Connie Bennett, Beyond Sugar Shock: The 6-Week Plan to Break Free of Your Sugar Addiction and Get Slimmer, Sexier, and Sweeter (Hay House, 2012)
Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.
Oh, Connie Bennett. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways…
It seems like every “how-to” diet-related book I’ve read over the past decade has been some form of modified Atkins. Which makes me wonder… why not just go Atkins? Especially when the people doing the modifying are nutcases like Pierre Dukan, recently in the news for opining that all obese people are mentally ill (you’d better believe I’m going to be getting round to revising last year’s Dukan Diet review, and here’s a hint: the star rating is not going to be headed upwards), and Connie Bennett. I’ll be going piece by piece through why you should be steering far, far away from this book, and I’ll divide things up into three rough categories: the book’s stylistic problems (summary: it’s just plain badly written), the empirical problems with Bennett’s data (summary: some of what she’s citing here was debunked ages ago), and the not-empirical-but-still-suspect problems with Bennett’s data (summary: some of the folks she cites have not had their findings conclusively disproven, but you should be regarding them warily, at least).
First, as regards the overall style of the book: this doesn’t read like a diet book. Which is not necessarily a bad thing if it reads like, for example, a scientific analysis that one might find published in a journal, or a cookbook, or even a decent popular-magazine article. Beyond Sugar Shock reads like none of the above—it’s a puzzling, and somewhat revolting, combination of hippy-dippy new age self-help manuals and Toby Robbins-esque motivational writing. The result is often difficult to read, and when it isn’t, it’s an insult to the reader’s intelligence (here’s an example of the more egregious language: “Now that you’ve learned how going sugar-free has sweetened my life, you may be thinking, But I’m not like you, Connie. There’s no way I could accomplish that! Honestly, you can do it, too!…” [–10]). Awful. Exclamation points are liberally sprinkled throughout the text, along with made-up words (if the non-word “sweeterlicious” had made one more appearance I would have burned the book without finishing it) and other such examples of unprofessional writing. And we’ll just note for the record, and then ignore, the “if I can do it, you can too” logical fallacy presented in that quote.
Then there’s the conclusively-disproven stuff, the kind of thing that, if you see it in any book pertaining to your health, you should have red flags on the rise in your head. There are two specific problems in this regard. First, and most obvious: Bennett goes out of her way to tell us that the doctor who initially started her on the no-starch road is a homeopath. Now, no matter how hard they try to hide it (and I have run across a few who have tried very hard), if you scratch a homeopath hard enough, under the gaudy paint you’re going to find memory water, which is the foundation (and, in fact, the definition) of homeopathy: the idea that water containing parts per million (or in some cases parts per billion) of any given medication is more effective than a full-strength dose of the same medication. This is, quite simply, the single biggest scam pseudo-scientific quacks have ever attempted to perpetrate on American society. It’s ridiculous, and if someone refers you to a homeopath and tells you that person cured their illnesses, cut that person out of your life as soon as reasonably possible (homeopathy patients are notoriously resistant to reason). Second, and much better-hidden, because presumably even Bennett is cunning enough to try and hide this association: many of her assertions about the healing powers of drinking water are parroted from Iranian quack Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, who believed, and explicitly claimed in his notorious book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, that drinking sixty-four ounces of tap water a day would cure AIDS. Do you really want to take the advice of someone who’s quoting a “medical professional” who believes that sort of nonsense?
And now for the stuff that’s not proven, but at which you should be looking askance. First off, while Bennett mostly tries to keep the book in that harmless hippy-dippy space I mentioned before, there are some places where it crosses from New Age claptrap into organized religion. While many of these are in the “success stories” sidebars (which, while allowing Bennett to distance herself from that viewpoint, are still alarming; one success story says that “I also have a relationship with God, which I didn’t have before, because sugar blocked my spiritual connection…” [–11]), there’s one place in the actual text where Bennett crosses that line herself (“On the flip side, if you’ve had ample shut-eye, don’t you feel brighter, bouncier, and more alive? When you’re well-rested, don’t you feel more like a child of God?” [–108, emphases added]). And, simply put: there is no indignity to which one can subject one’s physical body that is even in the same ballpark as getting involved in organized religion. Trading addiction for brainwashing? How is that an improvement?
Then there are the other spiritual gurus she cites. I was going to kick this off mentioning her extensive references to Louise L. Hay, but that’s a case of “more fool me”; I should have looked at the publisher before picking this up. Not that it matters, you should still be looking sideways and squinty at all the Marianne Williamson references.
Third are the sources she cites to back up her own assertions about the dangers of [fill in the blank] by such other questionable authors as Ann Louise Gittleman, a well-known Aspartame Nazi (Bennett parrots her assertion, entirely unqualified by either Gittleman or Bennett, that aspartame turns into formaldehyde—which is true, but [a] in trace amounts far below anything that could be harmful in any but the most ultra-sensitive people and [b] in amounts much smaller than the amount of formaldehyde that comes from the breakdown of some of Bennett’s recommended foods, like bananas and tomato juice. For those not reading this on Amazon, which does not allow outside links, you can find a much fuller refutation of this nonsense here) about whom I said more than enough in my 3-17-2004 review of Gittleman’s The Flat Flush Plan. (Gittleman, as well, adopts the hippy-dippy New Age approach, so she’s a natural fit for Bennett.) And, well, if the main reason you’re citing someone is because they appeared on the Dr. Oz show, as she does at least twice…
(needless to say, she’s also a member of the cult of all-organic free-range non-GMO the average consumer can’t even begin to afford it foods whose benefits are, to say the least, questionable.)
Half a star because some of the empirical nutritional information is sound, but it’s been done so many times before, and so much better in almost all of those, why would you want to read it again here, with all the ridiculous, and in some cases utterly false, trappings? ½