Life Without Food: Surviving On Soylent. But Why?

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In the September issue of IMAGE Magazine, regular contributor, restaurant critic and all round foodie, Claire O’Mahoney examines the pros and cons of a life without food. Cue Soylent, a powdered food replacement and the creation of American software engineer, Rob Rhinehart. In the name of research, we had a sample shipped to Claire. This is what happened next …

“It’s not often I can claim to be delighted I have diabetes, but when it means passing on the Soylent challenge, I am. Packing 256.3g of carbs per daily bag, I don’t know what effect it will have on my blood sugar levels. The chalice passes instead to Rob: boyfriend, food liker if not food lover and willing guinea pig. The sum of €38.95, plus €12 postage and packaging buys him the SoylentLife Variation Pack for men, (it’s inspired by Rob Rhinehart’s recipe and ships from the Netherlands) in flavours of mixed berry, banana, strawberry and chocolate. It’s enough for one week of meals, and in comparison to our usual weekly spend on food, it’s cheap. For the next while, three times a day, he will be scooping out one third of the sachet, mixing it up with water in a shaker and this will constitute mealtimes. He’s not keen from the outset. “I feel wrong,” he announces after drinking his first one. “It’s like all those instant powdery foods from the Seventies, like Angel Delight and Smash potatoes”. He struggles to finish it and isn’t hungry afterwards, although confesses he would like to eat something, if only to get the taste out of his mouth. After tasting it I concur – rather him than me. It has a fruity, yeasty smell and a slightly grainy taste. A couple of hours later, he’s in the throes of digestive issues, but curiously feels even fuller than when he initially drank it. Over the following days, he’s never hungry, but he’s not especially happy and food becomes a bit of issue in our house. “Don’t you dare eat in front of me,” he warns. Rob Rhinehart, the creator, claimed an improved physique and general appearance after following a Soylent diet. Rob the guinea pig didn’t note any immediate improvements during his admittedly shortish SoylentLife trial, although he can see how it could potentially lead to weight loss as he struggled to get through the 210l kcal a day bag. It also made him quite moody. “I don’t think I appreciated how much I like the social aspect of eating. This is joyless,” he says. After less than a week the experiment is abandoned and his re-entry into the world of real food is enthusiastic. There is pizza and Thai green chicken curry and chocolate chip muffins and a trip to the pub. While it’s not a case that you can’t have alcohol when you’re drinking SoylentLife (and it apparently mixes well with vodka), Rob just didn’t feel like it. To sum up his SoylentLife experience: “Unsettling. Both psychologically and physically.”

To read the full article on Soylent, pick up the September issue of IMAGE Magazine. Out now.
2015-09 IMAGE September 2015

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