I Quit Sugar, which started as a little experiment by writer, presenter and entrepreneur Sarah Wilson – whose Sunday Life magazine columns I used to read every weekend, way before IQS – is now an international phenomenon, with the website, books and related social media feeds having a very significant following.
One of the foundational aspects of I Quit Sugar is the 8 Week Program, which is designed to help you get on board with eliminating added sugar from your diet by providing you with 2 months’ worth of meal plans and recipes, accompanied by shopping lists and ongoing tips and live (online) support. If you know anything about IQS you will know that the Program is primarily directed at reducing excessive fructose – scientifically, one of the three basic types of sugar molecules which are the basis of more complex types of sugars – in the diet. IQS targets both added excessive fructose itself as well as the more commonly present sucrose (i.e. table sugar, which is equal parts glucose + fructose). You can read more about the basics of IQS here.
I’ve been invited by the IQS Team to give the next round of the 8 Week Program a go, which kicks off on 8 February 2016. Before it gets started, I wanted to share with you how I’m going to approach the 8WP – in particular, because I will actually be modifying it just a little.
Why am I doing it?
Because I’ve always been curious about the IQS8WP, and I’d like to be able to advise and/or support others who are interested in participating. Do I need to “quit sugar”? Honestly, probably not; I’ve been all over this added sugar thing for a long time now and I’m confident that my average sugar intake is within a safe and healthy range. However, that doesn’t mean that I have nothing to learn and I’m interested to see what guidance the IQS8WP offers. Though I will be modifying the Program slightly – see the next answer below – and I have no overwhelming concern about my sugar intake, I am going to stick to the Program guidelines so I have a realistic experience. Practically, for me this is probably going to involve:
- enjoying a few more savoury breakfasts instead of puddings/smoothies/porridge to encourage my palate away from sweet tasting foods;
- experimenting with new snack combinations for morning or afternoon tea to swap out things like bliss balls which I have sometimes;
- skipping the honey in hot beverages I occasionally have as a “sweet treat” in the afternoon at work when my energy is starting to flag;
- focussing on having bigger, better prepared, more fulsome main meals to avoid energy crashes and cravings (I’m not perfect – I get caught up with my job and other things keep me super busy and can neglect to prepare good filling meals sometimes! We’re only human, after all).
What am I changing?
Way back before Nourish Everyday and my studies in nutrition, I was caught up in a restrictive eating disorder paired with excessive exercise (before the term “orthorexia” got bandied about). I’m still recovering from those years in a sense; I’m struggling with hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA). Without talking about that too much – it’s not the subject of this blog post, I will write about it soon – in short, to help me get better I need to EAT (lots) and keep my weight up. Including a fair amount of carbs. As I’m gluten-intolerant and I’m also a pretty busy girl (working full-time as a lawyer is not like an island holiday), one of my key easy, healthy carbohydrate sources is fresh fruit. The IQS8WP does ask you to cut out all fruit for a short period of time. During that period, I’m still going to have some fresh fruit to help increase the volume and calorie load of food I eat every day. Basically, I’m doing the Program but taking into account some of the recommendations IQS makes in this article for pregnant women – I’m not pregnant but I’d like to be someday, so I’m making sure I am eating in a way that’s the most nutritious for me. Medically, I’m seeing an endocrinologist on an ongoing basis as well.
Who would I suggest the IQS8WP to?
I think I’m going to be in a better position to answer this at the end of the Program, however on a general level, I’d be happy to support anyone interested in completing the IQS8WP as a way of learning more about the sources of sugar in our average diet and keen to experiment with sugar-free or low-sugar alternative meals. From the sample recipes I have trialled from IQS so far, I think the Program is quite suitable for most people, even if you’re worried that you’re a very amateur cook. It will help you expand your healthy cooking repertoire; the recipes are fun, relatively easy and the ingredients are supermarket-accessible. Pictured above and below are some snaps of the recipes I have trialled so far (I got a sneak preview of some of them!) – “Caprese Rice Cakes” and “Crispy Cauliflower Tacos”.
Who would I NOT suggest the IQS8WP to?
Aside from the obvious – those with an existing medical condition who need to check in with their health professional before any change to eating habits – there are another sort of “category” of people that I’d not recommend play around with the Program. This builds from my article last week where I interviewed Maddy Moon and she shared some helpful tips for anyone considering doing a food and/or fitness program. Some people are in a place where they are looking for an opportunity to restrict their eating habits and feel a strong compulsive need to live by very arbitrary food “rules”. Restriction and rule-following bring a sense of relief and worthiness; deviance drives shame, guilt, self-hate.
Personally, I think if you want to partake in any kind of health program, it needs to be done from an inclusive rather than exclusive perspective; a focus on the positive and all the new things you can try. If you’re looking into the IQS8WP and feel that it’s triggering urges in you to avoid food, or it makes you excessively worry about food, then this might not be the right program, or perhaps just not the right time, for you. There are some proposed diagnostic questionnaires to identify orthorexic behaviour* which build upon a set of questions originally suggested by Stephen Bratman**. If you’re unsure of your feelings you might like to consider these questions and also speak with a close friend, family member or health professional to make a safe choice.
Let’s get cooking!
I don’t want to end this blog post on a negative note; I do think it’s going to be fun playing around with the IQS8WP recipes and sharing my insights with you! I absolutely love to cook nutritious food and this is such a great way to get motivated to try some different ideas out. There are so many incredibly delicious things you can make without using unnecessary added sugars and I’m really happy to share that message. And if you’re nervous don’t worry, I’m also going to be here to support you along the way! If you’d like to participate in the IQS8WP Program with me you can sign up via the link below***.
*See for example the ORTO-15 Questionnaire referred to in: Donini LM, Marsili D, Graziani MP, Imbriale M and Cannella C (2005). “Orthorexia nervosa: validation of a diagnosis questionnaire.” Eating and Weight Disorders, Volume 10 (2), e28-32 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16682853).
**Bratman’s questions are set out at the bottom of this webpage: http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/orthorexia-nervosa/ – for more information refer to Bratman’s book titled Health Food Junkies and also his website http://www.orthorexia.com/.
***This is an affiliate link, meaning that I earn a small commission (i.e. a proportion of the sign up) if you join the 8WP via this link; it does not cost you any extra.