I’VE QUIT sugar at least five times. And every time my anti-inflammatory/Paleo/quitting sugar kick is over, I snuggle up with my faves — chocolate, cookies, sour gummies.
The good news is that quitting gets easier every time. But I’ve never stuck the landing of a sugar-free life.
Aussie writer Sarah Wilson promises it is possible. Her book, “I Quit Sugar,” lays out how to do it in eight weeks.
We all know sugar is not healthy, but Wilson is more specific: fructose, not sugar, is the problem. Back in the cave-people days, fruit, which has fructose, was rare. Our bodies evolved without a fructose “full switch,” as she calls it. When we found berries, we gorged and stored it as instant fat. Yes, fructose converts directly to fat. Research also shows fructose inhibits our immune system, interferes with mineral absorption, speeds up aging, and can cause hyperactivity and anxiety. Some scientists say it’s responsible for 35 million deaths worldwide a year.
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Wilson’s approach to quitting sugar (www.iquitsugar.com) is rather unorthodox: Eat fat. For those of you shuddering at the thought, Wilson says our body understands fat. “We don’t get fat from eating fat and protein,” she writes. “We get full.”
She advocates fats such as ghee, coconut oil, olive oil and butter, animal fat and full-fat dairy. Avoid unstable, polyunsaturated fats like canola, safflower, sunflower, soy and corn oils.
Thus, my challenge. Eat fat, cut fructose — including table sugar, honey, agave and fruit. Gulp.
I decided to quit while doing a Paleo challenge that cuts out sugar and has lots of good fat. Per Wilson’s program, I also cut out all fresh and dried fruit.
Wilson gives two weeks to ease in; I gave myself a few days. The first day wasn’t so bad. I ate some pineapple with my eggs, and life felt fine. The second day, I wanted ice cream after dinner. The thought of sharing my failure publicly stopped me.
I went cold turkey on Day 5. I discovered how much sugar is out there: in my bacon, in my buffalo jerky bar with cranberries, in the balsamic vinegar I use on salads. I stewed, and used lemon juice instead.
I found some sweet outlets — coconut water, which has almost no fructose, and tea. I drank kombucha, but the 5g of sugar per serving nagged at me, so I stopped.
I learned to prepare. I made Wilson’s Coconutty Granola recipe and carried it with me. I made prosciutto egg cups for an easy snack. I ate at home before a Mariners game, though I longed for BBQ pulled pork. I accompanied my boyfriend to ice cream and heroically abstained.
Eating good fat and protein, like eggs, avocado and meat plus vegetables, helped curb sugar cravings. In the wild world of eating out, however, cutting sugar could feel impossible. On one bad day at lunch I didn’t ask whether my pulled pork had sugar in the marinade.
I learned to be kind when I screwed up, like when I ordered fruit with my eggs at brunch.
Within days, I felt better. Cutting grains helps, but I know from experience sugar is the main culprit. I no longer wake up bloated from a sugar binge. I feel leaner. My energy through the day is stable. I remembered why I keep quitting sugar.
By the end of the program, Wilson allows some fruit and limited sweetness with brown rice syrup, which is glucose, not fructose. The body is designed to consume 6 to 9 teaspoons of sugar a day. I can’t wait for some berries.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.