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Sugar Substance Use Disorder: Michael Collins Podcast

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Last updated on July 11, 2020

34 years ago in approximately 1985, Michael Collins discovered that he was a sugar addict.

4 years later in approximately 1989 … 30 years ago from today … Michael became completely sugar free.

Since then Michael Collins has been completely sugar-free for over 30 years and has worked closely with others to help them regain lives ravaged by this addictive product. 

Michael has gone on to start SugarAddiction.com and is the Board Chairman of the Food Addiction Institute.

And here’s what’s crazy … not only has Mike has been in recovery from substance-use disorder for over 34 years …

Michael has raised two children sugar-free from the womb to over six years old – when they only had sugar once a month for their entire childhood. 

Michael’s also written a great book on Amazon. Michael has made his book free on Kindle and you can download here.

Michael is also on Facebook, where he maintains a page “Sugar Addiction” which you can like and follow.

Here are a few notes about our interview (video down below)

A few things stand out about Michael himself in this interview which I feel are worthy of mentioning:

– honesty to say this journey takes years, and not giving people an easy solution
– Michael’s willingness to share about his personal substance use journey
– emotional intelligence to identify as an “addict” without shame
– breath of knowledge from Michael’s 30 year journey

A Few Lessons I learned Sugar Substance Use Disorder

I also learned much more about sugar addiction, how to stop cravings and much more.

1. How common sugar is in our everyday world. Before speaking with Mike I “knew” we ate a lot of sugar, but now I really appreciate that the average American consumes 150 lbs of sugar per year. That’s a lot!

2. How To Stop Cravings. This is a nuanced answer, not a magic pill. You need two things. You need to educate yourself on cravings, especially habit loops. Part of this education requires understanding how as a child you grew up using food as a reward. Nutritional education is useful too – eating nutrient dense foods. I’ve talked about this lesson previously, it really is important to eat whole real foods.

Yet there is also developing your emotional regulation skills. This is the training part which can take years. In particular, you must know how to soothe yourself with difficult feelings.

3. Sugar Substance Use Disorder and Addiction Is Real. I also became more educated the topic of sugar being addicting. I’m fully convinced that sugar is addicting.

Below is the Michael Collin’s Substance Use Disorder conversation / interview:

MP3 Podcast available from Podcast Eating Enlightenment

I See Both Sides Of The “Sugar Substance Use Disorder”

Part of my discussion with Michael involves a mildly controversial topic. We start talking about this right at minute 40. It’s good listening!

The issue is fairly straight-forward. Is sugar a substance use disorder?

The controversy is fairly easy to understand, on the surface layer, but once you peel back the layers it can be quite complex. Essentially, some people think the compound sugar is addicting. On the otherhand, some other people feel that sugar is abused, but not ultimately addicting.

This has implications because if you believe that sugar is addicting, as a compound in and of itself, you should abstain from sugar.

The real debate is whether you should abstain from sugar.

If on the otherhand you believe that sugar is abused, but not ultimately addicting, you would try to heal yourself, eat better, etc but not disallow sugar.

I could go into more of the scientific literature here, but I’m just going to keep this short and sweet. Here’s where I stand.

Whatever you do, abstain or moderate sugar:

  • Do so with a learning mentality.
  • Do it with a flexible mentality.
  • Be wiling to give one approach a sincere shot, make sure you feel good during the process, do it long enough, and see how you feel.
  • And be willing to experiment with another option.
  • Be willing change your opinion down the road.
  • Compassionately and wisely experiment for yourself, on your body, and come to your own conclusions

It seems to me there are plenty of people out there who are true sugar addicts and that abstinence could be the best way out there for these people.

It also seems to me that there are people who eat too much sugar but who can probably keep sugar in their life, provided they are eating healthy foods and enough of them.

But it also seems to me that this debate, about how much to abstain or partake in sugar, goes beyond food. It goes much deeper.

This is an age old philosophical and societal question.

How much rules do we need?

Because this blog of mine is intimately spiritual, and also because this blog of mine is influenced heavily by buddhist, yoga, and eastern philosophies …

I lean towards less rules. I learn more to discovering for yourself.

In the interview with Mike I admit to having an Intuitive Eating bias.

I think that’s the important part. Admit, to yourself, that you are biased. Be willing to energetically experiment. Not to debate or to think about, but to get your body, mouth and emotions engaged. Try to abstain from sugar if you want, if you’re a true addict.

Of course, do the abstaining from sugar process correctly.

Make sure you’re eating plenty of food whole foods, make sure you’re planning out when you’re going to eat. And also be building up your emotional skills, don’t just try to abstain from sugar without doing the other most important work.

And this other, most important work, the work of personal development, is why this debate is silly. Because at the end of the day, whether you abstain from sugar or not, both still have to do the emotional labor of healing, growing, learning, forgiving and overcoming shame.

That’s the only true way through.

Here are a few snippets from our substance use disorder conversation.

This quote down below I love because it describes the essence of sugar addiction and how to stop sugar addiction.

“Okay. So you’re two and three years old. Your mother’s busy, she’s had two or three kids, she’s got a job, she’s got a husband and now little tiny 2 year you’re upset, right? Instead of taking the time to get down on your level and give you a hug and see how you’re feeling, she puts a cookie in your mouth and she sends you over to the TV, right? Well, this is a learning process that was forced upon you, and then you co-opted it for yourself. And this is something where you came understand at a young age that if you were upset, a cookie was how to feel better. Right? You know, if you’re lonely or sad or scared, you’re gonna eat a little extra cookies to feel better. Your boyfriend breaks up to you, 14 you’re going to binge with your girlfriends.

It’s like this is, this is a coping mechanism that evolved from such a very young body. Now we’re starting to understand that the brain’s reward system is being hijacked by these sugar chemicals through this process of self nurturing through substances. So, it sounds complex, but at the end of the day, it’s very simple. Abstinence plus a new self-soothing rewards system that you integrate into your life, which sometimes takes effort. It doesn’t take effort to eat. It does take to take a walk. Yes, it does take effort to call a friend. It does take effort to go to yoga. It does take effort to run. Yes, it takes effort to do stuff – but these are the self-soothing mechanisms we need to practice and get better at, instead of relying on sugar to make us feel better.

A Story About Eric Clapton from the interview

Eric Clapton is sitting in his $7 million treatment center in Antigua. He built with his own money to help people. I’m being interviewed by Ed Bradley of 60 minutes. And Ed says to him, Eric, “so this addiction thing, this started with heroin, right?” And Eric Clapton says to ed Bradley, “no, ed, it started with sugar. Eric said, “I was eating bread and butter and sugar sandwiches when I was six years old to change my state. And I would use anything to change my state through my childhood until I discovered alcohol and drugs. And sugar was the first drug that I use.”

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