Listening to NPR, I heard about a new memoir called Year of No Sugar. The author, writer Eve Schaub, is a married mom of two school-aged girls who got her family to agree to avoid all foods with any added sugar for an entire year. As a mom with a wicked (and too-often-indulged) sweet tooth, I was fascinated by this. The book was an enjoyable read (gotta love chapters called "Out of the Opium Den," "Waitresses Hate Us" and "Poop Doesn't Lie") and offered plenty of food for thought about the amount of sugar in a typical family’s day-to-day diet and the Herculean effort required to circumvent it. Last week I had a chance to speak to Eve. This is an edited, condensed version of our lively conversation. To learn more about her, go to eveschaub.com.
Family Circle: Okay, first things first. I was sort of obsessed with your book and mentioned it to a bunch of my work buddies and friends. Every one of them asked me the same question: Did she lose a bunch of weight?
Eve Schaub: (Laughs.) Everyone asks that. Everyone asks two questions, actually: The first one is, Did you lose weight? And the second one is, Were the kids so much calmer without the sugar? I hate to disappoint people, but the answers are no and no. That said, weight wasn't an issue for me before the Year of No Sugar, and losing weight was not my goal. As for my girls, they were never what I would call hyper, so that wasn't a problem I was looking to solve. In other words, cutting out sugar wasn't about either of those issues. In my mind, the whole thing was really about sugar as a long-term toxin, as something that could make us sick in the long term if we kept eating so much of it.
FC: How receptive were your husband and daughters to this concept?
ES: I would say they were pretty open. The girls cried at first, but we talked it through quite a bit. They were willing to give it a go as a family. But let’s also just say that I’m aware I’ve likely used up my allotment of crazy-things-mom-gets-us-to-do ideas for a while.
FC: In terms of eliminating sugar, how did that play out? Did you do a hard cutover or a gradual phase-in?
ES: We went cold turkey. Some people might prefer to do more of a phaseout, and of course, that’s fine too. For us, though, at a certain point it was "Let’s just start."
FC: How did you feel as the sugar left your system—any different?
ES: Well, I don't have that usual midafternoon slump anymore; my energy is very consistent throughout the day. There’s no more roller-coaster effect from sugar surges and then crashes.
FC: Did you all crave sweets?
ES: Actually, I was pretty astounded at how dramatically our taste buds changed. Craving sweets wasn’t a big deal. Figuring out the logistics of how to shop for groceries, navigate social events like parties and order in restaurants, those things were huge. Huge.
FC: How did you manage?
ES: Definitely one day at a time. If I thought about the big picture, it was way too overwhelming. The first few times we ate out at restaurants were extraordinarily challenging. Grocery shopping literally took hours, because I had to scour all the tiny print on all the labels, looking for any of the many different names of sugar. Parties were hard. Like, can you really celebrate someone's birthday but refuse a piece of their cake? And to be honest, for a while I was worried it was just going to keep getting harder. But over time, I learned a lot. We found our strategies. After about six months, we really just knew what to do, and it wasn't a big deal anymore.
FC: So now that the Year of No Sugar project is officially over, what’s your status sugar-wise?
ES: We aren't as totally fanatical as we had to be during the Year of No Sugar, but I would definitely classify us as high-level sugar avoiders. We still read food labels closely and don’t buy anything that has sugar as an added ingredient. It’s just not necessary. Also, we never drink sugared beverages. But we do enjoy treats now and then, at parties and on special occasions.
FC: In the end, was the Year of No Sugar harder, easier or about what you expected?
ES: At points throughout, I would say it was all of those things.
Are you concerned about your family’s day-to-day sugar consumption? Would you consider taking action? Tell me in the comments.