At first, I wasn’t sure what Rebecka would think about the experiment Benjamin and I had in mind.
So I cautiously approached her.
“So—” expecting her reaction to be one of disgust, “—would you mind if I ate nothing but a meal replacement beverage for a whole week?”
To which she exclaimed, “Oooh yeah! Lucien and I are going to indulge on whatever we want for a whole week.”
Clearly, she was more than okay with this little experiment.
I now suspect that she caters to my preferences more than I give her credit for.
But with her excited consent Benjamin and I decided to embark on this stupid journey of ours.
Joylent, the EU equivalent of Soylent, is a full day of balanced nutrition in a powdered food shake.
Unlike things like Herbalife, Juice Plus and Lighterlife which are meal complements, Joylent is intended as a meal replacement.
100% of your daily recommended intake of all essential vitamins and nutrients in a handy shake. It comes as a powder and is mixed with water, creating a drink with a milkshake-like consistency. The idea is that you drink it three times a day and that’s it, 100% of your required nutrition.
No cooking. No cleaning—apart for the shaker. And most importantly, no time wasted.
Because I ordered this a couple of months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find a little something extra in my shipment as well.
A sample of their then Christmas special, Joylent Apple/Cinnamon.
I’m going to save this for Saturday and treat myself to a Joylent breakfast to finish this experiment.
A little more research shows me that in terms of opinions, people on the internet—as people on the internet tend to—have a lot of them.
Some guy said,
This is the future of food. Someone else thinks that,
You [Joylent] have ruined everything that’s good about being alive.
Opinions vary, in other words.
I’ve made my first batch and it’s sitting in the fridge, cooling down, ready for tomorrow. I suppose we will know soon enough on which side I stand.
I will update this entry every evening. Join me again tomorrow, as the experiment
Because I didn’t want my own bias to—pun intended—flavour the results I’ve randomised the order in which I will drink the different flavours. This is also to prevent me from saving the dreaded banana flavour for last. Which I would have regretted on Friday morning.
Day 1, Mango Monday
First up; Mango.
I had read that it’s better if you mix it the night before and cool it in the fridge. Which is exactly what I did.
The texture is—not good at all—like weird fruit juice with chalk.
It tastes and smells like mango, I guess. I quite like mango but my whole body is telling me that this, in fact, is not mango. My body is very confused. I finished my first meal in about 20 minutes and I feel like I have a slight migraine coming on.
I spend the rest of the day feeling a bit shit. Not bad but not great either and the level 2 migraine I got from my breakfast lingers until early evening. After some quick research—fearing the worst—I find a Soylent discussion where other people appear to experience a similar problem.
The suspected culprits; Potassium and Sodium.
Or specifically; my body getting enough, a lot more, Potassium than it’s used to and a lot less Sodium than it’s used to.
It’s that fucking Potassium again. The bane of my life.
So I cheat a little and nibble on three FINN CRISP Original. In part to get more Sodium in me and in part because my jaw is longing to chew something, anything.
Now, truth be told, I get migraines occasionally and I can’t be 100% sure that it wasn’t just another episode.
Having said that.
I’m blaming the Potassium. It’s meant to subside once the body adjust to getting every nutrition it needs and most people seem to only experience it for 1–2 days.
Current joy of living on Joylent: No joy. This isn’t living.
Day 2, Banana Tuesday
Figures. I would get the fucking banana flavour today.
After yesterday’s migraine and the slight nausea that followed I wasn’t very hopeful for today.
Smelling the concoction I had mixed didn’t reassure me in way, shape or form either. Instead I was filled with dread and flashbacks of going to the dentist—and receiving a not-quite-banana flavoured Fluoride varnish.
It wasn’t bad.
Either I’m subconsciously already experiencing Stockholm Syndrome or I have adjusted to consuming sustenance in this sludge form.
Because everything has been fine, I’ve been fine.
Aside for trying to stay hydrated in general, I’m also making sure to drink a large glass of water before and after I’ve had my meals.
Unlike yesterday, I am also secretly farting a lot less today.
And with the least appetising flavours out of the way I’m almost looking forward to rest of the week.
Current joy of living on Joylent: Yeah, this isn’t so bad. I think I can manage.
Day 3, Strawberry Wednesday
After yesterday’s complete success I was hesitant about today.
There are few things in this world whose flavour I enjoy more than pistachios and salty liquorice but strawberry is definitely one of them.
Which meant my mind was playing out various scenarios on how they would have ruined my beloved strawberry forever.
But it was fine.
It tasted like any other strawberry-flavoured candy you can imagine but not quite as sickly-sweet.
The texture remains the same. The morning meal is thicker because I mix it the night before but I’m finding it a little too dissolved and lacking in texture.
Look at me. Two days ago I was complaining about the gritty texture and today I’m complaining about the lack of grit.
Today is also the first day I’m feeling more hungry than bloated. I suppose it’s understandable considering that in my effort to bulk up I’ve become used to consuming ~2300 calories per day.
Joylent only has 2119 calories.
But I’ve been snacking on those three crisp breads since Monday as well, adding a consistent 190 calories to my daily Joylent consumption.
So at a total of 2309 calories I should be fine but I’m still feeling hungry.
To make things stranger I’m not actually feeling any effects of hunger. It would appear that I’m feeling hungry without actually being hungry. Rebecka, who can attest to that I get very irritable from not eating frequently enough, confirmed that I have been perfectly fine.
On a more positive note—and less strange as well—I’m happy to tell you that my secret farting has almost subsided completely.
Current joy of living on Joylent: Doing the Hit The Quan dance whilst singing, “Straw-straw-strawberry motherfucker!
Day 4, Chocolate Thursday
Every time I open a bag to mix the first meal of a flavour I always smell it. And every time each flavour smells faintly of the thing they’re trying to replicate.
Not chocolate though.
Chocolate wanted to be different and decided to smell like horse feed instead.
Which I suppose would be great.
If I was a horse. Or if I liked the smell of wet hay.
But I’m pretty nay on the hay.
I sat for at least 15 minutes contemplating whether I should leave this terrible joke in or not.
But despite it’s less than appealing smell, the taste was okay. It didn’t taste much like chocolate though but more like a very diluted powdered milk chocolate drink.
Truth be told, I’m almost beginning to feel a little bad for how uneventful this whole experiment has been. No vomiting. No explosive diarrhoea. No constipation.
Both Rebecka and I thought this would be more difficult, more—I don’t know—more, something, anything.
Instead, I’ve been perfectly fine.
I’m beginning to suspect the good people at Joylent are on to something. Maybe there’s merit to the idea of fuelling my body with exactly what it needs.
Just to make things more exciting, if I had any extra bags I would totally mix them all together and create the Ultimate Joylent. But as they’re designed to be the exact amount, no more or less, I don’t have any extra powder.
Current joy of living on Joylent: I could live like this forever, but would I want to?
Day 5, Vanilla Friday
Today was a trial by fire.
I had an interview up in Cambridge in the afternoon. Now Cambridge itself is only an hour north from London. But given that we’re an hour south of London and I had to take 2 trains, 2 buses and an underground to get to my destination, I knew that sitting down to enjoy a lunch was going to be unlikely.
But none of this matters, right?
After all, I am Joylent-powered Man!
I do not suffer the plights of mere mortals.
Or so I hoped—but really I was fearing the worst.
See, I don’t just get irritable from lack of food. I get tired, unfocused and generally unpleasant as a human being. If I’m ever annoyed, just feed me and I’ll probably be fine.
Nowadays, to still the burning hunger I always bring some Nakd Strawberry Crunch Bars with me when I travel. And I had three in my bag.
I wanted to see what the effects of Joylent would be like during a stressful situation.
I had a Joylent shake for breakfast at 09:00 in the morning before I left and because I couldn’t find a spot to sit down and relax enough, I didn’t manage to eat anything else until 17:00, when I had my second Joylent meal.
But instead of becoming a less scary version of the Hulk, I was fine.
No, I was better than fine, I was completely unfazed. I was Joylent-powered Man!
I was surprised.
It works. At least for me—and I suppose many of the people who have tried it.
But let’s not forget about the flavour itself. What did the vanilla taste like? In short, it tasted like vanilla.
In fact, this one tasted the most like how I imagined it should taste. It’s still not my favourite flavour—which I will rank tomorrow—but definitely palatable.
Right, see you tomorrow for the conclusion—and the bonus Apple/Cinnamon flavour.
Current joy of living on Joylent: I AM THE UNSTOPPABLE JOYLENT-MAN!
Let’s get the flavours themselves out of the way before I go into the pretentious conclusion.
Apple/Cinnamon was surprisingly nice. Not a flavour I would like to drink often because it tasted too much—a weird complaint I know but when drinking something like this, at least I, really want flavours that are bland enough to never get bored of them.
Apple/Cinnamon simply wasn’t bland enough.
And what about the other flavours?
Well, in a M. Night Shyamalan-like twist, banana ranked higher than I would have expected. God damn you banana.
At first, I wasn’t sure what I would think of Joylent.
Would I be able to drink it at all? Would I vomit profusely?
Would I receive magical superpowers and begin a long and successful career of crime-fighting?
As it turned out, the answer was a disappointingly, “neither”.
And as we reach the inevitable conclusion of this experiment of mine, I feel like I should have something profound to share.
It has been interesting to remove myself from the very intimate relationship most of us share with food and the act of eating. I quickly fell out of the routine of all of the things we have to do to eat. And with a strange detachment and curiosity I found myself noticing people eating.
When you start to look at it, eating isn’t just about nutrition and survival—though they’re also important—it also has this enormous cultural significance. Wars have been fought over food. Kings have eaten themselves to death.
Food for many is a religious experience. Heck, as I write this, Lent is being observed and has been for a couple of weeks already.
During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. Lent in Western Christianity, Wikipedia
Because, as it turns out, eating is a pretty big deal.
And whilst I now know that I could eat Joylent for the rest of my life and probably feel pretty fucking good because of it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to.
I would miss sitting down together to eat. I would miss the aphrodisiac feeling of all the different textures, flavours and smells food has. I would miss making food.
I would miss humanity.
But you know what?
I could see myself eating Joylent when all these other factors didn’t matter as much. Some days we just need to get shit done and eating gets in the way of that. For those days, Joylent is the perfect answer.
Final joy of living on Joylent: It depends on what you’re after. I give it 5 out of 5 Marty McFlys but results may vary.
Joylent isn’t and doesn’t try to solve any world hunger problems. Its mixing and drinking requires access to clean drinking water, something which many parts of the world don’t have and I would be remiss not to mention that as the world’s population grows our problem of feeding everyone is only going to increase. It’s already at an unsustainable level and we’re wasting resources by e.g. raising cattle which is why looking at alternative sources for protein and other needed nutritions are a worthwhile endeavour.
But Joylent, in its current form, is not the answer to this.
I am incredible privileged to be able to try this but many people don’t share this privilege and we should try to solve their problems before we solve mine.