Less-Stress London spoke to Lou Lebentz, the founder of Sweet Enough, about her new online programme and motivational seminar addressing the epidemic of sugar dependency in the modern Western world.
Less-Stress London: Who are you targetting with your online programme helping people tackle sugar dependency?
Lou Lebentz: Our programme is aimed at those who are mildly, moderately or majorly dependent on sugar or refined carbohydrates. We work with all levels of sugar dependency and we integrate tools which tackle the issue on various levels: psychological, physiological, hormonal, and emotional.
L-SL: How do we become dependent on sugar?
LL: People naturally have different levels of sensitivity to sugar. There is a difference between someone who eats solely processed food all the time, and someone who eats a piece of cake after every dinner. They require different levels of intervention and different depths of treatment.
L-SL: So where do you start tackling sugar dependency?
LL: We always start with the biology first. There could be emotional or psychological factors, but we really don’t know that to begin with and we should never assume it. Everybody goes through the first seven foundation steps in the Sweet Enough programme, which are about the neurological and biological reasons behind weight gain, obesity and sugar cravings, all the educational elements which are crucial.
People naturally have different levels of sensitivity to sugar, which result in various levels of dependency. For some, it can have the same effect on their brain as other drugs of choice
The seven steps are not simply educational but inspirational and motivational too. People learn in-depth about hormones and insulin, and what that really means. They also get to understand about why they crave sugar so much and how it’s not willpower that makes anyone quit, it’s something far deeper than that, which on our programme we help people find. After the seven steps we may, for some people, suggest a follow up more in depth retreat.
L-SL: Your programme educates about sugar. How does nutritional knowledge help in tackling dependency?
LL: There are a lot of different types of sugar. Glucose (carbohydrates, simple and complex), fructose (fruit), and sucrose (refined sugar, half glucose, half fructose) all end with “ose”. Glucose is digested by various organs but is better eaten in a complex carbohydrate form as it’s slower to digest. Therefore it converts into sugar less quickly, and raises insulin less quickly, which is always the goal on the Sweet Enough programme.
If there is a baddie – and we don’t really like that word too much – it’s fructose, as the only organ that can process fructose is the liver. You are giving your liver a really hard time if you drink loads of fruit juice, as fruit without its fibre is a really unwise choice.
This trend for juicing – unless you’re juicing vegetables – isn’t great, as we shouldn’t really be having more than two pieces of fruit ideally per day. In a way, glucose is better, because your brain and body can use some of it. In Western society today we have a massive increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease because of all the fructose we now consume. This is also because of sucrose and something called high fructose corn syrup, more a problem in the USA thankfully than here.
L-SL: You speak of sugar dependency as a lifestyle. Is it more than an individual problem?
LL: Yes, it is a collective problem and needs a collective solution. Since the 1970s low-fat food has been promoted and advertised as being the healthy choice, but it’s not. Instead it is full of hidden sugar.
The thing is that fat doesn’t make you fat; that’s an old fallacy that sadly we’ve all been brainwashed to believe. It’s sugar that makes us fat and ill and increases type 2 diabetes.
But we all have to make a stand for it and demand better food in our shops and starting to buy better. Blaming food manufacturers or government is never going to change anything. We have to all take responsibility and start to make different sugar free choices for ourselves and for our kids.
L-SL: Many people will want to ask, do we all need to quit sugar completely and for good?
LL: We are not advocating any absolutes or promoting clean eating. We are about helping people get back to real food and taking care of themselves on all levels including nutrition.
Only a very small percentage of people will require total abstinence from sugar, a bit like with alcohol. Most of us can go back to having sugar every now and then quite easily.
Sweet Enough promotes a healthy relationship with food, and first and foremost a healthy relationship with ourselves and our bodies. We work more with who you are on the inside than the outside, because we believe that matters more. So, we are not a fast, fix it now, fat loss type plan. Sweet Enough is a lifestyle intervention that’s sustainable and to be viewed as longer term. If fat loss is a byproduct of joining the programme, fantastic and we think it will be, but that’s not the primary goal to begin with, getting steady with food first is the aim.
Find out more about Sweet Enough programme here.