Ex-Marine describes why he loves Soylent and how it changed his life

Reddit user “lewis0451” says he was a US Marine who let himself go when he left the service, and whose weight went up to 255. He consumes mostly Soylent now, and is down to 180 pounds.

He credits Soylent, a liquid food substitute that supposedly has all the nutrients you need to live. The manufacturers claim you can live healthy on a diet of only Soylent. Some enthusiasts do that, although most, like “lewis0451,” are on a mostly-Soylent diet and have real food for special occasions.

I decided to order some for myself and see how things would taste. After a week, I decided I might want to try to pull off a 30-day challenge of nothing but Soylent, and I tried my best, but stumbled a few times. I stuck with it and used it as much as I could. I knew I could lean on it to meet a weight loss goal, but I never thought it would allow me to reshape my entire life. I’m so much more positive, slightly richer (no senseless food expenditures), and way more responsible. I no longer live to eat. Here’s the best part – I still take time to ENJOY GOOD FOOD. I’m not going to come off Soylent for frozen pizza since I’ve had it about 1,300,543,000 times in my life before, but I will absolutely take time to order a beautiful piece of grilled salmon with fresh veggies that snap when you crunch through them, along with red potatoes or something akin to that. I try to make good choices and when I eat food, I make sure I’m doing it to engage all my senses. I do it for the experience — not to just hide from everything, binging on junk food.

lewis0451 wants to be the Soylent spokesman, like Jared from Subway, but “without all the creeper stuff.”

The fact that he even mentions Jared means he’s going to need some serious marketing training before Soylent signs him on. Heh.

[Soylent: Can I be your Jared? (without all the creeper stuff). I’m the weight loss dude w/ the logo fail. I don’t feel like re-uploading. / lewis0451 / reddit.com/r/soylent]

I tried Soylent for a full day in the summer. I wrote about the experience on Light Reading. [I Ate Soylent for a Day: ‘Food’ Special / Mitch Wagner / Light Reading]

I liked it enough to think that I might want to use it for occasional food-on-the-go and ordered a one-week supply – which is now, alas, sitting in the pantry with the clock ticking toward its expiration date.

I’ve had better luck with MealSquares, which also advertises itself as everything you need to eat healthy, in one package. But unlike Soylent, MealSquares is actual food. It’s a dense, square muffin. To eat it, you need to take small bites, and chew thoroughly.  I find it tasty and satisfying, though it’s very rich and dry. Julie dislikes it.

I often carry a MealSquare or two in my bag when I’m out and about.

I’m going in for a colonoscopy March 30 (nothing wrong, just a routine, baseline check), and might subsist on Soylent for a week prior to the test, rather than go through the confusing and complicated dietary restrictions. MealSquares too, if they’re allowed.

And yes the name comes from the movie. But the manufacturers say real-world Soylent doesn’t have people in it. Which is exactly what they said in the movie!

Home again home again

I’m headed home after 10 days on the road, which is I think the longest I’ve been away in 10 years since my father passed. I spent four days in Chicago for Light Reading’s Big Telecom Event. Then I spent another day in Chicago for staff meetings. Then Julie joined me for five five days in Columbus and Athens, Ohio, visiting her family, whom we hadn’t seen for three years. And now I’m on a plane back home.

It was an eventful trip. The conference was a success, with much good insight and connecting with peers. I’ll post links here later to the articles I wrote from the conference. I got to meet a few colleagues face-to-face whom I haven’t met before. We’re a very 21st-Century organization, with about 50 employees spread across the US, Canada, and in Britain. My boss is based in a suburb of London, eight hours ahead of me.

After work, we went to dinner. I did karaoke for the first time ever in my life. Rumor has it there is video. I think its safe to say that as a singer I am very enthusiastic.

I ate and ate and ate this trip. I have a bet with myself how much weight I gained over the 10 days. I’m thinking 12 pounds. I am not disciplined controlling eating while I’m traveling. That wasn’t a big deal during most of my weight loss and maintenance, when I was traveling just a couple of times a year. Now that I’m on the road for about 20-25% of the time, it’s becoming a problem. I need to work on it.

Still, I enjoyed every bite. Such a lot of good food.

I’ve become an enthusiast for nondescript hole-in-the-wall places that serve great food. I found a beaut in Columbus: Pho Asian Noodle House and Grill on West Lane Avenue. It’s a Pan-Asian place, which is a highfalultin way of saying the menu has Chinese food and Japanese food and Thai and Vietnamese and maybe other ethnicities I couldn’t identify. I had the kung pao chicken with fried rice, which is a safe choice, and it was delicious. The restaurant is obviously in a converted Taco Bell, with minimal redecoration, which adds to its charm.

Another big highlight of this trip is going to meet our financial planner in Marion, Ohio, about 75 minute out of Columbus. Until now, I’ve left financial planning to Julie. I make the money, she manages it. But this is a bad idea, and so I’m getting up to speed myself. I am impressed by how on top of things both Ron and Julie are. Ron seems very competent — and I liked him personally too.

Why some people are eager to get Soylent

“Soylent” is the name of a powder that you mix with water to make a bland, thick, beige liquid. Its manufacturers say people can live on it indefinitely — it contains all the nutrients anyone needs. Many people are repulsed at the idea of Soylent. But Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson describes three reasons people are drawn to it:

  • Some see it as a convenience, not replacing every meal but replacing some or many meals.
  • Some people are intimidated by the very thought of cooking. These people are overwhelmed at the prospect of even browning meat.
  • Some people have problems with food, such as the prototypical 40ish guy who doesn’t exercise and lives on fried food, salty snacks, and candy.

Here we’re going to talk about how the final mass-produced Soylent product fits into my life, without any stunts or multi-day binges. More importantly, we’re going to take a look at exactly what might drive someone in the most food-saturated culture in the world to bypass thousands of healthy, normal, human-food meal choices in favor of nutritive goop. It’s something a lot of folks simply can’t seem to wrap their heads around. Today it’s relatively easy to make a healthy meal, so why in the hell would anyone pour Soylent down their throat?

But if you’re asking that question and genuinely can’t see an answer, then you’re demonstrating both a profound over-projection of your own cultural norms and also a stunning lack of empathy. Food is for some people a genuine struggle. Just because many in the first world have the ability to go to a grocery store and stock up on healthy stuff doesn’t mean it’s easy, or even possible, for everyone. Blithely dismissing someone’s inability to whip up a healthy meal by tossing off a condescending “Soylent? Gross! You don’t need that! Just go cook something quick and healthy!” can be about as wrongheaded and insensitive as telling an alcoholic that they could fix all their problems by just drinking less or telling a clinically depressed person that they’d feel better if they’d just stop moping and cheer up.

The convenience argument seems to me to be weakest. I just had my usual breakfast: Fresh fruit salad with cottage cheese and cinnamon, along with a glass of Spicy V8. For lunch I usually have a frozen meal from Eating Right or some other healthier brand. I eat a lot of veggie burgers and deli sandwiches for dinner, along with the occasional delivery pizza or take-out Mediterranean. That is pretty damn convenient. And while I can brown meat, that’s about as far as my cooking skilz go.

While I’m not going to get all judgy on Soylent-lovers, I really don’t see a need for it, other than specialized niche product, such as feeding refugees or victims of natural disasters.

The psychology of Soylent and the prison of first-world food choices | Ars Technica.

Long-term weight loss ‘nearly impossible’? Pfui!

I was discouraged by a Cory Doctorow blog a few days ago pointing to a CBC article that concludes weight loss is “almost impossible.”

But I finally read the article and came away with a different conclusion.

The article describes research showing only 5% of people who try to lose weight succeed. The article suggests — but does not actually say — that the researchers define success as keeping the weight off after 5-10 years.

Every fat and formerly fat person reading this is now shrugging and saying, “Yeah. Tell me something I don’t know.” Everybody already knows losing weight is hard.

The article (and possibly the researchers) make the mistake of conflating statistics with destiny. And it’s true that some statistical outcomes depend on luck. You can’t do anything about those. But other outcomes depend on individual choice.

The lotery is an example of an outcome dependent entirely on luck: Only a tiny sliver of the population ever wins the lottery. And there’s nothing you can do to improve your odds. The books and people who try to tell you which numbers to pick based on psychic powers are peddling lies. You can’t buy enough tickets to influence the outcome because the number of tickets sold is so vast. Buy one ticket, buy a thousand tickets, your chances of winning are pretty much the same. Indeed, statisticians say your chances of winning the lottery if you buy a ticket are about the same as your chances if you don’t buy a ticket.

On the other hand, the chances of a middle class or poor kid getting in to Harvard are also pretty slim. But it’s possible if the kid works hard and gets scholarships. So it’s worth a try.

Successful weight loss is more like getting into Harvard than winning the lottery.

The headline on that CBC story stinks. Because losing weight isn’t nearly impossible, Five percent success doesn’t say “nearly impossible.” It just says “very difficult.”

The article and the research do touch on a couple of interesting questions: Why do so many people fail at losing weight? It’s not will power. Fat people hold down jobs, raise families, and do all the things requiring will power that thin people do. Fat people have just as much will power as thin people have.

I think part of it is environmental, which explains the global obesity epidemic. My current pet theory: Farmers feeding antibiotics to livestock.

Another cause of obesity is how our brains are wired for food. When I hear recovering alcoholics talk about their relationship to alcohol, it’s like how I feel about food, particularly high-fat, high-salt, high-carb, high-sugar foods. Most people can have a handful of M&Ms and say, well, that was lovely, and move on. Not me. I can eat a one-pound bag of M&Ms and then start looking around for a one-pound bag of mini-Snickers to chase it down.

The other interesting question raised by the article is whether healthcare providers should be presenting alternatives to weight loss. Given that 95% of fat people are going to stay fat, should healthcare providers concentrate on getting them to eat well and be active, making them healthier fat people?

I wrote about this earlier: Research finds long-term weight loss is nearly impossible.

None of this should be taken as a criticism of Cory, the researchers, or the guy who wrote the CBC article, all of whom are doing great work — Cory, in particular, is someone I admire a great deal. Also, Cory lost about 70 pounds and has kept it off far longer than I’ve kept off my weight, so he certainly has every right to weigh in on this subject. So to speak.

Image: Annals Of Weight-Loss Gimmicks: From Bile Beans To Obesity Soap

Research finds long-term weight loss is nearly impossible

Cory Doctorow blogs about research showing weight loss comes back in 5-10 year.

Sobering news for me — I’m only three years into my own weight loss success. I went from a peak weight of about 276 in 2003, to 266 in 2008, then down to 176 in January, 2011, and finally lost another 10 pounds this year. As of Monday I was in the high 160s.

I tend to put on weight when I travel, which is a problem because I’m traveling more this year. I eat a lot of crap when I travel: Candy from hotel minibars,  pastries from the snacks they put out at conferences, fried food, desserts, the same stuff that made me fat to begin with.

Cory describes how he lost 80 pounds 2002-3, and kept it off. Our methods are similar in that we require constant vigilance. I log everything I eat, and weigh and measure it when possible. Corywent for a low-carb diet where I’m counting calories (and probably reducing carbs as a side-effect — I don’t keep track of that).

It’s not a huge deal, but it limits choices. For one thing, Julie and I almost never eat out anymore, which is a shame. I miss going out to eat with Julie. One recent weekend morning Julie suggested spontaneously that we go out for breakfast, and I had to say no. My meals are almost always planned in advance, and the prospect of changing those plans was overwhelming (particularly on an empty stomach, ironically enough).

I’m curious how Cory manages his weight when he travels, which he does a heck of a lot more than I do.

Long-term weight loss considered nearly impossible – Boing Boing.