While traveling in Australia recently, I received a message from a friend in Stockholm. The gist of it was that she’d done Sarah Wilson‘s I Quit Sugar program (otherwise known as IQS), that she was working full-time, heavily pregnant with baby #3, had babies #1 and #2 to take care of and yet had more energy than ever before… as a result of quitting sugar! Now, I understand that this is anecdotal evidence, but my curiosity was piqued. In fact, the whole thing sounded positively crazy to me… not just the concept of quitting sugar (fructose) entirely, but the incredible claims my friend was making too. She sent me a link to a blog post she’d written (aptly entitled “I Quit Sugar”) and it struck me as a call to action of sorts. Refined sugar-free I have done, Oprah’s One-week Vegan Challenge was a breeze, I have had a little success with gluten-free baking experiments, I have completely detoxed off of caffeine at various stages in my life (such as during my pregnancies), but I have never considered cutting out fructose completely (after all, isn’t fruit good for us?) nor cooking every single meal from scratch (sauces/dressings/condiments included).
Who is Sarah Wilson? (for those of you who don’t know)
I will let Wikepedia answer that question for me ;), but briefly, amongst other things, she’s a blogger, journalist, qualified health coach, program host (her first television presenter role was as the host for MasterChef Australia, Series 1, in fact!), autoimmune disease sufferer and the author of I Quit Sugar, “the bestselling Australian non-fiction title of 2013, selling over 100,000 copies and kick-starting a lifestyle revolution Down Under.”
So why quit sugar?
Well, aside from hopefully having more energy (and no energy slumps during the day), there are several claims that some scientists/researchers and, subsequently, Sarah Wilson and the IQS team have made that might provide a little motivation…
The claims (and links) on the science page of the I Quit Sugar site include the following points:
Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease. Sugar does.
Sugar increases your risk of heart disease
Sugar ages the body and causes wrinkles
Sugar increases your risk of diabetes
It’s more addictive than cocaine
The white stuff makes you fat
Pancreatic cancer uses sugar as fuel
And what is Sarah Wilson’s definition of “sugar” (and “quit”)?
“On the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program we recommend you cut out ALL sugar, including fruit (fresh, dried and juiced), from weeks 2-6 to give yourself a chance to break the sugar addiction and allow your body to recalibrate. After this period, you are encouraged to reintroduce some low-fructose fruit and see how your body handles it.
The thing to know: fruit contains a lot fructose. Sure, whole fruit contains vitamins, minerals and fibre, which slow the absorption of the sugar, but fructose is fructose.
The other thing to know: we are designed to metabolise the amount of sugar contained in two small pieces of fruit a day. If fruit is your only source of fructose in a day, then two pieces of fruit is fantastic. But if you are also having other sources of added sugar/fructose such as a few squares of chocolate, breads or sauces then you might want to consider upping your vegetable intake instead (indeed, this is our approach on The Program). Most vegetables are more nutrient-dense than fruit anyway.
Dried fruit and juice are to be eliminated for good, however. When the fibre and water is removed from fruit, you’re left with a bundle of condensed sugar.
A glass of fruit juice contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar.
Which is the same amount contained in a glass of Coke. And it makes zero difference whether the juice has been freshly squeezed or has come from a carton. Same deal with dried fruit… it’s 50-70 per cent sugar.”
So, I read all of that (and a bunch of other IQS-related stuff) and wondered…
… could I quit sugar too?
Would it afford me the same amazing results as my friend achieved? Would it turn me into a sweets-obsessed lunatic or an anti-social, housebound recluse who spends her days obsessing over her limited dietary options?
Only one way to find out!
Just before we left Australia, I spotted Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar for Life on sale at a special discounted price, liked the look of it, grabbed a copy and packed it in my suitcase. I returned to Sweden, after having indulged on all that the Fringe Festival food trucks in Adelaide had to offer, keen to embark upon this new sugar-free adventure.
Over the next few weeks I hope to share the details* of that journey here, including meal plans, meal plan templates/shopping lists, recipes, Instagram pics (fresh from my fledgling Instagram account) and hopefully a whole lot of inspiration!
To be honest, I don’t see myself staying completely sugar-free in the longterm, but for now it’s a case of so far, so good :)
Here’s a brief rundown of what I consider to be the pros and cons at this point:
WHAT I AM LOVING
Eating no processed food
Cupboards, fridge and freezer all stocked with healthy food
Eating LOADS of veggies and nutrient dense food
Consuming foods with minimal gluten
Cooking all meals from scratch with healthy, organic ingredients
Being aware of every ingredient we use in preparing meals
The opportunity to get super-organised in the kitchen/plan meals/go to the supermarket knowing exactly what we want/need to buy and sticking with it
Seeing my kids enjoy some of the food too
Experimenting and tweaking recipes (making some of the “meaty” ones vegetarian-friendly)
Trying new things
Increased mindfulness and awareness around food and how it really makes me feel
WHAT I DON’T LOVE SO MUCH
All the prep and from scratch cooking means cleaning up too
Not being able to easily come by some “specialty” ingredients (Hello, rice malt syrup? You’re harder to find than Nemo here in Stockholm!)
Not having enough time in the day to cook, experiment, etc., more!
The fact that dairy and meat feature prominently in many of the recipes (and I prefer to eat veggie, use vegan milk at home ordinarily, etc.)
Going to the cinema on a rare date night to celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary and candy is off-limits… wah-wah :'(!
WHAT I REALLY DON’T LOVE
The lack of clarity around supplement usage (ie., a comprehensive outline of effects, who should/shouldn’t take them, possible complications, etc.). This subject really is a whole other post, but for now, let’s just say I had a nasty experience with Chromium (which appears on the suggested shopping list for the 8-week program) after taking just 1 capsule and the paramedics (yes, freakin’ paramedics!) said the toxicologist (yes, freakin’ toxicologist) they spoke to said this was not the first instance of an adverse reaction that has been reported!
I don’t want to harp on about this, but felt obliged to share my experience on this point at least briefly and to urge anyone considering undertaking this (or indeed any health-related) program to consider seeking medical advice from a qualified professional before taking any supplements for the first time.
… And on a brighter note…
WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO
Being able to get a hold of some rice malt syrup
Experimenting with sugar-free baking
Getting better organised and faster in the kitchen
Tweaking more recipes and coming up with my own original ones
Seeing the results of this experiment
*The contents of this blog post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. What I share via this blog is anecdotal, even if the topics I write about may be health-related.
**Update January 2016: this post contains an affiliate link to the book discussed. I recommend it only as I have found it both inspirational and beneficial to my own health journey.