Almost six years ago I quit sugar. I coped flack for this. Did I what.

When it came around to publishing my first book I Quit Sugar I ran the below Arthur Schopenhauer quote upfront, by way of highlighting where I thought the whole debate just had to head. Eventually.

Image via quotefancy.com
Image via quotefancy.com

Someone referred to this quote at a public talk I gave recently, asking me if I still copped flack (ridiculed) or if we’d moved onto the next stages of truth (acceptance).

I hadn’t thought about it since I included it in the book. But I did now. I answered thusly,

The ridicule has backed off big time. The trolls have quietened down. For half a decade I’ve served back science and reason as my response. It kind of pinned them to their wall.
The opposition is still there. It looks different now. It’s less violent. However, it’s becoming more mercurial, more seemingly reasoned. Like the one about how everything in moderation is great (not really possible with sugar, which is the foundation of my argument) and that we just have to burn off off the excess calories (thus positing the issue as merely one of empty calories).
But I think we’re well on our way to viewing what I’ve been saying for the past 5 1/2 years as common sense. I was even recently tagged the “sensible voice” in the wellness debate by a newspaper that had previously sledged me as “extreme”.

I added that the best way to have true influence is to quietly just get on with things and not ram an idea down anyone’s throat. Be your message, and all that jazz.

I have never told a soul to quit sugar. My book is called I Quit Sugar, not You Must Quit Sugar. I posited an invite…and waited for folk out there to ask questions, try it for themselves, spread the message, come to the party on their own gentle terms.

I don’t meant to gloat. I do, however, find it worthwhile reflecting on progress made, gleaning hope from how ideas can move down Schopenhauer’s stages. Here’s a few I’ve witnessed:

Clean Eating and Superfoods are a misnoma.

For some years I’ve been healthily skeptical of complicated, irresponsible, ungrounded, expensive, wasteful wellness fads. Interestingly, recently in the UK experts and journalists have declared “Clean Eating” a problematic way of eating, for various reasons. Given that this term is used to describe meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, date/almond milk/cashew/raw greens-saturated foods and the like, instead of plain and simple real food, cooked at home, using basic ingredients in sustainable, economical ways, I tend to agree.

Any real food, by which I mean the simple, un-messed-food our grandmothers could identify, is a Superfood. Its “super” properties work when eaten as a whole food and as a meal, often cooked. “Raw superfood balls” full of agave, health powders, soy, etc., and cold-pressed juices are not superfoods. They’re complicated. Mucked-with. And expensive. A proper meal of meat or beans and veggies is a superfood.

Limit your added sugar intake to 6-9 teaspoons a day.

This was my rule of thumb from the very start, based on meta studies I’d looked into before launching my 8-Week Program.

Late last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended sugar intake for adults be cut in half, from the original 10 per cent of total daily calories to 5 per cent…which comes out at, yep, 6-9 teaspoons.

The British government endorsed this decision and amended its national guidelines accordingly. The American Heart Foundation also amended its sugar intake prescriptions and currently recommends a limit of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 for women. It’s become accepted.

Fat doesn’t make us fat (or sick)

In my first book I flag it’s the sugar, people. And I explain why.

In the past 18 months, the demonisation of saturated fat has been called into serious question. Big studies suggest that there is no direct link between saturated fat consumption and obesity, nor risk of heart disease. One massive study published in 2010 looked at data from 21 studies that included 347,747 individuals. They found no association between saturated fat consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease.A more recent metanalysis published in The Lancet Journal showed that low-fat diets are not particularly efficient for weight loss either (especially when compared to a “fatty” Mediterrean-style diet). 

In the UK, the heat has been turned up on all this, with the National Obesity Forum declaring the low-fat guidelines of the past 50-odd years the reason behind Britain’s obesity crises. An extreme line that I don’t necessary share.

Not every calorie is equal (and you should stop counting them).

Again, I’ve been sharing this for a while. New science supports this now.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped Coke et al drawing on the sham-y calorie-in=calorie-out line of thinking. It works rather conveniently for them, which should be enough for all of us to question it.

Juicing is bad for you and the environment. 

I consider juicing a marketing scam and ditched juices a long time ago.

Now we have push-back from a lot of media who have become really rather dubious/wellness-washed about the whole juice thing. Hoorah! I particularly like the fact they’re catching on to the food sustainability travesty it presents: the leftover pulp is more often than not dumped into landfill by big juice companies. There it rots away, producing harmful greenhouse gases.

Just Eat Real Food (because this is the *real* clean eating)

It’s my number one mantra, and it’s lovely to see others take it up on tees and bags and Instagram tag lines. We’re all singing from this songsheet: Ditch the processed junk and Just Eat Real Food (#JERF).

In my second book I’ve slightly distanced myself from some of the extremes of “clean eating” fads such as veganism, raw food, juicing, Paleo, gluten-free etc. Which is not to say that just because it’s deemed a “fad”, it should be dismissed (which is the habit of headline-hunting media at times). Instead, I pull out the bits of science/sensible thinking from each and explain why it might not be a bad idea to incorporate said snippet. If it feels right for you.

Comparing various different styles of eating researchers have recently found that a healthy lifestyle is best achieved by eating “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants.” If you feel extra geeky have a read through the study at your leisure.

Of course, I’m aware sugar-free eating is often lazily deemed another faddish “free-from”, “clean eating”, dangerous food obsession. But I think it’s becoming accepted as self-evident this is not the case.

Feel free to share your thoughts. Please do keep your ideas considered and grounded in science and sensible thinking.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Kristie

    Sarah I think you make a lot of sense. You have a good noggen on you! I’m a bit rattled about your juice opinion because I think a good old green juice in the morning feels so uplifting. But there’s a part of me that always feels bad about the fibre wastage and how excessive it feels and how such a huge amount of food reduces to such a tiny amount of liquid. Not even my chooks eat the leftover juice wastage so it’s hard to see at as a sustainable practice

    • Mel

      Have you tried using the left over pulp in muffins or making crackers from it? Plenty of recipes on pintrest amd the Web in general

      • good one. indeed. but my point remains – the benefits of eating the WHOLE food are well reported.

  • Vid

    I’m still being ridiculed by my family and it’s been almost 3 years since I quit sugar with your book. They are becoming a little more curious but I still get ridiculed every time a dessert gets offered.

    • just keep pointing out the WHO is on board. Seems to cut through with the skeptics in my circles.

    • Katie

      I don’t know how you do it Vid. My grandma loves to give everyone treats… she would feed me an entire pie if I let her!

      • Vid

        I totally understand, I’m of balkan background and food=love in my family. I kept it secret for the first year, just pretended I didn’t feel hungry and that was easier than when my secret came out. I just let them ridicule me…I will eat dessert sometimes if it’s homemade…but will not eat any of the crap preservative laded stuff they sell in the supermarkets. I’m sure when this message becomes even more mainstream they will realise what I’m on about.

  • BeautyCharmAdventure

    I am forever grateful that I grew up on a farm where essentially we only ate it if we had produced it (or a neighbour or friend gave it to us), with the occasional bought food as a treat. And by that I mean chicken! Although most definitely a city slicker now, the principles about only eating “real food” and questioning the origin of my food have stuck. I’ve expanded my menu to include legumes, grains, avocados….but essentially I never really developed a taste for processed fake food. I thought I was hard done by as a kid, but in reality, what a gift! I couldn’t agree more with your list!

  • Daniel L

    “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

    Just keep up with your great work Sarah!

  • Jess Pace

    So great to hear from you again! Woot!

    I agree with you on this, I ditched the whole superfood movement a little while back and I’ve kept my food intake super simple. You’ve been an excellent influence on me 🙂 I now sometimes will eat half a broccoli for breakfast, something which has been looked upon as strange! Eating real food is strange?! I find that funny. I went to to explain to my friends that it just makes me feel good, I found that simple explanation actually had a really positive response!

  • Ida-Sofia

    Hi Sarah! That pulp-thing is very interestng and I hope that there would be more research about the juicing phenomenon out there.

    Personally I own a juicer (it’s a part of my food processor) but I use it only when I need an extra boost and my sensitive gut needs something gently to fill it (1-2 times a week). And I do so, like you write, because it FEELS RIGHT for myself. My principle also is that I only buy bulk vegetables (not sugary fruits) for my juicer from my local organic farmers market. This means I buy half-price vegetables which would otherwise go off.

    What comes to nut/almond/seed milk pulps, I have a very good tip for using them without feeling guilty about food waste. I struggled with this for a long time because I love homemade milk alternatives (I can’t tolerant cows milk) and didn’t always have a second use for the pulp. But I got a GREAT tip from Lee Holmes cookbook: I use the pulp again 2 times making half of the original batch each time. This means if I make a litre of nut milk (160 g of nuts) at the first time, the second batch is 500 ml and third 250 ml. I benefit the every single flavour and goodness of the pulp and it becomes very cheap in the long run. Reused pulp also makes as delicious milk as the first batch.

    P.S. I love adding my nut milk pulps (which have reused first) to your coco-nutty granola. It works!

    Thank you again!

  • Claudia Lawson

    While I agree that the less tampering with food the better, do we really understand the consequences of eating animals? We consume their consciousness and how they were killed. We are what we eat and a plant based diet is our natural state. Consuming animals, especially if they are killed without consideration lowers our vibration. Free will, I make no judgment, just offering food for thought.

  • K

    Sarah, have you noticed when you do eat sugar now that it hurts your teeth while you’re chewing until you clear your mouth – usually the back row? Keeps happening to me and now dates are causing it too. Just wondering if you or anyone else has noticed this effect.

  • Ann A. Jones

    ‘Way back in 1960, I was 5, my dad was 37, and he survived a heart attack. I grew up with this threatening demon called “cholesterol.” Whatever that was, it would kill my dad if he ate it, or if I ate it. My mother cut every bit of fat off of the little bit of meat that she cooked until it was well done in. Mum acted like dad would drop dead at any second at the slight variation in her “cholesterol must die” point of view.
    Well, dad outlived mum, and he died several years ago at the ripe of old of 88. Along the way, I rather figured that pointing the finger at any one food and calling it the enemy was probably pretty stilly. I am still of that opinion.
    A few years back, I was told by someone who is not an MD that I should stop eating gluten. I did. I don’t feel one bit better with it or without it. Now I am afraid to go back to eating it. Just silly. Yes, we should all cut down on sugar, and salt, and fat, and carbs, and no doubt whatever we like to eat most. And just cut down on eating in general. The truth is that the darling of the nutrition industry will be the villain in months to come. Like eggs and my dad. Or whole wheat vs. gluten free.

    I will be reasonable as live as like.