Review: Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub

Year of No Sugar

Last Halloween, my Granny handed out one piece of candy to each kid who stopped by our house. ONE. My reaction: “Why didn’t you give them more candy, Granny?!” Now I know – she must have time-traveled into the future to read this book. Thanks for spreading the healthy living message, Granny! ❤

Title: Year of No Sugar: A Memoir
Author: Eve O. Schaub
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Category: (Non-Fiction) Food / Health
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Introduction

Eve Schaub, inspired by Dr. Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” lecture (Youtube video here), decides to challenge her family to a year of no sugar – or a year of no added fructose, to be more precise. While learning about the role of sugar in the American diet, Eve seems to be in for a year of torture as she realizes just how much sugar is actually in processed foods, and how her and her sweets-loving husband and children would deal with bake sales, Halloween, and our sugar-ladened society.

Discussion

The premise of Year of No Sugar grabbed me right from the start – I’m all for watching people suffer personal development, healthy living, and food challenges, so Schaub’s resolution sounded really interesting and totally feasible… as long as you have the self-control for it. When I was growing up, my family wasn’t super reliant on sugar at all, so I was also curious about how “addicted” to sugar the average American family was. I imagine something like Jimmy Kimmel’s “I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy” prank (2013, 2012, and 2011 videos – you’re welcome!), but drawn out over an entire year. Did I mention that Schaub has two young daughters? I was just anticipating the drama.

And I wasn’t disappointed – people freak out when they hear that Schaub’s family is forgoing sugar for a year, and Schaub freaks out because she didn’t realize how much sugar was added to all of our food. Also included in the book are several recipes that saved Schaub’s family from a year of sweets deprivation, since they eventually mitigate their sweets craving with sugar alternatives like bananas and dextrose. Despite still occasionally eating cakes or candy throughout the year, Schaub eventually starts getting headaches after eating something sweet and doesn’t enjoy eating sweets as much. She doesn’t go into detail about the science behind this change, though I wish she did. It feels like the exact opposite of Super Size Me, although the changes seen in consuming McDonald’s all day everyday occurred more quickly.

Schaub has a hilarious writing style that makes every moment fun and entertaining. In the beginning, I was a bit irritated by the plethora of italics in the text, but it did get better. Because this book is derived from Schaub’s blog for the most part, her narrative is casual, lighthearted, and easy to follow. Weird analogies are totally acceptable and welcomed!

Originally, when I first contemplated the idea of a Year of No Sugar, images of cravings, temptation, and deprivation came to mind. My personal mental picture involved me in an Old West-style showdown with one of those wonderful square Ritter chocolate bars: “Let’s go, chocolate,” I’d sneer, perhaps from under a sombrero. “You and me. Mano a mano.” You know, if chocolate had hands.

I also enjoyed how Schaub included some of her older daughter’s diary entries throughout the book since it shows how the kids feel about this whole torturous journey. It’s surprising how easily children adapt to changes in their environment, and Year of No Sugar highlights that as well as how the pressure of living a sugar-free life really comes from the people around you. Schaub mentions several times that “food is love”, and to deny that expression of love seems offensive to our society. On the other hand, there’s the stigma about sugar in our diet and how we need to eat less sugar.

The mixed messages about sugar are difficult to interpret, and Schaub’s explanations and experiences throughout this one year help clarify these messages just a bit. Namely, Year of No Sugar shows what sugar really means to our bodies and to our society. Schaub distinguishes between different types of sugar and what they do to the body in layman’s terms, and effectively emphasizes the key points that support her argument of sugar as a poison.

Conclusion

Year of No Sugar delves into the role of sugar in Western society by incorporating great science communication in a memoir-style read. Schaub’s enthusiasm for this topic is apparent in her writing, and her experiences are shocking, delightful, and memorable.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub

  1. I’ve read about this family’s challenge and I raise my hat to them. Don#t get me wrong, I could forgo sweets, sugary drinks and cakes, but it’s the sugar in bread, fruit and all the other things that would give me problems!

    • I totally agree with you, Cathy! Sugar in fruit is at least okay because it’s still natural and “allowed” (Eve speaks of using bananas as a sugar substitute), but I like my bread!

  2. Oh what an interesting challenge/book! I don’t think I could or want to do something similar though. I don’t drink soft drinks and don’t like candy that much either but I love my cookies and while I don’t eat much chocolate we always have some around because my dad LOVES it so it would be hard to resist the temptation for a whole year 😀 And ice cream! I practiculary live on ice cream in the summer and I would have no idea how make it without sugar…

    • ICE CREAMMMM! I actually make banana ice cream quite frequently now since it’s easy and yummy (and healthier, I guess, haha). Instead of doing a no-sugar challenge, I’m more a fan of changing my lifestyle gradually, like eating one less cookie or something. But that wouldn’t make as exciting of a book. 😛

  3. Ooh. I’ve heard about this family that skipped sugar additives for a year but I didn’t know about the book. Reminds me of my childhood days when my parents basically banned my sister and me from eating chocolate bars, granola bars, candy etc. We were allowed to eat the occasional candy that had no sugar, and out sweets were more or less limited to (no sugar) chewing gum. While I do eat chocolate today, I don’t eat granola bars (if I wants grains, then it’s oats with milk), I hardly consume candy, and I don’t drink soda. It’s juice without added sugar, water or tea (again, no sugar) for me.

    I do love baked good though. But they’re usually too sweet as well, that’s why I took it upon myself to learn how to bake. As a rule, I reduce the sugar at least by half from what’s stated in the recipes. Often more. Still, I can’t imagine completely forgoing sugar :O

    • So my first reaction to your childhood sugar ban was “that’s harsh!”, but now I wonder if I’m equating sugar to love and banning sugar to not giving enough affection, haha. Did that make you more rebellious and likely to sneak chocolates to eat?

      I agree with the sugar in baked goods – they taste good to me even with half the amount of sugar, so I don’t understand why some recipes require insane amounts of sugar. :/

  4. I love your review! And the book sounds fascinating. It’s too bad there isn’t more science (I love the science!) but is seems like you could learn a lot anyway 🙂

    • Thanks, Katie! And yes, since this book is touted as a memoir, I’ll let it go, haha. The science that is there is very readable and interesting though!

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