Prioritizing nutrition is a key part of the recovery process. As your brain and body fight to heal themselves, they’ll need good nutritional support. However, it’s also important to note that many recovering addicts start sublimating with food. When they can no longer turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort, eating rich, sweet, salty, or fatty foods often provides the immediate gratification they seek. There are even times when not eating in recovery allows people to maintain a sense of control. Until the underlying causes of addiction are understood and properly addressed, you may find yourself eating far more or far less than you normally do. Finding a good balance in nutrition can be a gradual, slow-going process, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Changing Attitudes Towards Food in Recovery
Eating and eating well are rarely top priorities for addicts. Most people are largely focused on finding, sourcing, and using their substances of choice. Months or years of heavy drug use and poor nutrition can take their toll. These stretches can leave people looking and feeling both aged and tired. Poor nutrition and substance abuse also contribute to many common skin issues, tooth loss, tooth decay, and dry, brittle nails and hair.
The return to regular eating after detoxing is actually quite refreshing. If you’ve spent quite a long time depriving yourself nutritionally, your body will be grateful for almost any sustenance that you give it. Although it’s not uncommon to feel bad about eating more during recovery, choosing to feed yourself is a life-affirming and incredibly healthy decision. More importantly, reaching for a quick snack when dealing with temptation, cravings, depression, or anxiety is infinitely better than relapsing. Don’t push yourself too hard to get everything right.
Once your physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms have fully abated, you can start placing more focus on weight loss or general weight management. In the meantime, it’s important to use every tool in your arsenal to keep yourself on track, and for many people, food is both a safe and effective choice.
Dealing With Weight Gain in Recovery
For many recovering addicts, weight gain during recovery is actually a positive thing. Certain substances cause dramatic reductions in appetite and extreme weight loss. Others cause periodic or prolonged bouts of mild nausea and a general distaste for food. Although you might find yourself slightly heavier than you used to be, you may simply look more like your pre-addiction self. In addiction treatment, there are countless tools that patients can use to limit weight gain, and to bolster and improve their health during recovery.
Many rehab centers have workout rooms, swimming pools, and other recreational or physical fitness activities for burning calories. Guided yoga classes are commonly offered as part of stress management services. Yoga engages all of the muscles in the body and offers a low-stress, non-impact way to get and stay fit. You can try taking long walks, dancing, or even engaging in weight-bearing exercises on campus. Getting more movement in your life will keep you from feeling guilty about sublimating with food until new and healthier coping skills are developed.
Behavioral Therapy Can Help Too
Taking part in behavioral therapy in addiction treatment will prove beneficial for weight management as well. Addiction therapy is designed to help patients build greater distress tolerance and learn sustainable ways for coping with outside stress. In time, you’ll find that you’re able to use journal writing, walking, deep breathing, and other tools to balance your emotions. When you do, you’ll be far less likely to reach for a snack whenever you feel upset.
What Should You Eat During Recovery?
Placing your focus on eating high-quality, nutrient-dense foods in recovery can actually expedite all aspects of the healing process. Although it’s okay to eat more as you move away from using drugs or alcohol to alleviate challenging emotions, it’s important to focus on consuming high-value foods that give your body what it needs. Quality dairy products will help rebuild and support your bones and teeth. Try to eat:
- Leafy greens and other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower
You should also add plenty of heart-healthy fats to your diet. Healthy fats support brain functioning and brain repair. These include:
- Almond butter, peanut butter, and other nut butters
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
To boost your overall health, load up on a colorful selection of fresh fruits. Blueberries offer excellent brain support. They are also good for supporting eye health and general immunity. Each produce color has it’s own unique range of phytonutrients and antioxidants to offer, so variety is always better than simply picking a favorite and sticking to it. Eating healthy will make you feel physically better in recovery. It will also boost your energy levels and your confidence. Best of all, when weight loss or weight gain aren’t top concerns, your eating habits and general nutrition will balance out naturally.
If you’re eager to start your recovery but need help finding the right resources or treatment center, we’re here to provide it. While good nutrition will set you up for lasting success in recovery, needs-specific addiction treatment will lay the essential foundation. Call us at 833-846-5669 to get started. Our counselors are always standing by.