Is quitting sugar one of your New Year's resolutions? It's not a bad idea! There is a growing body of (very scary) research that claims sugar contributes to cancer growth, inflammation in the body, a weakened immune system, obesity, mood swings, wrinkles (what?) and more health problems than you can shake a stick at. I've also read that sugar consumption depletes minerals and vitamins in the body. Jamie Oliver is so passionate about this, he has launched a war on sugar. It's a scary thought to think that sugar can make us sick because it's so pervasive (and so delicious). Once I started paying attention, I was amazed at just how many foods sugar is added to! Like I needed any help squeezing more sugar into my diet...
I am a long time sugar addict and have an unhealthy history of bingeing on sweets when I'm stressed. I've gone so far as to eat baking chocolate because I've "needed" sugar so badly. There's a noodles and cocoa thing that I'm not even ready to admit to yet. I come from a family of diabetics (probably not surprising), so I've been trying to kick the sugar habit for awhile. Last spring I bought Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar 8 Week Detox Program and Cookbook and gave it a whirl.
I felt great doing the detox, even though it was very challenging at times (luckily I didn't get many of the sugar withdrawal problems). Cutting back was easy and rewarding, it was the quitting all sugar - even fruit - that was really difficult. Afterwards, my sweet tooth wasn't so pushy and I wasn't crawling out of my skin trying to get my sugar fix. It worked! Unfortunately, almost immediately after "quitting" sugar, tragedy struck and wow, did I fall off the wagon! At first it was just because we were eating sporadically, sometimes late at night when only Tim Horton's was available to feed us. Then family would bring by donuts (one day, I quite literally ate four donuts for breakfast). I'm embarrassed to say that I found a stash of super stale, 100 year old jelly beans and ate every last one. At some point while we were in Southern Ontario, my Mom and I found this amazing homemade pie shop and started swapping some of our meals for fresh peach pie (no regret there, I'm not going to lie). The sudden dump of sugar into my system actually made me very ill and brought on some extremely unpleasant symptoms, but I didn't care. I was stressed non-stop for months, and sugar was once again my crutch. This fall I decided that I needed to focus on my health, so I quit sugar again and started a very strict, low-carb, low-sugar diet. Because I already did Sarah's sugar detox, though, it was so much easier this time around! My body wanted to re-calibrate. I'm on the road to leading a life of moderation: maybe having a sweet once in a while because it's delicious, not because I'm wild-eyed and craving it.
I'm asked a lot about my struggle to quit sugar and I always recommend I Quit Sugar as a starting point because it's such an excellent resource. The book is full of scientific info, Sarah's personal journey, easy ingredient switches, recipes, and, of course, the structured 8-week "detox" to help the body re-calibrate and stop craving sweet.
I looked at so many books about quitting sugar before committing to her detox and there were certain things about her book that appealed to me, which is why I decided to write this review. The book itself is a joy to read because it's simple to understand and full of beautiful photos and adorable graphics.
What I really like about Sarah is that she's uplifting and positive. She isn't condescending or dismissive (I'm reading The Whole 30 right now, and something about the tone really rubs me the wrong way). Sarah doesn't like "diets" - she just wants her readers to eat nutrient-dense foods and form a healthier relationship with food. In one of her books she talks about wanting to decide when she eats sugar, not be force fed it by the companies who add it to packaged foods. That really stuck with me. Sarah tells you to be gentle to yourself while doing this detox and this attitude makes it seem so much more doable - and more enjoyable! Plus, her recipes are delicious and she's got this refreshing, don't-stress-about-measuring approach that makes her recipes foolproof. Perhaps the biggest selling feature for me was her passion for cheese - oh my goodness, do I love cheese!
A Peek Inside the I Quit Sugar Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook
After sharing her personal story and some sugar facts, Sarah delves into the detox. Each week of the program is laid out in its own chapter:
Week One: Start to cut back (this was surprisingly easy and empowering!)
Week Two: Operation eat fat (this was a fun week)
Week Three: Quit! (this was a hard week - even fruit was forbidden)
Week Four: Face the demons (knowing I was half ice was all that got me through)
Week Five: Get creative, experiment...and detox (tips for staving off cravings were helpful)
Week Six: Add some sweetness back in (yay! she outlines which fruits have more/less fructose)
Week Seven: Recovering from relapses (lots of healthier alternatives for cravings that creep in)
Week Eight: Refining and moving forward (best advice: "don't be an anti-sugar bore" - love that!)
A Look at the I Quit Sugar Recipes
I find that healthy lunches and dinners are pretty easy to figure out, but the breakfasting, snacking and desserting is what trips me up. This book is great because although it has lunch and dinner ideas, it has a lot of breakfast, snack, and dessert substitutes that are easy to make. I will say, though, that there's a learning curve when it comes to baking with alternative flours and sweeteners. Although refined carbs are cut out, you can still enjoy pasta, oats, root vegetables, rice, etc., but that means no more cooking with refined white flours. I love baking and was surprised when things didn't turn out as "pretty" as I'm accustomed to. The textures were completely different and difficult to get used to, but I still found a lot of fabulous new recipes. Before they were gobbled up, I managed to snap photos of a few things I tried.
Pumpkin Pie with Almond Flour Crust
This pumpkin pie was a hit with family, although I found it's almond flour crust to be a little gritty. I think you just have to get used to the change in texture, but I'm committed to experimenting more with almond and coconut flours.
Brown Rice Syrup Frozen Raspberry Ripple
Although Sarah shares recipes for sweet treats, to be eaten now and again, she warns that any sweetener should be consumed in moderation. Difficult advice to follow when I got completely hooked on her popular raspberry ripple (pg. 186). The ingredients? Frozen raspberries, unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, unsalted butter, cocoa powder, and brown rice syrup. It's a frozen treat and is an amazing ice cream substitute. I'm actually salivating a little as I type this.
Cheesy Biscuits Made with Coconut Flour
These are also a little gritty (that's a common complaint of mine) and it's the cheese that makes them really delicious, but they definitely fulfill a cheesy cracker or croissant craving in a flash. They taste best when they're fresh out of the oven and still warm.
Zucchini Ricotta "Cheesecake"
This zucchini ricotta cake is so damn delicious! I have made this so many times and it's my favorite recipe from the book so far. It's a really tasty brunch meal, with my favorite herb: dill. It is sort of sweet, but savory, and is a snap to prepare.
If you're a diabetic or pre-diabetic (or just concerned about diabetes, like I am), there are some things to note. Sarah's focus is fructose so she suggests brown rice syrup as an alternative, but because it's still pretty high on the glycemic index it's not good for diabetics. It was a let down to bake a couple things for my diabetic Dad and learn that they weren't a good substitute after all. Plus, Sarah suggests quite a bit of cheese, which has lactose (which increases blood glucose levels) and should be consumed in moderation by diabetics. I can't really criticize her for these points, though, because she explains, many times, that this diet is what works for her body and she encourages the reader to figure out what works for their body. It's not meant to be a diabetic guide, but I will still hoping that the switches she recommends would be good for my diabetic family members. I'm still doing research on my own, to figure if I can adapt some of her recipes for diabetics.
Would I Buy This Book Again?
Definitely! Enthusiastically, wholeheartedly, YES! I re-read it often for a much-needed pep talk and there are still so many recipes I have to try that look delicious and are better for me. It's a great resource for anyone looking to reduce their sugar intake, so I highly recommend it. While doing the detox, my cravings did subside and had I not immediately endured the most stressful few months of my life, my switch to living sugar-free might have stuck. Still, even though I fell off the wagon, getting back on this time around has been so much easier. I'm looking forward to the future and finally getting a handle on my sugar addiction.
I just wanted to share my review because I don't buy books often. When I do, I spent way too long reading reviews, comparing content, and weighing my options. The I Quit Sugar book stood out among a sea of sugar-free books and what's better, Sarah has great resources on her website and a ton of inspiration on her Instagram account, so there's always additional support for the quitting sugar journey. I'm actually thinking of buying her I Quit Sugar Cookbook as well, because it has 300+ recipes!