How a family ended up ditching refined sugar

Book review for "Year of No Sugar" by Eve Schaub
photo credit: Eve O Schaub “Year of No Sugar”

Title: Year of No Sugar

Author: Eve O Schaub

Published: 2014 at Sourcebooks

Genre: Memoir

Rating: 3 Lemonades

“Year of No Sugar” by Eve O. Schaub Summary: 

Eve O Schaub is the blogger who puts her family through year-long projects to have something to write about (or so she says 😉 ). The first of these projects was the “Year of No Sugar”. She and her husband watched a video with Prof Lustig that shows how dangerous refined sugar is for our health. This and Australian author David Gillespie’s books and his page inspired her to go through a year without refined sugar. The memoir “Year of No Sugar” tells the story from her point of view, with some diary entries from one of her daughters thrown in.  

When I saw the title, I was utterly excited. 

Last year I had stopped eating refined sugar because of a health condition. I never thought much about it because it felt like the right thing to do. Not using refined sugar is a bit of a challenge, even if you cook basically everything from scratch; do not drink soft drinks and do not add sugar to your tea. But the husband and I found a way to incorporate date sugar which works a little like powdered sugar. It is nowhere near as sweet as refined sugar. Its higher fibre content gives funny sloppy left-overs in your coffee cup (I add sugar to coffee but not to tea), but you get used to it fast. 

Until I saw the book title, I didn’t realise that I longed to share experiences with other refined sugar deniers. I borrowed “Year of No Sugar” in the hope to find some similarities and maybe learn something new. This hope was only partly fulfilled with the book, I am sorry to say. 

The foreword of “Year of No Sugar” made me hesitate though

The book starts with a foreword by David Gillespie, who is the champion of no sugar down-under in Australia. He has written several books about the dangers of refined sugar, also inspired by Prof Lustig’s presentation. Now I thought I was radical in my approach, ditching the breakfast cereal for porridge from scratch and never eating out ever. He, however, seems to be on a mission to spread the word while living the no-sugar lifestyle to the fullest. And researching the whole shebang.

“Brilliant,” I thought until I stumbled over the information that honey is as bad as refined sugar. Eve Schaub repeats it several times in her memoir, and every time, I wanted to throw the book away. I love honey. It was my saviour last year when my health was bad. Honey is supposed to be good for your immune system. So what’s their obsession with saying our bodies can’t make a difference between honey and refined sugar? While dates or bananas apparently are great because of their fibre content. I never found out. Will have to research that…

Eve Schaub’s funny style slowly got me reading.

This just shows how emotional what we eat can be for us. Eve Schaub describes this wonderfully in her first chapter when she tells how she became a vegetarian as a teenager. She also explains how much we connect sugary treats with love. Birthday cakes, Christmas cookies and all treats after achievements show that clearly. We just never think about it because it is so ingrained in our lifestyle. Her funny style and easy-going retelling of experiences took me slowly in. I laughed at how she made her parents despair with being a vegetarian in the 80s, and I shared her love for baking. 

“Year of No Sugar” makes its way slowly from the author’s love for sugar over to realising it might actually be poisonous for us to explaining how she and her family started the project. She makes it easy to understand the basic science behind the problem with refined sugar. It doesn’t register with our hormones for feeling full, and none of our cells can actually use the fructose part which makes out most of refined sugar for energy. It just ends up in our livers and creates fatty acids that clock up our blood system. Well, that’s the short version of it. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, but you better read her book or anything from Mr Gillespie and Mr Lustig for that one. 

It is hilarious how Eve Schaub explains the woes of their no-refined sugar project.

Once in the project, she and her family realise that sugar is literally everywhere. If you ever read a food label in the supermarket, you would have realised that too. Even though refined sugar comes in many disguises from fructose to corn syrup. Please go on an expedition into your local supermarket and read labels if you do not believe her or me 😉 . 

It is hilarious how she describes asking shop staff and waitresses everywhere if there is sugar in whatever she wants to buy or consume.

“It didn’t take long for me to become familiar with “The Look.” “The Look” is that mixture of dismy and confusion which appears on the waiter, cashier, or cafeteria line lady’s face when asked if the penne with red peppers and broccoli has sugar in it. “Sugar in it?” they always said, as if they perhaps didn’t hear me correctly. Sigh…”

“Waitresses hate us” in “Year of No Sugar” by Eve O. Schaub

And her astonishment, how little we know about the sugar content in our food and the creativity of how companies hide it. What touched me a lot, was her daughter’s diary entries which showed both an openness to the project but also resentment when it came to hard parts like Halloween or Christmas. It made it a lot clearer how much of a change leaving out refined sugar is.

I hate this project! I hate it! It’s no fair. Mom is taking ll the sweets in the house and giving them away…”

Greta Schaub in “Sugar, Sugar everywhere” in “Year of No Sugar” by Eve O. Schaub

Schaub’s no-sugar journey did not compare much to mine.

I enjoyed reading their journey, however, it didn’t seem to compare much to mine. Firstly, we are empty-nesters, so no children to worry about and secondly, our food culture already had incorporated a lot Eve’s family learned in their project. A lot of the book was about Eve Schaub’s fear of traumatising her two daughters with the project. It turned out they had much less problem with changing to no refined sugar than their parents did. 

This was a part that kept me from getting into the book fully. However, I wondered if that year would change anything in the long term. There were several chapters at the end that explain how the family now lives a hybrid no-refined sugar lifestyle. One reason for that is they simply do not like the sickly sweetness of refined sugar. That is something I can relate to: I also find “normal” sweetened food much too sweet but do enjoy a piece of birthday cake as a rare treat or “normal” chocolate for Christmas. 

You’ll like “Year of No Sugar if…

You can see how controversial I feel about this book: on the one hand: great, someone else eats no refined sugar. On the other hand, I cannot fully understand their experiences as my situation is different. However, this book questioned my assumptions about honey, for example, and encouraged me to start my own research into understanding the advantages and disadvantages of my eating habits. That I love in a book. 

I feel it is a funny book that explains the trouble with refined sugar entertainingly and it even offers some no-sugar recipes at the end. “Year of No Sugar” is for you if you are on a quest for a healthy lifestyle and you are questioning our societies assumptions of how we should eat. It probably clicks more with you, if you live in the United States and know without explanation how much sugar dominates everything. Also, if you have children and you worry about how your healthy living rules might affect them. 

Good vibes your way

and remember:

You can do it!


Liz’s Rating System

1 Lemon could not read it

2 Lemons could read it but didn’t impress

3 Lemonades it was ok

4 Lemonades Great Read

5 Lemonades Incredible read, I’ll read it again

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