Guest blog post by Victoria Princewill
What is Soylent?
Invented in 2013 by Rob Rhinehart as a way to cut down on food prep and increase productivity, Soylent is a meal-replacement product that comes in the form of a drink, a powder or a bar. Each bottle offers 20% of the recommended calories, vitamins and minerals required daily for sustenance.
The product is not merely a meal replacement, it serves as the optimal meal replacement. Rhinehart himself, following a thirty day experiment, reported improvements to energy, skin, blood sugar and cognition and if the avid community of loyal subscribers and the $100m valuation are anything to go by, Soylent may well prove to be the future of food.
Why does it matter?
Proponents of Soylent argue for its efﬁciency — it saves people time, allowing them to be more productive during the day. They point to the pricing, noting that its cheaper that regular meals and also note its health beneﬁts. There is no guarantee that the average individual is going to get their recommended daily nutrients in their every meal but Soylent is made to measure just that.
Given America’s rising obesity culture, Soylent seems like the ultimate antidote. Rob Rhinehart, the engineerturned-founder, touted this as a potential cure for world hunger. So, more than just a healthy fad for Silicon Valley’s techies, this could become a solution to international food problems.
What are the drawbacks?
There are practical and emotional arguments that Soylent’s detractors propose. From the practical side, critics point to the heavy ﬂatulence caused by the early versions and the intense vomiting caused by the most recent Soylent Bar.
They argue that Rhinehart is not a nutritionist and his lack of expertise in the area shows. On the emotional side, critics claim intangible beneﬁts can be found in preparing or eating a meal together and that Soylent is either a tool for the single, or one that pushes people apart. Rhinehart’s response to the practical issue has been to refund the users and recall the Soylent Bars.
As part of their brand’s ethos, they have proceeded with transparency, informing their users as to the cause of the sickness and the resolutions they propose. In tackling the emotional issues, Rhinehart has been quick to argue that Soylent need not replace all meals.
He claims Soylent would guarantee that meal-sharing became a form of connection, an act that allowed people to spend time with each other whilst Soylent served as a tool of efﬁciency to minimise distractions when doing work. Nevertheless, many people, when blogging about the product, argued that its bland taste and solitary intake was off-putting whilst noting that they felt better, seemed ﬁtter and more focused than they had been before.
We are living in an age of efﬁciency: we use technology to simplify systems and streamline our lives. Perhaps it is natural that we do the same with food — the content is necessary, but the preparations are not.
Whilst there is an argument that Rhinehart is cutting the intimacy along with the cookery, in this era of obesity we need to be stricter about what we eat and why. Perhaps the way forward involves treating mealtime as a luxury and consuming nutrients as a fuss-free fact of life.
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