There are so many books on the high street about the dangers of sugar so why should people buy yours first?

Paul McKenna

Paul McKenna

Mine isn’t just about the dangers- it explains them very simply but what mine does- is it offers a solution.

Many people have trouble reducing their sugar. They get cravings and what my book does is it helps you to eliminate those cravings so that you can reduce your sugar.

It is very difficult to cut it out altogether because sugar is in three quarters of things that you buy in the supermarket. It is also hidden under fifty different names. It is called dextrose or raw cane or any number of different things. Since the mid-nineties, I have been talking about sugar not being a good thing because it’s linked to obesity. What I didn’t realise is that it’s behind four out of the five things that are most likely to prematurely kill you -according to the NHS.

When I saw that, I was really shocked. I was with a friend of mine who is a researcher and medical doctor in America. He’s brilliant- a very clever academic. We were working on a cure for post-traumatic stress. I was at his apartment in New York and we were looking through these different papers and there was about six hours of work there.

I thought- ‘I’m going to need some coffee’ and I said ‘oh by the way – have you got any sugar?’ He went ‘Sugar- we don’t have any sugar in this apartment!’ And I said ‘Really- I know it’s not good for you but…’ he said- not good? It’s really bad!’

‘What? Worse than cigarettes?’

‘Oh God Yeah!’

Most people don’t realise this- if you put sugar- one of the most dangerous drugs in the world into Google, you will see tonnes of academic research. What happened was the food and beverage industry decided years ago that they weren’t going to go the same way as the cigarette companies. They knew they were manufacturing a dangerous drug and a highly addictive one too. People say it’s as addictive as crack cocaine and heroin and these are researchers saying this- not me. These are very intellectual scientists and biologists making these claims. I am standing on the shoulder of giants when it comes to the actual science but when it comes to the transformation, the technology- the helping people make a change in their thinking- that’s where I come in.

All your decisions about what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat take place in your mind. I am an expert in human behaviour and psychology and so I help people to change their thinking to transform their relationship with food and drink so they don’t feel the desire to have as much sugar.

I made a change after my friend pointed out to me how bad sugar is. I used to have two spoonfuls of sugar in my tea like my father and I just thought that was the done thing. Therefore, I just knocked a few granules off the spoon each day then after a week or ten days- that was it- I never had sugar in my tea again. The only place I get it now is through a glass of wine- occasionally I will eat something like a bit of chocolate but I don’t have dessert. Things like orange juice- if you eat the whole orange- that’s fine because the pulp in it means you can digest it properly. But if you have it as a concentrate- in a juice- you might as well be tipping a bowl of table sugar down your throat. We are all consuming way too much- in fact- the recommended amount that someone should consume each day is no more than 30g- one can of cola has 35g in it. You can see- fast food, orange juice, corn flakes with sugar on- all these sorts of areas are places where we are getting sugar.

The other day my wife went to buy some smoked salmon in a regular high street store; she looked on the back of the packet and it had sugar in it. What’s sugar doing in smoked salmon?! It’s because it tastes nice and it’s highly addictive so you are likely to go back and have it again.

I don't know if you’ve seen that movie Supersize Me? When he stops eating the fast food, he suddenly has a full withdrawal that you would expect to be the same as someone who is coming off heroin. He falls on the ground, he’s vomiting, he’s shaking, he’s crying- all the same sorts of withdrawal symptoms.

I’m saying- you could cut all sugar out of you wanted to but I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying-first of all- be aware that it’s really dangerous, secondly- be aware of where it is. Thirdly, let me help you programme your mind, like programming a computer, using visualisation techniques and hypnosis and things like that so that you reduce sugar and you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

I haven’t had orange juice for about a year; I tried to have some recently and it tasted too sweet. My whole preference has changed- it’s really interesting. Other people who have tried the system say that is had the same effect on them. Suddenly their sweet tooth just disappears.

If it’s your birthday- have a birthday cake but you don’t have a birthday cake every day- because if you did you would probably be very overweight.

My book is different from the others- the other big sellers include a fantastic book by Dr Robert Lustig. There are other people talking and campaigning about the dangers of sugar- my dear friend Stephen Fry is. People like Jamie Oliver and Davina McCall are doing a fantastic job of making people aware that it’s potently dangerous. The difference is- what I’m doing is saying people know it’s bad form them- although I don’t think people really know HOW bad it is- a lot of people when I talk to them say;

‘What worse than cigarettes?’

‘Yeah way worse!’

(In the amounts that we are taking on average in our society). I’m saying, I can make it so that you consume much less sugar and you don’t feel like you’re missing out. You don’t have any cravings; you just naturally have a healthier diet.

What fact shocked you most about sugar when you were researching for this book?

I knew that it was a contributor to obesity and obesity is linked to cancer so it really is something that people should deal with. But, what really shocked me was the addictiveness of it and the proliferation. The sugar industry knew that what they were producing was a highly addictive drug because it acts more like a drug than a nutrient.

Instead of going- ‘maybe we shouldn’t put as much of this into things’ or ‘we should label it differently and let people know there is sugar there’- they tried to hide the sugar in the products by calling it by fifty different names.

And instead of reducing it- they stuffed it into everything. What we’ve got is a morally bankrupt industry. I am not trying to stop everyone from having sugar. Even though I probably sound like a bit of an evangelist, it’s because I feel strongly that there isn’t enough public awareness about it. Back in the 80s when AIDS was an issue there were these very scary TV commercials. When it came time for the smoking ban to come in- there were all kinds of scary TV commercials, billboards  and posters all around the country. I don’t think we need to unnecessarily frighten people but we need to be very candid about how bad it is and also about how easy it is to make the change.

One of the things that really shocks people when they use the hypnosis technique or the mind programming technique it just changes their preferences so they don’t feel overwhelmed or like they are missing out. When they do have some sugar- a bit of cake or a glass of wine- it tastes all that much better.  

More: Exclusive interview with Paul McKenna on Instant Influence and Charisma 

Which product did you least expect to contain sugar?

I didn’t know it had been sneaked into just as much as it is. I suspected it was in sauces- I mean I like a curry sauce. Tonight, I’m going with some friends for a curry so there will be some sugar in the curry sauce. I didn’t realise it was in every sauce- pretty much. Some of the companies in the food and drink industry have been very responsible and they have done the right thing. They have either tried to reduce the sugar or they have offered the consumers a choice. They said you can have a cola or you can have a sugar free cola- it is entirely up to you.

I am all about personal freedom, I think it is very important and we don’t need a nanny state telling us what to do. We should be able to make our own minds up. However, given that this is highly addictive drug, and it’s not just me saying that- I am repeating the words of great scientists and biologists who have done not just research studies but Meta research studies. That means a rigorous study of all studies because the sugar industry set about discrediting scientists who pointed out the dangers of sugar. They then set up fraudulent research programmes to throw red herrings out there to convince everyone that fat was the devil.

There was a researcher called Ancel Keys. What happened was that after President Eisenhower had a heart attack- his physician said ‘I think smoking is part of the cause of this’- so he shared that with the American people. But, his physician was friends with Ancel Keys who was an American researcher. He had the opportunity to look at the correlation between fat and heart disease across 22 countries. But he didn’t use the 22 countries- he very cleverly selected seven. It did appear as though there was a correlation but when you look at it against 22 countries, the correlation disappears- it’s nonsense. The whole idea that fat is bad for you is total nonsense. In Africa, they eat meat and they drink milk and that’s their diet and they don’t have the same heart disease problems that we do in the west.

If you look at it at the moment-, sugar is linked to diabetes, to obesity, which in turn is linked to cancer, to heart disease and whole load of others things. We really do need to become more aware.

I asked 44 people if they thought sugar was bad for them and on four said ‘yes’. The other 40 said ‘it’s probably not good for you but it’s not really bad’.

It is! In the quantities that we are ingesting it as a society. You only have to look at how in the last few decades obesity and Type 2 diabetes have gone ballistic. People with Type 1 diabetes are usually quite good at controlling their sugar because they have learned from an early age that they have to due to their insulin levels and the potential for health problems. They are generally great at controlling their sugar intake.

People who are in danger of developing Type 2 are those who are consuming too much sugar.

My message to anyone who is concerned about their health- remove the contents of your fridge and empty your cupboards out. Look through the back of the packaging and use the list of the 50 different names- you will be shocked to see that it’s in really everything.

Can you tell us about any of your readers who have made profound changes in their life since cutting down on sugar?

I tell you who has been in touch and that’s loads and loads of doctors. They have contacted me and said ‘thanks for doing this book- well done’. ‘It’s great that you can bring awareness to this but not only that- you are giving people a toolkit’.

The book comes with a CD and on the CD there is a hypnotic mind programming trance. There is also five other techniques to help you reduce you desire for sugar to phase out cravings- called the craving buster and to live a healthier and happier life.

On the occasions that I have some sugar, I enjoy it but I am very cautious to note that I am not consuming too much.  

How important is it for you to hear from your readers and the successes they’ve had after following your advice?

We usually do studies into the effectivenesss of a book or a book and CD. Most of the time, they come out a seven in ten which is very good as a statistic for someone making a change or losing weight.

If you compare diets- I have over a 70% success rate with my weight loss system. Most diets are not even in double figures- about 9% successful. Some of these diet clubs have conned people into thinking that low fat is a good idea. They are not actually in the weight loss business they are in the food business. They make their money from selling low fat chemical rubbish to people which is once again full of sugar.

Why is journaling such an important part of this process?

What we found was if you are going to report to someone that you are going to do something- you are much more likely to do it. Journaling has the same sort of effect. By keeping a diary or any sort of monitoring system- like training wheels on a bike- it helps to stabilise you.

Over the course of a few weeks – my objective is that people change their lifestyles but it shouldn’t be too uncomfortable.

If you look at the research into addictions- people who quit something suddenly- the shock can be too much for them. With some drugs and many researchers now class sugar as a drug- it might be better to incrementally reduce your amount. Then you will feel more stability rather than it being a shock to your system. I’m encouraging people to change their lifestyles.

You only have to talk to the man in the street. I’ve talked to loads of people- first of all they are unsure of the amounts of sugar they are consuming and secondly-where it is they are consuming it. I was- I’ve learned along the way.

Then they have a tangible way of measuring it and reducing it. I am not saying quit sugar I am saying reduce your sugar intake and take control of it- then consciously decide if you’re going to have it.

It’s the same as if you have a glass of wine- sometimes wine can make you less conscious but before you drink it you know ‘this is how much I’m having and I can stop there’. Then you feel good and in control which is really important.

You say in the book that diet clubs make things far worse so why do people continue to use them if they don’t work for so many in the long term?

No one wakes up five stone overweight and says ‘I’ve put on five stone overnight!’ What happens is that they go to weight loss clubs or they take up a diet regime and first it works really well because they are starving themselves. They are actually losing muscle mass- not fat. It’s deceptive because they do work in the short term. When people say to me ‘I’ve found this great new diet’- I say ‘come back and tell me about it in 6 months’. No one ever comes back. The problem is that 70% of people who go on diets end up more overweight when they come off the diet than before they went on it.

They think it’s because they don’t have enough willpower whereas what’s happening is- when you starve yourself, you slow your metabolism. You get good at storing fat. So diets are a great way to get fat and feel like failure.

My approach is completely different- for years, I was all about psychology for weight loss. I didn't include the sugar stuff at all. Back in the nineties I did- but then I wrote a book called I Can Make You Thin. I believe it’s the bestselling self-help book in British history- or it was when I checked a few months ago. It has been a massive success and sold millions of copies all around the world. It’s purely a psychological system for weight loss because all our decision about food takes place inside our mind.

Yale University just did a big research study into weight loss and they concluded that weight loss is a behavioural issue. It’s not about recipes and you should eat this and you should not eat that. It’s much more about behaviour.

For a long time I was purely about the psychology- I am still about the psychology but I am targeting sugar specifically because I see it as a great threat to our National health Service to our society and to people’s lives. I have lost a number of friends to cancer and it makes you wonder- was it about the amount of sugar they were eating? 

One of the hottest trends right now is the dopamine diet- so what is your opinion of this regime?

I don’t know about this diet but dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is connected with reward and pleasure. Dopamine and serotonin and the two reward neurotransmitters so if the dopamine diet is helping you to increase your dopamine levels then that’s a great thing.

A friend of mine became quite depressed a few years ago- he was basically working to hard and he burned himself out. When he had his blood tests done it showed that his dopamine was down. He just changed his diet and within a few weeks, he was back right as rain again.

Why do people always strive for perfection when they embark on a new eating regime- when perfection is unachievable?

What happens is- in January- people have post-Christmas guilt and set out on a diet. They basically try too hard and by the third week of January- many have stopped going to the gym.

They set the bar too high and they can’t ever fulfil that. This is why I am saying to people- don’t try and quit it because you are very likely to fail.

Rather, take control over a few weeks, using my system or just a few days. If you listen to that CD every day for five days, there is no way you are not going to think the same about sugar. It’s just not possible. The perfectionist idea is noble but it’s got an element of where you are going to fail. 

You haven’t included any low or zero sugar recipes in the book- would you consider collaborating with a famous chef in the future to create a follow on book? 

It’s a possibility. It has crossed my mind, but I think that there are already so many good books out there- Jamie and Davina’s diets are perfectly good for making people aware of how they can change their sugar intake. The problem is many people don’t have enough willpower to do so.

What this book is- is willpower in a box if you like. When you use that CD- suddenly you find that you preference is to move away from sugar products and not have so many of them and to feel good about it rather than to feel like you’re missing out. 

What is next for you?

I have got a number of different projects on the go at the minute. I am developing a mind, body, spirit website called Positivity. It is also going to be a TV channel in different parts of the world. It will be a platform for all kinds of people- not just me- people who are able to offer wellbeing and positive health advice, techniques and demonstrations.

I am also working on my next books, which are going to be a range of children’s books- bedtime stories that hypnotise. When people ask me who the best hypnotists are- I say parents. They ask ‘what do you mean by that?’ And I say- well parents get to program their kids if you like and condition them at the most important age’.

Piaget said;

‘Give me the boy before he’s seven and I will show you the man’.

I believe that those first few years- certainly those between 3 and 7 are very important in forming the character of someone.

I’m thinking of bedtime stories that parents can read their children that put positive software into their minds- if you think of their mind as a kind of computer- like I do. This is a way of inputting software beautifully and gives people resilience and makes them feel happy. It makes them feel excited about learning and able to concentrate- that sort of stuff.

Every parent wants their kid to be healthy- be happy- to get married or have a job- that sort of thing- they want the best for them. This is a way to ensure that.

I also do lots of live events but I am cutting down on the number of live events that I do. I only do a few a year now. I have a brilliant event coming up with Dr Richard Bandler in London for two days- we are teaching the secrets of hypnosis. Then we do another event together called ‘Get The Life You Want’. It’s all about finding what’s important to you- how to go after that and how to get what you want in life. I tend to get most of what I set my mind to and I like to help other people do the same.

I am also a working progress- I am always learning too. I’ve just finished work on a fantastic study into post-traumatic stress disorder and we have the cure. I have been working with King’s College in London with a group of academics. It’s amazing- we have worked with war veterans and rape victims and we have this extraordinary new psychosensory therapy.

You touch the side of someone’s arms and you get them to move their eyes laterally- left to right and some simple visualisations. That then creates a massive release of delta waves in the brain and that helps to change the way things are coded in the brain.

If someone has post-traumatic stress and they are having flashbacks, they are getting upset and waking up in the middle of the night- it stops all that and gets them into much better shape very quickly. I still work with people one to one when I am developing a new set of techniques for. For this book, I worked with a whole load of different people to see if these techniques would actually reduce their sugar and indeed, it did. Dramatically in some people. I will just continue doing more of that but my plans are not to do too much- in the past I would say ‘yes’ to just about everything and I would get overwhelmed. I am actually taking some of my own advice and going to take what’s called ‘recovery time’.

I’ve really started something here with this book. Sugar was already a very hot subject for debate but it was mostly amongst the chattering classes. You would read about in The Guardian and places like that but now it’s in The Daily Mail and The Sun and it will be on Female First as well! People are reading about it in lots of different places or they are watching TV shows about it. There are some really interesting films on You Tube as well- Stephen Fry has done one, which is fantastic. There’s more awareness about it and I think that’s a good thing! 

Get Control of Sugar Now! (Bantam Press) RRP £12.99 including FREE mind programming CD and audio download. Available wherever books are sold. Website: 

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