When Eve Schaub came across some disturbing information about the effects of sugar, she felt that she had to do something about it, for her family. She had read that sugar is the number one ingredient making Americans fat and sick. It’s because of sugar that one in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome, one in three is obese and the rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease are skyrocketing. With this newfound knowledge, Eve decided to formulate a special plan for herself, her husband and her two daughters, aged 6 and 11.
Eve wanted to see how hard it would be to have her family go through an entire year avoiding foods that contain sugar of any kind. “Call me crazy, but avoiding added sugar for a year struck me as a grand adventure,” Eve said. I was curious as to what would happen. I wanted to know how hard it would be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping would change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make us all healthier.”
So the Schaubs went on a complete sugar-free diet for a year. “We cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice,” Eve said. “We also excluded anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn’t eat it.” And once they started looking, they found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken, broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread and even baby food. “Why all of this added sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production even cheaper.”
Photo: Eve Schaub
It must have been very tough for Eve to convince her husband and especially her two young children to follow the regime. While her husband was supportive, the kids were a totally different ballgame. “Immediately, they started bawling,” said Eve. “They knew this meant birthdays and Halloween and play dates and Christmas would all be different. As a mother, the last thing you want to do is make your kids cry!” The first day was the worst, but as time went by the girls adjusted pretty well.
Surprisingly, the Schaubs didn’t lose any weight in their year-of-no-sugar. But they weren’t really looking to do that in the first place. “The last thing I wanted to do was focus on losing weight,” said Eve. “We did notice other changes. Our palates changed over time. Things that were sweet began to taste different to us and really repellent by the fall. Things that normally looked very appealing looked obscene and disgusting. We felt healthier, it seemed like we got less sick, like we got better faster or got milder colds. My kids missed significantly less school.”
Photo: Eve Schaub
“During our year of no sugar, one of the rules was that, as a family, we could have one actual sugar-containing dessert per month; if it was your birthday, you got to choose the dessert. By the time September rolled around, we noticed our palates starting to change and slowly, we began enjoying our monthly treat less.” Eve recalled the time when her husband requested a decadent multi-layered banana cream pie for his birthday. She was surprised to find that she couldn’t enjoy her slice at all. “I couldn’t even finish it,” she said. “It tasted sickly sweet to my now sensitive palate. It actually made my teeth hurt. My head began to hurt and my heart began to race; I felt awful.”
After the year was up, the Schaubs started to indulge occasionally. For example, on New Year’s Eve, they all chose to have a little something to break the year-long fast. But as time went on, Eve found it difficult to cope with the fact that there were no rules anymore. The first time they went to the supermarket, it was hard to know what to buy and what to avoid. But now that a long time has passed, Eve said that they’ve sorted it all out.
Their sugar intake has reduced drastically, and they avoid it in everyday foods. They save the desserts for special occasions. “My body seems to be thanking me for it,” said Eve. “I don’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around, I no longer feel the urge to go and hide with my children under the bed. We get sick less and get well faster. Much to my surprise, after our no-sugar life, we all feel healthier and stronger. And that is nothing to sneeze at.”
Eve has written a book based on her family’s experiences, called: Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. She recommends that people should be more aware about foods that contain hidden sugar. “Everybody gets to make their own dietary decisions, but what I think is not right is that this substance, which is not innocuous, is so pervasive in our food supply and we don’t know it’s there.” To raise awareness about sugar, she held a ‘Day of No Sugar’ challenge on April 9 this year. But Eve is quick to point out that she’s not handing out a prescription for anybody. “I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nutritionist. I’m a mom who decided to go on an adventure.”