Just Say No To The Sugar Daddies: Can You Go A Year Without Sugar?

April 7, 2014  |  

Could you go a year without sugar?

No, I’m not talking about the older gentleman who pays your electric bill every month. I’m talking about the actual sweet stuff that we put on and in, well, everything!

Eve O. Schaub, author of Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, did just that and she is hoping others will do the same – at least for one day. On April 9, Schaub will be hosting a No Sugar Day Challenge, where participants are being asked to abstain from the sweet-crack for one single day.

Over at Everyday Health, she shared with readers exactly how her family (including her husband and two children, ages 8 and 11) lived off of foods that contained no added sugar (including honey, molasses, maple syrup and all the fake sweeteners too), and didn’t kill each other. There were three exceptions to the no-sugar rule: First, the family was allowed one sugar-containing dessert a month; the second exception was birthdays; and finally, fruit was excluded.

As Schaub writes of the experience:

“Once we started looking we found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. Why add all of this sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper.

Call me crazy, but avoiding added sugar for a year struck me as a grand adventure. 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. What I didn’t expect was how not eating sugar would make me feel better in a very real and tangible way.”

Schaub also writes,

“Now that our year of no sugar is over, we’ll occasionally indulge, but the way we eat it is very different. We appreciate sugar in drastically smaller amounts, avoid it in everyday foods (that it shouldn’t be in, in the first place), and save dessert for truly special occasions. My body seems to be thanking me for it. I don’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around I somehow no longer feel the urge to go and hide with my children under the bed. But if we do come down with something, our bodies are better equipped to fight it. 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.”

Listen, I know talking about sugar sounds more like a conversation your grandma and her weekly Pinochle group worry about, however, it’s a serious conversation that doesn’t get enough attention, especially in the black community. As stated in this article in The Atlantic, 77 percent of the food items on the shelves in American grocery stores have added sugar in them. This added sugar has led some scientists, particularly the ones who study how food affects our brain and bodies, to conclude that sugar can produce changes in the brain and behavior that resemble addiction.

And according to the DHS Office of Minority Health, black Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes when compared to non-Hispanic whites, and in 2009, African Americans were 2.2 times more likely than their white counterparts to die from the disease. And even when we are not dying from sugar, the statistics also state that black folks are more likely to have complications from diabetes, including renal disease, and even amputation (just like Big Mama in the movie Soul Food) with black men leading the pack.

Likewise, this research, authored by members of the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN), shows that black Americans, on average, consume more calories from sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) per day and are more likely to be targeted by SSB marketing at disproportionately higher rates than their white counterparts. In essence, we really aren’t doing enough to talk about the impact of sugar in and on our community.

I am not above the sugar-fray. While the same 5 lb bag of sugar has been in my fridge (Don’t ask why I put sugar in the fridge. My mom did it and I just followed the tradition) for a year and a half, I still love my breads and cookies and Kool-Aid on-the-go packs with their added sugars. Sugar is an addiction, but I don’t know what I would do without my pasta.

Recently, my fitness instructor, who also serves as my fitness mentor (and I have written about her here and here before) once tried to get our Zumba class to commit to a month without sugar. This is a class filled with black women who are dedicated to good health (at least through fitness), and on average, work out three times a week. And yet, upon her query, she could find no volunteers to forgo sugar. Well, I think I am going to try the no-sugar day on April 9. Who knows, it might be the jumping off point to kicking the habit for good.

Don’t hold me to that though.

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