Today is Saturday, Sept. 17. It is 8:30 p.m. and it has officially been one week since I have eaten a single bite of food.
And yet, I’m not hungry — or dying. Actually, I’m currently probably the healthiest I’ve ever been, and this is all due to an oddly beige non-food product called Soylent.
Soylent is a tasteless, colorless, FDA-approved nutritional liquid that has been advertised as the ideal meal replacement for the people of the future. It was invented in 2013 by Silicon Valley-ite Rob Rhineheart, and has since been filling the fridges of overworked tech employees and young adults.
I had heard of Soylent through social media before, but it had never truly caught my eye until the company launched its two newest versions of the product: Soylent 2.0 and Soylent Coffiest. Soylent 2.0 is the newest edition of classic Soylent, and Coffiest is a version of Soylent that is essentially identical to 2.0, but with 150mg of caffeine added. These intrigued me, partially because they were packaged in ready-to-drink bottles that still kept the Soylent promise of being equivalent to 1/5th of your daily nutritional and caloric requirements — the previous editions had been in powdered form and had some minor assembly required — and partially because I had lately become terrible at remembering to eat three balanced meals a day, and I thought this could help.
I did not originally intend to go full Soylent for a week — because, quite honestly, that sounds insane — but as I began to read up on it, the option grew more and more alluring. Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore food. I can Yelp with the best of them, yet somehow, the idea of possibly being able to exist without solid sustenance was strangely tempting to me. The company boasts that its products are essentially Food 2.0 — a total meal replacement — and I knew that if I wanted to truly find out whether this claim was accurate, I had to go all in, at least for the first week.
So, in my order went. Soon enough, 36 bottles of ‘nutritional liquid’ (24 bottles of Coffiest and 12 of Soylent 2.0) showed up at my front door, and the week began.
Living on Soylent:
Research on the legitimacy of this experiment had left me with some worries about what this so-called Food of the Future would actually taste like. It has been oh-so-thrillingly described by the online community as “unremarkable,” “like old cheese” and “not disgusting,” so I was a bit concerned with what I had gotten myself into as I unboxed my first set of ready-to-drink bottles.
However, these worries faded fast. Perhaps it is because I am suffering from Stockholm syndrome, but quite honestly — even after a week of drinking it three to five times a day — I still find the stuff delicious. The best description I can come up with for the taste of it is “aggressively neutral.” Both Soylent 2.0 and Coffiest have the same consistency as the milk that’s left over in your bowl after cereal. The drink is surprisingly not thick or chalky. Neither type has a particularly definite flavor — which is probably for the best, as you can easily get sick of things with flavors — but I suppose that I could describe 2.0 as slightly vanilla-y and Coffiest as kind of chocolate-y.
The week went by shockingly easy for me. Many other so-called ‘Soylent Pioneers’ had reported horrifying digestive issues after switching to an all-liquid diet, yet I somehow experienced no real side effects. If anything I felt physically healthier because I’m technically lactose intolerant, but I ignore it most of the time due to my unreasonable love affair with cheese. Strangely, I also never found myself hungry throughout the week. Soylent is surprisingly satisfying, and I often even got too full after drinking it to consume a full 2,000 calories of it a day.
The only serious physical issue for me occurred during days two through four. My nose became outrageously sensitive to the smell of food. All I smelled was food — everywhere and anywhere. The halal cart outside my building taunted me; the avocado toast served at my favorite coffee shop seemed to be just begging me to eat it; the smell of my roommate cooking bacon at midnight on day three left me practically shaking and unable to sleep.
However, by day five this all faded away. I woke up utterly devoid of any want for food. The smell of someone cooking eggs in my kitchen was almost repulsive. I felt weirdly calm and focused. I started to look forward to my daily bottles of Soylent, and even began to crave it. The rest of the week was a breeze.
A Breakdown of Literally Everything I Consumed During the Week:
- 26 bottles of Soylent
- 19 and a half were Coffiest, and six and a half were Soylent 2.0
- Six and a half cups of black iced coffee
- A decent amount of water
Some notes on this:
I considered going coffee-free for the week, but I soon realized that the unavoidable caffeine-withdrawal symptoms I would have had would probably skew my results. However, I kept my coffee consumption restricted to black iced coffee only, so I wouldn’t noticeably add to my calorie or nutrient counts for the day.
As I sit here writing this piece on the last few hours of day seven I am struck by how quickly and easily this week went by. And while I was never hungry, or truly lacking (nutritionally speaking) throughout the past seven days, I don’t think I could ever recommend that any other human being who enjoys food follow in my footsteps.
This week of Soylent has made me realize how little I previously appreciated food, and I’m not merely talking about how delicious different varieties of food can be. Food — and the act of eating — is a vital social component in our culture. While I did certainly miss the different tastes of ‘real food’ during the week, it did not compare to how much I missed the simple act of eating food with others. Throughout the week I had to constantly turn down brunch invitations, politely excuse myself from lunch meetings at work and decline offers from friends to go on group walks to try out some new restaurant. It was difficult for me, and horrifyingly lonely. I had never realized how much time I truly spent on food — whether it was Yelping the next best place to eat, organizing group meals or making dinners. And for a while, I relished having all of this extra time; it certainly made me much more productive. But, towards the end I began to desperately miss it and the vital communal experiences that accompanied it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the fault of Soylent per se. Strictly speaking of the drink in an individual manner, I loved the taste and ease of it, and I will probably continue to substitute a couple of my meals a week with Soylent even after this challenge is over. Nonetheless, I can still definitely say that I don’t think that anyone can live on solely Soylent.
If this is really supposed to be the Food of the Future, then hopefully that future is a long way off. Until then, I’ll be counting down my days with (mostly) real food in hand. And as for meal one back in the world of real food? I’m thinking Shake Shack.
This article initially appeared online at Washington Square News