I Quit Sugar Review
When I made my return to blogging a couple of weeks ago I made the bold statement that I’m very happy with the way I’m eating at the moment and I felt that stepping away from blogging for a little while helped with that. The truth is that I haven’t made any major changes really, except that I’ve cut down on sugar. There’s a multitude of different dietary advice from the quite sensible to the extremely restrictive (more on that in another post I think), but one common theme seems to be that too much sugar is not a good thing.
I’m not going to dwell on the so-called “dangers” of sugar, because there are lots of different viewpoints and I’m wary of claims that any particular food is the root of all evil. However, from a personal point of view I know that my sugar intake was creeping up with a nightly craving for chocolate, handfuls of raisins every time I walked into the kitchen, and an unstoppable need for cake when one was put in front of me. I love chocolate, raisins and cake, but I was getting annoyed at my lack of control around them. Plus, there are the inevitable crashes and the feeling of constantly being hungry that comes with lots of sugar.
I came across the “I Quit Sugar” e-book and Sarah Wilson’s blog earlier in the summer and decided to give sugar the boot, for a while at least. I was impressed by the way Sarah treated quitting sugar as an experiment with no pressure to continue if it doesn’t work out and no pressure to give up sugar forever at the end of the 8-week programme. The premise is that it is fructose that does all sorts of dodgy stuff to our body, which I think this article explains quite well.
As I said, I choose to be very wary of these kinds of claims and there are many counter-claims from nutritionists like these ones. Again, I decided to concentrate on the way I felt and how eating or not eating sugar affected my appetite, my energy levels, and cravings, rather than what fructose may or may not be doing to my body.
So, this is how it went down week-by-week:
Week one – slowly cut down on the amount of sugar you eat and be more mindful about how you feel when you eat sugar.
During this week I carried on eating fruit and had a couple of sweet treats, but I basically cut out refined sugar. This wasn’t too hard because I was in a determined frame of mind.
Week two – add more fats into your diet to prepare for quitting sugar completely.
Ah, fats. It seems generally accepted among the bloggers that I interact with regularly that healthy fats are good for you. After years of buying into the low-fat theory I have included more fat and have definitely felt the benefits. Sarah Wilson is in the “saturated fat is good for you” camp. I’m on the fence with this one actually, because it seems like there’s a fair bit of evidence that saturated animal fats aren’t that great. Still, cheese and wholemilk yoghurt are pretty tasty and I found that by switching to full-fat versions I ate less.
The downside of introducing more fat was that I started suffering from heartburn. I’ve always had a problem with heartburn and it runs in my family, so I found pretty quickly that I had to be more moderate. Cheese is now an occasional treat and I eat nuts and nut butters in moderation otherwise I will suffer. Avocados and coconut oil on the other hand have been revelations – why have I not eaten more of these before!
Weeks three to five – quit all sugar … including fruit
Despite my doubts about the whole fructose thing, I decided to follow the plan and cut out all fruit. It also suggests cutting down on sweet vegetables like carrots, but I ate those freely. I was treating this like an experiment and wanted to see what three weeks without fruit was like. Plus, I did eat A LOT of fruit before and could probably benefit from switching to raw veggies every now and then.
It was fine, but I was looking forward to week 6 when I could eat some fruit again.
Weeks six – eight – introduce some sweetness back
The plan recommends eating 1-2 pieces of low fructose fruit like kiwis and berries. You can also introduce sugar alternatives like stevia or dextrose, which doesn’t contain any fructose. I enjoyed eating fruit again and found that 1-2 pieces were really satisfying. I didn’t feel the need to use alternative sweeteners as over the previous five weeks my sweet tooth had been tamed.
I finished the 8-week programme a couple of weeks ago, so I’m at the point where I can choose what to do next, whether to carry on being sugar-free or not. I’m not restricting fruit to low-fructose varieties any more – I like apples, bananas and melons too much! I also like chocolate and cake too much to be totally without them and the thought of a life without afternoon tea is horrific. However, these are most definitely treat foods and I’m more than satisfied with a little bit of dark chocolate once or twice a week and I find it easy to turn away dessert without feeling like I’m missing out.
I’m not sure whether that’s due to something biological, or whether it’s a change in mindset, but it feels really liberating. I also feel more satisfied after meals and I’m not snacking as much in general.
As with any plan like this, the programme does claim possible weight loss. I’m sure that if you eat a lot of sugar and processed food and then follow the programme then you will lose weight. I ate reasonably well before starting, so there have been no dramatic changes (I don’t weigh myself, but I can tell by my clothes etc.) I didn’t expect it and it wasn’t one of my reasons for quitting sugar.
It seems that for a lot of people going paleo/primal/whatever is the logical next step after quitting sugar. I guess that restricting carbs seem like an extension of quitting sugar and the I Quit Sugar plan emphases increasing fat and protein intake. However, I don’t really buy into it and would much rather have a balanced diet including plenty of carbs, just not the sugary variety.
There is actually so much more I could say about this, but I feel like I’ve already written an essay. It may come up in later posts, or let me know if you have any specific questions or thoughts.
Do you eat a lot of sugar? Do you feel that you could benefit from cutting down?
Could you give up sugary treats forever? Eek – I need chocolate!