Food for Thought – A week and a half with Joylent

There was a time when it seemed like there was a war for cupboard space. Growing up there seemed to be an endless supply of cereal adverts all vying for their spot on your table. If the adverts were to believed there was no underestimating the importance of breakfast, especially for a child. The ideal of “a balanced and nutritious diet” was evangelised (although never really defined), and this was the life I led. I had cereal for breakfast every day of the week throughout much of my childhood, and I’ve almost never had a bowl since. My autonomy of eating habits wasn’t really explored until I went to uni. And along with mornings, I mostly gave up on breakfast. When your sleeping habits don’t reflect a day the only relevant definition of breakfast was the literal one. To this day eating as soon as I get up seems alien to me. Short of the occasional full-english at the weekend I often went straight to lunch.

[youtube http://youtu.be/MPZlZz6BEQE]

Today I’m reminded of the espoused philosophy that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day”. This is a statement that I never gave too much thought. And surely if my breakfast is lunch I’ve got the bases covered. However, my experiment with Joylent has brought these habits under closer scrutiny. Does consuming something that is “balanced and nutritious” by design make as much of a difference as nineties cereal adverts would have you believe?

To my surprise starting the day with a sizeable number of liquid calories made a very noticeable difference. Actually, I felt fantastic. I had a smile on my face and spring in my step when before I was bleary eyed. I found myself coherent and more alert, despite my best attempts at sleep deprivation.

My eating habits during the experiment went as I expected. I consumed Joylent in the morning. I found having a large amount easier than I expected, but I still preferred to space a meal’s worth out over an hour or two. I had a normal lunch and half the days I had a normal dinner. The only time I felt really hungry was when I stopped consuming Joylent so I had an appetite for solid food. At first I craved solid food as my brain disassociated the liquid in front of me with its nutritional content, but this went away after a couple days.

I took the weekends off and switching between solid and liquid food was simple and easy, until it wasn’t. Just after a week in I felt like it was rejecting what I put in my body. I had a few swigs as usual and I immediately felt like I wanted throw up. This quickly passed and I was fine for the next couple days, but when it happened a second time I decided to cut the experiment early.

I have two theories as to what could have been the cause. Firstly, the consistency and flavour changes quite a bit depending on how concentrated you make the mix. I preferred it thicker, but I also found this dehydrating and needed to drink more water. So it could have been my preparation. The other theory is that it’s a reaction to something in it, probably the whey. As someone who doesn’t have much dairy, consuming large amounts of whey could have flooded my system with more lactose than I know what to do with.

This is a very disappointing end to the trial, but I consider the experiment a success. I now know that there is a lot to be gained by having a better breakfast earlier in the day, whatever form it takes. During the experiment I didn’t have any energy crashes, I felt like I needed less caffeine and I was more productive. I’m compelled to look into my diet more. Mixing soylent with well prepared meals really increased my appreciation of the latter.

I mostly enjoyed having liquid rather than solids. It required little time or attention and it almost completely eradicated distracting levels of hunger. I would like to give it another go with a different recipe. As I said in the first post, I’d give it more attention to detail. Carbs have been getting a bad rep recently with more and more people are coming around to the idea that it’s carbs and sugars that make you fat, not consuming fat itself. Yet, there are upsides too. I think this diet was more carb heavy than what I was eating before and my energy levels were better for it.

As I was making notes for this post I jotted down the phrase “food for thought” as a pun. I have come out of this experiment without many answers but with a better idea of my preferences and a list of things I want to play with. However, food for thought is what I want. Take those words literally. I like my body weight and this has been one of the main things informing my diet. However, I like being awake, alert and in a good mood. How my diet affects this isn’t something I’ve considered directly in the past (outside of alcohol). But with this much room to improve I’m going to have to explore more.

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