So now we know what food addiction is and what soylent is, so why does this end up being a good match? While many people like using soylents for various reasons (convenience, cost, nutrition, etc.), for the food addict it can be hugely beneficial. Let’s look at the various parts of this, though.
Let’s get this out of the way.
While you would think that price wouldn’t matter as much when you’re talking about your health, it’s still important to address this. Now, when modifying your food intake to get your calorie count down to the range you’re looking for, the simplest option is often to keep eating the same foods you’re already eating, just less of them, cutting back based on the calorie counts. That in itself would lead to spending either the same amount or less on food. And, that’s certainly one way to approach it.
While the rest of this page will talk about the other benefits of soylent for the food addict, it’s important to realize there is a range of price options. There are already a good number of commercial soylent options on the market with varying prices. Now, often you have a certain amount of fast food / dining out you’re already doing and those can make your existing food bill significantly higher. If you’re in the financial position where you’d like to do soylent but can’t afford any of the commercial options (which is hopefully rare, but certainly plausible), then you can also look at the legions of Do-It-Yourself recipes that are available. Many of the commercial options (including my two favorites) have their recipes on that site, so you can make the exact same mix as many of the commercial options. The per-day cost will be lower, but it does typically mean a larger up-front cost as you have to buy the ingredients, but it is an option.
One approach that is successful for many people is to try samples from many of the commercial options, especially ones that have their recipe on the DIY site, find one (or more) that you really like, then buy the ingredients and make it yourself for the cost savings.
I personally would recommend sticking with a commercial option if you can afford it at all, since I believe the convenience of soylent is a significant win, especially in terms of daily food choices. If you’re looking at having to order, measure, mix, etc. your own powder, then the temptation to just skip that effort and eat some other kind of food will be there, and I believe that’s counter-productive, especially early on in your efforts.
Remove the decision on what to eat
As Dr. Baumeister’s research has shown us, willpower is a limited resource. As much as possible, you want to remove the things in your average day that require willpower, such as eating healthy food when faced with a menu of varying options or going to the gym when you don’t feel like it. Deciding what to eat, in particular, is often a big drain on your finite willpower reserves. Sure, early in the day it might be fairly simple to grab something healthy for breakfast, but as the day goes on and you’re reaching a mealtime, you may have your stomach feeling hungry, your brain deciding it wants something unhealthy but delicious, and you’re stuck trying to combat them and choose something healthy instead.
These results suggest that the self’s capacity for active volition is limited and that a range of seemingly different, unrelated acts share a common resource. [ link ]
The authors conclude that the executive component of the self—in particular, inhibition—relies on a limited, consumable resource [ link ]
That’s where soylent can be a big win for treating food addiction. You don’t have to choose which food to eat anymore, as you’re choosing not to eat ‘normal’ food anymore and instead something that’s more akin to nutritional fuel for your body. You don’t want to have to drink something disgusting, of course, but food’s primary purpose is to fuel your body, and you can focus on that and avoid food-as-pleasure which can be so problematic with food addiction.
Save time and effort
Once you’re consuming exclusively soylent, preparing your day’s food is either nothing (if you choose a pre-mixed drink) or mixing powder and water (and maybe another ingredient or two depending on the soylent you choose) into a pitcher and mixing. This typically means you only have to prepare your ‘food’ once during the day (some do it right before they go to bed and leave it in the fridge overnight, others do it in the morning), and that preparation is fast and simple.
This means no having to go grocery shopping, which itself takes willpower and is often a source of poor food choice since we might be doing it toward the end of the day when our willpower reserves are low, or worse while we’re hungry and our brain is driving us to choose foods that aren’t as healthy as they could be. As much as possible, you want to remove grocery shopping as a task you need to do, since it will either lead to poor food choices coming into your home, and/or drain your willpower if you’re able to get out of the store will only healthy food selections.
Since our soylent preparation is ‘mix powder and water’ or similar, you’re removing another source of time and effort in cooking. Many people dislike cooking and would look forward to the option of not having to cook anymore. For the others that actively enjoy cooking, it still consumes significant time and energy on it. There are pots and pans to scrub, ovens/stoves to use then clean, dishes for holding your food after cooking, and plates and utensils to use then wash. By replacing normal ‘food’ with soylent, you get to eliminate all of those. Most people end up using a pitcher to mix and hold their days’ worth of soylent and then a few glasses for drinking out of the pitcher throughout the day. Those that really hate cleaning may just use the pitcher and drink directly from it when they’re hungry.
Lots of other approaches to changing your food intake will give you different foods to eat, different recipes to learn and make, and result in much more time and energy needed than just continuing to cook and eat the things you already do. Changing your food intake is challenging enough as it is, and you want to try switching to something that makes as many things easier as possible.
No need to track calories
Typically when you’re wanting to control the number of calories you’re consuming in a day, you’re faced with having to track the calories in the things you eat. Even in the best case where everything you eat has a clearly labeled number of calories, it’s still a hassle to do so. Even the things that have labeled number of calories “per serving” can be problematic since you have to try and measure out the number of servings you’re consuming, which can be tricky for many items. Combine this with foods that aren’t as clearly labeled for their calories (like a typical meal at a sit-down restaurant) and tracking calories can be quite error-prone.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine really highlights this extremely well:
the subjects in group 1 underreported their actual food intake by an average (+/- SD) of 47 +/- 16 percent and overreported their physical activity by 51 +/- 75 percent. Although the subjects in group 1 had no distinct psychopathologic characteristics, they perceived a genetic cause for their obesity, used thyroid medication at a high frequency, and described their eating behavior as relatively normal [ link ]
By using soylent instead of normal food, we get rid of the need to track calories and we remove the error-prone nature of it. Whether it’s a 1200 calorie mix, a 2000 calorie mix, or something different, you’ll know exactly how many calories you’re consuming each day.
While we’re focusing on getting a handle on our caloric intake, it’s important to make sure we’re still doing a good job providing fuel for your body. Too often while we’re changing our food intake, we’re having to focus so much on the calories that we end up not being able to really know whether we’re doing a good job with our vitamins, nutrients, protein intake, etc.
By using soylent, we can both get an exact number of calories for us to consume *and* a complete day of nutrition. Since your existing food intake per day is likely not nutritionally complete, you can also improve your nutrition at the same time you’re controlling your intake of calories.
Can get rid of ‘normal’ food
If you live by yourself or you can get the others that live with you on board, going soylent-only can be a huge win against temptation. Since it provides all the nutrition you need, you can (and, I believe, should) get rid of all the ‘normal’ food in your place, especially the ones that are more difficult for you to resist.
Now, there is still going to be the temptation to hop in the car and drive somewhere to grab some food that’s not great for you, but by making your easiest option also a healthy one, you significantly increase your chances of sticking with soylent.
Decide which soylent is for you
While there is the official Soylent product from Rosa Labs, which is likely the most popular of the soylent varieties, there are alternative options as well. Many of the alternatives have different flavors and different macronutrient ratios. In particular, there are multiple ketogenic mixes.
Now, it’s important to try and figure out which mix(es) are the best for you. Ketogenic ones did a much better job for me in preserving lean tissue, but I don’t know whether that’s generally true for others or not. When using official Soylent, 65% of my weight loss was body fat. Once I switched to ketogenic alternatives, it was 95%.
Whatever mix(es) you end up going with, the preservation of muscle is critical, especially since we’re not focusing on exercise during phase 1, which is the method many usually use to attempt to preserve muscle mass during significant weight loss. The muscle your body already has is one of your greatest allies, and we need to make sure we’re doing what we can to keep as much of it as possible while we’re losing body fat.