Substitute for food, but food is a holistic experience. How is Soylent holistic at all?


I admire what you are trying to do, but the whole notion of “food substitute” bothers me and makes me skeptical (even though there are only a handful of things in the world I’m skeptical about). The “divide and conquer” concept of formulating your product doesn’t seem to suffice for the significance of the place food takes in the human life. Consuming food is much more than mechanistically acquiring a combination of chemical compounds. Mathematically speaking, I’d say that your solution seems to account for only 5-10% of the whole food experience, and specifically I fail to see how much it impacts the health component of it. The human organism is a complex, internal holistic system immersed in and interacting with a complex external environment and all of this complexity cannot be substituted by a just a number of chemicals put together in a tube (speaking in terms of food intake). For example, equally important to what you eat is how you eat. One of the biggest misconceptions in the modern (western) world is that physico-chemical components isolated from their origins when put together do exactly what they are supposed to do in terms of combining themselves into meaningful, working “machines”. This is a hypothesis, not a proven fact. Scientifically, for example, the protein folding problem would have not existed had this been so trivial. Obviously, there is much more in the game than just mixing some (presumably) relevant discrete components.

Consuming food is also a ritual, which is widely ignored in western countries. Hence, the consequence - >17.8% of the GDP goes to health care in the US. The sole fact that your company exists proves that the lack of proper food behavior leads to (fast) solutions to an artificial problem, which solutions, as stated by you, may not be beneficial in the long run. The problem in fact is not that we don’t have time to cook or time to find nutritional food - it is that we don’t have time at all. And the solution should not be a “food hack”, as yours seems to be, but rather a deep foundational level change to ensure that the most important thing for humans - i.e. their health and well-being - is guaranteed.

I would call it a temporary food substitute in “emergency” situations, where emergency could be anything from a real catastrophe to all-nighter in the office. However, calling it a “substitute for food” in general that could be consumed over months is premature, unproven and highly questionable for the long term health benefits of the individual. The holistic concept is simply missing in your formulation, and regardless of whether you believe it or not, it is the one that formulates everybody’s life.


[citation needed]

Not to mention, 90% of the DIY recipes I’ve seen (and there are a LOT) incorporate several “real” foods, for the simple reason that they’re actually pretty good at supplying what we’re looking for, in a cheap and easily available form, and I believe the official Soylent recipe is starting to move in a similar direction.

Are you saying that because this is not the ideal, utopian solution, we shouldn’t even bother?


I personally don’t subscribe to a holistic mindset, so this doesn’t bother me at all.


Okay, big quote to start off with, but I really want to discuss this point. You’ll probably get a lot of flack for this on this forum, as it kinda goes against some of the founders’ ideas about the advantages of the product, but this is important to me.

I have gone the DIY route, and as it is a pretty visible part of my life I have ended up fielding a lot of questions about this, or similar things. Most go somewhere along the lines of “How can you not like food?!” I love food. I think food is fantastic. I enjoy a well prepared, delicious meal as much as anyone else. Similarly, I love the ritual of food. Of eating with family and friends and enjoying it together. The problem is whether I’m consuming soylent or not, 90% of the time there is NO ritual involved. I’m simply feeding myself because I will pass out if I don’t.

I would argue that by eliminating all the time and effort that goes into simply eating to survive (where I’m cooking pasta for the 12th night in a row) we are actually ENHANCING both the appreciating of food, and the ritual that surrounds it. Now I have the time and money to focus on those things. Instead of being distracted by “this is another meal so I’m not horribly malnourished this week” I can set aside those times when I do eat as special. It’s filtering, or distilling if you will, the very qualities you are advocating for. Look back at Rob’s blog posts. There’s one in particular where he writes about discovering a love of sushi because he now has the money to spend on it (as it is a more expensive meal) as well as the time to devote to the more complex preparation.

In short, the goal of Soylent is not to ELIMINATE food or destroy the ritual it is a part of, but instead to give us the freedom to truly appreciate those things. We no longer have to eat to survive. We now eat because we enjoy it, enhancing the experience all the more because of it.


While I can’t disagree with the idea that the world would be a better place if we had time to sit down and have three square meals a day with our family, I’m afraid that isn’t the world we live in. We live in a world where I’m writing this from work at 8:30 PM with no kitchen, I’m crunching hard for end of fiscal year 'til the end of the night, and I’m hungry. It isn’t an ideal world, but it’s the one we’ve got right now—I’ll take something that helps in the absence of changing the world.

There’s also nothing special or unproven about what goes into soylent. It’s maltodextrin and oats for carbs, pea and rice protein, and palm kernel oil and soy lecithin for fats. Those are all real foods. The vitamins and minerals are provided by… vitamins and minerals. That’s pretty much it.


If I’m reading this correctly, what you’re postulating is that the experience of food is so completely central to our lives that it formulates our lives, whatever that really means.

I would postulate in response to this that if consuming food was simply a recreational activity, and not one in which we are required to do to survive, food would not be central to most people’s lives.

To the single mothers with multiple children who spend an ungodly amount of money on food per month, nevertheless those in cities where the cost of food is much higher, a product such as Soylent - as long as it proves to be a cheaper, easier alternative - would be welcome. The mother who has to cook every night for two, three, four, five, or six (!) children, only to finally sit at the end of the night and eat herself, she who has been doing this for years on end - would welcome a product like Soylent.

Furthermore, while food is central to our lives simply because we rely on it, you don’t have to be a single mother to despise the idea of it. I haven’t met a single person in my travels that has dedicated the time it would take to plan their food purchases around obtaining a fully complete nutritional profile every single day. In truth, considering the idea with ‘normal food’ is slightly horrifying; a complex cacophony of sacrifices, overdoses, concessions and ultimately - way too much money for the worth.

Soylent solves all of these problems and more, and I am, once again, willing to postulate that for those whom have such problems, the lack of a ‘holistic’ aspect to the product would not be their first lament.


AAAAAANNNNNNDDDDDDD we will never see the OP again.


Great success. :smiley: Haha!


How is most of the food we consume today “holistic”? This is arguably more “holistic” than I’ve eaten in YEARS.


Oh brother. Another “Food is traditional! No change it!” argument post. If you are american, your grandpa/ma would not recognize most of food we eat. Change is one constant in the universe we live in.


Except for the density of dark energy. That never changes.


To each their own. If it ain’t bothering you, STFU.


If he had brought up a scientific argument about the possible effects of Soylent I would have been very receptive. But he seems to have no true science-based argument.


Successful troll was successful. Look at this page, it’s massive and OP is no where to be found.


You know, I live in Taiwan, a deeply Chinese culture, and I travel quite a bit. This idea that some how the West has lost its way with regard to food is just stupid. The Western world has made marvelous advances in nutrition. Here, they don’t seek to balance food based off of anything that would recognize as being legitimate medical science but on an elemental system, where food has qualities of Air, Wood, Fire, Water, and Metal. People commonly say things like “you cannot eat too many lychees or you will get too hot inside and be sick.” Or “if you drink cold water, it will imbalance your fire and you will be sick.”

I’m going to stick with Western science for my nutritional needs, thank you very much.


Just because someone is misinformed doesn’t mean they’re out to cause a ruckus. Also doesn’t mean we have to be snide in response; the resulting discussion is still important and useful for anyone who is like minded but may be inclined to change their mind, OP included.

I’d definitely agree with @godraine on the subject, and add a note that even though we no longer need to sit down to a meal, suddenly that opens up even more time to for other activities in a social setting. Who’s up for a game of cards against humanity for dinner?


@Tai wouldn’t that be … and Earth, and not Metal?


Everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.


Not exactly, Earth should go in the place of Air: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.

It can be a bit odd from a western perspective.


No. But I messed it up. It’s Earth and not Air. In Chinese, it’s:


Obviously I don’t spend enough time doing Chinese Astrology.