I’m Going To Eat Goop For A Solid Week, And Probably Not Die

I’m going to eat goop and nothing but goop for a week straight, and see whether it kills me.

That’s a bit of overstatement because I’m pretty sure the goop won’t kill me.  The goop – a yeasty, thick paste many have compared to watered-down pancake batter – is scientifically designed to provide all the nutrients a human needs.  Its proponents tell me I could live on nothing but the goop and still be a healthy human being.

The goop is called Soylent – and no, it’s not made of people, all those jokes have been made – and it’s been getting a lot of press over the last year, a kind of Reddit thread forged from madness and made flesh.  A bunch of starving students asked, “Why am I paying for food when I could just put the raw vitamins and proteins in a bag, and skip this whole tedious eating process?”  And after a while of tinkering with various formulas – there’s actually a considerable Do-It-Yourself Soylent movement – they perfected the formula.  A beige glutinous mass that, when consumed, could replace every meal you ever needed.

(I’ve read a ton of articles on Soylent, but the best primer is probably this New Yorker article – which is fascinating reading, if you’re interested.)

“But why would you subsist on Soylent alone, Ferrett?” you cry.  “Aren’t you the guy who’s going around the country to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, reviewing them?  Don’t you love food?”

And I do love food.  I love it so much that to me, this is the ultimate kind of food to eat.  It’s a food that demands a total lifestyle change, one that could completely alter how I view eating – because the folks who have lived on Soylent for a time have noted dramatic changes, scornfully referring to food as “recreational eating.”  A week is a comparatively small time to eat nothing but Soylent in the scheme of things, but I suspect that week will take frickin’ forever.

Yet what happens if it turns out this works for me?  I love food, Lord knows, but I’m addicted to all the wrong kinds; even after a triple-bypass, I still crave a fatty steak, crave that sugary cake, long for the fatal smears of peanut butter.  Yes, I’ll be missing out on the vital micronutrients that natural foods bring, but let’s be honest here: even with the smoothies, I’m still eating way more Pop Tarts than berries.  It could be that this is healthy.

And what happens with all the time and money I’d save?  “What to eat” would be a choice removed from my life, a choice that until now has consumed a lot of time, because I love variety.  Will I find better uses for that time, or just dork around on Civilization 5?  How would I meet with friends, considering “drinks and dinner” is the normal social excuse?  And what horrors will this beige fluid wreak upon my digestive system?

Only one way to find out.

Alas, y’all won’t find out right away, as all orders of Soylent are backed up 10-12 weeks.  (I could brew my own, of course, but I’ve seen what my first crafts projects look like and I would not want to put them in my belly.)  But yes, I will be blogging about this whole experience from first cup to last glutinous sip, and I’ll let you know how this all works.  If you’d like to play along at home, well, an order of Soylent is only $85 for a week’s supply.

The crazier bit: my wife, who is a Michael Pollan fanatic, forever bringing up her hatred of artificial foods and chanting Pollan’s mantra of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” has decided she wants in on this crazytrain.  For she, too, is curious about what sorts of lifestyle changes occur when you reduce your eating world to purest nutrition.

When I pitched the idea at her, I expected to be scoffed at, not joined.  But hey!  That’s why we’re happily married; every once in a while, I remember she’s just as nuts as I am.  Especially when we go out back to tend to our beehives.

So. Coming in 10-12 weeks: the complete replacement of my diet with goop.  Blogged for your entertainment.

I’m sure you can’t wait.

7 Comments

  1. Lucretia
    May 20, 2014

    Whoa. Dude… I went through that link you provided to the NYT article.
    “…the lipids come from canola oil; the carbohydrates from maltodextrin and oat flour; and the protein from rice. To that, they’ve added fish oil (for omega-3s; vegans can substitute flaxseed oil), and doses of various vitamins and minerals: magnesium, calcium, electrolytes. Rhinehart is reluctant to associate Soylent with any flavor, so for now it just contains a small amount of sucralose, to mask the taste of the vitamins…”

    canola oil, maltodextrin and sucralose??
    So a GMO vegetable based oil that is rapidly being acknowledged as a *very* not good for you thing (http://authoritynutrition.com/canola-oil-good-or-bad/), a food-additive that has nasty side effects (long documented) and is used primarily for weight gain, and Splenda? This doesn’t sound particularly like a healthy food. 🙁

  2. Marc
    May 20, 2014

    I must confess, from a person who has been reading your blog for a while, that for me this is madness.
    Yes we could survive on that stuff,
    as we could live without entertainment,
    without loving or caring another human being,
    without stopping for beauty
    and I could go on and on.

    Sucking the fun out of life… what’s the point?

  3. Mark Dijkstra
    May 21, 2014

    I like the quote from the New Yorker article in which the creator of Soylent says that the stuff is meant to replace frozen quessiladas, not Sunday morning brunches. Perhaps Soylent and Michelin starred meals are complementary, so that you only replace the meals that you don’t care about too much? It will be quite interesting to see how your week of Soylent pans out.

  4. ShawnJ
    May 21, 2014

    I’m very keen to try this as well, for much of the same reasons. I would love to remove the sustaining aspects of food, and focus only on eating things for pleasure, not out of need. To me, the mixing of eating for sustenance and for pleasure sometimes makes it less pleasurable or leads to bad choices. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down to a potentially pleasurable meal and was so hungry that I ate it too fast to enjoy it properly.

  5. Pi
    May 31, 2014

    I would also consider myself something of a foodie, and I just started a DIY soylent diet that I’m documenting.

    Wanted to make a quick comment on something you said:

    “Yes, I’ll be missing out on the vital micronutrients that natural foods bring…”

    Soylent also includes all the micronutrients that you need. It’s meant to be nutritionally complete, not just a jug of empty calories. Of course, there’s the potential that there are nutrients that our body needs that we don’t know about yet, but to best of my knowledge there’s nothing important missing from a big glass of soylent.

    Aside from taste, but that’s another story.

    • TheFerrett
      Jun 2, 2014

      The very problem with micronutrients is that we’re really not aware of which ones we really need. Baby formula is complete, but still not as healthy as mothers’ milk.

  6. Sarah
    Oct 3, 2014

    My main concern would be that there seems to be a connection between eating the same thing meal after meal, and developing an allergic or sensitivity response to that thing. It probably won’t happen to you unless you’re already predisposed, but Soylent wouldn’t be an option for me because I am. (Because of my beloved breakfast pumpkin bread, I temporarily sensitized myself to teff flour, which as a person with celiac, is VERY inconvenient!)

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