Look, I'm a weird guy. I like to do weird things. Sometimes I just do things because I think it will make a good story or to see if I can actually do it. I mean, if one of your friends started a story with "Back when I was in that cult in college..." I know that immediately I would be interested in what comes next. It probably doesn't even matter what the actual story was, I would have follow up questions about the cult. Anyways....
On December 28th, 2014. I gave up eating food... Or at least, I began to.
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"There's no way I could do it." I said. "I could never make it a week or two with only drinking lemon water, rice and some other god awful shit. I wish I could just be put into a medically induced coma and be fed through a tube so that when they woke me up in a week my system was flushed out. It would feel like an instant cleanse!"
This idea was not met with much resistance. My cousin seemed to like the idea, though I'm sure if it came down to it, no one would have the balls to actually put themselves in a coma just to do a cleanse. Then my brother asked me if I had heard of Soylent, a food substitute. I had, but I had also never really looked into it.
Basically it's exactly what I said it was, a food substitute (not people). It's a powder that you mix with water and oil which contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but without a lot of the undesirables such as sugars, saturated fats, or cholesterol that you might get with most other food. To get more details you should really check out their site, but the gist is that it's meant to replace food that people traditionally eat at a much lower price.
I was eating horribly before. My breakfast would consist of getting to the office and eating breakfast bars or something along those lines, and lunch was usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and whatever snacks they had around the office for almost all of last year. When I got home dinner was usually some frozen food that I would heat up, though in the past year I was getting much better at cooking my own food so dinner became a decent meal, though it was probably still not particularly balanced as I'm not so good at getting the proper amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Switching to Soylent made at least my breakfasts and lunch infinitely more balanced and healthy for me. Dinner was probably much more balanced of a meal as well, so I view this as an upgrade to my old diet. And when you buy in bulk, food prices come in at just over $9 per day or $255 per month for ALL of your food requirements. Compared to most people I know, this is usually cheap for an entire month of food, but for some people (many personal finance bloggers included) this may not be the cheapest option. For me, this actually increased my food budget since my breakfasts were usually stuff from work and PB&J sandwiches probably ended up only costing me $0.60 a day. But since I'm getting a more well rounded diet I am fine with the increase.
My ExperienceVersion 1.1 - My food comes with versions which I think is kind of weird, funny, and awesome, all at the same time. When you first mix up Soylent it comes out as this beige-ish color, there's a little grainy-ness to it but all in all I thought it almost tasted a little like watered down cake batter. I really didn't mind the taste so I drink it plain, though some people add chocolate syrup or peanut butter to give it a flavor that appeals to them more. Maybe if I get bored I'll try that sometime but for now I'm fine with it as is. It's also much better when it's cold. I usually mix up a pitcher after I've finished the previous one, this usually means it can chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours before I feel like drinking it. Also that 3 hours gives it some time to let any powder that I didn't thoroughly mix in get absorbed in so the next shake before a meal finishes the mixing.
Everywhere in Soylent's forums they mention starting off easy and not switching your full diet to Soylent all at once. Well, I'm not one for following advice so I just dove right in and started making all of my meals Soylent.
Day 1: I was headed to a birthday party that night so I decided I should drink a "meal" before I left to the bar. I had a late "lunch" meal that day so I drank about half a days worth of "food" within a 4 hour span. I quickly learned on the first day that you can get uncomfortably full drinking Soylent.
Day 2: Excessive gas. Maybe this is TMI but I had a very large volume of gas, but the worst part was that this gas smelled bad... Probably some of the worst smelling I've ever had.
Day 3: I wonder if this is what my dog feels like when I introduce new food in her diet? Soylent goes in, Soylent goes out. I had to take a break and eat regular food on day three. My bowels were paying the price for making such a dramatic shift in food. Luckily it only took a single meal to help my bowels feel better.
Week 2-3: After a while my body started to adjust to the new source of food. The gas lessened a little but that's still somewhat of an issue. I'm eating a regular meal about once every 4 days or so to keep my digestion more comfortable still.
Week 4-5: I've just switched from Soylent version 1.1 to version 1.3 (version 1.2 was released and discontinued pretty quickly) they have changed the formula slightly based on user feedback. They have added 1 more gram of fiber (per meal) to the mix so it's slightly thicker and fills you up more. It's also a little grainier which I'm also okay with. They also changed the source of where they get the omega-3 oil that goes into the mix. It no longer comes from fish oil and is processed from an algae that they harvest themselves.
Week 6-7: I think my body is finally adjusted to my new diet. Gas isn't really an issue anymore. I actually have not eaten solid food since the Superbowl (Feb. 1st).
Going ForwardAt this point I want to finish at least this month without eating normal food. Mostly just so I can say that I went a month without eating food. But who knows how long I'll really last on an all Soylent diet.
In a way I sort of view myself as being in a position that's similar to a Tesla owner. WHAT!? How can that be? Okay let me explain. As soon as you tell people you stopped eating food you have to explain yourself, you have to make it seem like you did this out of some sort of logical reasoning. You become a spokesperson for Soylent, much like how Telsa owners become sort of spokespeople for Teslas. (Though one is probably an easier sell than the other)
Common QuestionsDon't you miss food? - I used to view food as just sustenance, it was pretty much just something that kept me going. The idea of fancy dinners was mostly wasted on me, I did appreciate nice food, but for some reason paying exorbitant amounts for a meal just didn't appeal to me. I do miss the things that are horrible for me like bacon or just super fatty unhealthy foods but that's simply what I used to eat. But now that I've actually switched to something that is actually much more close to being just "sustenance", I do miss food. I actually appreciate food a lot more now that I've stopped eating it. The few meals that I have ate this year I have made sure they were "worth it".
How are you alive? How have you not wasted away? That can't be healthy? - How do people in coma's live off of feeding tubes? It's the same thing in essence, I'm just voluntarily doing it. Before I switched to this diet I had a pretty unbalanced diet. Like I said, I used to view food as just sustenance to keep me going so making dinner every night just seemed like a tedious hour everyday. Now I can get the same amount of calories with a single drink. I'm not starving, I'm never really hungry, I haven't lost weight, and my skin actually seems clearer than it used to be. Some people on the Soylent online forums talk about having so much more energy after switching to Soylent. I have my own energy level issues normally so I haven't noticed this difference. But when I do eat food I do notice a food coma-ish type of effect, when you are on Soylent that no longer happens anymore, so that's a plus.
Other ObservationsI have more spare time after work. It's nice to get home and have an extra hour to spend on something that is not a grocery store run, making dinner, or washing dishes. Most people might call that lazy, but I just view it as making meals more efficient, it really only takes me 5 minutes to make a full days worth of food now.
I've accidentally become a vegan. I didn't intend to become a vegan, but it's just sort of an unintentional after effect of switching to Soylent. Honestly, I'm not sure what I think about that since I used to always say I was a firm believer of the food chain and that humans are near the top of it (just below zombies).
If you tell someone that you are drinking a protein shake - that's normal. No one cares. If you tell someone you are drinking a food substitute you are a social pariah.
Speaking of being a social pariah. I feel like even after my experiment I will still probably have Soylent in my diet to some degree, it's very convenient to make, and sometimes it's perfect for a quick meal before bed after a long night at the bar. This actually really helps prevent hangovers for me, also if I'm sick (either because of a long night of drinking or just actually being sick) it's an easy way to get food in you when you don't feel like eating. And getting nutrition in your body will help it get better quicker.
I don't think I will stay on 100% Soylent much longer because it makes you a social pariah. Most people go out to eat, it's just a default thing that most friends or acquaintances do. Telling people you don't eat instantly makes you an outcast. Even friends have a hard time reacting to this one.
There are some extreme things that people do to reach financial independence as fast as they can. J$ over at Budgets are Sexy recently reminded me that:
Extreme actions yield extreme results
As far as how this can help your path to financial independence, there's the first point of that it might possibly be much cheaper than your current food budget. It's also an extremely efficient method to get food because you spend less time needing to buy food, prepare good, eat food, and clean up food. Because it's so efficient you can easily find yourself with an extra hour every day to work on something else.
I know that this isn't for everyone but to me this is a very interesting experiment. And hey, I've actually found a much greater appreciation for food now!