How I Quit Sugar

In December of 2016, while searching for a gift for a family member in a Half-Priced Books, I came across a copy of I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson, a book that had been on my Amazon Wishlist for years. After some quick math on my phone, I decided to buy it. Money was tight that month, and as I purchased more gifts and my bank account dwindled, I considered returning it a few times. But I had this gut feeling I should keep it around.

And so in late December and early January, I started reading through the first parts of the book and decided pretty dang spur of the moment-like to do her detox program. Which is pretty intense, not going to lie. It's two months of cutting way the hell back on sugar, which is pretty scary for a previous dessert binge eater like me. But also, pretty exciting.

It's is an 8-week program in which you spend 2 weeks gradually cutting back, 4 weeks eating very little sugar (including no fruit!), and 2 weeks of slowly re-incorporating some low sugar foods and figuring out what level of sugar feels right for you.

Speaking of the book, let's talk about that for a second. The program worked well for me, she was convincing enough to get me to do the detox (although I had convinced myself pretty well ahead of time), and she breaks the detox down week by week and gives helpful tips, tasks, goals, and relevant nutrition information along the way. However, there are some things that the book does not make super clear. For example, there are a lot of recipes with coconut in the book and she talks about embracing coconut as an alternative to other fruits, but it's not clear if you're "allowed" to have coconut during the no-fruit weeks. I also found the recipes to be organized a bit strangely. I would still recommend the book since it was helpful for me, but know that it's not perfect.

Also, know that you do not have to buy any book to cut down on sugar and that there are also other books out there. I do, however, strongly recommend doing at least a month of detox in which you avoid as much sugar as possible to help you recalibrate your habits, palette, and need for sugar. If you're really convinced that this is the lifestyle for you, you may decide to go cold turkey off of sugar, which is fine...although I will say I semi-accidentally really didn't eat sugar in the first two weeks of the detox when you're supposed to be easing off and by the end of the no-sugar period I was really ready to start making my own choices about what I was allowed to eat. So maybe trying taking it slow.

My biggest tips for getting through the detox period and getting over sugar:
1. Read the labels on everything! Even savory foods! Even "healthy" foods! You would be surprised how much sugar hides in foods you would never guess. During my detox period, I tried not to buy anything with any added sugar.
2. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps beat cravings, makes you less hungry, and gives you something to do when you might be used to mindlessly snacking on sugary foods. It also helps you flush your system which will help with the cravings too.
3. Indulge in non-sugary treats. Obviously quitting sugar is a gateway to a healthy lifestyle, but during your detox phase, let yourself eat more cheese, avocado, and other fats than you usually do, and eat fewer simple carbs. If you're dying to eat something "naughty," make it a savory one during this detox period. I ate more than one Taco Bell bean burrito to keep myself from sugary alternatives.
4. Try new unsweetened drinks. Stock up on some new flavors of tea or sparkling water. Let this be a special "treat" when you're in the grocery store instead of something from the bakery. Just make sure to read the labels and double check there aren't any sugars hiding in there.
5. Let people know what you're doing. That way, they don't offer you treats you have to decline, and they become a bedrock of support and accountability for you. Sometimes, it's nice just to be able to say, dang this is hard, and have someone listen and support you.
6. Double down on nuts and vegetables. Fruit used to be a quick, portable snack for me, but I learned to sub cut vegetables or nuts instead.

7. Meal prep. Don't let yourself be unprepared or hungry. Being prepared is a key to success. Bring your lunch to work and plenty of snacks. Your brain might try to tell you you're hungry when you're not to get you to eat sugar. Don't end up at the vending machine or in a drive thru! Listen, eat, just not sugar.
8. Get your partner in on it. If you have a significant other, roommate, or child, get them to do it with you! Even if they don't go full on detox, having them be cool with low sugar meals is key. Let them eat sugar when you're not around if that's what they need to do.
9. Clean out your kitchen. Go through your cabinets and get rid of any candy, sweets, sugars, syrups, and packaged/convenience foods high in sugar. Read the label of anything in a box, can, or bag (see number 1). If you're not 100% convinced the low sugar life is for you, do the clean out, bag the stuff up, and put it way in the back of a closet or entrust it with a friend. That way no harm, no foul if this turns out not to be right for you.
10. Keep a food diary. I typically wrote in mine at the end of the day, but if you can do it throughout the day that's even better. Don't worry about being too precise in measurements. Just write down what you ate at each meal (including snacks, handfuls of this or that, and flavored beverages). It can also be helpful to note how you felt after each meal (bloated, full, energized, etc.), and the quantity and quality of your sleep. If you do have a day when you eat something sweet, make sure you write it down. Highlight it! This way, you can track your lapses. You may find a pattern of days or times that are particularly hard for you. It also keeps you from thinking you're doing better/worse than you actually are.

11. Bring your own sugar-free food. This kind of goes with 7. If you're going to a party or event that you know is going to be full of temptation, or where you'll feel awkward not eating, eat ahead of time and/or bring something yummy and compliant to eat while you're there.
12. Watch out for booze. You are allowed to drink it, but be careful of the mixers. This might also be a good time to try cutting out alcohol to recalibrate on that too, especially if an outcome you want is weight loss.
13. Avoid fake sugar and "healthy sugars" alike. Stevia and brown rice syrup are allowed in small quantities, but avoid sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, sweet and low, and table sugar.
14. Trust the process. If you listen to people around you (or the sugar-crazed voice in your head) telling you that sugar is natural, it isn't that bad for you, it's too tasty to give up, this diet sounds crazy--you will not make it through the detox. If you undermine yourself, you won't make it through. You have to go into it believing you are making a good, powerful, positive choice for yourself. You have to look for those little changes in your brain and body--clearer head, better memory, less bloating, better digestion, clearer skin, less teeth sensitivity, etc.--or when you look back you won't know if the detox did anything for you. Trust in it, believe in it, look for the change. It will be there.
15. Give yourself grace. In all things, at all times, but I thought I'd note it here too. Because this is hard work, lovelies. I won't *sugarcoat* it.

Note that the detox period is intentionally strict. After the detox period, you get to experiment and choose a level of sugar that feels right for you. Maybe that's a donut every Sunday. Maybe that's a no-holds-barred cocktail on Friday night. Maybe that's no processed sugar at all, but plenty of fruit. Maybe you stick pretty closely to the detox guidelines hereafter. You can play around and see what feels right. And if you find yourself becoming too involved with sugar again, you can detox again. You can step back, and it won't be nearly as hard the second time.

No comments

Let's talk of many things!