You’ve heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’, but have you really stopped to think about what this means? The impact of food on your mood and thinking might not be as obvious as the effects from alcohol or drugs, but what you eat does have a huge influence on your mental state. If you broke free of addiction because you are ‘sick and tired of feeling sick and tired’, you will probably want to think more carefully about what you eat.
If you have gone through the struggle of breaking free of an alcohol or drug addiction, you may feel that eating a poor diet is not such a big deal. You may even feel that the fact that you have made such positive changes in your life means you should be allowed a little slack when it comes to your food. It is common for those in early recovery to turn to food for comfort; this can seem harmless when compared with the old behaviour. The problem is that if you continue to eat the wrong type of stuff, it will have a negative impact on your sobriety. Some of the dangers of a poor diet in recovery include:
- meaning that you feel tired all the time, so you don’t have the energy to do the things needed for solid sobriety
- the food you eat has a significant impact on your mood; therefore, if you have a poor diet, it could easily lead to symptoms of depression
- if you turn to comfort eating in recovery then it is likely to lead to obesity and body-image problems
- a bad diet will be impacting your physical health, and it may mean that you become sick and die a log younger than you need to
- if you continue to feel bad in recovery because of your poor diet, this will give you an excuse to relapse
- it can make the post-acute withdrawal symptoms more severe
- it can cause you to become stuck in recovery
- a bad diet prevents you from getting the most from your new life, which is a real shame after you have put such an effort into changing things.
Making some bad food choices in the first few weeks of recovery might not be too big deal, but if you continue with this behaviour then it will lead to problems for you. There is also the danger that you already have nutritional deficiencies as a result of the addiction, so by eating a bad diet you are only exacerbating the problem. If you feel sluggish, lacking energy, and negative all the time, you will want to consider if this may be due to your diet (you will also want to investigate other possible reasons for your symptoms with your doctor).
Here are a few tips to make it easier for you to make the right food choices in recovery:
- learn about nutrition and create some simple rules for what you can eat
- it is usually easier to focus on eating healthier food than it is to stop eating junk food (if you eat more healthy food, you should naturally be eating a lot less junk)
- it may be a good idea to take at least a multivitamin every day – speak to your doctor or dietician about what would be good for you
- keep a food diary, so you have a better idea of what you are actually eating
- there are practices like mindful eating that can be excellent at teaching you how to make more positive choices in regards to your diet
- avoid comfort eating as this is just another attempt to run away from your feelings – and it doesn’t work
- don’t bother with fad diets, it is much better to focus on permanent healthy changes to the way you eat
- try to eat a lot more fruit and vegetables and less meat and dairy
- make sure you get your cholesterol levels checked – your doctor might also want to check your blood sugar levels.