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I Quit Sugar Review

September 5, 2012

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!

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. runningcupcake permalink
    September 5, 2012 4:40 pm

    Very interesting- I had not heard about that blog but it does sound interesting. I try to be aware of the sugar I eat, and I know that if I eat too much of certain sugary things I feel rubbish, but I think generally in my every day diet it is not too bad. Like you say having cake occasionally is fine, you just don’t want to end up having it every day.
    I also think there are so many faddy things going around- for example the paleo fad at the moment- I can see the idea of it, but I am sure cavemen were not grounding almonds to flour, or making omelettes with just egg whites or getting oil from coconut to cook with or whatever. But there will always be trends in health and lifestyle etc.
    Different bodies work in different ways, so people just need to find what works for them I think.

    • September 5, 2012 7:52 pm

      Yes! And what works for you will change over time. I hope that I avoid fads now, but I’m still experimenting with different foods and how they make me feel.

  2. September 5, 2012 6:15 pm

    Hmm this does sound interesting! I don’t really eat a lot of refined sugar as I feel like total crap, especially the come down after a sugar high. I much prefer to get my sugars from more natural sources like fruit, but of course the odd treat is fine.

    • September 5, 2012 7:49 pm

      I totally agree – that’s why I’m not cutting out sugar at all. I feel like a couple of months ago I was letting sugar control me, but now I feel like I can have a treat without worrying.

  3. September 5, 2012 7:36 pm

    Another very interesting post. I like the idea of how it was presented as an experiment to reduce sugar rather than jump straight in and cut it out totally form the get-go.

    Personally I am on a no carb diet, to specifically loose weight. I currently eat low fat, no white carbs, with veg on alternate days and use sugar substitutes (Dukan btw). My goal is weight loss and the program does, once you reach your desired weight, take you through reintroducing you to eating normal healthy what you like foods (retaining 1 pure protein day each week) you are then free to choose to eat what you want. This works for me in more than just a weight loss sense; Overall I have more energy (it slumps if I eat carbs), I sleep better and I don’t miss or crave carbs (bar the occasional punnet of strawbs or melon) all the time anymore.

    I think that what I’m saying is that everyone is different and each needs to find their own way with what works and doesn’t work for them to retain their health and balance that they can sustain on a daily basis.

    • September 5, 2012 7:48 pm

      Absolutely! It’s about consistency and sustainability. I looked into Dukan a while ago because I was curious, but I don’t want to lose weight so it wasn’t for me. As a weight loss diet I liked the fact that it gives you a route to maintenance, which is without a doubt the most difficult thing about any weight-loss attempt.

  4. September 5, 2012 7:39 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting programme – I would have loved to have seen you progress through this while blogging about each week! Ah well – your recap is great, and I like how you approach things pragmatically rather than being absolutist as I would.

    The logic behind Paleo is insane, as Maria says. Any time someone tries to explain the ‘science’ of Paleo to me I’m operating at a speed of 100 WTFs per second. I can’t argue with results though, and there are loads of bloggers who look great on it…but that’s because it’s a restrictive diet – one can restrict carbs without having this whole cultish gimmick behind it.

    I had to cut down my sugar intake lots after basically having pre-diabetic test results. I am a slave to Truvia now! I try not to go overboard on fruit but I think before it was date-based bars, chocolate and dried fruit that was going me in. I love apples too, but I can take or leave bananas and tropical fruits. Cherries and berries are my favourites.

    I can’t have ‘treat’ sugary foods at all because they’re too dangerous – they spike my blood sugars badly and usually trigger binge eating behaviours. If you’re capable of moderation then I say life’s too short not to have enjoyable things sometimes though – just for me the anxiety of eating such things makes them inherently NOT enjoyable.

    xxx

    • September 5, 2012 7:45 pm

      It would have been good to blog through it because I have loads of thoughts around the whole thing. Perhaps if I can get them in a coherent order I will do another post. Your right – I think it’s the logic behind paleo that puts me off and I haven’t read anything that convinces me that a balance of macronutrients isn’t the right way to go.
      I’ve drastically cut down on dried fruit because I was addicted before! I don’t actually miss it at all.

  5. September 5, 2012 7:44 pm

    Really interesting. I’m sort of following a low-carb eating style at the moment, and of course any low-carb approach to nutrition involves cutting down the amount of sugar one consumes, either drastically or not. I’ve become aware of two things: my skin is so much clearer, brighter, and less prone to spots. I don’t break out in spots even if I have a sugary treat. The other thing is how sweet food and drink which is processed can be. I think I’m like most people in that I don’t eat too much processed food, but will use processed passata and basic ingredients like that when cooking. I couldn’t believe how sweet these now taste to me, it starkly highlighted how much sugar can sneak in under the rader so to speak.

  6. September 5, 2012 10:36 pm

    I don’t eat artificial or processed sugars, but I pretty much live off fruit, I have been known to have 10-15 pieces a day, in fact I had 5 bananas yesterday! I could never give fruit up even for a little while, I love how it tastes, how it makes me feel and I feel it’s the best source of quick energy due to it’s simple carbohydrate structure which is perfect for me when I am training a lot.

  7. September 6, 2012 5:56 am

    I’m bookmarking this post! Too much sugar is definitely my worst dietary habit, and not just fruit either, like you, it’s the evening chocolate and ice cream cravings. I’ve half-thought of doing something like this and I really should, to see if my mega-sweet tooth loses its hold a bit but I know I’d find it so hard!
    I don’t agree with low-carb/high-protein diets or cutting out any food groups but I think like you say that refined sugar is definitely not good and would like to cut down on it, maybe soon… 🙂

  8. September 6, 2012 7:19 am

    Brilliant post, I know that for me, too much sugar, even from a lot of fruit probably doesn’t do my body any favours and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve left veganism behind because for me I just don’t feel like I could get the sustenance from non sugary stuff enough for my body. The big thing for me at the moment is really getting my head around the fact that different things work for different people and its about experimenting with what works for your body. That’s pretty much what I’m going to be basing my health counselling practice on – so many people follow different diets so strictly without taking what works for them and leaving what doesn’t. Paleo is such trend right now its almost laughable!

  9. September 7, 2012 2:03 am

    This was really interesting to read Sarah, thank you for taking the time to fully discuss what went on during this and your thoughts as well! I know I eat a ton of sugar- mostly in the form of fruit and flavored greek yogurts (I am looking at you chobani!). I also have candy, gummy stuff in particular, from time to time, which is of course pure sugar. Oh and then I like this particular apple caramel popcorn that has about 20 grams sugar per serving…. so yes, you get my point, I have a lot! I am not entirely sure what it would do for me if I cut it out. I think this is something I would try one day, but doing this right now would be a bad idea.. I get easily triggered by major diet changes I make!

  10. September 7, 2012 9:06 pm

    Your posts have all been so interesting to read Sarah, I found this particularly interesting because it’s definitely something relevant to me. I have plans to cut out all added sugars (haven’t decided about fruit yet), probably next lent, as I know I would find it pretty tough and it would also be beneficial for me. I eat quite a bit of fruit and I also eat things like honey and bake a lot so I know I eat a fair amount. On the whole it’s not horrific, I still eat less than the GDA amount but I know the sugar contributes to my issues with bloating etc. I’m impressed that you were able to stick to the plan well and that you managed it relatively easily!

  11. September 8, 2012 8:51 am

    Great post Sarah! For me, it’s the refined sugars that are the ‘baddies’. My tolerance to these sugars seems to have declined over the past few years and now even one sugary cupcake leaves me feeling nauseous. I much prefer to use dates, agave syrup and coconut nectar as sweeteners but always make sure that I only consume them in moderate amounts.

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