the pitcher and measuring spoon since it was my first order.  Overall I was impressed at how the packaging was put together so well to save space.  And the outter box was just the right size for me to let my 7 month old son play in.  He is still playing in and around it today (it is his fort now haha).

At the front of the instructions was a letter from the CEO of the company behind Soylent.  This letter said in very big words that he is happy that I took the time to use Soylent, and that together we can all change the world’s diet.  Albeit, not quite in those exact words.  Continuing with the book led me to learn that Soylent was best served cold.  This is fine for me, but it does raise some questions about usage on a work site.  I decided to tackle those hard questions later, and I just started mixing by following the instructions right away.  I decided to use the single bag a day, and not limit myself to less than 2000 caleries a day.  I actually used an orange juice jug to measure out the water as I had measuring lines on it already.  The instruction booklet shows some example addatives to the normal oil and power mixed with water.  For instance, you can mix 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup to make a chocolate flavored Soylent.  I decided to start off bland, I wanted to know how what it tasted like.

After I mixed it, shook it very well, and placed it in the fridge, I realized it would take a while to get ready.  This isn’t too much of a problem, but as I was excited to try it, it was an unexpected delay.  However, the time passed without issue and I found myself standing there with the cup of Soylent ready to go.

The taste is something which I likened to fiber and vanilla.  It is not exact, and even now I can’t quite place it.  It wasn’t bad, so I continued on.  The first day wasn’t too bad.  I drank plenty of water, and Soylent.  I did find that it was difficult to get that last bit down at the end of the day.  I managed to get it down.  While there is over a liter of water in the Soylent, you still have to drink a lot of water in addition to that.  More than I was used to.  All in all, the first day wasn’t bad.  I was still excited by the end of the day, and I thought that it wasn’t too bad.

The second day brought the headaches.  I knew they were coming, with a lack of caffeine, it was only a matter of time.  They are not very powerful, but it was persistent until about noon.  I decided to add a few tablespoons of Strawberry flavoring to add some variety to it.  This wasn’t too bad, but it took more than the 2 tablespoons for me to taste it.  This day was harder than the first.  I eventually broke down and drank a Dr. Pepper on top of the Soylent.  I only had one, and I thought it would ease my headaches, which it did.  The first day’s glamor had worn off now, and the reality that I couldn’t eat anything was setting in.  I was still optimistic about the prospect.  After all, no food may be a pain in the short time, but I wouldn’t have to worry about what I was putting into my body.  This is a pretty good motivator, and I think its the only reason I got so far with this.  The day ended, and again that last bit was the hardest to go through.  I found that the easiest way to get the water I needed was to refill the cup at the end of each serving and drink it down in between meals.

Day three was where it all changed.  At this point, the headaches were gone.  However, the cravings were not.  I was full, and I was not hungry in any way.  However, I wanted food.  I needed it.  I felt that to go without food was to go without life.  I understood now, that we didn’t just eat what we ate because it nourished us.  We eat it because it is something we need.  The Soylent at this point started tasting bland, no matter how much I tried to push through, I had hit a wall.  I tried to push, but by the end of the day, my will had broken.  I was unable to continue.  I ordered normal food.

I understand, looking back, that with the correct social support, this is a change for the better.  However, I was unfortunate enough to have a wife who enticed me with food every step of the way.  The general public finds it unappealing and will let you know that it is not good every chance they get.  Comments I received were “It is unnatural”, “It isn’t right”, and “It must be bad for you.”  Although I knew these were just people resistant to change, by the second night of food withdrawal, as I am calling it, that is the form of comment which begins to eat at you.  To gnaw at your will until the last fibers of hope fade.  I stopped seeing Soylent as the savior from my bad eating habits, and began seeing it as they were commenting, a barrier to good normal eating.

This barrier is why I am writing this now.  I could have given up this post, to let everyone figure this out for themselves, but I wanted to ensure that you are ready for this barrier which I failed in my first attempt to bypass.  The only way I can see this as being bypassed is with a good support group or an abnormally strong force of will.  I believe the best way to do this is as a group.  As a group, you are not enticed as much since you are all doing it, and everyone can lean on each other for support.

I will likely try again later, but I want to wait until my friend is willing to join me.  I will write again then.


What I learned today: We have a psychological need for food, beyond the nutrients.


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