Book Review: I Quit Sugar

If I had only two pieces of diet advice to give, they would be: Eat very little (or no) sugar, and eat more vegetables.

The truth about sugar is out. Many have seen Dr Robert Lustig’s documentaries and presentations, particularly “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” has 4.8 million views on YouTube. Dr Lustig is the main guy leading the anti-sugar charge here in the United States. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are referred to as epidemics and most of us know this has something to do with sugar. We know we should eat less sugar, particularly the highly processed kinds like high-fructose corn syrup and white table sugar. The problem is how.

It’s not easy to make changes in the first place. It is especially challenging to cut back on such a highly addictive substance that is all tied up with our brain chemistry and our emotions. Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar gives practical structure to the how. She holds your hand and tells you everything is going to be ok. She is pretty strident in her anti-sugar stance, yet she’s non-judgmental. She is in the NO sugar camp, but that’s mainly because she has a thyroid disease and fares much better without any sugar in her life. I like that she acknowledges that everyone is different and its up to us to decide our relationship with sugar. That sounds funny, but it totally is a relationship! Sugar is that bad friend that makes us feel good in the short term but then leaves us feeling worse in the long term. Sugar is there when we’re down, when we want a sweet treat, or a reward. It washes over our brain and distracts us from whatever difficult thing we’re dealing with. Even if it’s just that we feel tired, sugar will pick us up and we feel great in the sugar-high, but then there is the inevitable sugar-crash. If that sounds like the highs and lows of drug use it’s because yeah, it’s exactly like that. Sugar stimulates the pleasure center of the brain just like cocaine. Long-term stimulation of that pleasure center leads to addiction. Dr. Lustig does a good job of explaining sugar as a drug and an addiction in scientific terms. Miss Wilson does a good job of explaining sugars effects in layman’s terms, like a true friend.

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In I Quit Sugar, Wilson recognizes our relationship to sugar and our reliance on it. She notices:

We have a gnarly, deep-rooted resistance to quitting sugar. We grow up with a full-on emotional and physical attachment to sugar. Just the idea of not being able to turn to it when we’re feeling a little lost or tired or bored or emotionally bereft terrifies us. If not a sweet treat, then what? Well, I’ll tell you what: a mind and body that’s clean and clear.”

You may find it enlightening to read that she was not the kind of sugar addict you might be thinking of – the one who lives off of Starbucks vanilla lattes, blueberry muffins, Mountain Dew, and Snickers bars (I don’t do that! So I must be fine!). Her abuse was relegated to honey, fruit, chocolate, and hidden sugars in sauces and condiments. She consumed about 30 teaspoons of sugar a day (total, not just “added” sugar), which is less than the average, but still too much, especially for her. Average consumption of added sugar is 22 teaspoons a day. Sugar had her in its grips. Part of her denied it (but I’m only eating natural sugars!) and part of her knew she needed to reduce her consumption for the good of her health. I love the – let’s just try it and see – approach she takes. She says:

I wasn’t draconian about it. I just remained curious…. Treat quitting sugar as an experiment. Not a life sentence. You don’t have to stick with it. But you might just choose to.”

I really appreciate the gentle, gradual approach. It’s not cold turkey, there are no ultimatums. If you’re truly ready to give up sugar, the 8-week program outlined in the book safely and easily guides you through. It also includes recipes and shopping lists giving you alternatives to your usual sugary food items. Finding substitutes is key, as I found when I did it. Don’t do what I did though and over-do it with the things that are allowed. Just like resisting change, our brains also don’t respond well to deprivation. The minute you tell yourself you can’t have something is the minute you want it. If this is creeping up and is strong in your psyche, you might not be ready to try quitting sugar – even a calm, non-judgmental 8-week program like this.

After her 8 weeks Miss Wilson felt so much better off sugar that she doesn’t even miss it and it is out of her life for good. As for me, I missed it. But I was able to shake its grip and don’t depend on it like I used to. I can have dessert on special occasions, a nibble of dark chocolate or some coconut milk ice cream every once in a while and it doesn’t make me crazy. It used to be that if I had a bar of dark chocolate in the house, it wouldn’t last one day, I’d eat the whole lot. Same with a bag of cookies or a tray of homemade corn muffins. I’d tell myself, they’re vegan! or they’re low-sugar! but that didn’t change the fact that I couldn’t really control myself. This was really important for me though because of my predisposition for diabetes. I can become glucose intolerant and insulin resistant pretty easily if I don’t Β eat right.

Your motivations and intentions are so important when it comes to making changes. Do it for your health. I find that if I try to make any dietary changes with some other intention, it back-fires. If I make choices with my health in mind, motivated by feeling better in my own skin, then I get to where I want to be.

If you’re ready to find out how you’ll feel off sugar, I wholeheartedly recommend I Quit Sugar and following the 8 week plan. There other resources such as cookbooks and forums on the I Quit Sugar website for even more support. Click here to visit I Quit Sugar.

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