Weight Gain and Addiction Recovery
Addictions have the power to rob you of the ability to prioritize your needs. When the top priority on your to-do list lies in the acquisition or consumption of drugs, it’s easy to forget to tend to even the most basic of needs. These include eating consistently, following a healthy diet, working out, and staying active enough to avoid falling into lazy habits such as eating fast food, or choosing to spend your time invested in sedentary activity over physical activity.
There are several reasons for weight gain after recovery. In fact, one of the main health concerns for recovered addicts that don’t stem from their previous addiction is weight gain. 65% of people that undergo rehab report weight gain once done with treatment. If this has happened to you, don’t be startled! This is often no reason for concern. You’re sober, and that’s what’s most important. There are several very common reasons as to why patients tend to see a rise in the scale during recovery:
* It’s Your Body’s Way of Repairing Itself
Alcohol and many other drugs have the ability to suppress your appetite, and this results in extreme weight loss after continued use. But just because you didn’t experience hunger doesn’t mean your body isn’t suffering from the damages that a lack of proper nutrition causes.
During the early stages of recovery and sobriety, your body is going through immense change. If you struggled from an addiction for a long time, your body is malnourished, damaged, and it’s normal function has been impaired. When you finally make a point to seek treatment, a nutrition plan is usually implemented. More often than not, these new eating habits differ greatly from the way you took care of yourself during the thick of your addiction. Even if the food supplied is healthy, calorically you are giving your body so much more than it is used to. Not only that, it’s natural that your body will cling to any morsel of food it receives because it’s been deprived for so long.
Once your body enters a state of starvation, it will turn most of what you eat into fat. This is because it doesn’t know the next time it will be fed, and storing fat is your body’s way of having something to feed off of the next time it is deprived. This results in weight gain. Understand that breaking this cycle and restoring normal digestive function takes time. Just as your brain is re-balancing itself chemically, so is your body.
* You’re Not Used to Spending Time on Healthy Habits
The last thing on an addict’s mind is getting the proper amount of fruits and vegetables in every day. Making grocery lists, planning healthy meals, and paying attention to the foods that you’re putting into your body isn’t exactly the main focus. Even during recovery: if you’ve enrolled in an inpatient treatment facility, most of your meals are planned and you probably haven’t given much thought as to how much effort goes into cooking for yourself. Not having to prepare your own food might even allow you to focus on the more important aspects of recovery, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing.
But once you’re on your own, falling into healthier habits isn’t hard. You’re not used to the time it takes to cook for yourself every day, and between everything else you have going on it can be easy to push maintaining a healthy diet to the side. Fast food, processed meals, and quick fixes might become your go-to. Unfortunately, these foods are as quick to make you gain weight as they are to prepare. Try setting aside a block of time, even if it’s only one day a week, to plan your meals and go grocery shopping. This consistency will eventually become a habit, and cooking nutritious meals for yourself will become easier and easier.
* You’re Replacing One Addiction With Another
Food addictions are a very real thing. Cravings and urges are still going to be present throughout your sobriety, and this sometimes leads recovering addicts to turn to food for pleasure. Foods high in sugar can have a similar effect on the brain’s reward center as drugs do. Because drugs are no longer an option, soda, candy, sweets, and other treats have the power to become a person’s new method of experiencing pleasure.
Now, this type of weight gain can escalate quickly and become a health/addictive concern for some. Cravings are a normal occurrence, but the way that you handle and go about these urges is what determines their severity. Of course, it’s okay to treat yourself every once in a while. But if you’re struggling to find balance, we recommend you consult with a nutritionist to discuss a better health plan for you to follow after leaving a facility. If you feel your tendency to binge on unhealthy foods has become uncontrollable, consult with a therapist to discover the root cause of your behavior. This can sometimes indicate that further treatment may be necessary in order to fully heal the mind of any lingering addictive tendencies.
Although you may experience weight gain during recovery, you are not destined to being overweight for the rest of your life. It’s important to remind yourself of the changes that your mind, spirit, body, and overall wellness are going through now that addiction is no longer a part of your life. If you’re uncomfortable with your weight gain, outside help is always available. Join a gym, talk to your sponsor, or start hanging out with people who are physically active.
Good company is of crucial importance during recovery. Humans have the tendency to emulate the behavior of those around them: if your friends are active and healthy, it’s likely you’ll begin to develop the same practices and habits. Start cooking together, go on walks or hikes, and participate in other activities that promote good health and positive behavior.
At Arizona Addiction Recovery Center, we pride ourselves in providing our patients with chef-prepared meals and nutrition-based therapies. We believe in healing our patients in all aspects of their recovery, and allowing them to being these healthy practices during treatment makes for greater success once they’ve left the facility. For further insight on weight gain during recovery, or if you have any concerns at all regarding addiction and treatment options, call us today.