Adventures in geekdom

22 Aug 2014

Soylent, Schmoylent

“Buh…? Wha…?” you may be thinking. No I’m not talking about the people version. I’m talking about the one that was successfully crowd-funded in June of 2013. This Soylent. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically an engineered food. Unlike other “meal replacement” shakes from “health food” companies, this one is designed to give you 100% of your daily nutrients so not only can you replace a meal here and there but you can also replace ALL your meals!

I first heard about Soylent during all the online coverage they received during their initial crowd-funding. While I was excited about the possibilities, I was still rather skeptical of the claims. We’ve all heard about the too good to be true “meal replacement” options that usually end up leaving a lot to be desired. So even though I’ve backed a number of other crowd-funded projects I decided to pass up on this one. That didn’t stop me from continuing to watch the project and hoping that it came to fruition, though.

You can find other blog posts about people living on Soylent but I hope that mine will be helpful to people like me. People who are pretty good on the active side of their life but get pulled down by a bad diet and/or overeating and are looking for an alternative that still gives them enough energy to get through the day.

My Weight Issues

I’ve had trouble with my weight for a long time now, I think starting around high school. After high school I moved out of my parents’ house, got a job and started living on my own. I never really cared to spend the time to prepare meals so I became accustomed to just picking up fast food from anywhere that was convenient. That’s when it started to get really bad and just kept getting worse because I told myself it wasn’t a problem, I wasn’t as big as some of the people you saw on the streets.

Near the end of 2011 a friend (also a co-worker at the time) of mine started going for walks around the business park around lunch time and invited others to go along with him. I went a couple times but it really drove home how out of shape I was that I was winded and my legs were sore after such a short walk (compared to the hikes I’d used to do). It was pretty eye opening, but also a bit discouraging. After mulling it over for a bit I decided that one of my 2012 New Years resolutions was to “be more active”, which at that point could honestly have just been standing up in my chair a couple more times a day. In January of 2012 I decided to do something about it and signed up for a gym membership at Anytime Fitness because I wanted access to lower-impact cardio than walking since I was getting shin splints just from the walks during lunch. As part of my membership I was given a free session with one of their trainers to help get new members introduced to the gym equipment. At the beginning of my session with the trainer I told him about the problems I was having as well as my goals while he showed me the different machines. To make a long story a little less long, I ended up seeing him an increasing number of times per week over the next few years until I was at 5 hours a week most recently.

In that time I’ve become much stronger (I found I really like lifting weights) and much more fit (though I hate cardio) but aside from some time in 2013 my diet hasn’t improved drastically. Some weeks I’d order one or two delivery pizzas per week and my caloric intake was much higher than my expenditure (even considering my going to the gym). I just didn’t like to spend the time preparing meals and cleaning up after it when I could be playing games or coding instead. Not only were my meal options terrible, I also have very bad portion control. Like many bigger people I tend to eat until I’m stuffed and not until I’m full, but I also get stuck on high-carb meals because they taste. so. good.

Enter Sandma… Soylent

In late 2013 and early 2014, Soylent has really picked up its pace. They’ve been “beta testing” their product (which they actually version like software, something I think is neat) and just reached v1.0 recently. They’ve received their official nutrition facts from the FDA. Most important, though, they’ve started shipping their product to the crowd-funding backers. When I read this it renewed my interest in it and led me to many hours of google searches and blog articles. Places such as Ars Technica, Vice and a host of other sites have spent some time on Soylent-only diets and reported their experiences. There are a bunch of mixed reviews online, some that could border on fandom and others that could be called overly hostile, but from the general idea I got is that you could actually survive on it for at least a month and still function while doing it. There have been reports of gastric distress (the nice way of putting it) but Soylent has said they’re actively working on fixing those issues and recommend some over the counter options to handle it. Thankfully it sounds like it doesn’t last long and you’ll be back to normal once your gut gets used to the new diet.

Despite the naysayers I’ve decided to give it a go. I think it will help me control my diet better mainly because I won’t have to think about any options. My typical meals for breakfast and lunch are really not bad at all, it’s dinner that kills me. For breakfast I typically have a smoothie with two hard boiled eggs and a salad that I pick up from the grocery’s salad bar on the way to work in the morning. During the day, usually at 11am and 1pm, I’ll have some sort of a snack which usually ends up being a Nutri-Grain bar. The problem starts around that time, though, because I’m usually pretty hungry by the time I eat lunch 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon. It’s really late to eat lunch, but I go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays right after work and I try to time my meals so it’s close enough to going to the gym that I have energy but far enough away that I don’t get sick from eating too recently. It’s during that time I’m hungry that I usually end up starting to think about dinner and the cravings set in. I start to think about getting Chipotle, Taco Bell, pizza or a number of other things and by the time I actually eat lunch I’ve been thinking about it so long that I end up doing it to satisfy the craving.

With Soylent, however, I won’t have to think about it. I’ll always know what I’m having for dinner and that will be that. My cravings tend to crop up while I’m hungry and I’m hoping Soylent will help combat that. From what I’ve read it’s pretty typical to have your Soylent at multiple times throughout the day so you never end up being hungry in the first place.

The only issue is that due to such high demand at the moment there’s a really long lead time on delivery of your order. I ordered on July 15th (about a month ago) and at the time the wait for your first order was 10-12 weeks. At the time I was OK with waiting because their plan is to use that time for each order to build up enough of a supply to be able to fill every one of your orders after that within a week.

DIY Soylent

A few weeks ago I started having more issues with being able to control my diet (I started ordering pizzas again, why do they have to be so GOOD) and decided that I needed to move up the timeline of trying Soylent if not for anything other than to break a pattern that was beginning again. Thankfully, Soylent is awesome and made their recipe open source so anyone could make their own versions. I have no idea what I’m doing in that regard, but there are other people who are selling their own recipes for you to buy online. I found one called Schmoylent that has a recipe that’s not only as close as possible to the actual version of Soylent but also had a number of positive reviews and posts from others who liked it. A few weeks back I ordered two weeks of Schmoylent to give it a try and tide me over until I receive my official Soylent. When I woke up yesterday I found an email with my shipping details letting me know it should be here by early next week.

Now that the time to try Soylent has finally come, I plan on writing (hopefully rather candid) blog posts during the process with my experiences, whether they’re good or bad. Please feel free to post comments or questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my abilities. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few weeks!