Full disclaimer: I have never had control over my eating. I grew up skinny and struggled to gain weight when I was young, to the point that my grandmother paid me to reach a certain weight.
I was on every appetite supplement on the market. When I hit puberty and finally started gaining weight, my appetite increased along with the numbers on the weighing scale. I no longer have the metabolism of my youth, but I still have the appetite to match. I have struggled to control my eating habits. I am by no means overweight or even much bigger than I was five years ago, but I was not in control of what I ate and how much of it I ate.
I came across Sarah Wilson and her "I Quit Sugar" diet a year ago when I purchased her cookbook Simplicious, which focused on reducing food waste in the kitchen while being low- to no-sugar. I contemplated signing up for the IQS diet, an eight-week program complete with meal plans, shopping lists, and expert nutritional advice designed to flush sugar from your system (hopefully) for life. I took the plunge in May 2017. Here’s what I learned:
1. It’s not easy, but it’s not difficult either.
When people hear that I’ve quit sugar, they immediately assume I eat boring, bland, tasteless food. There is a world of sugar-free meals out there and I had not discovered it until recently. While there is plenty of “fun” food that was off the table (I love an Oreo, or ten), there was still so much food I could eat. I got creative with substitutes. If I craved ice cream, I drank a full glass of milk with a tablespoon of cinnamon to kill the longing for the sweet sugary taste. It worked. If it didn’t, I ate a handful of almonds and drank three glasses of water. Keeping myself full of healthy food helped stave off the cravings for a mid-afternoon biscuit.
2. It’s much easier to do if you do your own shopping and cook your own food.
I cooked virtually every meal, every day for eight weeks. This granted me control over what I was eating and I could rest (and eat) assured that what I was consuming had no added sugar in it.
3. Fruit has a lot of sugar.
On the diet, I wasn’t allowed to eat fruit for a while. Fruit can bump up your blood sugar quickly. Fruit juice? Forget it. All of the sugar, none of the good fiber. Instead, I consumed six to nine servings of vegetables per day. There are very little nutrients that you get from fruit that you can’t get from vegetables. I know what you’re thinking. Fruit is natural! The sugar in it is natural! You know what else is natural? Coal.
4. Start small instead of attempting to go cold turkey.
I did not have a terrible sugar withdrawal period, and I attribute this to the fact that I had a generally low-sugar diet to begin with. I drink my coffee black with no sugar. I don’t drink juice or softdrinks. I generally avoid sweets, and I don’t eat white rice. Having a “head start” on lowering sugar in my diet helped with going full cold turkey.
5. You can drink!
Red wine is best.
When starting this diet, I really just wanted to do it without cracking, and I did. I didn’t really want to lose weight. I welcomed the possibility of nicer skin and looked forward to the possibly increased energy. At the end of it, I was feeling great. I was getting more out of my food, more energy (no post-meal slump!) and more enjoyment from preparing delicious meals. And then it ended. I was very nervous at the end of the program. Could I keep it up? Would I lapse back into sugar?
I have had sugary food since quitting (ice cream, to be exact). It was great, but I also know that I can live without it. It is incredibly liberating to look at a biscuit or brownie and say, "No, thank you." Not out of restriction and fear of lapsing, but out of knowledge of what sugar will do to my body, mind and lifestyle, and of course, the knowledge that I’ve gone without it before and I can do it again. This is the first time in my life I’ve felt real control over what I eat. While it is not portion control or calorie-counting, I feel like I’m on top of my diet and my lifestyle—finally.