Rewind 14 years and I’m a seriously overweight pre-teen living in the Garden State with my parents, 4 sisters and 2 (3?) cats. It’s Ramadan and I’m fucking hungry.
According to the lunar calendar, it’s time for me and 1.57 billion other Muslims to abstain from food, water and bad habits. Why?
As the BBC puts it, “Fasting is intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. It also reminds them of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well.”
Though Ramadan sounds insane to my younger self, I can’t help but feel positive about the whole thing. Looking back on it, I think I felt like I was working toward a greater good.
Return to 2015, it’s Ramadan and I’m reflecting on my current habits. I am guilty of swearing too much, eating excessively and overindulging in vino.
I’m a 21 century woman-child living in the abundant metropolis otherwise known as London and I just can’t get enough of life’s simple pleasures. Some women find joy in babies, I find joy in chicken and rice (heavy on the hot sauce).
Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a couple of articles mentioning Soylent, “a powdered meal replacement product”, advertised as a staple meal that its creator Rob Rhinehart says meets all nutritional requirements for an average adult.
Many a journalist tried the diet for various lengths of time and they all seemed to come to the same conclusion; this stuff doesn’t taste good and Mr. Rhinehart is nuts.
Not Soylent Green
Along with trying the product, I was really keen on testing my will and my ability to forgo food for an entire week. Though being on the Soylent diet isn’t a fast per say, I saw this as an opportunity to give my body a break and kill some bad habits I’ve picked up along the way. Like stuffing my face with popcorn in a dark movie theatre until I feel like I’ve ingested a tree, for example.
I got to speak to Soylent’s Director of Communications Nicole Myers who assured me that the product is much less Spartan than people realize. Though Rhinehart lived on it exclusively, he expects most customers to “use it for "50-80%" of their meals. I decided to go whole hog.
What the F*ck is Soylent?
Soylent surfaced in 2013 when software engineer Rhinehart documented his initial 30-day experiment with the food product. After some modifications to the formula, Soylent enjoyed a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign on Tilt (along with some venture capital financing) that raised the company $3.5 million.
Why did he do it in the first place? In his “How I Stopped Eating Food” blog post, Rhinehart explains that, “In my own life I resented the time, money, and effort the purchase, preparation, consumption, and clean-up of food was consuming.” Yes, this sounds insane. Who finds the consumption of food a waste of time and energy? Certainly not this chick.
After his month-long experiment, Rhinehart goes on to state:
I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker and my dandruff gone. My resting heart rate is lower, I haven't felt the least bit sickly, rare for me this time of year. I've had a common skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris since birth. That was gone by day nine. I used to run less than a mile at the gym; now I can run seven. I have more energy than I know what to do with.
Upon reading article after article about this diet of the future, I was able to get my hands on a week’s worth of version 1.4 of this highly sought-after product. Here’s what went down…
After a terrific trip back to NYC to see my kid sister graduate, bloated couldn’t even begin to describe what was happening to my gastrointestinal track.
The preparation behind Soylent is a no-brainer. All you have to do is pour your sack of powder into the container they provide you with and mix it with water. In Rhinehart’s favor, the preparation behind Soylent is minimal and I estimated about 30-45 minutes a day saved on cooking, despite the fact that I am by no means the Barefoot Contessa.
Was the first day tough? Yes and no. Yet another point to Rhinehart, Soylent is actually very filling. After my “dinner,” I wasn’t hungry, but, yes, I did want to chew on something very badly. Dead or alive, I wanted to nibble on it.
The creators behind Soylent are promoting more “DIY” variations of the product, like blending berries and almond milk in there for instance. I tried adding almond milk and stevia to my version of Soylent and the results weren’t fantastic. Opening the container during my lunch break, I began to gag a little.
Soylent smells like a mixture of pancake batter and baby formula, but it tastes a lot better than it smells. The taste resembles a watered down bowl of sweetened oatmeal. The aftertaste is nasty as hell though. Unfortunately, Soylent leaves a kind of grainy, milky taste in your mouth and I’m almost positive my breath was horrible.
My friends at work were convinced I’d give up after the first day, but here I am, still standing. Today was a little harder than yesterday, mainly because I saw some people eating Shake Shack. All I wanted to do was dive head first into a pool of grease and red meat, but I resisted the urge and remained virtuous for the sake of investigative journalism.
One Vice writer, who tried the diet for a whole month (kudos, man!), said that having coffee whilst on the diet produced an “amphetamine” effect. I couldn’t agree more. On coffee number 2, I was a writing machine and no one could stop me.
I usually have about 3-4 cups of coffee a day, but had to cut it down to two to prevent myself from crawling up walls and irritating my friends.
By day two, I was used to the stuff! When I opened the container, I no longer wanted to gag. Results.
Like any other woman living in 2015, I try to keep my skin in tip-top condition and know things like cheese, alcohol and coffee aren’t the best for your complexion. I have to admit that after a couple of days on this stuff, I was already noticing that my skin was looking clearer and brighter. Does it make up for lost lunches and dinners? Maybe, but only for a couple of days.
I went for a couple of drinks with my work colleagues and I do not recommend it. That lust for chips you may have normally only grows ten-fold after a glass of red wine. Luckily, I had my container of Soylent to replace the fried food I would usually ingest after some wine *sighs heavily*.
I’m a big fan of water. I literally guzzle down about 2.5 litres a day to balance out some other not-so-nice things I do to myself. On Soylent, drinking too much water can produce a very interesting feeling. I felt like a water tower ready to burst because I’ve been pumped with too much liquid.
Despite this, I started to notice that my stomach getting flatter. In addition to this very positive outcome, my loves handles were a lot less… lovable.
My very last day on the Soylent diet. By this time, it really does start to feel like routine. I found that the more you’re on the diet, the more you’re able to resist the temptation of your favorite foods. If I see someone eating a delicious meal, I won’t necessarily want to leap across the table and take it from their hands. That’s an achievement right there.
That being said, I cannot wait to sit down with my friends and have a solid, chewable meal. Sorry, Soylent, but there’s a social element to real food that you could never, ever replace with a liquid.
Body by Soylent
After seven days on the Soylent diet, I lost three whole pounds and noticed that my gut looked a little more toned. On approximately 1700-2000 calories worth of Soylent a day, at no point during this trial did I feel that I was starving myself. My 5’ 8” frame looked a little more in shape.
Is It Worth It?
I genuinely love food. I love the taste, I adore the fact that it brings all sorts of people together and I like that if you’re ever having a rough day, your favorite dish brings you that little added comfort. Soylent is a great concept that saves you heaps of money and enough time to, say, take a longer, more luxurious shower in the morning, but I could no means live purely on the stuff.
Containing a butt load of vitamins and healthy calories, Soylent makes an ideal meal replacement. Meal, not meals, being the operative word. If anything, being on this substance taught me that we should really think about what we’re putting in our mouths every time we open them. Nothing brings me more joy than hot cheesy fries with a side of chilli, but sometimes I wonder how much I indulge versus how much I fuel myself.
Holler atcha girl: @itsGennaAltai