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! ❤
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.
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.
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.