Carrots in Recovery: How Renewing a Love of Food Can Nurture a Healthy Lifestyle
The cliché of the skinny addict has a hint of truth to it. The parts of the brain that usually drive us to perform life-sustaining activities like eating or having sex are redirected by addiction to focus on the sole purpose of finding and consuming an individual’s drug of choice. Most addicts don’t eat appropriately. Many eat far too little or consume junk foods that are fast and cheap. That needs to change in recovery.
This disconnect, though, is exactly why you should use your new or well-established recovery as an opportunity to reconnect with taking care of yourself. Eating healthy food in generous, but not excessive portions, is key to a number of aspects of any healthy lifestyle. For example, a nutritious diet is essential for anyone interested in developing a sustainable exercise routine, providing your body with the fuel to swim or run an extra lap. You’ll need to eat well if you want to keep the muscle you build, too; exercise without the quality calories to support it won’t help you reach your fitness goals.
Without enough food your body goes into crisis mode. If the calories you take in aren’t enough to cover your body’s essential daily functions, like keeping your heart pumping and lungs automatically breathing, your body reacts as though you are literally starving. This is the same if you are eating a lot of junk calories without much nutritional value. With your body in a starvation-based panic, you can bet that your mood and even your brain chemistry will be affected negatively too. It’s all a downward spiral.
Calorie deficiency depresses regular communication activity between brain cells, making it harder to concentrate, bounce back from sad feelings and stay alert. Getting plenty to eat will make it that much easier to navigate a new life without drugs or alcohol.
The true joy from eating comes when you start to pay attention to what you enjoy and the sense of accomplishment that comes from enjoying something you’ve created. This means learning how to prepare nutritious foods that you like. Recovery from addiction is about creating a life that nurtures you and fills you up in ways that feel good instead of cutting you down. Food is a big part of any addiction recovery plan.
Eating food can be a rote chore you half-heartedly participate in as another essential life task you have no choice but to perform, but it doesn’t have to be. Take the time to think through a nutritious meal plan that not only supports your physical functioning, but brings satisfaction to you as you eat it and encourages you to grow in your cooking skills. Relish the activities you can partake in, like fulfilling exercise and in-depth concentration and learning, because of these satisfying meals. Growing to appreciate nourishing, natural foods is one of our greatest sensual experiences in life, and while you may have missed out on years of incredible meals while you were practicing your addiction, re-learning how to feed yourself will bring you far more satisfaction than you perhaps realize. Bon appetit!