Hi all, I wanted to share my experiences with Soylent as someone who travels, is diabetic and is trying to lose weight.
First off, a little bit about me:
I work in health care and I travel a little over 75% for work which puts me on the road 5 days a week, every week.
I’m 39 years old, currently a T2D with an A1C of 7.8 (up from 6.8 six months ago). I use insulin as well as Metformin. I am 6’0 and weigh 291 although I carry the weight very well, but would love to get down to the 240-250 range.
Here’s my latest lipid panel which I had performed on January 26th right before I started Soylent:
So I have reached a point in my life where making decisions about what to eat is really stressful and I have found that I have a physiological and psychological addiction to food. Everything I do centers around food and that’s not a good thing. Some people have the urge to smoke a cigarette just because it’s something to put into their mouth? That’s me with food. Whether or not I’m hungry, I’ll eat. It’s just something to do. I have to break this addiction. And then I started looking at the amount of medication I’m taking each morning and it just made me sad and want to change it:
In order from left to right:
- Lisinopril (blood pressure and kidney protection)
- Prilosec for GERD (wanting to test and see if this goes away with 100% Soylent usage)
- Prozac (It’s rough here in Minnesota. The winters are super depressing. I only use it from November to March)
- Amlodipine (blood pressure and kidney protection)
- Simvastatin (cholesterol)
And then there’s my insulin. Humalog is normal for a diabetic but it’s the Toujeo that I need to reduce. It’s just Lantus/Levemir, only it’s U300 which means I am using about 65 units (195 normal units) each night for my basal insulin. That’s a lot. But I still wake up with high blood sugar, usually around 250.
So when I came across Soylent a few years back when a friend of mine (a research scientist) was using it, I looked into and realized that the carb count on a single serving was way too high for a diabetic (it still is, but I’ll get to that later) so I dismissed it entirely. But as I’ve been struggling with making wise food decisions as I’m on the road, running through airports and being barraged with crappy food choices on airplane flights, Soylent just kind of made sense and so I figured I would put up with the higher carb count so that I could trade out having to stress over what to eat when I’m running through an airport at 6am or driving between doctor’s office visits at 1pm in some random part of the country where my only reasonable choice of food is McDonald’s.
So like anything else in my life, I dove into Soylent head first. I made an order of 28 meals and hit the ground running. And I have to say, I really love the taste and it keeps getting better every day. I started out attempting to go 100% Soylent, but there was an awesome annual beer fest here in Minneapolis that we had tickets for, so the first weekend on Soylent, I did breakfast and lunch on Soylent, then dinner of normal food. And beer. And actually, my blood sugar started to normalize. Now it was still in the 200’s, but my blood sugar tends to be somewhat volatile in that if it goes down to 120, the next thing I know, it drops to 60 and I’ve got a low blood sugar event. So my physician and I have agreed to keep it a tad higher and consider 120-150 a normal range so that I can avoid these low blood sugar events. But nonetheless, it was normalizing and not spiking, so that’s the first problem to fix as a diabetic. Now to get the blood sugar below 200 on a regular basis.
Which is where my complaint about the high carb count comes in. Sure, it’s “low on the GI spectrum” and “it was created with a leading endocrinologist”. None of that means anything to me because like most chronic conditions, Diabetes is a very patient-specific disease and is different for everyone. Now mind you, I was doing 500 calorie portions (57g carbs) for each meal with a total of about 1,500 calories a day and still seeing some high 200+ sugar readings post-prandial. Not good. Not to mention the fact that my weight had stayed the same, going from 291 to 293 and back down to 291, all in the course of 3 weeks. You’d think with a large reduction of calories (down from 3,000 calories to 1,500 daily) I’d be seeing at least more water weight being lost. But it was the carbs. It’s always the carbs, especially when you’re insulin resistant.
So I had a thought: what if I started doing 250 calorie meal portions, basically half a serving and splitting out the meal over a 2 hour period so that I still get my 500 calories and 57g of carbs, but it’s spread out? Much better results. Now my sugars were below 180 each time I did this. So now I spread out my meals, which also means I don’t have to necessarily use insulin with each meal, and if you know anything about insulin, you know it leads to all but guaranteed weight gain, or at the very least, no weight loss.
And what about the weight loss? Well I noticed something. I use the Withings body scale which is surprisingly accurate on almost every count. It even matches the $2K regularly calibrated scale at my physician’s office (and I even sneak in a few weigh-ins when I’m in my clients’ offices on their scales as well) which is great for a consumer level scale. But it wasn’t the weight that went down, it was the body fat percentage. I know, I know, that measurement is specious at best, however, it’s consistently been at 41-42% for the past 13 months according to this scale and now it’s gone down to 36% and it did so at a gradual scale over the past few weeks, not just one single reading. I suspect it’s visceral fat loss, which if you’re going to lose fat, that’s the fat to lose first since it impacts internal organs as well as insulin resistance. But again, body fat measurement is highly contested, so I will continue to monitor it and see how it progresses.
Oh, and I forgot to mention: even during the initial startup phase, I’ve yet to feel hungry. I’m always full and satiated.
So how do you travel with this stuff? Well, I’m a very well organized traveler. You kind of have to be if you want to travel as much as I do and still maintain your sanity. First off, I love the concept of Soylent 2.0, but if I’m packing for a week, that many bottles is way too much space in my luggage, and I travel as light as possible, so Soylent 1.5 powder fits my needs perfectly. I made the very wise decision a year ago to purchase the same luggage that most flight crews use since it fits almost every overhead compartment perfectly and it’s also very spacious and can accommodate about 7-10 days worth of business clothing (http://www.crewoutfitters.com/products/luggage/pnt-stealth-22.html). I pack the requisite amount of Soylent bags and my blender bottle with the handy measuring cup that Soylent sent me:
It’s all about the routine to make this work when you’re on the move. The trick is to plan everything out ahead of time and actually, most hotels make this type of meal very easy to accomplish. Now I’m a Hilton man myself, but Marriott/SPG, Hyatt, etc hotels will have much the same setup. All you need is an ice machine or a refrigerator or both. You won’t always have a fridge in your room, but you will always have ice. I like to mix my shake the night before if I have a fridge and let it chill overnight or if I don’t have a fridge, I’ll just walk down the hall and get some ice and make myself a shake in the morning before I head out to visit clients. Now during the day, it gets a bit trickier, but not really. After I have my breakfast shake, I measure out my next meal in the blender bottle after drying it out and I then put the measuring cup in there on top of the powder and seal the blender bottle. Then when lunch time rolls around, I stop at a convenience store and pay a dollar for some ice and a bottle of water and bam I’ve got myself a cold shake. I then just make myself the dinner shake back in the comfort of my hotel room. And what if I’ve got a client who wants to go to dinner? From time to time, I do skip that third Soylent meal and make sure that I eat a low carb dinner and keep the calories as low as possible. But most importantly: I don’t feel like I’ve failed myself or my diet. And that goes a long way.
A recent example of a potentially stressful Soylent mixing situation came up with the HIMSS 2016 conference in Las Vegas. But I rocked the Soylent all week with only a few poor meal choices, all of them at night after a long day. If you know anything about health care, you know that the HIMSS conference is the be all and end all of health care IT/technology conferences, so I’m always excited to represent my company at this event. I spent 3 days in the booth for 10 hours a day and that can be not only physically draining, but also emotionally draining as you have to be “on” all the time and ready to provide answers to a myriad of questions. Stress means I eat like crap. But not this time! I brought my pre-mixed blender bottle and just found an ice station in the exhibit hall and would eat my lunch meal like a champ. And at night, there were always dinners with clients and coworkers, but at least I had begun to break my desire to eat bad food. I found myself not only making better food choices, but I also found that my stomach had shrunk and I was eating much less food!
But what about the TSA? Great question. So I had heard that earlier versions of Soylent would set off radiation detectors, but I’ve yet to have that experience with Soylent v1.5. I’d say that about 50% of the time I get a manual search from TSA and they’re totally cool about it, even going through TSA-Pre Check. Some screeners just wave it through when they see the blender bottle with the scoop and the little ball whisk, and others have no idea what it is. They say they run into this all the time but they still have to check it manually for explosives since powder this dense and in this quantity shows up as a solid on the xray. Fair enough. I’m going through TSA-Pre Check and saving 20 minutes up front, so an extra 5 minutes won’t kill me. Not that I don’t bitch at the agents, but that’s a whole different story.
So my only request of Soylent v1.6 is that they reduce the carb content just a tad. 57g in one serving is way too much, “slow” carb or not. But breaking out the meal across multiple hours seems to help.
PS - is it bad that I absolutely love the taste of Soylent? When I heard it was like pancake batter my first thought was “Heck yeah!”
PPS - My clothes do seem to fit much better despite not having lost much weight.