Fluidstance’s The Level: Crucial or Overrated?

Prelude

I believe it was August when Fluidstance first reached out to me about reviewing their product, The Level. Of course I was amenable and eagerly awaited its arrival. It wasn’t until October that I realized The Level had been shipped to me but then stolen off my front step before I ever saw it. I wrote a post about this theft and The Level generally and Fluidstance generously sent me another one!

I’ve been using it for the past few months. I didn’t want to write a review too quickly as products like this can be so bright and shiny and fascinating when they first come out but as time passes they fall into disuse – just another item to stuff in the closet / garage / attic. Well, it is a New Year and I am ready to report.

It Is All About Me

A photo of someone's feet and lower legs standing on The Level.
Fluidstance’s The Level (Natural Maple), available for $289.

Before I review The Level I need to give you a little bit of context about me. If you already know me, you can skip this section, if you don’t, I think a minute or two of your time will really inform your understanding of my review.

I have a quantity and diversity of ailments oftentimes not seen in someone twice my age. Most of them don’t connect with my review of The Level but a few do. Namely, I have chronic leg pain. These days it is usually low intensity though occasionally it will flare up with a vengeance. Combine this with some knee and lower back pain and I’m a bit of a disaster.

Why does this matter? Because my review comes from the place of someone with chronic health issues and will tend to be informed from that perspective. I hope it will be of use to everyone, but I think it will be especially useful to anyone suffering from chronic pain.

The Presentation

Fluidstance is an Apple-esque company. They don’t make a lot of products but what they do make is top notch in quality and you know this from the moment the box arrives at your door. It is a bit like unpacking an iPhone back in the day before everyone else caught on to how presentation could really affect consumer’s buying decisions.

Inside is a nice sack into which one can insert The Level (to keep it from getting scuffed, wet when raining, etc. I suppose). Then there is The Level itself. It is beautiful with a nicely finished bamboo top and a sturdy aluminum base (I know, sturdy is not the first word that comes to mind when someone mentions aluminum, but this is not your soda can’s aluminum!).

Fluidstance positions itself as an eco-friendly company, something which is especially popular these days, but they don’t just say this. Check their website and you’ll see that the use of bamboo for the wood was chosen because of it’s abundance and renewable nature. The base is recycled aluminum made in a solar-powered facility. Even the finish was chosen due to its low emissions.

 

I like the company culture this seems to express. Fluidstance’s serious commitment to the environment makes me feel that they are concerned about more than making money (not that there is anything wrong with making money, we all gotta eat, sleep, and play) and makes me optimistic that they will steward well in other areas – e.g., genuinely helpful customer support, pride in the quality of the product, and actually caring for their employees.

The Quality

The Level is a solid product. There is no planned obsolescence built in! Seriously, I believe this product will last years – assuming you don’t light it on fire, allow your dog to repeatedly chew on it, submit it to a world’s strongest man crushing objects competition, etc.

You’d think that a product like this, which has a decent amount of weight placed on it day in and day out and which has someone standing on and scuffing around it would begin to deteriorate. Other than a  few cosmetic scratches on the bottom of the aluminum base (which is wobbling around while you stand on it and which may have come via other means – e.g., me not being the best at occasionally moving through doorways or hallways without bumping into them) it looks as good as the day I received it.

Does It Work?

We know its beautiful and responsibly manufactured, but does it work? The short answer is yes, the longer answer is yes, and especially for me (and you?) with chronic pain.

I bought a sit/stand desk because in addition to being healthier than sitting and burning more calories I experienced significant flares in my chronic pain if I remained in any one position too long.[1] It worked, but not as well as I had hoped. I couldn’t stand for prolonged periods of time either without the pain flaring, so I had to spend more time going back and forth between sitting and standing than I wanted to.

Then came The Level. I was worried at first it was just a placebo effect, but it has been lasting. I can stand for much more extended periods without causing significant flareups in my legs (primary pain point), knees (secondary), or lower back.[2]

These days I’m likely to do 2.5 to 3 hrs. standing before I need a break. Previously there were times where the pain began to flare almost instantaneously and it was certainly significant within 1.5 to 2 hrs. These days I might even go 4 or 6 hours standing at one time.[3]

The Level keeps my legs moving a little bit all the time and, if I begin to feel some tension (or for the fun of it), I can increase the amount of movement significantly, all while still working productively.

Found Out the Hard Way

When I first received The Level it didn’t move much and I was surprised. It isn’t a tricky experience meant to throw you on your back, but I did expect a bit more movement. Ends up this was entirely my fault. I had one of those rubber mats one stands on to relieve foot/leg/knee pressure incurred standing on a hard floor. I knew The Level wasn’t supposed to be used on smooth floors (too slippery) but I figured that a rubber mat would serve the same purpose on my hard floors as a throw rug/carpet[4]. I was WRONG. Once I started using The Level on a carpet I experienced a significant (though not unpleasant) increase in motion.[5]

Unless you only want The Level to move only when you move (e.g. it will move when you shift body weight) and not a sort of constant, fluid motion  – use carpet!

Price

The Level isn’t an inexpensive product. The American-Made Level (Bamboo) I was sent retails for $389. Not the sort of money one drops without consideration (at least, not that I do). There are lower priced models available – The American Made Level (Maple with Walnut Finish) for $339 and the American-Made Level (Natural Maple) for $289, but these are still not your bargain-value prices.

As you consider whether this is something you should invest your money in, let me provide a few questions for consideration:

  1. Why would I buy this product? Is it because its new and cool looking or because I’d actually use it?
  2. How much of my life is spent at a desk? Lifehacker once recommended spending your money where your time is spent – and I think this is grand advice. Most of us spend a lot of time at our desk most days!
  3. Could this help with any ongoing health issues I have?
  4. Would this help me significantly increase the amount of time I spend standing rather than sitting?

If you decide to buy something like The Level the next question is whether you should actually buy The Level or should go with a less-expensive competitor. A few questions for consideration on that front:

  1. What is the difference in price between The Level and the competitive product I’m looking at?
  2. What is the quality of the two products? Am I getting more product quality for the extra price of The Level?
  3. What is the reputation of the company? Do they care about their customers? Do they care about this product? Will they be around next year?

Personally, I’m a fan of the middle-of-the-road approach. I don’t need luxury, but I also know that buying cheap oftentimes means buying repeatedly. I’d rather spend a bit more upfront to get a quality product that is going to last than one that will need replacement or repairs.

For me, time is my most valuable asset, not money. If the competitive product will last five years but need to be repaired twice and this takes me 1 hr. each time to call the manufacturer, secure an RMA, go to the post office, etc. – how much is that time worth? This is not necessarily what you are paid, but what you believe inherently is the value of your time. Is your time worth $10, $30, $50, $100, $250, an hour? Factor in the time you are likely to spend maintaining the lower quality product. Is the price once you include your time still lower for the competitive product? If not, you know what to do!

Conclusion

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, The Level is a worthwhile investment. Yes, it makes me cringe a bit to think of buying something so simple for so much[6] but if I divide the cost by the number of days I’ll use it this year it becomes much more reasonable. How many days do we work in a year? Lets say 240. Now we are talking about paying $1.20 per working day for this convenience if we purchase the lower end Level. If we purchase the highest? $1.62/day. Pretty reasonable for a product that will probably last years.

The Level does what it promises – helps one maintain motion even while standing at a desk and thus relieving pressure on the body. For me, personally, I see reduced pain in my legs, knees, and back from using The Level.

What do you think? I’m eager to hear from everyone but would be especially interested to hear from anyone else who is using The Level and has chronic health issues and whether it helps with these. Am I unique in experiencing some relief?

 

  1. [1]Sometimes the pain can get bad after ten or fifteen minutes, definitely if I try to do seated desk work for more than one day in a row I’ll end up somewhat incapacitated by the end of the second day.
  2. [2]I generally don’t notice back pain, unless my leg and knee pain is really low. Its sort of that, “Your head hurts? Let me smash your foot with a hammer and your head will feel much better” gag.
  3. [3]Not usually and this includes perhaps attending a meeting which is sit-down and walking around the office, to the bathroom, etc…You know, normal stuff.
  4. [4]Is there a difference, I don’t feel like asking Master Google at the moment.
  5. [5]Besides the placebo effect, this was another reason I’ve taken a while to write this review. Once I realized I was sabotaging The Level I wanted to spend some time using it correctly before reviewing.
  6. [6]Okay, if you haven’t caught on to this yet, I grew up quite poor.

Fluidstance and the Thief

Occasionally folks reach out to me with a product or service they would like for me to review – Fluidstance was one of said companies. They told me they were shipping me The Level so I could put it through its paces. I eagerly anticipated its arrival…and I waited for it…and I waited some more.

As time passed I figured they must have decided not to send me The Level after all…maybe they decided my blog wasn’t getting enough traffic, maybe they had run out of units to send out to bloggers. I was giving up hope.

Then I received a followup email asking how things were going with The Level. I was confused. Wait, you sent me The Level? When? FedEx delivery confirmation shows that the package was successfully left on my doorstep nearly a month ago. Gahh!

Photo of legs standing on Fluidstance The Level

This is the first time I have ever had mail stolen off my front porch (at least that I am aware of) and it sucks. I was really looking forward to giving The Level a try.

I find my knees begin to hurt after a period of standing at my desk and I have to revert to sitting and I hoped that using The Level might allow me to spend longer periods at a time standing.

So, it sucks for me, but it also sucks for Fluidstance, since they sent me a moderately expensive product for review and I can’t review it because someone stole it.

As a poor substitute, I’ve compiled some resources together below to help those who are interested in learning more about The Level do so.

Gahhh! I just went through the first forty results in Google for “fluidstance” to garner the above reviews and now I am even more disappointed than before. Without exception, every one of the reviews I found in those first forty results where positive!

“But Dave, you should have Google ‘fluidstance review’, that would have given you better results.” You are so right, so I did and found the following:

Well, no, those additional reviews don’t make me feel any better about having mine stolen before I ever laid eyes on it.

Soylent 2.0: A Better Meal Replacement?

A Little Background

I enjoy eating sometimes but oftentimes it is more of a chore. Unfortunately, eating is a necessity if I want to be healthy, energetic, productive.

Soylent 2.0 being poured into a glass.
Photo of Soylent 2.0 from official Soylent site.

I’ve written about Soylent, a meal replacement drink, in the past here and here. I’ve tried other meal replacement drinks like RAW Meal and Shakeology (also here and there, and up there and down here).

I’ve written about and regularly consume Ensure, I don’t care that I’m not the target audience.

When Soylent started out (and when I first began consuming it) it was a powder which one mixed with water and then added some bottled oils to. It only took two or three minutes to make a days worth and I thought it tasted decent – much less grainy than either RAW Meal or Shakeology – but much more grainy than Ensure.

I Try 2.0

Recently Soylent announced and then began shipping Soylent 2.0 – which comes bottled similar to Ensure. Now there is no prep time, just take a bottle out of the fridge. I purchased my first twelve pack and have consumed them all. I’ve now upped my order to 24 monthly, which will cover almost one meal a day. I expect, if I continue to like it, I will up my order to perhaps 48 bottles/mo., which would make almost two a day.

While I didn’t have a problem with the old Soylent’s taste, the new Soylent is significantly better. It tastes and has the texture of almond milk.

At first I thought I would need to mix something with it to drink it with great consistency and I tried some chocolate syrup as well as some V8 juice – the latter worked rather well. But as I have continued to drink it I find my taste buds developing more and more of a liking for it and I don’t see myself needing to mix anything else into it.

Why Else I Like Soylent

Besides Soylent providing me an alternative to meals there are a number of other techie reasons I like them.

First, their recipe is open source and this has resulted in a cottage industry producing similar products. I’m a huge fan of open source.

Second, they provide release notes with each version as well as providing detailed blog posts about why they do what they do and when problems arise. I am especially fond of the latter.

Third, they are constantly iterating on Soylent. 2.0 is great, but I’m sure 2.1 will be better!

But Dave…

“But Dave, this can’t be as good for you as eating real, organic food for meals.”

You are absolutely correct – thing is, I don’t eat real, organic food for meals. Soylent is a healthier alternative to a lot of the standard American diet / standard Dave diet. So, while not perfection, it is a step in the right direction…

And I won’t stop eating real food altogether. In fact, I may eat healthier the rest of the time b/c I am drinking Soylent. I always feel so time constricted – so much more I want to accomplish in a day than I can – if I feel a little less time constricted I may be more willing to invest in a meal (no promises, but hey, it’s possible!).

What You Didn’t Know About Canceling Your Health Insurance Through Healthcare.gov

I recently moved into a new part-time position which then became a full-time position and thereupon provided benefits including health insurance. Up until that point Sheila and I had been being hit with fairly large insurance premiums every month, so I was quick to call the insurance provider and request cancellation.

I was surprised when they told me that I’d have to contact Healthcare.gov to cancel my policy. Annoying, but not the end of the world and my guess is it is an accountability measure to ensure that insurance companies don’t cancel policies of individuals without their consent.

I called Healthcare.gov (1-800-318-2596) and asked to cancel my plan effective the 19th of June. I was assured this would be done. Great! I figured I’d have a nice partial refund check sent to me in a few weeks time.

I did receive mail from the insurance company – but it wasn’t the check I had been expecting. Instead I received a bill for July’s premium.

I called Healthcare.gov back and was informed that there was a thirty-day period between when they received a cancellation and when they submitted it to the insurance company. I balked. Thirty days? This should happen (and technologically is feasible) instantaneously!

I pushed back a bit and when they stood firm I acquiesced on one condition – they provide me with documentation of the thirty-day period. At this point I was given a case worker and then I waited to hear anything. Eventually I did hear – they had rolled back my insurance cancellation date to June 30th. This meant I no longer owed the insurance company anything but also that I would not receive a refund.

Today I called in again and was told that there was a 14 day waiting period. That they were sorry I hadn’t been told this before I canceled.

I again request documentation for this new shorter period. They suggested there might be some on the website…I found it: Cancel your Marketplace plan.

I could have canceled 14 days before the actual date I wanted the cancellation to occur if I had known about this 14 day period. I’m sure this may have been tucked away in some long-winded legalese that I reviewed at some juncture or another. I’m not happy about it, but it is a real policy.

Screenshot of cancellation policy for Healthcare.gov
Here is a screenshot of the cancellation policy as found on Healthcare.gov

The reason I share all this is to hopefully help others avoid losing out on premium refunds or being billed after their desired cancellation date.

Subscription Snacks: Graze vs. NatureBox

I like subscriptions. My razors are by subscription, for a while my toothbrushes were by subscription. I’ve also subscribed to Soylent in the past and plan to again once 2.0 is released in October.

So what about snacks? Recently both Graze and Nature Box provided me the opportunity to try one of their boxes free.[1]

I’ve had three boxes of Graze now and just received my fourth. I’ve received one box of Nature Box. Here are my thoughts…

NatureBox

My box included Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Stars, Sweet Kettle Crunch, Honey Crunch Crisps, Whole Wheat Vanilla Animal Cookies, and Mini Cocoa Belgian Waffles. This would normally cost $19.95.

Picture of Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Stars
Nature Box’s Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Stars

I loved the fruit stars and kettle crunch. I really enjoyed the animal cookies and waffles. The honey crunch crisps are good, but not my favorite.

The size of the portions are significantly larger than those provided by Graze – and this was actually a problem for me. I’m not the best with portion control, so I like single servings of snacks – that way I can better gauge and control the amount of a snack I’m eating.

In addition, some of the snacks were just too good. The fruit stars and kettle crunch I could easily eat in a single sitting.

I guess what I am saying is, their food is great – but for me personally it isn’t optimal. I am looking for foods that satisfy with fairly small portions and that are divided into single portions.[2]

At first glance one gets a little shock from the pricing. $20 for a few smallish bags of snacks? But if we do a little math we find it isn’t that bad. There are five snacks, so each snack is $4 and each snack has four or five servings, so you are looking at around $1 per serving – the same as you’d pay for a candy bar…but Nature Box offers half the calories and better nutrition.

Graze

There was a problem with my original order with Graze. Somehow I got (and was charged for) a second box before I ever received the first free one. Graze was cool about it though and refunded me for the second box.

Photo of Graze's Fruit and Seed Flapjacks
Graze’s Fruit and Seed Flapjacks

My first box included triple berry smoothie, herby bread basket, honeycomb flapjack, and chili & honey almonds (no longer available). These were all tasty and several of them were quite satisfactory as far as satiating effect.

My second box had jalapeno fiesta, fruit & seed flapjack, hot cross yum, and salsa corn chips.

It was the second box that actually really caught my attention – primarily because of the ingredients. For example, the Fruit & Seed Flapjack contains rolled oats, dried apricots, dried dates, sunflower seeds, raisins, currants, and pumpkin seeds and were delicious!

In my third box I received sesame garlic crunch, vanilla almond granola topper, iced cinnamon bun, and hickory smoked bbq – again, all great tasting!

Again I was impressed by the nutritional quality. My Sesame Garlic Crunch contained canola oil, sesame seeds, oat bran, dried garlic, steamed jasmine rice, soy sauce, and so on. Meanwhile my Vanilla Almond Granola Topper included almonds, pumpkin seeds, barley, coconut, cinnamon, and so on.

This box was seriously about perfect for me as far as being satiating and nutritious. I could list the ingredients from the other items, but you’d just get bored (ohh wait, you already did? sorry!).

I haven’t had a chance to dive into my current and fourth box, but I’m looking forward to it and expect that I will enjoy it as much as the previous ones.

Ohh, and did I mention that while the portions are smaller the price is less $12 for eight single serving snacks – that works out to $1.50 per snack.

Concluding Thoughts

Both Nature Box and Graze make great products and either can be a great fit for you. In my specific use case I’m leaning heavily towards Graze. I like the satiating quality of their snacks (Nature Box probably has more satiating snacks I haven’t explored, but Graze seems to just come with them), the nutritional value, and most importantly – the single serving packaging.

For many years of my life I would have considered this an unconscionable amount of money to pay for snacks…it was still hard for me to shell out this much for a relatively small amount of food (I could buy 12 boxes of Good & Plenties for this same amount!) but I’ve decided that it is a wise investment.

While it may be more expensive it helps me consume less overall and improves the nutrition of what I do eat. I figure, in the long run, the decreased cost in medical expenses will even out for the increased cost.

If you want to get a free Graze box, use this link. Or you can enter the reward code DAVEM6YKP while ordering.

  1. [1]This wasn’t a special offer made to me personally, rather I received coupons or otherwise saw ads, etc. for free boxes.
  2. [2]I’ve thought about getting larger supplies and breaking them down into single serving bags for myself, but for various reasons, including the psychological research that indicates we have a finite amount of willpower, I have decided against that approach.

The Adjustable Standing Desk I Chose

I’ve wanted a height adjustable, sit / stand desk forever. Yes, literally, forever.

In 2012 I wrote an extensive survey of the sit/stand desk field of products and two years later when I still didn’t have a sit/stand desk I updated and expanded my already extensive survey.

Then I never told you about the desk I actually ended up with (thanks to my wonderful wife, Sheila). Well, I’m about to right that wrong.

I ended up purchasing a MultiTable ModTable. Yeah, that is a mouthful…and unfortunately, they don’t own the modtable domain, so go to multitable.com.

I chose to go with ModTable because

  1. Their prices are about as low as you can go for a real, true height adjustable desk.
  2. The reviews I found about the company’s desks were favorable.
  3. They offered a hand crank model.

Wait, I went with a hand crank model? Yup. I thought about going electric and while it was tempting I decided that a hand crank would probably last me many times longer.

This is my ModTable in sitting position.
This is my ModTable in sitting position. Click on the image to see a much larger image of the same.

The hand crank is a simple mechanical mechanism, unlikely to break – whereas electronic components almost always break down eventually. I have hopes that I’ll still be using this desk ten, even twenty years from now.

Because I want to be a hobo (of sorts) someday I went with a Medium top (24″ x 48″) so that it could fit into a travel trailer, etc. without too much trouble.

I splurged and bought a CPU holder ($100). I initially bought a Belkin keyboard and mouse tray through Amazon, but ran into some trouble getting it to adjust correctly (may have been a broken model or may have been my lack of mechanical skill) and returned it. I’ve planned on getting the keyboard/mouse tray from ModTable but just never got around to it.

Even if the Belkin had worked, it would have been a hack job. The metal crossbeam runs under the middle of the desk and most mouse/keyboard trays are made to have their track run vertically and the crossbeam sits firmly astride its desired path.

This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].
This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].

I did not buy the monitor arms. They were attractive but I opted instead for monitors that were height adjustable in and of themselves – which have worked out quite nicely.

I’m supremely happy with the table. The components all seem to be high quality. My only thoughts for improvement are as follows:

  1. Is the central crossbeam necessary? Could there be a model without it?
  2. The manual crank sticks out a bit and is easy to walk into. You can pull it out so that it isn’t in the way, but then you have to put it back in…which is a very minor annoyance, but if there was a way for the handle to fold under the unit, out of the way, that would be amazing.
  3. Could it go a little lower? I’m on the vertically challenged end of the spectrum and technically the height of the table top is still a little too high for me ergonomically….if I ever get around to getting the keyboard/mouse tray that will drop it to the correct height, but, still, it’d be nice to go down to say 25 in?

As far as any suggestions to those who may be considering buying a ModTable themselves, here are my thoughts:

  1. If you aren’t planning on living/working in tightly constrained quarters, splurge for the larger top size.
  2. Make sure to install the CPU holder far off to the side, otherwise you’ll be kicking it when you are sitting down.
  3. Splurge for the CPU holder and the keyboard/mouse tray off the bat.

Let me conclude by talking about expense. I’m used to owning used desks or pressed board desks – the kind you can pick up fairly inexpensively from Walmart, Target, or Ikea. ModTable is inexpensive compared to other height adjustable desks, but it is still expensive for those of us who frequent thrift stores for our furniture needs.

I heard (I think it was over at Lifehacker) that one should invest one’s money where one spends one time – which makes a lot of sense. Spend money on what you use most in life – a bed, a desk, a car, etc. For me and many like me, a desk is one of those things and the extra expense is worthwhile for our comfort as well as for our health.

Soylent: A Viable Meal Alternative?

The Journey to Soylent

On June 27th, 2013 I began anticipating Soylent, talking about Soylent, impatiently waiting for Soylent to become available. I signed up for a week’s supply of Soylent on June 10th and it arrived on July 22nd.

A picture of my box of soylent...and of course, my feet, b/c I'm talented with cameras like that.
A picture of my box of soylent…and of course, my feet, b/c I’m talented with cameras like that.

Inside was a long sheet with instructions…I’m not a fan of the big sheet…What am I supposed to do with this? Unless I hang it on my way there is no easy way to store it.

The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.
The awkwardly long Soylent instructions.

You can click on the above image to see how long the instructions really where, but it would have consumed too much space on the page for me to embed the image here.

Next we had the bags of Soylent and the bottles of oil. You can see a picture below.

What came in the first Soylent box I received - instructions, oils, and soylent.
What came in the first Soylent box I received – instructions, oils, and soylent.

Theoretically, I should have received a package before this one with my welcome pack – which was to include a stainless steel measuring cup and an airtight pitcher as pictured below:

Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.
Stainless steel measuring cup from Soylent.

 

The Soylent pitcher - yes, it is BPA free.
The Soylent pitcher – yes, it is BPA free. Ohh, and mine doesn’t look like this, the main body is clear, the handle and lid are green, and it is entirely unbranded by Soylent…I think there is a name of some other company on top…

But I hadn’t and I didn’t for quite some time. I attempted using some of my own implements to make Soylent but had mixed successes. If this was what Soylent tasted like, I wasn’t going to stick with it. After a few tries I decided I would just wait until my welcome package came.

Ohh, and yes, I sent an email reporting the missing welcome package on the 23rd and of course received the usual automated reply the same day. It would be August 9th before I would receive a reply from Soylent and then to be informed that “I have forwarded your concern to our shipping department…” Then silence. Finally, on August 18th I received an email informing me that my starter kit was on its way.

Okay, that is a pretty ridiculous wait…the organizational side of Soylent has been extremely underwhelming…I’m not sure all of what happened behind the scenes, but, honestly, I don’t care that much if Soylent is good and works and if they learn from their mistakes – which, it seems (I hope), they are doing.

On a side note, the disorganization worked out to my advantage as I received a second shipment of Soylent by accident and when I asked what I should do with it they told me to keep it. I was pretty happy about that (though I feel bad for folks who ordered far before me and way more and still have not received their Soylent).

But How About It, Is It Good?

Now that you have heard about the nightmare of procuring my Soylent, lets talk about Soylent itself. It is a very fine mix and comes in bags that each contain three meals. I found trying to make Soylent in smaller portions to be a hassle – not only because of measurements and so on but because the powder is so fine that it puffs up into the air and lands everywhere while scooping.[1]

In any case, I moved to making a whole packet at a time and it was so much easier. Okay, I know for those of you who cook, you are rolling your eyes – and yes, in the distant past I did sometimes cook – but the whole point of Soylent is to save time and improve nutrition.

Making Soylent was now simple – pour in the powder, add a bottle of oil, and then fill the rest of the pitcher with water. Screw on the air-tight cap[2] and shake for around sixty seconds. Place in the refrigerator, remove when ready to consume, shake for five to ten seconds, then pour yourself a glass and enjoy.

Soylent tastes a bit like a milk shake. It has a pleasant flavor, though one I can’t place. Compared to any other powdered drink (Shakeology, RAW Meal), the “graininess” is almost non-existent.

It tastes good, the texture is good, and its easy to make – sweet! Another surprising and positive note is that it uses water not milk or a milk substitute and yet tastes better than Shakeology with (in my case) almond milk! Seriously, if you didn’t see the batch mixed, you’d swear it had to have a dairy base.

So, I like my Soylent and I intend on continuing to consume it. Right now I average two meals a day of Soylent and one meal elsewise. I allow myself to eat whatever I desire for that third meal – but my cravings for unhealthy foods seem to have lessened somewhat (not completely).

Should you get Soylent? Sure. Just be prepared to wait a bit. I think organizationally they are getting there, but with the delays initially as well as the huge demand, and then the ongoing demand for resupplies, it is going to be a while before Soylent is working smoothly.

A Few Importantish Notes

It Goes Bad

One of the great things about Soylent is that it lasts forever (hyperbole) in powder form. Something I didn’t realize until I received my Soylent is that once it has been mixed with water it needs to be consumed within two days. Apparently due to the nutrient richness of the drink, even while being refrigerated bacteria multiply quickly. I would like to know more about the health implications of this.

I oftentimes eat food far past its expiration date – especially dairy alternatives (almond milk, soy milk) and don’t have any problem…so I’d probably ignore this warning except after posting on the forums I learned that the bacteria make the taste go bad quickly – so its not just filled with bacteria, it tastes nasty too.

Still, I’ve been consuming Soylent over a two to may three day period and haven’t experienced issues thus far…and making it in this size batch saves me from measuring, etc.

Don’t Forget The Oils!

Each time you use a bag of Soylent you are supposed to add the oils as well – which provide some important aspects of Soylent’s nutrition. Being ADD, I have on occasion forgotten to put the bottles into the Soylent. This doesn’t bother me, but it is a dilemma – what am I supposed to do with these bottles of oil?

Flatulence

There was a lot of discussion of increased flatulence when using Soylent which, it is hypothesized, is caused by the bacteria in our stomachs not knowing how to handle nutritional food and the replacement of some of these bacteria with better bacteria that do consume this food.

I had no intention of mentioning flatulence, b/c I really don’t like talking about it. I was never a fart guy joker…but I must mention it, b/c it radically increases flatulence and it smells horrific.

This goes away after a few days – but my recommendation – start Soylent when you aren’t spending a lot of time with people…and please, give your spouse a break and sleep on the couch…or at least let them sleep on the couch.

What Now?

My plan at this juncture is to continue Soylent 2x daily long-term. We’ll see if I grow sick of the taste…which is very possible.

I haven’t noticed any huge changes in my health, but that may come with time. I also am hoping to get my blood drawn and analyzed every quarter by WellnessFX so I can monitor my health, especially vitamin levels, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Wrapping It Up

Soylent is great – I’m exceptionally pleased with the product itself. The company has some work to do – and seems to be doing it. I haven’t noticed any amazing positive health effects, but I’m hoping over time it works positively. I’ll provide future updates as I’ve been on it longer and can analyze how I respond to the taste with continued consumption and whether I see any health changes positive or negative.

  1. [1]The reason I wanted to do smaller servings was b/c Soylent goes bad after it is made and I wasn’t sure I could consume an entire package of Soylent quickly enough.
  2. [2]I discovered it isn’t really, really, really air-tight. I didn’t have room to put the pitcher standing up in my refrigerator (it is a mini) so I put it on its side – this worked a few times, but eventually it began to leak.

Infographic: Medications That Deplete Nutrients and How to Supplement Appropriately.

WellnessFX, a company I love and have talked about in the past, has released an infographic highlighting six medications that can deplete nutrients in one’s body. The medications are antacids, diabetes drugs, statins, antibiotics, antidepressants, and oral contraceptives. Based on which medications one is taking there are different nutrients that should be supplemented – CoQ10, Probiotics, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Magnesium, and Iron. Check out the infographic below for the full picture.

6 Medications that Deplete Your Nutrients and How to Supplement Infographic
6 Medications that Deplete Your Nutrients and How to Supplement Infographic. This infographic thanks to WellnessFX.

Revisiting the Zen Water Vitality 4 Gallon Six Stage Water Purification System

Back in April I wrote about a water purification system I was using from Zen Water. I liked it, but also criticized some design flaws. It has been a few months and I figured I’d recap the issues I saw then, any new issues that have arisen, and give an update on my overall happiness with the product.

If you decide to buy one, use this link. 🙂

Design Flaws

This is a photo of my Zen Water Vitality Purifier.
This is a photo of my Zen Water Vitality Purifier.
  1. The boxing was flimsy and disintegrating.
  2. The unit seemed to be somewhat “dirty” when it arrived.
  3. The instructions were on laminate but included instructions for all models – which was unnecessarily confusing.
  4. There needs to be some clearer warnings about things you shouldn’t (e.g. washing ceramic filter with hot water).
  5. The plastic tanks and lids don’t fit perfectly (potentially allowing little nasty airborne things to get in…). I suggested that either making the components fit perfectly or having the lids slide over instead of sit on the tanks would seal out most bacteria, molds, etc.
  6. The bottom tank is not done with a smooth plastic surface which makes it difficult to tell how much water is left.
  7. The magnetic faucet fields like plastic junk.
  8. Another flaw I’ve noticed is that the faucet tap is placed into the bottom tank sidewall, rather than tapping in under the tank – this means that unless you tip the unit (not easy) some water will always stay in there.
  9. I am unsure what caused this, but the mineral stone container at the bottom eventually got blackish blotches all over it. They washed off simply enough and didn’t appear to be any sort of living organism…my guess is that the minerals tend to accumulate over time on the container.
  10. In a similar way, I’m unsure if this is an issue but there appears to be some sort of clothish filter in mineral stone dispenser and in the filter which I am concerned may be a breeding ground for things…and which seems to be becoming discolored…but isn’t replaceable without replacing the entire component.

Increasing Profitability

One more feature they could add that would significantly increase, imho, their ongoing profits is a notification program for when things should be replaced/maintained. They have the date of purchase, they can then count off (programmatically) the number of days till a maintenance task needs to be performed or the unit needs a part replaced, and then shoot out an email to the owner informing them of this need (and of course including a link to purchase the replacement part).

I imagine a lot of people either continue using the parts long past when they should have been replaced (and are operating at reduced efficiency) or simply set the unit aside and let it gather dust once it doesn’t perform at its highest standards, not bothering to replace parts…at least, this has been my experience with some products and an experience I have observed in others.

So What About It?

I like it. I really wish they would make the changes I’ve recommended above, most of which are really simple. Still, even with these flaws, I haven’t come across another system I’d prefer to have.

What Next?

Next step is in a few weeks to borrow a microscope and take a look at the water pre-filter and post-filter. I’m especially interested to see if there are any creatures living in my water. Haha, don’t worry, I’m sure there are creatures in your water!

Visual Warnings to Self Regarding Sugar

Introduction

I’ve shared before that I have a massive sweet tooth. I don’t particularly like really rich foods (e.g. chocolate on chocolate on chocolate on…ad infinitum) , but I do like candy…umm, lets make that I have an addiction to candy.

Overall, I’ve been doing well with this. I gave myself permission to cheat a little when I go grocery shopping, but primarily I eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, b/c while they still have lots of sugar, they also have other elements that are more filling. I can just continue eating many types of candy all day (slight hyperbole), but chocolate, especially mixed with peanut butter, seems to satiate me fairly quickly.

But yesterday the craving got the best of me…So I decided to find some infographics to print off and post on my wall to remind me of why I want to stay away from sugar…and I figured I’d share what I found.

Fourteen Sweet Facts About Sugar

Infographic made by OnlineSchools.
Infographic made by OnlineSchools.

SugarGram: A Handy Dandy Guide to Candy (and Other Sugary Foods)

This infographic is from visual.ly.
This infographic is from visual.ly.

Your Body on Sugar

There is a really excellent infographic over at Prevention (by TantikaTivorat) entitled “Your Body on Sugar.” I didn’t include it here, b/c unlike most infographics which are meant to be shared (note the way they include links to the creating site in the infographic), this one doesn’t have the same sort of attributions.

A Few Links to More

Here are a few other infographics which were informative but I felt either covered the same ground as the infographics already mentioned or just didn’t impress me enough with the info they provided.

Also, here is an interesting site that compiles tons of stuff regarding sugar – The Truth About Sugar.