There’s been a lot of talk lately about the benefits of sugar quitting, often combined with chatter about the paleo diet (Google it – it’s everywhere). I bought my ticket for the sugar-free bandwagon just recently, and I’ve been a ridin’ it now for 5 weeks (Violins? Small round of applause? Oprah special?) This means I’ve (mostly) had no added sugar in daily foods, no obviously sugary treats (chocolate, biscuits etc), no soft drinks, no fruit and no processed stuff with sugar in it (like bread, tomato sauce or strawberry jam). Do I feel better for ditching sugar? Yes. Has it changed my life? No. Will I keep going? Yes. I don’t do a lot of self help on this blog (who am I to help anyone??) but I thought I’d do a little summary to cut through the spin for anyone else who might be considering embracing the ‘I quit sugar’ phenomenon.
Why quit sugar?
Around 6 weeks ago, a friend put me onto Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar books and I liked the idea of the promises she made – more energy, clearer thinking, clearer skin and better longer term health prospects in general. I have a long history of embracing fad diets for weight loss purposes (cabbage soup anyone??), but this time (being mature-ish and 40 and all that) it was the promise of more energy that piqued my interest. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times over the past weeks! Indeed I leaped off the wagon in a wine-fuelled backward take-off, closed pike with a triple twist swan dive* a few Saturdays ago. But even with the odd wagon-jump, it seems to be making a positive difference and I reckon it’s worth keeping up the experiment a little longer.
Why Sarah Wilson?
The 3-kid-challenge gets on top of me at the best of times without my energy being impaired by own slack culinary (in)abilities, so I was in the market for a book that told me how to get some sexy back nutrition-wise. There are several sugar-quitting guides around at the moment; and it’s a case of same, same but different. I like Wilson’s books though because they are extremely laid back. They seem to say “Here’s the info…give it a shot…see how you feel” – no real evangelism and no suggestion that this is something everyone MUST do. Being shouted at by the likes of Michelle Bridges just makes me want to eat cake. Wilson’s relaxed attitude is to ‘be your message’ rather than beating people over the head with it.
The reasons Wilson thinks sugar quitting is a good idea include:
– Many of us tend to be addicted to sugar. It has a mental and physical hold over us. It is comfort food, quick fix energy and a ‘treat’ – all of which create powerful associations between the way we are feeling and the notion that we ‘need’ to eat something sugary. For some people, one biscuit soon turns into 10. Quitting it altogether helps break this cycle.
– Sugar is hidden in a million different foods that don’t need to have it – like yoghurt, pasta sauce and most of the ‘healthy’ and ‘wholegrain’ snacks we give our kids. It is very easy to eat too much sugar in a day, even if you haven’t touched a donut.
– We are not biologically designed to eat as much sugar as we do. If you’re into the notion of ‘paleo’ eating, our forefathers (and mothers) would have eaten a piece of fruit or two in a day – nowhere near the 20-30 teaspoons of sugar we routinely consume nowadays, even if we’re eating fairly healthy foods. Low-fat foods are often extra high in sugar. There are huge, very pushy and convincing industries helping us to eat more sugar.
– There are a bunch of studies that tell us nasty things about what sugar – and fructose in particular – might do to us, including making it harder to fight infections, interfering with mineral absorption and contributing to anxiety and loss of concentration. There’s some stuff at the scarier end of the health spectrum too.
The benefits to me so far include:
– More energy. I’m not saying I could leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I do feel less ‘foggy’ when I get up in the morning and have more stamina during what’s always been my mid-afternoon slump time (3-5 o’clock).
– I feel less addicted. I don’t feel that I need a sweet treat to pick me up. I really just don’t feel like it, which is great! My wagon-jumps have been more related to bread than the obviously sugary stuff**, but I’m learning to make some good substitutions there (like some soda/rye breads that don’t use sugar).
– Clearer skin. I wouldn’t call it a youthful glow, but I’m not as sallow and puffy as I was (stand back boys, she’s taken!)
– Recipes. I’ve picked up a few nice, easy new recipes, which the kids ACTUALLY EAT, and added them to our standard weekly repertoire.
– Weight loss. I’ve only lost 2 kilos, so no biggy, but my clothes seem to fit better because my stomach is flatter (as in less bloated, not bikini-ready).
They’re only small changes, but I’m good with that as a starting point. I have tried way too many ‘revolutionary’ eating plans that get too hard or too boring or too tasteless after a few weeks, so this is something I’m happy to do slowly but surely for the longer term.
Some of the easy I Quit Sugar switches include:
– Homemade tomato sauce. The I Quit Sugar cookbook has a great recipe. Unfortunately my kids are in love with the red stuff, so I’m stoked about giving them a wholesome alternative.
– Cereal. The I Quit Sugar cookbook has a totally yum recipe for muesli that has now replaced chocolate as my addiction of choice. It’s nice as a breakfast with natural yoghurt, but also good to grab as a sort of ‘trail mix’ during the day. Delish!
– Embracing coconut oil for cooking. It does a whole bunch of sweet and savoury things and is better for you than a lot of other cooking oils.
Some things in the books that I will probably never do (sorry Sarah!):
– Make my own almond milk by soaking almonds and squeezing them through gauze etc. Too hard, too tasteless.
– Drink bright green smoothies made of watercress and spirulina (vomit!)
– Activate my nuts (well, that’s a whole other issue…)
So, as I head into Week 5 it’s a case of so far, so good. Wilson reckons it takes about 8 weeks to detox your body to the point of being a ‘clean slate’ – at which point you can reintroduce a few sweeter foods if you want to (the ‘need’ should be gone). Obviously the more times you slip up, the longer the detox takes – but if you’re looking at a long term plan, there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. Do what you can and see how you feel. It’s all an experiment and a way of getting to know your own body’s needs.
Sounds all very rational and grown up, don’t you think? I’ll get back to you in a few weeks!
Has anyone else tried quitting sugar? What are your tips and tricks for rookie players?
If you’ve reviewed this or a similar book, feel free to link it in the comments.
Meanwhile, you can buy the books here if you want to see what the fuss is about:
(FINE PRINT: Yes, I do get a small commission if you buy Wilson’s books via this link, but I discovered the books before I discovered the Affiliate program so I’m not a total sell-out, OK!)
*May not be an actual thing.
**This is not a full on ‘no carb’ diet, but Wilson believes processed, wheaty kinds of things can fuel the sugar addiction.
***For more on crumpet of the manly variety visit Mumabulous. She’s the expert – I’m merely dabbling.