Good Food road-test: Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar detox program

Annabel Smith
Sarah Wilson devised the eight-week program.
Sarah Wilson devised the eight-week program. Photo: Supplied

The premise: Follow Sarah Wilson's mantra, break the habit and cut out all sugar over an eight week detox.

The results: ''No. I. Do. Not. Want. A. Biscuit,'' I growl through gritted teeth. It's week one and my partner has mistakenly offered me a Monte Carlo. Welcome to the sugar-free detox. Thankfully I wasn't a cranky pants for too long, and the sugar cravings subsided within a fortnight. Sarah Wilson's eight-week program lures you in with an easygoing ''just try and cut back'' first week, then - BAM! No more refined sugars, goodbye so-called healthy sugars (honey, stevia) and farewell fruit (fresh, dried, juiced). The aim is to break the sugar ''addiction'' and ultimately ''recalibrate''. Sugar is a sneaky thing. It slips into ingredients lists where you least expect it, so I got my JERF (Just Eat Real Food) on.

In her original book, Wilson suggests only two to three recipes a week. The online eight-week program is more prescribed, with tailored meal planners, and videos and forums for support. I opted to go it alone with the books and blog. Appealing to farmers' market-frequenting hipsters, Wilson encourages you to make hung yoghurt cream cheese, pickles, chia jam and sauces from scratch. Without the time (or inclination) to dedicate my weekend to DIY, I preferred to cobble together her vegetable hashes and cook my meals from scratch. Although most of the recipes are gluten-free, there's no rule against carbs and avocado and cheese toasties are encouraged for breakfast. Taking that as my cue, bread became a crutch. I don't know how I'd have gotten through winter without sourdough to mop up the stodge.

Around the halfway mark I caught the flu. I desperately craved an apple and fruit juice - anything crisp, fresh and full of vitamins. Broth and apple cider vinegar sloshed baby kale had to suffice.

Declining dessert at dinner parties was tough at first, but cheese platters and red wine were my vices. Cake displays would call my name, but as soon as the moment passed I didn't give it a second thought. You realise how much emphasis we put on sugar and celebration.

I lived vicariously through friends at birthdays and get-togethers, and was surprised at my restraint. When I wanted a chocolate fix I tried a cute carob bear, which didn't hit the sweet spot.

Wilson provides plenty of detox recipes to get you back on track if you ''lapse'', but it's by no means a guilt trip. Confession time. On the home stretch at 7.5 weeks, Supernormal's peanut butter parfait, a salty-sweet stunner of a dessert, was my undoing. Four hours later I crashed, and boy did I crash hard. I was tucked up in bed at 7.30pm with aching teeth and a throbbing headache. After that comedown, I'll be transitioning back gradually!

The pros: Avoiding processed foods and JERF-ing (Just Eating Real Food) instead. No more afternoon sugar slump/3.30-itis. Red wine, beer and neat spirits are allowed. Eating three hearty, filling meals and skipping desserts and chocolate binges.

The cons: Mouth ulcers from lack of fruit and worrying I'd get scurvy. Dealing with a flu sans OJ. My bowel took a beating while I was ''recalibrating''. Getting irrationally cranky and emotional going cold turkey.


Is it expensive? The coconut oil, activated nuts, farmers' market shopping trips and vegetable boxes add up. $12 for a mini packet of powdered organic vanilla pods was a painful purchase!

Is it time-consuming? If following the online eight-week program, expect to spend a large chunk of your Sundays cooking up for the week ahead.

Dish discovery: Coconutty granola - this crunchy, nutty, subtly spiced gluten-free granola is staying in my brekkie repertoire.

Dish disaster: Fruit-free cleansing smoothie concoctions during detox week (cucumber, avocado, spinach and coconut water - bleurgh!)

Top three pantry staples: Chia seeds, rice malt syrup, natural yoghurt.

How hard is it to eat out? Armed with the eating-out cheat sheet there were plenty of options, but say goodbye to sushi rolls and Thai and Chinese cuisines. Steer clear of sauces. Breakfasts out are easy - simply select eggs and sides.

Did it work? Yes, sugar cravings went away after a fortnight. I was snacking less, eating three main meals and my energy levels were steady. I ate fewer processed foods and it forced me to question the ingredients of everything. Weight loss was negligible but my skin cleared up and I felt healthier in general.

What will you keep? I'm easing myself back into sugar, but I'll definitely be more mindful of snack choices and sneaky hidden sugars.