Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub is an account of what happens when a real family goes on a quest to kick their sugar habit by giving it up for an entire year. I’m kind of a food book geek, I like reading about food, but that doesn’t mean that I’m amazingly disciplined or have super sonic willpower.
For the most part, I try to feed my family real food. We’ve even gone to the lengths of raising our own livestock for meat, egg laying chickens, and we attempt to garden every year (with varying degrees of success). I also rely on the 80/20 rule for food–if I feel that we’re eating well the majority of the time, I don’t sweat what happens at Grandma’s house or at class parties.
But after my meal of organic spinach greens and pork chops we raised ourselves, I ‘need’ something sweet. Sadly, I also don’t like chocolate. So my sweet treat is not fair trade dark chocolate that has some nutritional value. (Although if you’re the other 99.99% of the world who likes chocolate, and wants to consume chocolate that has been sourced responsibly, check out these fine folks. I’ve toured this factory, and it sure seems like the real deal.) Nope, my favorite sweet treat is fruity candy–chock full of sugar, artificial dyes, and who knows what else. Gummy bears, jelly beans, salt water taffy, fruit chews–I’m a dentists worst nightmare.
The only time I was successful at giving up sugar was the first time I had gestational diabetes. Not one morsel of sugar crossed my lips from the time of diagnosis until delivery. Although once they pulled my son out through the incision in my stomach and cut the cord, my sugar strike was over. All my friends and family visited us in the hospital bringing cakes, cookies, and candies to celebrate. Interestingly, this is my only son who is totally uninterested in sweet treats–he’s a meat and potatoes boy through and through, and eats candy very rarely.
Here’s where I wave my bad mom flag–the following two pregnancies I also had gestational diabetes, but I didn’t have the same willpower as the first go-round. Yes, I still (mostly) followed the diet they gave me, and I maintained my blood sugar numbers. However, this time I figured out that I could have a few sweet treats, as long as I maintained my carbohydrate counts.
I was intrigued by Schaub’s family who gave up sugar for a year, and put the book on hold at my library. A lot of people feel like a book finds you when you need it most in your life. Coincidentally (or not), my husband decided to start a short term eating regimen that’s more involved than just cutting out sugar, but the parameters of it definitely exclude all forms of sweetener. Wanting to be a supportive wife, I agreed to join him, and two days into it, this book arrives for me at the library.
I started reading, anticipating that it would be science-y and boring, and about a family who already ate mostly wheat grass, kale and brussels sprouts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Eve is super funny and entertaining, and they are a real family with two kids. I couldn’t read fast enough–there are some science-y bits, and in full disclosure, I did skim some of these parts.
There’s so much debate about what to eat, it can drive you crazy. But I’ve never heard any study or any expert who claims that sugar is good for you. Everyone agrees that it’s bad, with varying degrees of badness. (If you’ve heard of some kind of jellybean/gummy bear diet that extends the lifespan and has numerous health benefits, please let me know asap.) I appreciate that Eve was very thorough in her research, and included all the nitty gritty in the book, but in my own little brain, I condensed it into, “Sugar is bad.”
The main focus of the book is hidden sugar: sugar in ketchup, tortillas, bread, children’s vitamins. Clearly, giving up sugary treats like cakes, candies and cookies is a given, but it gets trickier when you start checking labels on foods you don’t expect sugar to be in.
The book is funny, entertaining, and it’s real. They deal with challenging real life experiences such as a trip to Italy, Halloween, and Christmas. Plus there are many excerpts from her daughter’s journal about how a child dealt with this challenge.
The chapters about their ‘re-entry’ into regular life were possibly the best in the whole book. Figuring out what to take away from their year long experience, and how to deal with sugar on a long term basis was very thought provoking. I know my own family is at high risk for diabetes, among other health issues. It’s easy to look the other way, because we maintain normal weights and are pretty active, but there’s always room for healthy improvement.
Anyone will benefit from reading this book. The modern American diet is full of sugar, and it’s killing us slowly. I speak for my family alone, when I say it’s unrealistic for us to cut out all sugar, permanently. I do think we can be a lot more intentional about the sugar we consume, and overall the meals we eat. Year of No Sugar is an entertaining, readable book that very well might change your life. Or just what you eat for breakfast–which is a start.
Tell me what your food vices are, or have you successfully conquered them? (If so, please share how!) No shame–I’ve already told you about my extreme love of junky, fruity, candy saturated with artificial colors and weird, unpronouncable ingredients. I’m trying to kick that habit, although I’m not swearing off sugar for the rest of my life. I’ll let you know how it goes….