Day Four

I said I wasn’t going to mess with the recipe anymore. I lied. But, I had a good reason.

It occurred to me that I was adding quite a bit of cinnamon for flavor, and perhaps I should look at any nutritional concerns associated with that. Turns out that cinnamon is actually pretty high in fiber, but was also adding noticeably to carbs and calories. So I adjusted the other ingredients just a little bit to compensate.

NOW I’m not going to mess with the recipe for a while. Really. I mean it. Besides, this batch is pretty tasty, so why mess with that?

So far, this experiment is going pretty well. By the end of the day yesterday, I was definitely feeling a little hungry. I do think it was actual hunger, not just a desire to eat something. (Although, that was certainly still in there.) I did move 1500 pounds of concrete last night, which may have been a factor.

Sleep has been better the last few nights, too. I can’t say whether or not this has anything to do with ABC, as my sleep has been disrupted by a number of factors lately. Regardless, I’ll take it. Sleep is good.

I’ll be giving the ABC some extra testing this weekend, as I have a couple of large house projects on the schedule. That’ll mean more activity, more calorie burn, and a stronger feeling that I’ve earned a treat of some sort. Usually that treat would take the form of grilled meat on a bun and a beer, but I may have to come up with an alternative.

I’m also debating what to do on Sunday. See, my original plan was for a one-week trial, ending with an actual meal on Sunday night. Then I thought that two weeks would be better. Then I thought maybe I should have a meal Sunday night anyway, to see what effect food has in the middle of the experiment. I’ll probably end up eating a little something. We’ll see how hungry I get installing radiators and pouring concrete.

Day Three

I tweaked the recipe a little bit again, adding some milk and cutting back on the sugar. It’s not quite as sweet as yesterday’s batch, but still much better than Monday’s. I intend to leave the recipe alone for a few days now so that I can start comparing apples to apples.

Some good news: I stepped on the scale this morning, and it reported 238. Now, I was pretty sure I hadn’t lost 5 pounds over night, so I thought I had better recalibrate the scale. After recalibrating, it still showed 238, so I’m going to call that my starting point. It’s not great, but it’s a little better. I’m still hoping that at least the first ten pounds will go quickly.

Overall, I still feel OK. I think maybe possibly I’ve fought this cold back, and that’s mostly a non-issue at this point. I feel a little hungry most of the time, but not too bad. Certainly no worse than what I experienced on Weight Watchers, and about what I’d expect while trying to lose weight. Yes, I could tear through a large pizza and a pan of brownies without blinking, but that’s usually true anyway.

This Friday, November 1, is the Sixth Annual Powderhorn Empty Bowls, and it will be the third year that my family and I have volunteered. In short, it’s a big community meal to raise money for some local food shelves. It’s not lost on me that while I’ve always been an overeater, and I was probably on some sort of diet the last two years while I was there, this year I’m actively trying to condense my eating to a new minimum while raising money to help people who need to eat everything they can get. Maybe a little perspective will help my efforts.

That also brings me to an interesting aspect of Bachelor Chow that I hadn’t considered prior to my most recent research: its impact on world hunger. Imagine shipping crates of this stuff to a refugee camp. It might not be that tasty, but it’s an extremely dense form of complete nutrition, and it’s slow to spoil. The expense of shipping enough ‘food’ to feed 10,000 people a day would drop significantly. At startup, Soylent is expecting retail price to be around $9/day for complete nutrition, with prices dropping a little if sales go up. If we assume 100% markup, then cost is $4.50/day. If that were manufactured in mass quantities for relief efforts, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that cost could be cut in half to $2.25/day. That’s probably higher cost than rice and beans, but it would be much cheaper to ship and much more complete. Those costs are only likely to drop, too. Imagine starving people not just surviving, but actually getting complete nutrition, growing stronger, getting healthier, and becoming able to contribute to their community again.

Day Two

After three ‘meals’ of ABC yesterday, I decided I really needed to change the recipe. The taste started to get to me, but not as much as the texture did.

So, I revised the recipe. I cut back on the masa and oats so I could add a little sugar and some cocoa powder. I also added a heaping scoop of cinnamon. This is less than ideal, and I’m hoping to continue tweaking to come up with something palatable with little or no sugar added. I think sweetening with milk, fruit, or juice might be the best approach. Maybe a banana.

This morning’s meal was definitely better. I’d still like to switch to a finer oat flour and eliminate the grittiness. Also, I think I’ll try blending in some ice cubes next time for a colder, more shake-like meal.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I need to put some more effort into this recipe. The online tool was a great way to start, and there’s a lot of information on the Soylent website, but there are still unanswered questions. For example, why do so many recipes favor soybean oil? I would think coconut or olive oil would be much better, for both nutrition and taste. I suppose that’s all part of the experiment.

It’s hard to say how I feel at this point. I think I’m fighting a little bit of a cold, which has my neck all stiff and sore, and my throat is a little swollen. That said, yesterday went OK. I wasn’t really hungry, although I did find myself wanting to eat. That’s pretty much my whole problem in a nutshell: I want to eat, regardless of my hunger. I had a bit of coffee with cream and sugar, which added about 75 calories to the day. I’ll probably do the same today, or even a little more.

I keep checking different resources online, and I get wildly varying results for how many calories I actually need in a day. Right now, I’m looking at a range of 1800 to 2700. That’s a difference of one pretty substantial meal. So, I’ll stick with my 1900 plus a few extra in coffee form. I am feeling a little hungry this morning after my first ‘meal’, but I still have some willpower left. I’m guessing I’ll end up somewhere around 2100–2200 calories, but I’d rather start low.

I stepped on the scale this morning, too. 243 pounds. I’m not happy about that; it means I put on about 20 pounds this summer. I’m optimistic that I can drop at least the first ten pretty quickly. Long-term, I’d like to hit an even 200, then fine-tune my weight/waistline goals from there. I’d really like to buy a pair of jeans with the waist smaller than the inseam.


Version 1, ‘Vanilla’ flavored.

Day One

I have a love/hate relationship with food. Basically, I love food so I eat until I hate myself. As a result, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I also have plenty of other health issues: back injuries, foot injuries, insomnia, depression, allergies, headaches, hernias, etc. Many of these are likely related to my weight, and together, they’ve provided me with chronic pain for decades. I honestly have no idea what it feels like to not be in pain.

Over the years, I’ve had varying degrees of success with different approaches to weight loss. Most recently, I spent 18 months on Weight Watchers. WW was pretty effective, and I lost quite a bit of weight. It was very expensive and time-consuming, but it was working. After about a year, though, things started to plateau. Instead of losing weight, I was just getting more and more lethargic. I couldn’t maintain my energy levels anymore, which made exercise nearly impossible. For the last six months I was on WW, I gained about ten pounds and felt terrible, so I quit.

Now with two small children in the house, I’m finding it harder and harder to incorporate exercise into my daily life. I take a yoga class once a week, most weeks. I was walking pretty regularly, taking the kids out to the park, that sort of thing, but rarely did I get my heart rate up for any extended period. At best, I was getting just enough exercise to maintain.

I got myself a Nordic Track with the absolute best intentions of getting up early in the mornings and putting in some time on it. Seriously. Then, the day after I got it set up in the basement, we had to empty the attic for roof repairs following the big storm in June. Now, my Nordic Track is completely surrounded by boxes of crap that haven’t been opened since we moved into this house.

All of this is a long-winded way to say I’m at my wits’ end. To date, I have not found a combination of diet and exercise that works for me. I’m still gaining weight, and I still feel terrible all the time. It’s time to try something totally new.

I had an idea many years ago for People Food. Basically, something like pet food with complete nutrition for humans, and one could simply adjust the quantity for their own personal caloric needs. I wasn’t the first to come up with the idea, but now food science is getting pretty good at it. Enter Soylent.

See, a whole bunch of people had the same idea, and started discussing it on the internet. They started their own recipes, sharing tips, and comparing notes. Some started calling it soylent, after Soylent Green. Others went with Bachelor Chow after Futurama. Whatever you call it, it comes down to the same thing: all your basic nutritional needs with as little extra as possible.

A couple other guys had the same idea, but they went to college, got fancy degrees, and started making it for real. They had an insanely successful crowd-sourcing campaign, and are about to start manufacturing this product. They’ve also teamed up with the homebrewers to share refined recipes to make at home. Now there’s a website to help you create your own recipe. So I did.

ABC (Andy’s Bachelor Chow)

My target is 1900 calories a day. My recipe is tweaked to be slightly higher in protein and slightly lower in fat than the US Government recommendations. 1900 calories is probably a little light for a guy my size, and I may need to bump that up as I go. Or, I may just decide to eat a banana every morning or something.

Now, I’m committing to this for two weeks. I’m separating my biological need for fuel from the pleasure I get from eating. Essentially, I’m giving up food.

I don’t expect to never eat again; this isn’t like quitting smoking. But, I’m hoping to get a grip on my body’s needs and get portion sizes under control. Instead of asking myself how much of something is OK to eat, I can now simply have none. If I do this for a couple weeks, I hope to have a better idea of how much is enough. If it works well, I can continue it several days a week.

I have some concerns with this approach, and I’m hoping to remain flexible enough to adjust as needed while staying firm enough to stick to it. For one thing, I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee lately, and I anticipate some serious caffeine withdrawal over the first few days. I may add a few calories the first few days for a cup of coffee to help ease that transition.

Anyway, today is day one. I just finished a big glass of ABC for breakfast. It was… different.

The flavor wasn’t too bad. Mostly, I could taste the corn. It was saltier than I expected. The texture was a bit rough, but I think a finer oat flour (or more blending) would help that. I think I’ll add cinnamon to the next batch, and a bit more water to make it a little thinner. I’d also considering changing the recipe a little to add some milk, which might improve the taste and texture quite a bit. I’ll probably wait on that, though.

If I end up doing this longer term, I think I should seek out some organic, non-GMO masa, since that’s a major ingredient and corn is such a bastardized crop.

Overall, it was bearable. The goal isn’t flavor anyway, but it does need to be something I can handle three times a day.

We’ll see.

[EDIT] Here’s a screen shot of the recipe. Apparently, there’s an issue with Internet Explorer not displaying the grid on the web page. So, here you go:Screenshot from 2013-10-28 15:14:13


A Year of Hell, Part III: Are We Done Yet?

Well, I need to write part III, mostly because I’m preparing for a 7-day/7-part log starting Monday. Unfortunately, I just don’t have a lot to share.

Construction started on the attic a couple weeks ago. A couple guys managed to bang it out in one long day. Everything is jacked back into place, reinforced, and up to code. Now, we’re just waiting for work to start on the roof. Sadly, we’ve had rain or snow almost every day since plans were finalized, so nothing has happened yet.

But, hey, whatever. It’s not my problem now. I won the battle against State Farm, so someone else is getting paid to do all the work. Sure, I’d like to have it done, but I can’t control the weather.

Of course, there’s quite a bit of interior work to be done after the new roof is finished, and I’d hoped to have that done while I could still open the windows. I’m not excited about airing out the house when it’s 10 degrees outside. On the upside, we have a new radiator in the bedroom, and we should have a new radiator in the bathroom by this weekend. It should be much easier to keep the house warm.

Plus, I feel like a total badass when I do plumbing work. There’s something about torches and metal that makes a guy feel like he’s really accomplishing something.

In other news, my schedule could start getting a whole lot easier. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to share details yet, so I won’t. It’s not all that exciting or anything, I’ll just have some more help around the house soon.

We also have a new baby in the family. My nephew was born two weeks ago yesterday, healthy and happy. We got to meet him over the weekend, and had a darn good time. He’s big, strong, and surprisingly alert for one so young.

So, long story short (too late), things are looking up. I could still use some more sleep, more money, and a social life, but now maybe I’ll at least have shot at those.