I just finished week 1 of the Soylent Challenge. I have not ingested anything other than water and this bland, gritty, wannabe protein shake known as Soylent. The last 7 days have been harder than I could have ever imagined. At the end of the month I’ll do 1 long post documenting the entire experience, but right now I’ll tell you about the first 7 days.
This was the first time I had ever tried Soylent. It arrived at my home packaged in individual bags. Each bag had 3 servings that collectively added up to about 2,000 calories. It also came with a shaker so you can mix an entire bag of Soylent and water and sip on it throughout the day.
My initial taste reaction: not bad. Imagine drinking oatmeal pancake batter, but way less flavorful and a whole lot more grit. It didn’t have much taste and was kind of chalky. A couple hours later, it hit me. I realized I was in denial after that first sip. It wasn’t bad, but it was far from good. I was already loathing my next serving.
By the end of the day, my digestive system expressed its disapproval. My stomach was audibly gurgling and my farts were the definition of a crop dusting. Like one of those stink bombs I used to prank teachers with in middle school combined with some rotten eggs.
I think my wife and dog were going in and out of consciousness from the smell. It was bad – almost unbearable. Mostly just hilarious.
I did feel full though, and content.
Contrary to Soylent’s claims of increased energy levels, I found myself a little run down the first couple days. Perhaps there was a window for adjustment. I pressed on. I read this post, about a guy living off Soylent for 2 weeks, and he had similar feelings.
On day 2, I left for an overnight high school cross country camp that I help coach. Between passing up free Chick-fil-A on the ride up and home-cooked excellence that night, I had a rough day. I wasn’t angry, I just wanted to taste food. On top of this, I increased my overall weekly running mileage.
During the week at camp, I ran 70 miles (10 miles each day). To keep up with my calorie count, I had to eat more than a normal day’s worth of Soylent. I wondered how much it would be able to give me with the fuel I needed.
By day 5, I had lost a few pounds and weighed my lightest since middle school. I was struggling to pound down the necessary amount of calories needed to keep up with how many I was burning.
I also ran a 7.5 mile race that day and it went less than stellar. Just a couple miles in, I felt my legs become totally depleted of strength and almost felt like walking.
Granted it was a tough, hilly race, but I can’t help but think that Soylent affected my performance. I felt a bit light headed and nauseous after that and weighed even less than earlier. I associated the nausea with Soylent so I was definitely looking at my cup that was half full as half empty. It looked disgusting, honestly.
Day 6 was a big day because I decided I had to change my mindset. I am doing this challenge for a few reasons, the biggest being: I want to challenge my limits.
In order to get through this thing alive and mentally stable, I had to change the way I was thinking. I found that the worst thing I could do was throw a pity party for myself. I’d let myself get hungry, then walk around other people eating, then think about how miserable I am. Who the heck is that helping? Game face time.
I decided to adopt an attitude of gratitude and started counting my blessings. In no time, I was in a significantly better state of mind. I continued to say prayers of thanks for my life, my health, my family, and even my nitty gritty fake-shake.
Millions of people live off the same meals day in and day out without choice. Not only that, but they are not receiving all the proper nutrients. It’s not chicken parmesan or juicy burger, but I am lucky enough to be consuming a product that supposedly has everything I need for a proper and balanced diet. I am a lucky man. With this perspective in mind, I charged through the day.
I ran into a mental wall on day 7. Jessica (my wife) and I were photographing a good friend’s wedding. Weddings mean being around amazing (free) food and drink all day. It turned out to be a dream meal of mine, too — shrimp and chicken tacos, sliders, BBQ nachos, and chicken and waffles. It’s painful to even write about it as I start to salivate on the keyboard thinking about the flavor explosion that would be happening in my mouth.
I lowered my head and sat in the corner, sipping my lukewarm, not-fully-stirred-up shake. The self-pity undoubtedly set in again.
And on that note, I will say this experiment has led me to some great questioning so far.
Do I value efficiency over pleasure? I’ve grappled with the idea that maybe the added productivity hours aren’t worth it in this life. I didn’t realize it until I broke my streak of a couple decades of eating, but perhaps food is one of the best simple pleasures of life. Yeah, it’s a no-brainer, but this challenge makes me appreciate the little things.
I think the next few weeks will be telling as I start to settle into a routine. Maybe it’s possible to actually forget about the sensation and satisfaction of food. Maybe I will be able to adapt to the idea that food doesn’t even exist. Maybe it can be like my Instagram account: I thought it was valuable and necessary for so long, but once I deleted it, I didn’t even miss it.
Plus, I found my time going toward more satisfying endeavors. Could it be the same with solid food?
For the analytical parts of your mind, I have been tracking some info, including morning and evening heart rate, weight, happiness, energy, alertness, productivity, positivity, bearability, and cravings.
Weight has fluctuated from starting around 140 to dropping all the way to 133 at one point.
Heart rate has stayed consistent other than one morning it spiked a little. My positivity and happiness have gradually waned.
I do feel I am gradually attaining more energy and alertness and being more productive. I do not find my eyes trying to glaze over ever throughout the day or on long drives, which happens to me, presumably from eating a poor diet and junky foods. Receiving so many nutrients has definitely helped my body execute better physiologically. Psychologically, I need to hang in there.
Let’s just get through another week.