#5: Review of the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program (Jan – March 2015)

This is a review of my second round of the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program, which I completed between January and March this year. I did the program again to ‘reset’ my body in the new year, and to have two months of nutritious recipes laid out for me. My Mum did the program for the first time, so we did many of our Sunday cook-ups together and had fun comparing our experiences of the meals.

I didn’t do the program to ‘quit sugar’ again, as I had continued living a low-fructose lifestyle since first completing the program in July last year. However, doing it again allowed me to realise how much easier it has become to live a low-sugar life, and to enjoy other aspects of the program that I was less focused on last time, while in the midst of sugar cravings: learning new ways to cook, cutting down on caffeine – a surprising outcome – and thinking about new ways to use leftovers. I realised too, that I really do feel my best during the program, when I am planning and eating nutrient-dense meals with loads of vegetables, and making food a priority, instead of letting it slide in favour of all the other things that need to get done.

In the lead-up to a new round starting, my review of the June 2014 program tends to get a lot of visits. So for those who have found themselves here trying to decide whether to sign up, let me take this opportunity to clear up the most common criticism and misconception about the program, before I go on to talk about the highlights of this round.

Fruit.

Arguably the most common criticism of IQS is, ‘but they don’t eat fruit’. This is not true. IQS recommend eating whole fruit, up to two small servings a day. They recommend the whole fresh fruit, rather than juice or dried fruit, because it includes all the fibre and nutrients to support the fructose to be absorbed by the body. They do cut out most fruit, and all sweeteners, including fructose-free sweeteners such as stevia and rice malt syrup, for four weeks during the 8 week program, to allow the body to recalibrate and the taste-buds to reset. Although this was a challenge, I found it to be a valuable part of the program. At the end of the four weeks, most people find they have a better appreciation for the natural sweetness of whole fruits and vegetables, and can enjoy very dark chocolate. These four weeks were key to reducing my cravings for sugar. Outside of these four weeks, we enjoyed strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples and peaches during the program.

Otherwise, the 8 week program is essentially about reducing processed foods, particularly those with added sugar, and just cooking and eating real food. Although I love to cook and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I learned new ways to cook, and cooked meals I’d never cooked myself before, such as corned beef and calamari. The meals are easily adaptable and versatile – so that proteins and vegetables are fairly interchangeable. The program provides lots of tips and tricks, including innovative ways to use leftovers, such as in chutneys, pesto and smoothies. I now find myself eating more vegetables, with most meals, including at breakfast (basil and spinach pesto scrambled eggs are the best!).

This time round, the food was outstanding. I thought it was great last time, but this meal plan was next level, as the IQS team further refine and improve the menu with each round. This recent round incorporated more ‘dude-food’ and kid-friendly recipes, such as lamb chops on Australia Day, pizza, meatball subs, a BLAT superbowl, big breakfast, bangers and mash, and chicken schnitzel (and that’s just from the first three weeks!). My husband’s favourite was the persian slow-cooked lamb with herb and pistachio pilaf.

For me, there were two particularly surprising outcomes from this round of the program:

1. My fear of chicken thighs was cured! I’ve always hated chicken thigh meat and instead opted for chicken breast. A few times in the last few years I’ve attempted to cook it, and still couldn’t handle the texture. I decided to give it a go during the program when making the yoghurt chicken, and was pleasantly surprised. I had it a number of times throughout the program and came to really like it, and have continued using it in the month since the program officially ended.

2. I reduced my caffeine intake to less than half of what I used to drink. While suffering through a week of no coffee during ‘clean week’ in Week 4, with some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, I fully intended to resume my usual 10 cups of coffee a week, plus around 4 cups of tea. Until… I realised I actually felt better without it. I slept easier, and deeper, I didn’t have the same low blood sugar issues throughout the day, and I felt less anxious and jittery. I still drink coffee, but I’ve cut back to around three cups a week and the odd cup of tea. I wrote more about this here.

The online community that IQS have fostered is a real benefit to the program participants. Through social media on Facebook, Instagram and the closed forums, there is an emphasis on participants supporting each other rather than judging each other; and through this, it is easier to carry on with the IQS philosophy (Just Eat Real Food) after the program, and to share recipes, knowledge and ideas.

Being invited to become an IQS Ambassador was a definite highlight of the program. I’m very excited to be part of supporting this important program and the people who participate in it, and to continue with the next round starting in June. I have included below a short gallery of my ten favourite meals from this round of the program, though it was hard to choose! Click here to view the full gallery of all my meals from the program.

Click here to view all posts related to my experience with the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program.

8 Comments

  1. Elise says:

    Erin, your review covers so many of the concerns I had going into the program. I realised part-way into the program that iquitsugar were providing recipes using just real food but in a no/low fructose way. It just makes so much sense. I too, look forward to the next round. πŸ˜€

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Elise. Maybe they need a name change… “I Quit Sugar (to eat real food)”. πŸ˜‰ Good to hear you will be joining in for the next round too! πŸ™‚

  2. Erin what an awesome wrap up of the program! I couldn’t agree more – The food this round was next level and the IQS family on Insta was so supportive and encouraging – made me smile every day without fail! I have loved sharing your journey through your blog and Insta. You should be very proud of the example you are setting for your little ones and making time to look after yourself with such wholesome and nutritious food! Can’t wait to see what’s next…

    • Erin says:

      Thanks so much Rani! I loved sharing the journey with you too – it was such a pleasure. Glad I get to keep following your foodie ventures. πŸ™‚

    • Erin says:

      Hi Jessi,
      It really depends on how many you’re cooking for – will you be doing the program for yourself, or with a partner or family?

  3. Justine says:

    Hi Erin, my husband and I are thinking about doing the 8 week programme and your reviews have really helped to clear up some of my concerns, thank you!

    Although we are thinking of doing the programme to be healthier and eat real food, we would also like to lose some weight while doing it. Did you lose weight during the 8 weeks? Also concerned about expense of some of the ingredients but I guess it’s all worth it.

    • Erin says:

      Hi Justine,
      Thanks for getting in touch. πŸ™‚ I personally didn’t lose weight during the program, although didn’t want to – my husband did initially lose about 5kg (two years ago), and has since gone on to lose over 25kg. Some people do lose weight during the program, and others find that they lose it in the longer term – but please also bear in mind that it’s not a weight loss program. I experienced lots of other health benefits, including more energy and better overall health. πŸ™‚
      In terms of cost, they try to keep it as affordable as possible, however there is also a forum where people can discuss substitutes if they don’t want to buy a particular ingredient. The way it works, is that cooking dinner provides dinner that night and lunch the following day – so this is another area to cut costs if you are doing it as a couple. We do it as a family, so for the meals that are a bit more expensive (eg salmon), ill do just enough for dinner, and then choose from one of the ‘quick and easy’ lunch alternatives instead. Does that make sense?
      Cheers, Erin

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