A couple of days ago, The Fix, an online addiction news forum interviewed Lou Lebentz – the brainchild of Sweet Enough and well-known Addiction and Eating Disorders Psychotherapist. With her own struggle with addictive substances and health issues, she created, ‘Sweet Enough’ which aims to reduce worldwide sugar and sweetener consumption over the next 10 years. The company offers products and services that help people around the world quit sugar. In this interview, Lou provides some clarity to those who struggle with sugar, and helps provide a better understanding of our body so that we can all enjoy a healthy and smart recovery.
Lou believes the answer to one quitting sugar is to start with the idea that all food should be treated as medicine. In other words, anything in a packet or with a shelf-life or labelled is not naturally grown, and, therefore should not be consumed. To focus on foods that are from the earth and not manufactured by food industries, one should avoid the middle aisles and shop around the outside of the supermarket. Lou says, ‘buy: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, pulses, nuts, seeds, beans, dairy, and eggs. Do not buy refined carbohydrates, like white pasta and white rice or bread. If it grows in the ground, it’s absolutely fine. But bear in mind that foods that grow in the ground are high in starches, so they are okay for early recovery but not ideal if your aim is fat loss’.
Some people are more prone to becoming addicted to sugar than others. Those in recovery have susceptibility to liking sugar higher than those who don’t use any substances. The brains of addicts are wired in the reward center in the brain to search for different substances, like sugar—which hits the same part of the brain. Sugar has the same effect as drugs. Its potency is not as strong as heroin or cocaine, but for some people it is, depending upon their primary addiction. For example, some people may be addicted to one substance, but their brain doesn’t light up for another substance.
Sugar is not beneficial in any way—it is a non-nutrient and is toxic to the body. Majority of processed food contains half glucose and half fructose which the human body is unable to breakdown and process normally. The liver is truly the only organ that can breakdown these chemicals. Lou states, ‘if you’re an alcoholic and already have an overworked liver trying to process alcohol, the last thing you want to do is to put a further strain on the liver trying to process sugar’.
According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 3 million US Americans have, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) which has been linked to the consumption of sugar and processed foods. Most people with NAFLD have no symptoms. Yet, those with the disease in time will experience fatigue, pain, or weight loss and inflammation and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) can occur. However, NAFLD can be reversed by taking action.
To take action, one must ask themselves if they are eating sugar and these processed foods to fill a void or to gain euphoria. If that is the case and one is seeking reward with sugar, Lou believes that one should switch things up. For example, going for a walk, having a bath, learning meditation, phoning a friend or getting a massage. Lou advises to try and resist the craving and ride the wave. – ‘Sit with yourself for ten minutes, focus on the body—come into the body—and see if there is anything that you are trying to avoid. Breathe. Focus on sensations and making friends with the body. Ask that voice again: what do you really need or do you need something else?’
At New Directions for Women, we understand the importance of eating healthy and providing our women with nutritious meals every day. Our Chef works to elevate meals and educate on a healthy nutrition plan for our women. Eating healthy every day helps them maintain a balanced weight, a key component of cardiovascular and gastro health. Avoiding junk food, and surrounding themselves with fresh fruit and spa water, as opposed to chips and soda, helps them crave healthy food. We aim to ensure that every dining experience is both gratifying and informative. We want our women to see how easy and important fresh, healthy food is. We want to make sure these girls have healthy alternatives and all the knowledge and practice they need to live a healthy, organic life once they’ve gone clean from drugs and alcohol.