'I QUIT': Anti-sugar campaigner Sarah Wilson is bringing the curtain down on her publishing phenomenon

suppliedSarah Wilson
  • Journalist Sarah Wilson quit sugar to deal with her own health issues.
  • She wrote an e-book about it with recipes that became a global phenomenon.
  • Wilson says more than 1.5 million people have taken part in her program to quit sugar.

Seven years ago, Sarah Wilson’s life changed unexpectedly and dramatically. The journalist, who’d been struggling with health and dietary issues, and left as Masterchef host because she “was a square peg shoved in a round hole”, was looking for meaning when she decided to examine what mattered most to her.

She was “a self-confessed sugar addict” who changed her diet to improve her health and as a result, launched a global phenomenon based around the title of her book about her new way of living: I Quit Sugar.

Having originally published it as an e-book and expecting to sell 100 copies, Wilson became a New York Times best-selling author, with her books published in 46 countries and a business generating millions in revenue annually. The original I Quit Sugar sold more than 100,000 copies in Australia alone and spawned five more cookbooks around the theme.

But this week Wilson announced she’s decided to walk away from her entire empire, and despite the fact that it’s profitable and has a suite of suitors eager to buy it, she’s rather close it down than sell it.

“After a lot of careful thought and much heartache, I’ve decided to close IQuitSugar.com,” Wilson wrote in a blog post to her millions of fans around the world.

“Recently I’ve realised that to remain true to my original commitment, I must pivot course. Seven years into a movement, five years into a business, I feel my work in the realm is done.”

Wilson says her decision to close, made last week, was “the second most agonising and carefully mapped out decision of my life”, pipped only by her decision to strike out on her sugar adventure in 2011.

Success, she says, “is a funny thing” that requires feeding and growth, but eventually means you’re “caught up in the cycle” — something Wilson promised she wouldn’t do seven years ago.

And she didn’t want to take things to the next level, because the focus was too much on money, she concluded.

“My motivator had not been money previously, a freedom that enabled me to make bold decisions that at times startled peers and the industry, but ultimately, and ironically, saw my message and product spread further,” Wilson said.

She made the decision to leave a year ago, and put the business, which employs 23 people in a Sydney warehouse, on the market.

“I’m an educator, a communicator. Not a money-spinner,” she said

“I have to walk my talk,” Wilson adds, because it would be hypocritical “if I remain someone who sacrifices my own wellbeing and values for money and success”.

She rejects suggestions the business was not viable pointing out that she was finalist in the Ernst Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, which “entailed a large crew of judges digging through all our financials, thus confirming the fiscal vibrancy of the business”.

Wilson says she looked to sell I Quit Sugar “to a respectful soul” as “the most responsible thing to do”, but worried that as founder she’d be made to stay on for three years or more in “golden handcuffs” because her name was inextricably linked to the brand.

She stipulated she wasn’t part of the deal, and at one stage even contemplated giving the business away for free, but despite buyers who “came within millimetres of purchase”, Wilson decided closing it was “the best entrepreneurial decision”.

“Perhaps selfishly, I knew I couldn’t watch as a new owner steered my name and brand and values in directions I didn’t agree wholly with,” she said.

Wilson says it will be “business as usual for some time”, with sign ups for the last I Quit Sugar program closing in April.

The anti-sugar evangelist claims to have helped 1.5 million people globally wean themselves off sugar. She has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram and a similar number on Facebook.

Wilson has written five best-selling cookbooks and says this is not the end for her campaigning.

“I believe I have a lot more to create and a lot more education campaigns to ignite. The anxiety discussion, the food-waste movement… this is where I need to be,” she said.

“My job is done in the sugar-free space and it would be remiss of me stay on board just to extract money for myself. In my experience in the entrepreneurial space, this is a recipe for eventual disaster. I’ve watched such a storyline unfold many times over. Instead, I now hand the baton to you, the community. The information is out there. Use it. Please spread the word,” she said.

Her full blog post is here.

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