Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Soylent Experiment: Why Soylent?

I have a confession to make.  I'm addicted to food.  More specifically, I guess I'm addicted to overeating.  In a situation where I allow myself to eat anything I want, I find myself overeating.  I don't have an off switch, it seems.

When you fight something for thirty years, you tend to start thinking it's not just about willpower. Those that know me, know willpower isn't exactly my issue.  I have willpower.  I can stay on a pretty strict eating regimen, but only if it's super strict.  As soon as I get cheat days, or cheat foods, I cheat. That's the way it is.

It is in this way that my problem is like an addiction.  I can't have "only one" slice of pizza or "only one" scoop of potato salad.  If I have one, I'm having more, in the same way that a former alcoholic can't have "only one" glass of wine, or a former heroin addict.

But food is ubiquitous and not intoxicating (it could be argued otherwise), so how do you keep from eating too much?  Calorie counting?

I'm a complete calorie counting failure.  I have tried apps.  Many people have seen me try apps and fail eventually.  It's boring, difficult, and fraught with error and estimation.  There are easy ways to cheat yourself without realizing it.

If I want to maintain my weight, I have to go cold turkey from really high-calorie-density pleasurable foods.  And that brings me to a dilemma.

Because food is everywhere.  It's part of the social contract.  Go to someone's house?  Here's some food.  Refuse?  It's insulting.  Try to explain that they've just done the equivalent of offering a recovering alcoholic a beer, and they can't understand it.

So a while back, Nicole found a medical group treating "metabolic syndrome".  It sounded super hokey, and I still don't necessarily believe I have a "syndrome" beyond "I really really like cheesy pizza", but they offered her a restrictive meal plan that made sense to me.  It is basically a super-low-salt, no-dairy, no white carb, fresh foods only, clean eating program that takes all the joy out of eating.

Seriously.  It becomes a real chore to eat.  On such a restrictive program, I found it hard to eat anything that tasted remotely good, and everything you eat is so low-calorie-density that it's almost impossible to take in too many calories.

And it worked!  It worked really well!  In the course of a year or so, I'd lost about 50 lbs and was feeling really great.  It mainly worked because food wasn't on my mind all the time, because I didn't like what I could have, so it broke the cycle for me, and I stopped thinking about food, except when I was really hungry.  When I can't choose what I eat, I think about eating less, and I actually eat less.

And then the day came where I started cheating.  A day a week at first, and then that day wasn't convenient because there was a party somewhere on a different day.  Once off the track, I couldn't get back to the diet.  My resolve crumbled.  It took a couple of years, but the weight returned, because the food returned.

So at the beginning of September this year, I went back on the metabolic diet.  It sucks for the first week, as your body readjusts to not having so much sugar and salt on everything, and then it becomes a background hum.

And it's working again.  Down a few pounds and the clothes feel looser, and I'm starting to feel better, but on this diet, you end up spending a fair amount of time trying to balance your diet.  You can't eat celery all day, or have a day of only ground beef.  The prep, the cleanup, buying too many vegetables and they go bad; it's all coming back to me.

I remember that feeling from before - that my resolve will crumble before the work involved with eating healthy.  I remember thinking, "If only there were a way to get a balanced set of nutrients without having to think about it."  Sure, you can go the ultra-expensive route and do Nutrisystem or something similar. That would work.  But I'm not Rockefeller either.  Who's got those kind of megabucks lying around just for their food?

Then I heard an episode of Penn's Sunday School where the gang discuss the fact that dogs and cats eat the same balanced meal every day, ever meal, from the time they become adult dogs until they die.  And once you find a brand that works for your pet, you stay with it.  They don't have or need variety.  They need nutrition.  And the folks on the show speculated about the creation of human chow.

I don't remember whether this episode came before the idea of Soylent or after, but it really hit home. I decided to become an early backer of Soylent, to reserve me a week's worth of the stuff.  I figured that it was worth a shot for me.

Soylent is designed as a healthy meal replacement.  You apparently can substitute a cup of this stuff for any meal that you don't want to bother with?  Too tired to cook?  Shake up a glass and feel confident you'll get a balanced set of nutrients to replace that meal with.  Tired of doing dishes?  Take a week off and only wash the shaker and your glass.

That's the idea anyway.

Well, my box of Soylent came about a week ago.  I decided that I'm going to commit to the experiment of replacing my meals for a week with Soylent.  Note: I was already on a pretty restrictive diet, on which I have a protein shake a day, so I figured that this wouldn't be a big change for me compared to many other people on the web that have tried it.  I've been through the "three days in, and I'm crabby and hungry phase."  I've even had a day on a liquid diet in the past week, so I figure it should be easier for me than just about anyone else around.

Time will tell.  The experiment begins today.  I'll log my experience.

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