Monday, September 30, 2013

I Quit Sugar (temporarily) or Goodbye Coffee Frappes

Five weeks ago, I quit sugar - using the cannily named 'I Quit Sugar' programme by Sarah Wilson. I had reached a stage where my I was going out of my mind craving iced coffee drinks, eating larger and larger portions and topping them off with a sweet fix. Normally I'm not even a sweet-tooth. I think I've said before that I would happily give up chocolate if I could eat bread and chippies for the rest of my life and not gain a gram. But recently, since Dear Boy really, I looked to chocolate and coffee as a comfort, as a concession, as a reward, as an energy fix, and sometimes as a punishment. I was on a one-a-day McDonalds coffee frappe habit. Admittedly, I'd get it without the cream and syrup but, that's a lot of coffee frappes. I could write an ode to the coffee frappe.

So I quit sugar.

Sugar here is not just the granulated stuff you spoon into your coffee but all the sweet stuff. ALL of it. No artificial sweeteners, no nothing. By sugar, what they really mean is fructose, which most anti-sugar devotees see as the devil's work, even the natural fruit version. A dried sultana? GET THEE BACK, DEMON! In the first few weeks of the programme, they don't even let you use the "good" sweeteners such as rice malt syrup or dextrose (glucose? whatever). Instead of all this sweet, sweet goodness, they replace it with fat. A LOT of fat. Full-fat milk and cheese and yoghurt. Butter. Nuts. And spoons full of coconut oil.

I feel like I've been single handedly supporting the coconut industries of several small south-east Asian countries over the last few weeks. Last week was detox week and suddenly it was the broccoli farmers getting a boost with broccoli in nearly every single meal.

Each week they give out lots of tips and tricks (a bacon lattice? Really? Can you just tell me why I'm not allowed to eat tinned tomatoes?), a few newsletters with links to the "science" of fructose and what our bodies do with it, and a few hints about which brands they prefer (*cough* sponsorship deal *cough*). They give out full meal plans and recipes, which is what I was really after - not having to think to hard about what I ate.

If you're interested in the programme - here's the good parts for me:
  • I didn't have any physical withdrawal symptoms apart from one headache on the afternoon of the third day (others were not so lucky - this seems to be an individual thing depending on your sugar habits, I guess). 
  • seem to have broken the pack-(of chocolate)-a-day habit.
  • I feel like we're eating reasonably healthy foods - whole, unprocessed foods.
  • The programme is great for dealing with leftovers and building a stock of frozen meals and meal components to make life easier. The Sunday cookup has also been pretty handy.
  • I no longer drink sugar in my coffee (if I remember to tell the baristas not to sprinkle the damn chocolate on it).
  • I don't automatically reach for cupboard door when I'm bored or tired.
  • My tastebuds have reset so anything with the barest hint of sugar in it tastes incredibly sweet.
  • I haven't had to give up bread entirely; I've swtiched to sourdough bread (which apparently does good things to your blood sugar).
  • Aldi's tempura chicken nuggets have dextrose and no other nasty sugars.
  • Some of the fructose-free sweet options from week 6 onwards are yummy. Hello Raspberry Ripple - my first taste of the good life in five weeks.
  • I feel a little holier-than-thou about sticking to the programme. Smugness is sometimes motivation to keep me going. 

Here are the not-so-good parts:
  • I am still dreaming about coffee frappes, although I'm concerned that, because my tastebuds are now super-sensitive to sugar, it might blow my head off if I had one. 
  • The programme seems to have been rushed out early. There are typos and grammar errors in the written material and bugs in the system and website navigation (the search function in the recipe archive is so stupidly useless it's laughable) - overall, the quality control hasn't been great. This might be better next time round.
  • There have only been a handful meals that I would want to eat again after I finish the programme. I feel like I've been living in blandsville the last few weeks - even after dumping in salt and a crap-tonne of extra herbs and spices. Admittedly, the slow cooker is handy, but wet meat really isn't my favourite thing. We also don't eat fish, so that's been a bit of a pain.
  • I haven't lost any weight on the programme itself. I am putting this down to the huge amount of fat in everything. Some people have done really well on a fructose-free diet. I am still struggling to attune myself to a full-fat lifestyle after years of living low-fat.
  • I think the real reason I'm not snacking as much is that my snack options are so incredibly boring. I am so sick of nuts and coconut and, really, it's not terribly convenient to whip up a green smoothie when I'm feeling the need for something awesome. I don't want to eat a spoon full of coconut oil. I don't want to nosh down on a boiled egg. 
  • Nothing to drink but coffee, herbal tea, soda water and water. Water with lemon. Yay.  
  • Dear Boy hates the sound of the blender and calls it a 'scary dinosaur'.
  • A lot of the products are either obscure and hard to find or expensive or both. I cannot get cacao products at the supermarket.
  • I am so sick of broccoli. 
  • Quinoa has started to smell like broccoli. 
IQS is not a deprivation diet in the sense that you aren't eating enough food, but it is very much opposed to that mantra-of-old which was 'moderation in all things'. For me, a diet this strict or restricted isn't sustainable in the long term unless I had a medical condition that required it. For me, this kind of eating leads to falling-off-the-wagon and binges on all the 'naughty' stuff. I've managed to hold off the last few weeks but it shouldn't be that joyless - no cake at celebrations, no ice-cream treat after the beach. I fully understand that there I have psychological connections between food and socialising and happiness that need to be changed but the occasional treat is worth it to me to not feel left out as those family traditions and special occasions continue on around me. 

So this will be a temporary thing for me. I'm going to eat fruit. I'm going to return to low-fat. I'm going to ditch the butter. I may go back and try a coffee frappe. Not today. Probably not tomorrow. But some day. 

Have you tried a fructose free diet or gone paleo? How did you do?


  1. Fructose.... hmmm. It is the sweetener most recommended to diabetics because it does not trigger insulin production and it also has a glycemic index of around 20 compared to 100 for glucose (dextrose) and 70 for sucrose (which is just fructose and glucose bound together). Fructose is taken up by the liver and is almost immediately (through fructolysis) turned into glucose for distribution in the blood.

    1. Look, I'm not entirely convinced by some of their arguments, especially with cutting out pretty much all fruit. The nutritionists association have made an interesting reply to the guy that wrote Sweet Poison that debunks some of that guys "science". On the IQS website, they've rolled out a few studies about sugar being more addictive than cocaine, it causing cancer and heart disease, etc. In terms of diabetes, they say "while glucose is recognised and compensated for by the hormone insulin (an appetite-control hormone) fructose is not" - which I guess is why diabetics are "allowed" it - it doesn't muck with their insulin levels in the same way others do??? And yes, fructose is metabolised in the liver - where it converts to palmitic acid, which according to them "can travel to the brain and suppress leptin activity", which is the stiety hormone that stops you wanting to eat more. As I mention in the post, I don't think it's sustainable in the long term for me, for us, but it's been useful for me as a kick up the butt and detox from some very unhealthy eating habits.

  2. In case anyone was interested - here's Nutrition Australia's catalogue of errors in David Gillespie's Sweet Poison -

  3. I'm not a fan of the sugar is evil club, but each to their own I guess. I think the tomato is to do with salicylates which some health groups are saying is problem (though the scientific research seems to point only to artificial ones being a problem.
    We've recently cleaned our diets of artificial colours and flavours which seems to be helpful in motivating me to do more from scratch cooking and to eat better in general. If I can find it I'll pass a recipe on for coffee frappe we used to make you don't have to put sugar in it unless you want to.

    1. I'd love a coffee frappe recipe! Now I have a blender I have a feeling that this summer might be dedicated to perfecting the frappe at home.

      The tomato thing was very confusing because, according to the IQS programme, you could have tomato passata but not regular tinned tomatos. I get why a concentrated tomato paste might be a no-no but tinned tomatos?

  4. Hey :) popping over from Maxabella's linky.
    I am so not a believer of fad diets, or diets of any type. Just eat a broad range of good foods, indulge occasionally and be we
    In addition to the diet thing, I'm not a fan of the cult like following of IQS. And the sheer holier than thou attitudes of its leader.
    Hope you get some satisfaction out of food soon :)


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