Eating right is one of the best things we can do for our recovery. There are an increasing amount of treatment centers offering nutritional counseling and sober coaches encouraging their clients to check in with their eating habits. On the other hand, many newly sober individuals turn to food, caffeine, and sugar to help cope. Of course it’s a lesser evil, but it is something we can take a look at to really improve our quality of life.
Diet & Mental Health
There have been multiple studies linking eating to our mental health. There’s a great post on Find Health Tips about Diet’s Effect on Mental Health. Things like sugar, fats, and caffeine can greatly effect our mental state. Whether or not you deal with a mental health disorder like depression, bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder, what you consume can impact the way your mind works.
In recovery, our minds are often recovering from years of drug abuse and a change in the chemical actions. This can be difficult enough as is. When we eat right, we can help our brains recover, think clearly, and work right. Eating “right” may look different for different people. Perhaps you can investigate when you eat, what you choose to put in your body, and how it may be impacting you. Specific things you may take a look at include caffeine consumption, snacking, skipping meals, and sugar intake. These things can cause severe ups and downs in the mind!
We don’t need to obsess or be perfect in any way. There’s nothing wrong for many of us with indulging in the extra cupcake sometimes. We need to treat ourselves. What we can do is find a middle way with it, using the right amount of energy without obsessing.
Diet & Physical Energy
What we eat can of course effect us physically as well. Before anything else, food is how we get our energy. When I was in early recovery, I really just didn’t eat very much. I lived off coffee, energy drinks, and some cheap fast food. I found that when I began eating healthier, I had a much stronger ability to focus throughout the day. My physical energy increased and I wasn’t as physically weighed down during my days.
In recovery, we need our energy to go to meetings, interact with others, work, go to school, and fulfill our daily obligations. What and when we eat can help us show up for life. Try to listen to your body. If you’re running low on energy, perhaps a good meal will help you more than an extra coffee! If you’ve already eaten enough to be full, holding off on a second helping may help you stay awake and alert. Eating well can help us wake up feeling more refreshed, give us vital energy to exercise, and keep our bodies healthy.
In addition to the direct physical and mental health benefits of eating well, our habits have the potential to build or break down our esteem. I was severely underweight when I got sober. In my early recovery, I didn’t get the right nutrition and ended up overweight. In addition to the effects on my ego, I was sluggish, lazy, and lacked energy. This may not be everyone’s experience, but mine was that it really didn’t feel good to eat the way I was. A few years ago I set out to lose weight and have since lost about 55 lbs. I did it slowly, without diet plans or any quick solutions. Rather, I started tuning into what I was eating and making the choice to eat healthier.
My experience is that what I eat has an impact on how I feel about myself. Don’t get me wrong. I love chocolate, bread, and my coffee. However, I’ve found that if I continually eat fresh food, vegetables, and healthy meals, I feel much better. It feels good to take care of ourselves! In recovery we take care of ourselves by going to meetings, engaging with a community, helping others, and trying to practice contrary action. We can add a piece to our efforts by eating well and building esteem!
You can check out our post on 5 Tips for Mindful Eating for some ways to practice mindfulness with your eating habits!