Interview with Connie Bennett, Author of Sugar Shock!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 - 10:08am

By Allison Stevens, MS, RD

Have you ever felt that your love for chocolate, soda, or sweet candies borders on addiction? If so, then you may want to read Sugar Shock. Authored by ex-sugar junkie Connie Bennett, this book builds a strong case against sugar and refined carbohydrates by pulling from both Bennett's personal sugar affliction and countless expert interviews. Many thanks to Bennett for taking the time to chat with The Diet Channel.

How does Sugar Shock differ from other books?

First I want to make a distinction; Sugar Shock is not really a diet book. Sugar Shock is a two-fold book. On the one hand, it's an exposé about the dangers of sugars and refined carbohydrates. On the other hand, it also is a self-help book that provides tips and tactics to help people to break free from their sugar habit.

I think one of the biggest ways that Sugar Shock is different is that it is the first book to give a complete up-to-date picture of how eating too many sweets and refined carbohydrates could adversely affect people's physical and emotional well-being.

I think that today most books have focused on the weight-related aspect of sugar consumption and the diabetes that could result. But, this book reveals that weight gain is only part of the story. Sugar Shock highlights recent groundbreaking studies which reveal that many Americans could be suffering from a constellation of ailments that I call "Sugar Shock." And, obesity is one of those ailments. But other "Sugar Shock" symptoms could include sugar cravings, mood swings, depression, memory problems, infertility, severe PMS, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, blood sugar disorders, cancer, heart disease, skin problems, and early aging. And all because of the soda, cookies, candies, chips, French fries, etc. that people are over-consuming.

And then, Sugar Shock is also the first exposé about sugar that includes interviews with some 250 medical experts worldwide-researchers, physicians, obesity experts, nutritionists, and health industry insiders from respected institutions like Harvard and Yale. So, even though I have had my own sugar issues, I draw my conclusion based on the findings of these experts. I do draw on my own nightmare of sugar-induced experiences. In addition to that, I also draw on my investigative skill to unmask sugar's hidden perils.

Can you briefly recap the sugar-induced symptoms you suffered from?

It was 1998, and I was besieged by a whole host of perplexing ailments. I would get the shakes when I was hungry. I would suffer from excessive fatigue, heart palpitations, mood swings, and severe PMS. Oh God, it was a bad time, absolutely a bad time for me. I would go into a kind of brain fog; I would get dizzy for no reason; I would get forgetful, lightheaded; I would have inexplicable crying spells; I would have unexplainable cold hands and feet. It was pretty bad.

Anyhow, I went to a doctor (I had seen several over the years!). He grilled me on what I was eating and ran a bunch of tests. He told me that I had severe hypoglycemia and to kick sugar and refined carbohydrates. So, I kicked sugar and refined carbohydrates, and all my symptoms vanished!

That was the beginning of my interest in this subject, and at that point I then began to wonder: Why aren't we hearing more about this? Why aren't we hearing more about the fact that these delicious sweets and refined carbohydrates could lead to such wide-ranging symptoms? And, why are we not hearing that much about hypoglycemia?

It sounds like this subject has potential to make a huge impact. Now that Sugar Shock has been released, is it having the sort of impact that you wanted?

Sugar Shock has had a wonderful impact! The media response has been really encouraging, and it's still growing. Sugar Shock hit number six on and number seven on Barnes & So it's definitely had some kind of an impact, and of course I am hopeful that it will continue to have an even greater impact.

What is the most rewarding part about writing the book?

It would have to be influencing readers, no question about it. I'm having readers contact me, people I don't even know. I mean, you would be astounded at the response; the many emails I get.

Any emails stick out?

Let me read you a couple:

Here is one from Tammy: "After reading just a few chapters, I began to realize that my lifelong search for what's wrong with me may be hypoglycemia. My paternal grandparents had Type II diabetes, and my younger brother was diagnosed with hypoglycemia as a teenager. I have suffered from weight problems, sugar cravings, mild depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, etc. for years. Doctors could not find anything wrong on medical tests, and I began to think I must be losing my mind. However, I am now quite sure that hypoglycemia could be the problem. Now, I am ready to get my life back at age forty-four. So, thank you so much for your book and the God-send it has become."

Oh, here is another one: "Connie, my mother purchased your book Sugar Shock for me yesterday. I am so amazed, I absolutely love it. This book is like another Bible for me." She continues on to say, "Thank you for your book. It has saved my life." This is typical. Letters like these are the most heartwarming and exciting part of the book.

And here's one more: "I bought your book a few weeks ago and read it in two days. I couldn't take my hands off it! I have been sugar-free, processed-foods-free for seven weeks, and I am starting on my eighth week. I have lost twenty pounds in the process." So basically, I am hearing from readers, and I think their reactions fall into category of "wow!"

What do you think it is about your book that is resonating with readers?

I think that part of what appeals to people about my book is that I have been there myself, and I can understand their pain. And, I can understand the frustrations of kicking sugar. After kicking sugar, I interviewed some 250 experts, and then pulled the information together. So, they look at me and they go, "Wow, you know Connie did it, and look what happened to her, and she feels better."

Did you connect with readers at all during writing Sugar Shock?

It was kind of interesting, because I have been running this Kick Sugar group. I started in November of 2002, and it now has over two thousand people. By running that Kick Sugar group, I was in direct contact all the time with my target readers. It was really an invaluable experience. For instance, the questions from the chapter "Frequently Asked Questions," are questions that were asked in my Kick Sugar group. It was sort of like having my own focus group. And, they did keep asking the same questions over, and over, and over again.

Now that the book has been released, how do you offer support to readers?

I am trying to provide as much support as possible to people who have sugar issues. There are millions of other people out there who probably don't even know they have a problem with sugar. So, Kick Sugar is still open, but it's no longer a discussion group. I post tips and will sometimes post a link to my blog. And then, people can chat with other people, and I think that's really valuable. And it's free! I also have some paid programs that I am rolling out later on in the year.

How significant a role do you think sugars and quickie carbohydrates have played in the obesity epidemic?

I think the role is huge, it's absolutely huge! There's been some interesting research studies that actually show there is a connection between eating these quickie carbohydrates and gaining weight. I also looked at the connection between eating too much sugar and getting cancer or getting heart disease. Then there have been studies showing that if you cut back on these culprit carbohydrates you can lose weight. So, I think the connection is huge.

Since you pull from your personal struggles with sugar, I'm curious if you personally have kicked sugars for good?

Yesterday, on April 15th, was nine years ago that I kicked sugar and refined carbohydrates!

And, you've never turned back?

I am not going to say that I haven't had a couple of slips, because I have. A couple of them were actually deliberate. I was kind of toying with the idea of, "Can I have a little bit?" But, I have been like 99.9% sugar-free. However, after being off sugar for maybe two years to three years, I experimented with having just a little bit, and I didn't feel well; it wasn't worth it to me.

What do you tell people who may think this is too extreme?

So, here is the thing. Each person has to decide to what extent they want to take it. I am not going to tell anybody, "You should be 100% sugar-free." What I am going to tell you is find out what works best for you. Yes, people should know that as one expert told me, even three teaspoons of sugar can throw your body out of balance. So, that would be nice for them to know that, before they make their decision. But, the fact of the matter is, I am realistic. We do live in a world where we are continually tempted with sweets and some people might choose to go ahead and have some.

Any insight for those considering eliminating sugars and quickie carbs from their diet?

The benefits to gain from changing your diet are just tremendous. I think that a lot of people are running around not feeling all that great. Then, once they kick sugar they are like, "Wow!" For me, when I kicked sugar, it was just such a difference. I felt like a different person; I acted like a different person; I even looked different.

People have to focus on how much better they are going to feel, not on how they are going to miss this transitory taste. And, that's why I have been able to go nine years, because what I have now is so much better than what I ever had.

Any final words?

I invite people to not believe me. Go ahead, challenge my conclusions. I have no problem with it. Even though I interviewed some 250 experts, just challenge my conclusion, and test it out for yourself. Take what I call the Sugar Shock challenge. Go three weeks without sugar and refined carbohydrates. Of course, get your doctor's permission. Then add them back in and see what happens. I dare say you'll find that there is a difference in the way that you feel.

That's what I mean when I talked about Sugar Shock being more than a diet book. Yes, there are the diet book components. But, if you kick sugar and refined carbohydrates, yes you will lose weight; and, you are also going to get all these other benefits. And so, weight is just one of the many ways that your life can change.