I have consumed Soylent for lunch almost every workday for over a year now, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. In fact, I think it may be the best lunch solution I’ve ever found.
Because for me, lunch is a problem.
I realized a long time ago that eating a meal in the middle of the day is really difficult for me. Lunch is the one meal that most often feels like a chore, something I’m obligated to do more than something I want to do.
And it’s not because I don’t care about food—quite the opposite, really. I love to eat, and sandwiches—the archetype form factor of lunchtime fare for almost a century—are one of my favorite kinds of food. If I’m in a more leisurely situation like an outing with co-workers or on vacation with my wife, maybe a Saturday brunch with friends, I enjoy that lunch, too. But in the middle of a busy weekday, or even a weekend filled with errands, the idea of having to stop whatever I’m doing to eat something just causes me stress.
It’s not that I don’t get hungry during the day; I am usually aware of when I need food. But trying to figure out what to eat, and the process of hunting and gathering for that food, just makes me anxious. Even as far back as when I was in high school, I have always felt there were other things I would rather be doing besides trying to obtain food and then sitting and eating that food.
I have tried many tactics to combat this over the years, which usually involved bringing lunch from home. But even the planning and shopping for ingredients to make those lunches, and then planning the time to make even the simplest lunch like a peanut butter sandwich, quickly became tiresome.
I also realized somewhere in the past ten years that I can focus on my work and maintain my energy levels a lot better during the day if I graze on small servings of healthy snacks every hour or so, rather than having one larger meal at midday. I was grazing on yogurt and nuts and fruit, but still not getting all the nutrition and calories I needed.
From the moment I first heard about Soylent, I knew it could be the answer I was looking for, and I put my money down to try it while it was still in its initial crowdfunding phase. I saw right away that it had the potential to hit the perfect combination I wanted: nutritious, inexpensive, and bland enough in flavor that my palate would never really tire of it.
That flavor component (or lack of flavor) is a bigger factor than I expected, and I think it works for me in the same way that I can’t listen to jazz or pop music while also trying to do work that needs my attention. Good music is a treat for my brain just like a doughnut or a cookie is for my mouth, and distracting in the same way. You can only eat so much of a delicious thing before you stop tasting it and get bored. I am far more productive listening to instrumental drone music or white noise while I’m working because it keeps my brain humming without distracting my focus.
Soylent is the food-equivalent of white noise, an engineered, steady wave that allows me to maintain nutrition and energy without distraction, and keeps the rest of my body humming just like my mind.
Are there downsides? Well, I wouldn’t recommend chugging the stuff. It’s a rich slurry of sorts, and too much at once can cause queasiness. It’s also got a good amount of fiber, so there can be excess gas until your body gets used to it. They claim you could consume nothing but Soylent and be healthy, but I still find myself needing more protein than this offers, and satiety may not be as high as you’re used to with other meals so I also still graze on other foods during most days, like yogurt, granola, fruit, and nuts. But Soylent is the baseline food of my day from when I first get up in the morning until I come home and have a “normal” dinner at the end of the day, and I barely have to think about it at all.
And more than anything else, it’s that elimination of having to think about it that has been the biggest benefit of Soylent for me. From the beginning, its creator promoted it not as a diet food or “meal replacement” as much as a “meal decision replacement” — and they do everything they can to make that as simple as possible. I have a subscription plan that delivers a new box of pouches to my door every month, a cost that recently became about $15 cheaper than it was before. That means I’m only paying about $3 per day versus $5-$8 a day buying a lunch can cost, so assuming I work about 46 weeks per year, that’s a savings of more than $1000 every year.
Really the only thing I need to think about is remembering to mix up a new pitcher of the stuff the night before I need it. Once I’ve got a batch mixed all I need to do is fill my thermos and go. And now I don’t even have to do that if I don’t want to because Soylent is now also available in individual ready-to-serve bottles.
Soylent is not replacing a meal, it’s replacing a decision. I don’t drink it instead of lunch; I drink it instead of deciding lunch.
Do I sound like a fanboy right now? Probably, but I’m not alone; it seems this “meal decision replacement” is resonating with plenty of others, as investment in and demand for Soylent are both on the rise. Will Soylent last? I hope so, because it’s not often I can find a tool for everyday life that works so well for me. But even if it becomes overly commercialized, or eventually fades away, it has shown me a new way to solve a problem I hadn’t thought of before.
Thanks to Soylent, I know that sometimes it’s not the task before us that causes stress, but the number of decisions or choices we have available about how to perform that task well. I was constantly trying to optimize lunch to make the most of my money, my time, and my hunger. Soylent has optimized all that for me, and as long as it exists I’m not looking back.
In fact, I’m barely thinking about it at all, and that’s just the way I like it.