Healthy Eating Habits and Early-Stage Recovery
One big part of recovery and healing that people often overlook is the importance of proper nutrition. When a person is actively drugging and drinking, a terrible diet is the general rule – a continual supply of grease-laden, fattening fast food and junk food (or not eating at all) can cause deficiencies in important minerals and vitamins and a number of associated health issues.
Alcohol promotes cancer growth. Perpetual drinking has been linked with a higher incidence of diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancers of the pancreas, liver, colon, and breast. There is even a possible correlation between heavy drinking and a higher rate of muscle and eye conditions related to age.
While quitting alcohol and/or drugs is the most intelligent thing a person can do for themselves, health-wise, there may still be years’ worth of damage left to repair. Consequently, the next-best thing a recovering addict/alcoholic can do for their health is to pay close attention to the foods they eat.
Researchers theorize that a bad diet can cause between 40%-70% of all cancers. Eating foods rich in the proper nutrients can restore much of what was lost, and can be a major factor when it comes to the development or prevention of many diseases.
A fortuitous side effect of proper healthy eating habits is that these changes in lifestyle can help curb cravings, arrest compulsive behaviors, and help at preventing relapses.
For incidents, many of those new to recovery can easily mistake the signs of hunger – dizziness, nausea, headache, and irritability – with a physiological craving for drugs or alcohol. Being able to distinguish between normal hunger and drug craving can help the alcoholic/addict in recovery keep a proper mindset and allow them to take the correct steps.
The vast majority of people new to recovery suffer from withdrawal symptoms, such as – disruptions in sleeping pattern, anxiety, irritability and problems with concentration or memory. A healthy diet can help ameliorate these symptoms and shorten the withdrawal process.
Here are some “Good Habits” that a recovering alcoholic/addict should adopt to reduce hunger, stifle urges, and help them stick to a diet that supports sobriety.
- Eat breakfast every day–Eating every morning “resets” the body and helps modify its metabolism to where it expects food at the start of the day. More importantly, beginning the day with nutritious fuel enables the recovering alcoholic/addict to avoid the dreaded “H” – Hunger.
- Keep healthy snacks & drinks on hand–This is absolutely crucial. When normal, commonplace daytime hunger pangs happen, the first step is to recognize them for what they actually are – hunger, not a desire for alcohol or drugs. The next step is to satisfy that craving with something quick, but not unhealthy.
Yogurt, nuts, sunflower seeds, granola bars, and fresh or dried fruit are all instant energy sources that can easily be taken anywhere. Bottled tea, milk, fruit juice, or water should also be carried, for the same reasons.
Carrying these nutritious drinks and snacks along and having them on hand can help replace other less-healthy choices like fast food or junk food.
- Make a plan– Many people in recovery have busy schedules, so it only makes good sense to have a plan in place if they are trying to avoid temptation and eat healthier.
That may mean something as easy and stress-free as bringing their lunch or dinner along – something like as a soup and sandwich or perhaps re-heatable leftovers.
For other people, the biggest temptation lies in the available locations to eat out. For example, on a given day, the only available restaurant choices might be a bar & grill during happy hour. Obviously, if a person is early in recovery this could be a bad idea. Planning helps remove that temptation and allows for more healthy options.
- Avoid “triggers” – A person in recovery should make a strenuous effort to refrain from eating any foods that have been made with alcohol. Contrary to an old wives tale, alcohol DOES NOT “burn off” during the cooking process. Up to 85% of alcohol can still be present after cooking.
Cravings can be triggered in a number of ways – consuming dishes prepared with alcohol, smelling the odor of alcohol, and in some cases, simply seeing a liquor bottle or pub glass. It is vastly preferable to endure a small bit of inconvenience and planning in order to avoid such triggers.
If the person in recovery is dining out, they should ask how the food is prepared, in order to avoid any accidental consumption of alcohol. Similarly, a person recovery might need to adopt different eating habits if there were any particular dishes or restaurants that played a part in their drugging/drinking days.
Eating right during recovery doesn’t need to be boring or a chore. Consider it as an investment in time. Eating well today in order to replenish depleted stores of nutrients will help make tomorrow’s recovery easier, healthier, and more successful.