Eating a Healthy Diet in Recovery
by Kelly McClanahan from Addiction Recovery Basics
Most people vow to eat better, exercise more, be generally healthier when ushering a new year. Eating healthily is especially important for recovering addicts. However, recovery is fraught with opportunities to shift addictions from one unhealthy lifestyle choice to another, and due to the nature of the addictive personality, many recover from drug and alcohol addiction and begin to participate in other addictive practices and behaviors, setting themselves up for another crash and burn into yet another 12-Step experience.
Food is an essential element of life. Many addicts have some kind of eating addiction or disorder. While they may continue to participate in the addictive patterns, they are courting disaster with relapse by practicing that particular addiction. They may revert back to drug/alcohol use to substitute for food and/or sugar, depending on which type of eating disorder or addiction they may have.
Then there are those who use certain types of drugs that seem to have a strong correlation with sugar consumption, usually those addicted to opioids or narcotic pain medications. Alcohol is made from fermented fruit, and primarily consists of sugar, which is addictive. Therefore, many who quit drinking or drugging are prone to switching to consumption of vast amounts of sugar. What little liver and pancreatic damage already done to their bodies by their addiction is exacerbated by overconsumption of processed sugar.
Learning to eat healthier foods is a process that will take time in recovery. Most addicts are not aware of the feeling that a healthy diet versus an unhealthy diet will produce for their bodies. They have skipped meals, used drugs or alcohol in lieu of meals, and generally ignored their physical health to the point of malnutrition. Most addicts in early recovery, even those who present with obesity, are undernourished and suffering from malnutrition. It will take time for them to regain dietary health.
Beginning with including more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets is important, because that is the fastest way to regain lost energy and stamina. Eating an apple instead of a doughnut is a good way to restore vitality and health to a depleted and suffering immune system and sluggish digestive tract. Learning how to eat balanced meals, with appropriate amounts of lean protein, heavy focus on healthy, complex carbohydrates, and only a tiny bit of good fats is a great way to kick-start recovery. Snacking on healthful fruits instead of sugary and fatty sweets or fried treats is very important, as these will convert to sugar and increase their chances for a fatty liver or diabetes, two risks most addicts have already increased in likelihood by their drinking/using behaviors. To help their liver, kidneys, and pancreas heal, it is necessary to begin to feed the body good foods that will help them heal.
Coffee is another addiction that many addicts participate in heavily. While there is a balance that is healthful and appropriate with caffeine and carbonated drinks, it is important to replace some of those with filtered water and teas that do not tax the kidneys so heavily. Cleansing the system with lots of water is important, as well, to help remove the toxins that have accumulated throughout their addictive behavior. All in all, a healthy diet and beverage regimen will pay off in rich rewards for the person who practices it with glowing good health and a surplus of clean, vibrant energy.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.