Day Fourteen, Part II

OK, I split day fourteen into two posts. I received a few questions that I’d like to answer, but I want to be very clear that perhaps this post is not for everyone. So, here’s your warning:

This post deals with the digestive effects of ABC, specifically, elimination. There will be no other topics discussed here, so if you don’t want to read about it, don’t read any further.

Really.

I’m going to write about poop now, so you’ve had your warning.

One thing no one tells you about becoming a parent is how much time you spend talking about poop. Did she? Didn’t she? Quantity? Texture? Any gas? Well, the same holds true when starting a drastically different diet. Will I? Won’t I? Quantity? Texture? Any gas?

The first couple of days, I didn’t notice much difference. My urine turned fluorescent yellow from all the extra B vitamins, but that’s no surprise. Around day three or four, quantity started to taper off, and things got harder. I changed the recipe a little, adding a bit more fiber.

Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to help. That’s when I started thinking about the benefits of roughage over powdered fiber. I also kept a close eye on the iron content of my recipe, as I was getting about 300% of the RDA at that point. I made some changes and got that under 200%, which should be a fairly safe level.

One big advantage I can see to a manufactured Soylent would be the elimination of so many extra micronutrients. Yes, I could probably make a much more complex recipe and take care of some of that, but frankly, my recipe is already more complex than I want it to be. I’m pushing the limits of convenience as it is.

The only thing that really helped was adding a little food. When I had my first “meal” on day seven, things were much improved on day eight. The same was true a couple days later when I didn’t get my ABC and got Chinese carry out instead.

I don’t think the constipation was too severe, as a single meal was enough to set things right pretty quickly. Quite frankly, I really wouldn’t want it to get much worse than it did. To stick with Futurama, I felt like Nibbler generating dark matter: dark, hard, and just big enough to be uncomfortable.

So, long story short, my ABC recipe led to moderate constipation. I would guess that the longer I stayed on this recipe exclusively, the worse it would get. I would not recommend more than a week on this recipe without some leafy green vegetables.

Many users have reported gas problems, too. It seems the oats are the main culprit, but I personally did not have that problem. If anything, I was less gassy than usual while on ABC.

So, there you have it.

Day Fourteen

An internal monologue that will never happen in my world:

“I’m hungry. I think I’ll have a cup of soup, and maybe a slice of bread.” [Eat soup and bread.] “Wow, that was so fulfilling. I doubt I’ll have any desire to eat again for 4–6 hours.”

I guess that’s how some people function most of the time, and how they maintain a healthy weight. That’s probably how I should function, but I cannot envision an existence in which that is true.

I’m starting to rethink my entire attitude toward weight loss. It’s not easy. I’ve always thought of weight loss as a destination, and upon arrival, I’d just have to be cautious not to gain back too much weight. As long as I remained vigilant, I could catch the weight gain early, when I had five extra pounds instead of 80.

Then I read this article, and it tied in perfectly with what I’ve been contemplating the last few days: What No One Tells You.

As I made my way through this two-week experiment with ABC, I kept bumping the calories down a little further and a little further. I became more aware of the ‘extra’ calories I was getting from a cup of coffee here and a cracker there. I kept an eye on the scale, assuming that my weight must be dropping, because I was eating next to nothing. Gradually, I started to realize that this isn’t about making healthier food choices or cutting a few calories, this is about a complete lifestyle change.

There is no diet plan that will allow me to feel full while achieving a healthy weight. It will never happen. I will either be hungry or overweight pretty much the rest of my life. Sure, there will be brief moments in which I eat something and feel completely fulfilled afterwards, but they will be few and far between.

Maybe this is short-sighted of me. How can I predict the rest of my life with such certainty? Well, I can’t. But I can tell you that after 25 years of chronic pain, I feel pretty confident that I will continue to be in pain for the rest of my life. If, by some chance, that pain were to stop, I honestly don’t know that I’d even recognize the sensation. After fighting a never-ending battle with my weight, I feel pretty confident that will continue, too.

Maybe I’m being shallow. How can I complain about my weight when others are starving? Well, I can. I can complain, because my weight has been literally crushing me for years. I can complain, because every time I try to talk to a doctor about it, I’m branded fat, lazy, and too stupid to even be believed. I can complain, because I’ve spent countless hours and dollars on this problem, and I have yet to find a solution.

Maybe I am being lazy. Why don’t I just get off my ass and get some exercise once in a while? Well, I’ve tried. I joined a gym and went swimming every day. I went running, I went biking, I went walking. I’ve done yoga, I’ve done sit-ups, I’ve done aerobics. Now, I chase two small kids around the house all day. In my spare time, I’ve ripped out pavement and built retaining walls and installed windows. I’ve done these things on three hours of sleep; I’ve done these things when it’s below freezing outside. Oh, and not to toot my own horn too much, but I’ve done all of these things while in pain. Some days it’s mild pain, some days I want to cry just from getting out of bed, but it’s all day, every day. I’m not lazy, but I am still fat.

The question remains, what am I to do about it? Well, keep trying, I guess. The alternative is to learn to be happy with things the way they are, and I’m not. My clothes don’t fit, I’m tired all the time, and I generally feel lousy. I’m also not thrilled about the way I look. Maybe that’s vanity, but there it is.

I also don’t feel safe. I’m not getting any younger, and it’s not unreasonable to think I could have some health problems. In my experience, no doctor will even consider the possibility of any illness, condition, or injury in an obese patient. Everything that could ever go wrong is linked solely to my weight. If I ever want to be taken seriously by a medical professional, I have to be thin.

So, I guess I need to be hungry. I need to keep scaling back the calories until my weight starts to drop, and stay there. I need to wrap my head around the idea that if I ever reach a healthy weight, I will still have to battle every day to stay there. I will never be done.

On the positive side, I do think that ABC can help. It’s relatively easily to monitor my exact caloric intake on ABC, so hopefully I can find a number that works for me. I’m still optimistic that ABC can help me learn what an appropriate portion size is, even if it leaves me hungry. It can also help me get balanced nutrition, which was often lacking on other diet plans.

I don’t think I’ll be on ABC all day every day, but I can see me continuing this a few days a week to help maintain balance. I guess I didn’t get the answers I expected from this experiment, but maybe I got one or two that I needed.

Day Thirteen

Not much to report today. I tweaked the recipe again, as I ran out of whey protein and switched to soy. I do expect to be pretty hungry later, as I had a pretty active morning, tearing out more asphalt and cleaning the garage.

Tomorrow will be the end of my initial two-week run. I’m pretty curious to get on the scale again, and see where my weight is at. I’m also planning to do a small portion of ABC in the morning and have a meal at night. Right now, I’m leaning towards a taco salad. I’ve been missing burritos, but I also really want/need a serious dose of lettuce, so that seemed like a good compromise.

I’m also planning to continue this on Monday. I’m thinking every other day, maybe? We’ll see how it goes. There’s a good chance we’ll have enough junk out of the basement that I can get a little exercise, too.

So, yeah, there you have it. I’m not feeling terribly inspired at the moment, but that’s OK. I think I’ll turn off the computer and play with my kids now.

Days Eleven and Twelve

Well, we’re nearing the end of week two. Yesterday was the first day I really felt hungry while on the ABC. I had nothing yesterday but ABC and coffee, so that may be a part of it. I’m still not feeling enthusiastic about the weight loss (or lack thereof) I’m experiencing. I bumped the recipe down again, this time to 1700 calories, and I’d like to add a piece of fruit or something for ‘dessert’ at the end of the day. Even with a piece of fruit and a couple cups of coffee, I should be solidly under 2000 calories a day at this point.

I’m planning to keep nudging the calories down until I see a pretty consistent loss of two pounds a week. If things go really well, I could be under 220 by New Year’s, which would be a new low for me. That would be a nice way to start 2014.

I still feel pretty good about the nutrition levels. The only thing I really feel that I’m missing at this point is roughage. I think lettuce provides something to the body that no powder can. I would definitely suggest swapping a glass of ABC for a salad a couple times a week.

I’m also having a hard time separating the effects of ABC from the effects of extreme sleep deprivation and the effects of stress. I haven’t slept more than a few hours a night in a while. I’m still trying to keep pressure on the contractors to finish repairs, I’m still living in a slowly shrinking house, I have a three-year-old who refuses to sleep, and a one-year-old who is still recovering from a couple of brutal months of teething. The only exercise I’m getting is trips up and down the stairs with a laundry basket.

Still, I’m trying desperately to remain positive. We have a new roof, and it looks fantastic. The new roof looks so much more natural and appropriate, I can hardly remember what the old roof looked like. The front steps are all that is left of the old color scheme, and they look extra terrible now. That project will definitely be higher on the list come Spring. (There’s also one section of fence and the garage to deal with, but those are at least separate from the house.)

I’m also cashing in on the free dumpster that’s still outside to get a head start on ripping out some of the pavement. I’ve stalled on that project for a while, as the cost of hauling off the debris was prohibitive, but with that eliminated, I’m hoping to get as much done as possible before snow flies again. With a little luck, that’ll be done tomorrow. (Actually, I’d love to rip out the whole driveway and start over, but there’s no way I’ll get a new one poured this Autumn. I’ll have to settle for just removing the excess at this point.)

The concrete I poured last weekend looks OK. I poured two new squares, and those turned out pretty well. One got stepped on while wet, so there’s a goofy patch that may or may not set correctly, but I think they’ll both be structurally pretty solid. I also did some repair and resurface work on the apron into the garage, and that didn’t turn out so well. Sadly, it’s a repair of a repair of a repair of a piece that wasn’t done very well the first time. At this point, I’m hoping to buy about 18 more months, at which point I’ll see about ripping out the apron along with the rest of the driveway and doing it right.

So, I’m getting a surprising amount of work done on the house considering it’s already November and we’ve had one small snowfall. I had resigned myself to small indoor projects at this point, but I keep getting a little more done outside.

All I really need right now is a few more hours of sleep each night and a chance to socialize once in a while. Sure, a sack of money and a housekeeper would be great, but I’m trying to stay within the realm of the possible.

What I’m getting at here is that life could be better, but it’s going OK. The ABC is taking care of my physical need for fuel, and it’s really highlighting how much I eat out of stress, exhaustion, and loneliness, and how little I eat out of need. I am a long way from getting that under control, but this experiment seems to be helping.

Days Nine and Ten

So, I’ve definitely had to get a little more flexible with this whole thing. Yesterday was not a good day at our house, and as such, I was not able to stick to close to my plan. I whipped up a batch of ABC, took a sip, then my son flung it across the room. I spent the next hour cleaning ABC off the table, floor, Legos, stuffed monkey, crib, my pants, shoes, socks, and of course, my son. By the time that was done, it was time to leave for school with a quick stop to vote on the way. From school, I went directly to a neighboring polling place to work as an election judge for the rest of the day. By the time I was done with that, it was almost 10:00 and I’d had exactly one sip of ABC to sustain me throughout the day. Call me weak, but after a visit to the grocery store for child-feeding supplies, I stopped for some mu shu pork on the way home.

Today, I still have about 2/3 of a batch waiting for me in the fridge. Rather than try to figure out what to add to make it a full batch, I just tossed in a banana and called it good. Yes, I’ll probably be a little low today, but that’s alright. I’ll probably drink a little more coffee anyway.

Fortunately, this should be the end of my five crazy days. My wife will be home a little later than usual, but otherwise, this is looking to be a ‘normal’ day. Plus, my son got another new tooth (his third in six days) which SHOULD signal the end of teething until the two-year molars come around.

I also revised the recipe again. I know, I know, I keep saying I’m not going to do that, but I actually bumped it down to 1800 calories. I’m still not losing weight, and may have actually gained a little, which is not very inspiring. I still need to do more research into how many calories I should be getting each day. So far, I’m getting estimates from 1,500 to 3,300. Hurray for an overabundance of questionable information on the internets!

I’ll probably change the recipe again here in a couple days, as I’m almost out of whey protein and am going to try soy instead. The protein is the most expensive ingredient, soy is about half the price of whey, and the subtle differences in nutritional quality seem to be applicable only for aggressive bodybuilding. I’d also like to switch to a more natural sweetener, probably honey.

So, I’m not even going to pretend that I’m done fine-tuning the recipe. All these tweaks are pretty subtle, so it’s not like I’m completely changing things daily. I’m just trying to find what works for me.

Days Six, Seven, and Eight

I had a killer weekend, so I didn’t get to write individual posts for each day. I’d love to tell you that today’s post will be extra-awesome to compensate, but I don’t think I’ll raise your expectations like that.

I was able to more or less stick to my intentions for the weekend, which is good. In addition to the ABC, I had a bowl of vegetable soup on Saturday night. On Sunday, I had a half-batch of ABC and a big pile of takeout from Quang. I don’t have exact numbers, but I feel pretty confident that I still burned more calories than I ate.

Unfortunately, both kids opted against sleep last night. Well, OK, they don’t really ever sleep through the night, but last night was especially bad. My wife got about 90 minutes of sleep, I got probably double that. So, today is not pretty. I’m exhausted and both kids are cranky. I spent the whole weekend on house repairs and projects, so now I’m buried in dishes and laundry.

Seems like a perfect time to sit and write, eh?

So, that’s a week. Now that I’ve done this for a week with very little additional food, I have a few thoughts.

First, I can’t see myself doing this every day for any extended period of time. It does seem to be a good way to re-train my body to recognize how much food I actually need, so I’m hoping for easier portion control after this. I already noticed that last night’s meal filled me up a lot more than it would have a week ago, and I didn’t even get any coconut bread.

Second, this approach to nutrition is not very flexible. Most of us have different caloric needs every day. Sure, we all probably maintain a pretty consistent average need, but there’s still a lot of fluctuation. Longer-term, I could see changing the recipe to meet my caloric needs on my laziest day, then add a snack here and there based on the day’s activities.

Third, I like the idea of getting complete nutrition every day. Yes, there’s the obvious side of that, but it also means that when I’m not on ABC, I don’t have to worry a whole lot about nutrition. It’s not license to go crazy and live on milkshakes and nachos, but I don’t have to give much thought to individual nutrients. If I eat even a vaguely balanced diet, I should be fine.

Fourth, this is time-consuming, at least for right now. Right now, I’m paying a LOT of attention to every detail of the experience: monitoring my caloric needs, keeping an eye on my weight, paying careful attention to my body’s signals for any concerns, trying to keep some less common ingredients on hand, and mixing up a batch every morning. Then I write about it. In the short term, this is not more efficient.

In the future, there are some things that could smooth out the whole process for me. A commercially-available product would help, even if it is a little more expensive. It would be simpler, and if done correctly, it would provide an even better balance of nutrition. There should be a lot less waste nutrition, too: the irrelevant overabundance of certain vitamins. Even if I continue to make my own, I could at least settle on a recipe. I could also probably put together a pre-mix of the dry ingredients, so there’d be less measuring each morning. It won’t always be a as much of a hassle as it is now.

But, overall, I’m happy with my first week on this plan. I think I’m off to a good start.

Day Five

Day Five also happens to be the first day of five crazy days around here. More if you count Halloween, which is actually still pretty tame with our eldest only three years old. But, the kids did not want to go to sleep after trick-or-treat, so it wasn’t the best way to start this particular stretch of mayhem.

Anyway, today my wife went in for a half day, then as soon as she came home, I went to training to be an election judge, then we met at Powderhorn for Empty Bowls where we volunteer as a family. Tomorrow, I’ll get up early and start draining the radiators so I can do some more plumbing work, go to my yoga class while that drains, then come back and work until it’s done, no matter how long that takes. Sunday, I’m planning to mix and pour 1500 pounds of concrete, again, working until it’s done. Sunday night we change the clocks, so I have every reason to believe the kids will be up about 4:00 AM with no comprehension of why that’s a problem. Monday will  be a normal day, except that we’ll be driving to Lakeland after my wife gets off work to pick up a new used car, and hopefully get back in time to not screw up the kids’ bedtime (the first one after the time change). Tuesday is election day, and again my wife will go in for a half day at work, I’ll take the kids to school in the morning, then I’ll go play election judge for 8 hours.

Those of you who know me (and I’m assuming that both the people who read this do actually know me) know that I handle stress and lack of sleep with food. Except that right now I’m not really eating. It should be interesting.

I did mix things up a little in the last 24 hours. Last night, I ate two pieces of Halloween candy. I had an ultra-micro-fun-size Snickers, because that was the closest thing to real food in the bowl, and a York Peppermint Patty, because it was a PEPPERMINT F-IN’ PATTY. Tonight, I had some soup and a couple tiny pieces of bread at Empty Bowls. I don’t feel too bad about it, as I biked downtown for training and spent several hours on my feet tonight. The soup was pretty light, too.

Still, it was food, and it tasted gooooooood. I’m having a really hard time separating the joy I took in eating something delicious from the fact that I had every right to be pretty darn hungry at that point. But, I’m not beating myself up over it. My overall calorie intake is still plenty low for the day. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that when things settle out a bit, I’ll change the recipe to add a few more calories.

I’ve also decided that I’ll add a ‘meal’ to Sunday evening. That will mark the end of my first week (well, 6 2/3 days), and also the end of a pretty active weekend. My current plan is to simply make a half-batch of ABC in the morning, then get a bag of Vietnamese deliciousness from Quang in the evening. I’m very curious to see what real food will do to my system after being on ABC almost exclusively for a week.

Overall, I still feel pretty good. I didn’t get much sleep last night, which never helps. My bike ride was fun, but a definite reminder that I don’t get enough exercise these days. I’m hungry, but I think a big part of that is that it’s Friday night, both kids are asleep, my wife is out, and as soon as I’m done writing this, I’m going to park my butt in front of the TV for a while. Hunger isn’t a factor so much as it just seems like a great time for a snack. The last couple hours before bed time is definitely the hardest time for me during this little experiment.

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.

IMAG1191

Version 1, ‘Vanilla’ flavored.