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Soylent: In Review

[This post is part of a series on my month-long experiment with Soylent. See the original post for an introduction.]

Just over two years ago, I started what I thought was going to be, as the note above suggests, a month-long experiment with Soylent (if you don’t know what Soylent is, read the original post). At the time, I was considering Soylent as a potential full or partial replacement for normal food, but since I was about to head into a school year with a full meal plan, I wasn’t going to be able to start right away. So I wanted to try it out for a month to see if it was something I’d want to do full-time after graduation, and I decided to write this blog series on it - one post per day - to track my progress and let others benefit from my experience.

Not only did I not end up switching to Soylent, I didn’t even finish the blog series (or, for that matter, the experiment itself). And for the past two years, I’ve continually putting off writing a final post. Better late than never, I guess?

In this post, I’m going to explain my main takeaways from the experiment, and a number of tips, tricks, and insights that I learned along the way.

UPDATE (09/18/2016): I should note that the version of Soylent I used for this experiment was 1.0. Some results may vary with other versions.

You Need to Need It

By far the most important lesson that I learned is that Soylent would never work for me unless I need it to. As I described in the original post, my reason for considering Soylent was convenience - I’m lazy when it comes to shopping, cooking, and cleaning, and Soylent reduces the burden of all of these. But the timing of the experiment meant that I never needed the convenience. For the first two weeks of the experiment, I was on summer break, and I had all the time in the world. Cooking was, if anything, a way to fill the time. After that, I was at school, and on a full meal plan. Instead of shopping, cooking, and cleaning, I simply walked into a dining hall, ate already-prepared food, and left my plates to be cleaned by somebody else.

For me, Soylent would only work if the alternative was time-consuming or annoying. To be fair, though, I never got to try, so I can only speculate. Maybe even then it wouldn’t be enough.

But that begs the question - why didn’t I enjoy Soylent in its own right?

Soylent is Medicine

After you get used to it, Soylent doesn’t taste actively bad, but it certainly isn’t appealing in its own right either. I found myself craving real food not because I was hungry - Soylent certainly made me full - but for the taste and the texture. As I described in my third post, “I still feel full and satisfied after I drink it, but I have to will myself to drink it knowing that that will be the outcome; I don’t find myself actively wanting Soylent itself.” In short, you have to treat it like medicine - you eat it because you need to, not because you want to.

Again, you need to need it. If it’s your only option, or if it has upsides that normal food doesn’t, then it’s worth it. I also know that a lot of people only use Soylent for one meal in the day - for example, a quick breakfast if they’re rushing to get to work in the morning. It makes sense to me that that might work better since you can still enjoy lunch and dinner, but I haven’t tried it myself, so I can’t say for sure.

Tips, Tricks, and Insights

Even though I didn’t see the experiment through to its conclusion, I did eat it for more than two weeks, and picked a few tips, tricks, and insights along the way.

  • The taste of Soylent is mildly sweet, and it was a bit off-putting to me at first. The texture is very thick, and I was not used to drinking liquid that dense. It takes a few days to become fully comfortable with drinking it, so be patient.
  • Drink slowly. I can’t emphasize this enough. Each glass of Soylent has the caloric content of a full meal. Imagine how full you would feel if you scarfed down a cheeseburger in thirty seconds. Soylent may be a liquid, but if you drink it quickly, you will feel just as full. I made this mistake the first day, and I felt queasy afterwards.
  • Not only should you drink slowly when sitting down to a meal, but it may be a good idea to sip continuously throughout the day instead of treating each drink as a single meal. I found myself naturally falling into this rythm, and I think the reason is that, being a liquid, Soylent doesn’t have to be broken down by stomach acids before its nutrients get absorbed into the blood stream. Thus, in order to get the continual feeling of having energy that you get from eating a meal of solid food, just drink small quantities of Soylent continuously.
  • If you use Soylent for a large part of your diet, and you adopt the approach of drinking small amounts continuously, you may find that you become accustomed to eating small quantities, and that eating a large quantity of food (such as at a restaurant) makes you feel much more full than it normally would.
  • A common problem that people report when first trying Soylent is flatulence. “Something something gut biome,” I guess; I’m not a biologist. But it’s something people experience. I never had it that badly, but one thing I can say is that drinking Soylent quickly makes it worse - again, always drink slowly.
  • Always drink cool or cold Soylent, and never water it down. To this day, my friends cite the most entertaining post in this series as the day 15 post in which I describe the horror of drinking warm, watered-down Soylent. “For the love of all that is good and holy, do not water down your Soylent… I don’t know what it is about watered down or warm Soylent, but just… just don’t. Dear god, just don’t.” I felt really queasy - on the verge of throwing up - for the better part of the morning. However, I had cold, not-watered-down Soylent for lunch, and it made my stomach feel much better, which confirmed that the temperature and dilution were the problem.

Well, that’s all I’ve got! It feels like a relief to finally get this thing written - I’ve seriously been putting it off for two years. Hopefully this dinky blog series on a dinky personal website will find someone in the future with questions, and give them some answers. It will be my little piece of “Wisdom of the Ancients.”

Wisdom of the Ancients

Wisdom of the Ancients, xkcd

This is a post in the Soylent series.
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