Week by week on the I Quit Sugar program
Quitting sugar can completely suck. It may also feel irrational and fad-esque. But if you’re like me and faced (link here) severe sweet-tooth issues and are determined to give it a shot, it sucks considerably less if you do it with a friend. Because hey, what are friends for if not conscription into your temporary madness.
I enlisted Keryn Means of Walking on Travels and Walking on Mom to dump sugar (fructose, actually) with me. Eight weeks following as near as possible the advice of the anti-fructose force behind I Quit Sugar, Sarah Wilson.
Here’s the down and dirty on how it went. Spoiler alert: It was confusing, then it got easy, then it sucked hard, then I begged for help and a chocolate chip cookie, which I ate, then things started to change, then I was blown away. In a good way. So go ahead, take a look. See if this program could be right for you. Then convince your friends to do it, too!
The first 14 days were for phasing out the white stuff. I cut out the sugar in my tea and stopped eating overt added sugar, the stuff you know for certain causes you to tear apart cupboards when cravings strike – no granola bars with chocolate chips, no Lindt squares (a sacrilege when living in Switzerland), no honey or jam on toast. I didn’t worry too much about the sugar in other items, my pasta sauce, bread, etc. but I started reading all of my labels and tried to understand what constituted added sugar versus intrinsic. It’s not always easy to tell. Grocery shopping took a little extra thought and I was really surprised where I found sugar and the rates at which they were there. Luckily the book gives some good tips for sorting out what sugars are naturally occurring and which are added.
Just about every 20 minutes, my thoughts would drift back to sweets. I missed my sugar spoon. I felt bad for it. Like it wasn’t being used for its purpose and it was all my fault. Who knew guilt could follow us to such corners.
I tried a couple of recipes from Wilson’s book. A granola that tastes terrific on yogurt or as a substitute for cereal with a cup of milk (the sugars in milk, lactose, don’t trigger the same insulin response as fructose). A minor fail when attempting grilled haloumi cheese and apple. I had no clue what haloumi was and couldn’t find it in my grocery store. It looked a bit like mozzarella, so I tried to substitute. Let me tell you, in case you’ve never been this brilliant: Mozzarella, when placed in a hot frying pan, turns to soup. Moving on.
Since, you know, we’re just cutting back and not cutting out … I had a slice of my daughter’s birthday cake. Twice. Had some ice cream, too, and was totally bummed that after 10 days of limiting sugar, it just didn’t taste as good as I imagined. I also took note of the surprise I felt when I discovered I’d eaten the last bite without realizing it was the last bite. That empty bowl and the thought that follows – a salivating desire for another serving. Hello reason No. 124 for quitting sugar in the first place. I don’t feel guilty, this week is still in the phasing-out stage. Next week comes the ax.
I can tell things are starting to change. I feel like I’m missing out on some great tastes, on things that bring me happiness. Facing that emotional connection to food is not easy. Now it’s getting real. Then my appetite started changing. I was full after some guacamole and cucumber. That was annoying. I loved the taste but just didn’t want anymore. If that were chocolate, no questions asked, I would eat until it was gone no matter how much it made me want to puke. Chocolate makes me feel good, special. Cucumber, not so much. Wow, I have issues.
One thing that strikes me as I’ve become more conscious of my foods is how frequently I, shall we say, lick the spoon. I nibble on everything when preparing meals. Throw back some Cheerios after pouring a bowl for the girls, breaking off a square of Lindt because I happened to open the cupboard. It’s not a lot in the scheme of a day’s worth of food. But like all small things, they add up. I could see now that my issues were even bigger than I had thought.
This week was the big ax. Cutting most fructose, including fruit. Since fruit affects blood sugar the same way chocolate does, it’s out for a few weeks just to get to a sort of ground zero. It would come back later so I was not worried. I found that the two weeks of preparation made the transition smooth. I’d already been cutting back the sugar in my tea, hadn’t had any desserts except my daughter’s birthday treats. This week I stopped using the other condiments that contain sugar – no A1 or barbeque sauce. At least I got to keep eating bread. Its sugar content is relatively low, around 4-6 percent. *choirs sing
Feeling jittery. As if I drank two or three cups of espresso and now my shoulders are firmly rooted in my ears and my belly acts as if a new boyfriend is walking into the room.
My clothes are feeling a little looser. The scale says I’m down a few pounds. I had had a cold, though, so I’m not sure if the decreased appetite I’ve noticed was related to my changing tastes on the IQS program or being under the weather. Nevertheless, I generally eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. A welcome change.
I took a sip of a new soft drink that contains stevia and sugar, just to see if I’d be turned off of sugary tastes as some people tend to be after a while without sugar. Sadly, it tasted pretty good, actually, and I wasn’t grossed out by the sweetness. I’m thinking I’ll be just fine returning to chocolate and ice cream after these eight weeks are through.
Well look at that! I’m turning into a morning person! And I hate morning people. *wink The miracle here is that my girls still wake me in the night, but now I can go back to sleep with fewer problems. This is huge! Before, when I’d get woken up at 2:30 a.m., it would be close to 6 a.m. before my body felt tired again. And guess what happens then? Time to start the day. I’ve even found that I am often not finishing my cup of caffeinated tea in the morning.
Even with a great start to the day, however, I was absolutely dragging in mid afternoon. My workouts felt so labored. I need to nap during the girls’ nap and quiet times. I emailed the IQS team concerned I was doing something wrong or if this was the way sugar detox felt. They responded right away reminding me to take the extra rest my body needs while adjusting out of the sugar high-crash cycle, and eat some slow-release carbs, like sweet potato and pumpkin.
A highlight of the week — tart fruit comes back in in the form of a green smoothie. I have to admit, it was really quite good. I’m getting used to cleaning my blender but it’s still a bit of a pain. I’m not sure I’m a smoothie person.
Last week I didn’t need my black tea, but I was still making it. I get so attached to the way I always do things, things that make me feel good. It’s easy to fear that the new thing just won’t be the same. But making tea and not drinking it is, aside from wasteful, just silly business. This week I let it go. No caffeine, no bad reactions. I was fine without. I love trying new herbal teas, particularly blends containing anise, peppermint or licorice. They give a sweet flavor that makes me feel like I’m having a treat. I don’t miss my morning jolt.
By the end of this week, the crazy afternoon energy crashes were gone, too, as were the anxious, jittery feelings in my upper body. I just felt good, even a little oddly happy about life. Things just felt fun and enjoyable.
By far one of the most impressive and unbelievably positive affects of quitting sugar has been this uplifted mood. And, I swear, it may have saved my relationship with my child. My irritability has noticeably diminished and my daughter’s incessantly silly antics became funny rather than annoying. For this, the sugar-free trial is so worth it.
PMS was a horrible time to be in the grocery store. Sweet things called to me from every aisle. I wanted to sit down, in the middle of the frozen foods section with my sugar picnic and send the bird down under to the sugar haters. Give me a chocolate glazed donut, my trusty favorite raspberry vanilla Danish, a box of chocolates, a pint of Hagen Daas, raspberry jam and might as well throw in a sugar bowl and, good God, my sweet sugar spoon. I knew at this point that the experiment failed. Welcome to my world of catastrophic thinking. I said, however, a brokenhearted no to everything. Begrudgingly. Came home and, as every 40 year old woman should do, I pouted.
By the end of the day, somehow, I was still alive. I tried to remember how far I’d come, how many benefits I’d already felt since I started this crazy experiment. I slurped some tea and went to bed.
The truth was, I was apprehensive about trying sweets again. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to control my cravings and all of my hard work would vanish as quickly as it had come. I started working on my post-8-week-plan plan. I’d like to reserve sweet treats for special occasions. But I had to define it. Like birthdays and holidays rather than seeing surviving until naptime and bedtime as the special occasions deserving of ice cream.
Alas, the end. Twelve pounds down and counting. I feel truly happy, utterly surprised. I had survived, I had turned down treats, I had transformed. I felt my moods become more stable. My skin looked better. My sleeping improved. I felt rested in the mornings. Sugar still tastes good to me, albeit quite strong. I prefer citrus now, over rich chocolate. But I know that my best bet is to keep sugar out of the house. Even when the sweets taste less than great, like the pile of Easter candy taking up residency in my storage, I will still eat it until it’s gone. I have proven to myself the idea that humans are hard-wired to continue eating sweets without a shut-off switch. People tell me to eat in moderation. But moderation doesn’t exist for this. Not for me. And to be honest, I think I could use an Anonymous group of some sort to keep me accountable.
Two moths later
As I write this I am trying to detox from my “attempts at moderation.” Sometimes I feel frustrated with myself that I can’t seem to go more than a few days without stealing some of my girls’ Easter candy (that they may or may not remember is in our home). I eat a bunch of chocolate and it gives me an upset stomach. I start to feel like I need a tune up. Luckily, one of the things the program offers is a gentle approach to making this transition: A reminder to try sweets from time to time but be conscious of how it makes you feel. Be aware of how you can come back to cleaner eating. Decide if it’s worth it. I wanted it to be an easy, end-all-be-all answer to my sweet tooth, without having to work too hard at it. Not very realistic. But I’m determined not to give up. It makes me feel too good. Better and more lasting than any chocolate ever could. (Sorry Switzerland)