Story by Eve O. Schaub
“Once upon a time, I was healthy; at least I thought I was“, starts the story of Eve. She didn’t have enough energy to get through the day. But the energy drink commercials targeting all tired Americans gave her comfort because she knew she was not suffering alone. Everyone in her family dreaded the cold season and coming flu but by January, everyone had developed a degree of germ phobia.
According to experts, Sugar is making many Americans sick and fat. When she heard this information, it greatly disturbed her and suddenly it started making more sense to her. One in every seven Americans was suffering from the metabolic syndrome, one among three is obese, diabetes rates are skyrocketing and the number one killer in America, is the cardiovascular disease. Their theory is that all this problems can be linked to one common toxic presence in what we eat…sugar.
With this newly found knowledge, she formulated an idea and wanted to see just how hard it could be if her family spent a whole year eating foods with no sugar. She decided that her husband, two children ( 6 and 11), and herself would cut out anything with added sweeteners; be it honey, sugar, maple syrup, molasses, fruit juice and agave. They also got rid from their diet anything made using sugar alcohols or fake sugar; unless the sweetness came naturally like from fruits, they didn’t eat it.
On looking closely they found sugar in some amazing places; sausages, tortillas, chicken broth, cold cuts, salad dressings, mayonnaise, bread, bacon, crackers and baby food. “Why add all of this sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper, “she says.
Avoiding sugar for an year, was a grand adventure for her. She wanted to know what would happen, how hard it could be, whether anything interesting would happen and how her shopping and cooking would change. After doing some research, she was convinced that by avoiding sugar, they would get more healthier. What she wasn’t expecting was how it made her feel better in a real and tangible way.
The longer she went without the sugar, the more she felt better and energetic. But her doubts if any about this were removed during her husband’s birthday.
During the year the family went without sugar, they had rules. In a month, they only had one sugar containing dessert. You chose what dessert to have on your birthday. By September, their tastes had changed and they slowly and with time started not enjoying their monthly treats. But she knew change was upon them during her husband’s birthday. He had requested a multilayered banana cream pie. Not only did she not enjoy it, she could not finish it. She found it sickly sweet and it actually made her teeth hurt. Her head began pounding and her heart began to race. It was an awful feeling. It took her an hour of rest on the couch for her head to recover. “Geez,” she thought, “has sugar always made me feel bad, but because it was everywhere, I just never noticed it before?”
After the year without sugar, she counted how many times her kids were absent from school that year and compared it to other years. She was surprised. Greta, her older daughter had only missed two days of school compared to 15 the year before.
Their grand adventure; one year without sugar is now over. They will occasionally indulge but their way of eating has changed. Sugar is appreciated in smaller amounts and they avoid it totally in everyday foods. They however save desserts for only truly special occasions. Her body, she says, is thanking her for the decision. She no longer runs out of energy and during the flu seasons, she doesn’t have to hide in bed with her children. When they do come up with something their bodies are better equipped. They rarely get sick and get well so much faster. To her surprise, after the no-sugar life, they all feel stronger and healthier. There is nothing to sneeze at.
Eve O Schaub authored Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. She holds a BA and BFA from Cornell University and a MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology.