Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. on April 8th 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
It's dinnertime. Do you know where your sugar is coming from? Most likely everywhere. Sure, it's in ice cream and cookies, but what scared Eve O. Schaub was the secret world of sugar—hidden in bacon, crackers, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, and baby food. With her eyes opened by the work of obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig and others, Eve challenged her husband and two school-age daughters to join her on a quest to quit sugar for an entire year. Along the way, Eve uncovered the real costs of our sugar-heavy American diet—including diabetes, obesity, and increased incidences of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The stories, tips, and recipes she shares throw fresh light on questionable nutritional advice we've been following for years and show that it is possible to eat at restaurants and go grocery shopping—with less and even no added sugar. Year of No Sugar is what the conversation about "kicking the sugar addiction" looks like for a real American family—a roller coaster of unexpected discoveries and challenges.
I don’t make a secret of the fact that I’m totally not into fad diets and aside from my simple rule of trying to eat the most real food as often as is convenient for me which, admittedly, is not much of a mission statement. As much as I enjoy fine foods, I’ve been known to kick back and drink a Coke and enjoy a Big Mac. I digress, already.
This is a blog turned book and it feels like it. (I’ve not read the blog.) I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again – the lazy writing techniques that one uses in a blog post do not translate into a book. Bloggers thinking about turning authors: edit, formalize your prose, and then edit again.
One of my big problems with this book is that it attempts to be science-y, while only citing two sources… in the whole book. I’m not sure if the science is sound or not, but Schaub’s whole ‘experiment’ is based off of one single YouTube video. (Sugar: The Bitter Truth) Past that she only references one other book. I know this isn’t a nutritional textbook, but I would have liked to see more cited evidence for the evils of sugar.
Yes, sugar is for sure weirdly pervasive in American society. Sugar in bread! Mayo! Chicken broth! I agree – it’s weird and often unnecessary. Anything in excess is bad (which to be fair, Schaub kind of comes around to in the end).
Other reviewers have been critical of the title as not being accurate. Schaub works a number of ‘exceptions’ to the no sugar rule. One family dessert made from added sugar each month, which I found to be an interesting checkpoint in how her tastebuds were evolving. It’s a memoir so I don’t take issue with a title that is designed to sell more books – you can read the flap and find out that it’s not exactly ‘no sugar’, who cares?
There’s also the issue of her baking with dextrose as a substitute for sugar (because it doesn’t contain fructose, which according to the ‘science’ is the root of all evil), I found this use of a manufactured chemical to be a bit weird – especially considering she also eschews artificial sweeteners. I fail to understand how dextrose is not an artificial sweetener. Especially considering the history of manufactured dextrose is short and who the hell knows what the long term effects are?
Basically, this is a typical but not very well executed ‘stunt’ memoir. Schaub tends to meander in and out of the evils of sugar to the goodness of meat and the very very very important issue of baking all your own bread. (Spoiler alert in my life: Not going to happen.)
This is not to say that it’s completely unreadable, it’s easy reading, and might be recommended to someone with an intense interest in this topic. (Though please do not use this as a guide to nutrition.)
Can I say something nice and constructive?
Of course I can! This book has made me more interested in looking at ingredients labels. (Did you know there’s sugar in Sriacha, but not Kikomann Soy Sauce?) I probably won’t remain religious in doing so – but as sugar is so pervasive in our society – I will probably check more often than I used to and try to avoid products where sugar doesn’t seem to belong (but is used anyway)… where possible. (Read: convenient.)
What about you, Reader? Is sugar the root of all evil? Have you read any good ‘stunt’ memoirs lately? They ARE out there, I promise. I liked The Happiness Project.