It's not that difficult to think of sugar as a habit, or even a minor pleasurable addiction. Anyone who has ever craved a chocolate cake -- or, in the case of me as I write this, a blueberry smoothie -- knows that the craving of sugar can be highly irritating and the consuming of sugar highly pleasurable. So it's not entirely surprising that if someone told me that quitting sugar was even possible, I would until recently have dismissed the thought. I, however, would have been wrong.
Sarah Wilson, a journalist, blogger, and TV host whose career has spanned radio, magazines, newspapers, and the digital world has, in addition to all of the above accomplishments, quit sugar. She and I connected two years ago when I became a fan of her site and story -- and was lucky enough to interview her about her healthy and accessible lifestyle. She's spreading the word through her business platform and new book, I Quit Sugar, about how kicking the habit has jump-started her life as a healthier, happier, and -- as she herself admits -- nicer person.
Sarah and I reconnected recently to talk about how to achieve the "zen" that comes with leaving sugar behind. She shared how sugar can make our minds us edgier and less clear, and revealed the ways to overcome cravings on the road to resetting our bodies from years of sugar dependency. We even talked of sweet, sugar-free recipes.
Laura Cococcia: Did you have an "aha!" moment when you decided that sugar was the element you needed to cut from your diet, or did this decision come gradually?
Sarah Wilson: There were two moments that kind of "forced" me into quitting. First, I have an autoimmune disease -- Hashimoto's -- and was very sick from it. Every specialist had told me my adrenals were shot to pieces and that I needed to get off sugar. The second, I'm a journalist and wrote a column for a Sunday newspaper. I was stuck for an idea one week and figured I'd try quitting sugar. I committed to two weeks. But it felt good and the result were immediate -- clear skin, clear head and so on -- so I kept on going and going. My illness and the pressure of a deadline turned out to be a gift!
LC: How have your personal and business relationships changed as a result of your sugar-free existence? Does sugar really make us more irritable and harder to deal with? If so, how?
SW: Sugar keeps you on a blood-sugar roller coaster, which equates to erratic moods. I realize now I had to plan my day around my sugar slumps. I couldn't face people around 3 p.m. And I could often be really ratty and distracted and jittery around 6 p.m. Over the long term, I've noticed that my "business head" has become very solid and confident. And I very much attribute this to almost three years of level moods and a clear head that comes from not eating sugar. I can rise above the fray and see things clearly. I'm not bogged down in the rabble of my hormonal swings. Tellingly, my business is now based around I Quit Sugar (www.iquitsugar.com) and it's grown exponentially the longer I stay off the white stuff!
LC: What kinds of sugars are restricted as a part of your diet process and lifestyle? For instance, are fruits still allowed in the mix?
SW: I devised the eight-week program based on the latest peer-reviewed science. On the program you come off all sugar, including fruit. Anything with fructose (it's this half of sucrose that is the issue, not the glucose) is out. So, honey, agave, maple syrup and so on. Other things to look out for are tomato sauce (ketchup), which can be up to 50% percent sugar, many cereals and low-fat dairy. Manufacturers often pump low-fat products with sugar when they take the fat out.
By week seven on the program, sugar is out of your system and your body is re-calibrated. That's the point of all this -- to get our bodies back to a "blank slate" and natural appetite (like when we were kids) so we can work out what is best for us. Week eight, I invite people to reintroduce a little whole fruit back in, and see how much sugar their body needs. Most people find one to two pieces of fruit a day works best and that they prefer eating more vegetables instead. This is how our ancestors, including our grandparents, used to eat.
LC: What were the one or two biggest struggles you faced in quitting the sugar habit? How were you able to overcome these challenges?
SW: Chocolate! I got around this by devising a bunch of recipes that are sugar-free -- my Chocolate Cookbook eBook was released last week. I get around this hankering for "something sweet" by having a tablespoon of coconut oil after lunch. It satiates my sweet craving and fills me up until dinner -- like, really fills me up. Coconut oil is also amazing for inflammation and for boosting metabolism. It's my secret sugar-quitting weapon.
LC: I couldn't help but notice the "sweet" sugar-free recipes portion of the book. Could you give an example or two of what these might include?
SW: Instead of sugar, I use rice malt syrup, a non-fructose sweetener made from pure organic rice, and Stevia (in granule form), an herb related to the mint plant. I use them in recipes such as my coconut cheesecake and all my chocolate recipes. These sweeteners can be used as 1:1 replacements for sugar and honey. However, after you've quit sugar, you find you just don't need that much. My cake recipes call for just a quarter-cup of sweetener, for example.
For more, visit or contact Sarah on her site.
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