Hi all! Firstly, I apologise for neglecting to respond in good time to the lovely comments on my previous IQS post. Traveling, working and general “mama life” have prevented me from being here
as much as I’d like at all.
As those of you who have read my previous IQS-related posts will know, I own a copy of Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life and it has become a go-to guide/inspiration resource for me when it comes to healthy home cooking, sans sugar. A few weeks ago, I decided to delve further into a fructose-free lifestyle experiment and, along with all the others who signed up for the latest IQS 8-week program, I have just entered Week 3.
In general I am finding the vegetarian version of the program not only easy to follow, but hugely inspirational. Slight concerns I had about the appropriateness of Aussie-developed seasonal meal plans/recipes and their relevance to me way over here in
Winterfell Scandinavia, were completely unfounded. As (bad) luck would have it, the weather here has been even more rubbishy than usual, with frostier temperatures during midsummer than those Australia has been experiencing midwinter. Soups, curries and warming Mexican-inspired dishes have been just the ticket! And really, eating comforting, fresh, veggie-style food is always appropriate, no matter the weather, right? And when it comes to seasonal produce, well, it is the time of year here for certain goodies, such as berries.
Before signing up for the IQS 8-week program, I wondered whether it might merely encompass repetition of information already available online (via Sarah Wilson’s blog, iquitsugar.com, etc.) or in book form. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover the vast majority of recipes are exclusive to the program. That fact in itself makes the program good value, but add to that meal plans, complete shopping lists, hints, tips, webinars, forums, online support and the encouragement of a community of sugar-free fellow participants, and $150 AUD starts to seem a very fair price indeed.
WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING
Carrot Cake Whip- breakfast heaven in a mason jar!
Sweet Fennel and Spinach Soup (I didn’t have beetroot leaves)
Savoury Muffins- gluten-free goodness
Paleo Beetroot and Rocket Risotto- pure genius
Berry Omelette- if you weren’t convinced about IQS, you will be now!
I Quit Sugar shares Sarah Wilson’s picks for the week… and there I am… well, my quesadillas are
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas- if you like Mexican flavours, you’ll love these!
Mushroom and Black Bean Chilli- my vegan version… with extra chilli
Paleo Veggie Bread with Avocado and Feta Smash- home run!
Breakfast Bruschetta- sourdough IS allowed! Yay!
Week 1 was a breeze. I am sure this has something to do with the fact that I already had a foot in the IQS camp and had been recently navigating my way through going fructose-free, sans support, prior to the program’s commencement. On day 1, newly returned from a trip abroad, I found myself famished and almost teary at the prospect of not having any IQS-approved food ready to go. And then I remembered my veggie version of Sarah’s Paleo Inside-Out Bread… pre-sliced and frozen, ready for just such a mealtime emergency! Perfect. The Eggplant Parmigiana made with roasted red pepper sauce was a culinary revelation and I think I found a new favourite soup in the Thai Sweet Potato and Pumpkin IQS-style rendition I had on Tuesday (and Wednesday… and Thursday). The Berry Omelette seems to be hit with IQSers. And with good cause! It’s really quite delicious. And even the Berry Omelette cooking technique, which involves finishing under the grill, is one I will use in future for other culinary creations.
Week 2 kicked off with a to-die-for breakfast treat. Hello Carrot Cake Whip! Where have you been all my life? On the savoury side of things, there was a decidedly Mexican theme running through the meal plan for Week 2. I’m not complaining! The Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas were fabulous. My yummy Veggie Scramble breakfast leftovers on Day 3 became lunch for Baby Cupcake who, I was surprised to note, really enjoyed the zucchini. Paleo Beetroot and Rocket Risotto ticks almost every box imaginable (especially if you omit the dairy, as I did). Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, Paleo, sugar-free and with a raw component (the fresh rocket), this meal is not only clever and tasty, but surprising, nutrient-dense and pretty too. You can’t go wrong! Breakfast Bruschetta? Well, they had me at toasted sourdough. Yes, that’s right. You can eat bread whilst doing IQS (thank goodness!).
If you’re curious to see what I am eating during the program, you are welcome to visit my Instagram account, or search for the hashtag #IQS8WPveg on Instagram where you will see only my images of the vegetarian IQS meals I am eating.
HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING
A couple of things have happened during this process that are interesting… not necessarily IQS-related, but they certainly suggest that my body is receiving the fuel it needs.
Firstly, I recently ran my fastest time yet over a 5 kilometre distance. Secondly, I ran my first 15 kilometres ever last weekend. Both of these things have occurred during a period where I have only been running once a week on average (mostly very short distances) and not following any kind of training program.
As Week 2 of the program commenced, so did my cycle! Sorry if that’s TMI, but I share it only because I had terrible cramping (as you might well do if you haven’t had a proper cycle since 2010!), my skin was out of control, my moods were similarly out of whack… and yet, NO bloating! Now that is down to IQS-style eating, I am convinced of it. After 2 babies from back-to-back pregnancies, visible tummy bloating comes rather naturally to me these days. And, when I realised my cycle was returning, I was expecting at least a couple of days of dealing with one of those bellies that could potentially prompt someone to awkwardly comment “Congratulations! Baby number three!”. But no. Nothing. No bloating whatsoever. In fact, my clothes were starting to feel a little loose.
I suspect that I might now just weigh on or slightly under 60 kilograms (132 pounds) for the first time since somewhere pre-kids, circa 2009. I say “suspect” because I don’t tend to weigh myself at all and don’t even have scales at home. I will confirm this matter, out of sheer curiosity, the next time I pay a visit to the gym.
For the record, I suffer from hypothyroidism (diagnosed in 2009). Furthermore, I experienced pretty massive weight gain during both of my pregnancies; 40 kg with L and 30 kg with Baby Cupcake*.
“Woaaah!…”, I hear you think, “How is that possible?”. Believe me, it is! And that’s with a fairly health-focused approach to eating and, in the case of my pregnancy with L, almost daily prenatal yoga from 13 weeks right through to 9 months.
In the case of my second pregnancy, those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I suffered major complications as a result of SCH and my pregnancy was considered “high risk” right from the start when I was first hospitalised until about 4 days before my due date. It’s crazy what NO exercise (even gentle short walks were out) and 10 weeks of bed rest- while pregnant- can do :P !
In any case, by being fortunate enough to successfully nurse my babies and finding it easy to maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle (including lots of yummy veggie food and moderate yet consistent exercise) simply because I enjoy it, within a few months of giving birth, I lost all of the weight gained during pregnancy… twice over! Even so, it has been at least 5 years since I weighed under 60 kilos (except for when I had a stomach bug around last Christmas!), so if indeed I do right now, it can only be as a result of following the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program**.
As interesting as that may be, far more importantly to me is how I am feeling and whether or not IQS is the energy-boosting lifestyle solution many claim it to be. To be fair, I haven’t noticed a huge shift in my energy levels yet, but I am sleeping better. And I am not craving sugar/an afternoon nap around 3pm!
Not craving sugar or having “sugar slumps” is quite an unusual state of being for me. I have joked before that I can eat dessert after every meal… including breakfast! And, indeed, I have at times. A bowl of cereal, followed by a smaller bowl of a different kind of cereal was a commonplace breakfast occurrence in my world. No more. I eat. I feel satisfied. I stay that way for hours. THAT is probably the biggest change I note at the moment.
Here’s a brief rundown of what I consider to be the pros and cons of the IQS 8-Week Program at this point:
WHAT I AM LOVING
- Many (if not most) of the recipes in the program are not featured elsewhere and are exclusive to the 8-Week Program
- Support from other participants, Sarah Wilson and IQS team members via the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels
- For those of us who prefer to eat veggie-style, following the Vegetarian IQS 8-Week Program means not having to scan through the pages of recipe books that are not specifically veg-focused or spend time customising “meaty” recipes
- Vegans can omit the egg/dairy component of many of the ovo-lacto vegetarian meals… and there are some vegan stunners thrown into the program too (see Carrot Cake Whip!)
- No bloating at that time of the month (or at all, for that matter)
- Eating homemade, delicious, fresh and tasty whole foods- no processed junk
- No 3pm sugar slumps
- The meal plans are super-easy to follow, the Sunday cook-ups are a brilliant way to get organised and geared up for the week
- Baby Cupcake likes the IQS food that she’s tried (and she’s a fruit-loving sweet tooth)
- Trying new recipes
- Increased mindfulness and awareness around food and how it really makes me feel
… AND that EVERY, SINGLE recipe I have tried so far is a winner! Truthfully, it is all so good!
WHAT I AM NOT LOVING SO MUCH
To be honest, there isn’t much!
I have been experiencing occasional slight, yet uncomfortable, tummy pains.
I am not sure if this is due to my mild avocado intolerance and that fact that I am eating avocado more than I normally would. It could possibly be as a result of eating more dairy, however I am “veganising” quite a few of the meals with dairy content. Maybe it’s the result of having recently reintroduced one cup of coffee per day into my diet after a long period of being caffeine-free. There is a simple solution to this issue, however. Drinking water. That’s it! I have a glass of water if my tummy doesn’t feel right and in no time, I feel better. So no serious worries on that front, really.
The biggest downside thus far is that I feel quite overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of food I am producing.
The portion sizes are extremely generous. And I am finding it hard to follow the program to the letter, due to the fact that I tend to have leftover portions from every meal. Because I can’t abide wasting good food, I will skip cooking a meal in the program in favour of eating leftovers for my next meal. This means I am yet to cook a grand total of 9 of the dishes in the program! In this respect I feel that I can’t keep up/may be missing out :( … but I try to remind myself that I am eating IQS-style/IQS-approved meals and that I still have the recipes… and a lifetime of cooking meals ahead of me :P !
Other happy spin-offs of the IQS8WP experience have included being featured via I Quit Sugar’s Instagram account with my Carrot Cake Whip, being included in “Sarah’s picks” of the week”*** with my Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas, and (inadvertently) winning a discount card from Gateau Stockholm with my photo of my IQS Breakfast Bruschetta! As I
regularly buy their am hooked on their sourdough bread (Grand Blanc), I decided to mention Gateau when posting my bruschetta image. They saw it. They liked it. I have apparently won a discount card that will give me 25% off the purchase price of their products FOR A YEAR! Thank you Gateau! I’ll be positively drowning in your gorgeous sourdough ;) !
The IQS team have also made contact with me via Instagram, asking me to write to them (regarding my photographs) and I have done so. Curious to see whether they’ll respond… or what they’ll say if they do!
I am off traveling next week but truly hope that I’ll be able to share some IQS-inspired recipes before I go, so please check in here soon.
In the meantime, my very best to you! <3 MM xx
*These numbers are based on my weight just prior to giving birth to my babies, as determined by my hospital weigh-ins. I have no idea what I weighed immediately postpartum. So the total number of kilos (40 and 30, respectively) noted includes baby, placenta, that extra blood one produces during pregnancy and ALL that crazy water-retention-based H2O. I include these numbers here as, no matter what comprised that weight, my frame had to carry it- twice… and it was certainly carrying a great deal more than it is accustomed to. My bad knees and dodgy hip are a legacy of both of my pregnancies and an unhappy testament to what such weight gain can do.
**I am not trying to lose weight. If I have done so during this program, it amounts to around 1 kilogram. I mention it only because it is one of the changes I have noted since starting the program. I feel it is important to state, once again, that my focus is on “happy, healthy and wholesome”. Despite hypothyroidism, I am well within my normal healthy weight range and, other than when pregnant (!), I always am.
***Every week during the 8-Week Program Sarah picks 4 of her favourite images and they are featured on Instagram and Pinterest.