When you are in active addiction, your eating habits often suffer, which can have short and long-term effects on your physical health. As your body begins to heal, proper nutrition can make a difference in how you recover.
There are many misconceptions about what and how you should eat in recovery. Because our culture is so obsessed with diets and body image, people try to make it more complicated than it is. These are eight simple ways to improve your eating habits after addiction:
#1. Increase Your Caloric Intake.
First and foremost, you need to eat. Initially, you will likely have cravings. In particular, those coming out of alcohol addiction will crave a lot of sugar. This phenomenon is due to the high sugar content in alcohol. Your body is used to receiving a lot of sugar each day, and without the alcohol, it is craving sugar in another form. This is okay, and you are not bad for having massive sugar cravings. Your body simply needs food. You need to increase the number of calories you consume each day.
#2. Eat Three Meals Per Day.
It may sound like strange and simplistic advice, but people rarely eat three meals per day during active addiction. Yet eating regularly spaced meals throughout the day is essential to get your body’s digestive system back on track and keep your blood sugar at an adequate level.
#3. Eat Three Snacks Per Day.
For women who are concerned about their body image, this can sound absurd. However, particularly as your body is healing, you need to eat three snacks per day instead of three meals per day. Keeping your blood sugar up is a great way to keep cravings down and thus prevent relapse. Remember that being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired are four primary triggers for cravings. Eating snacks helps you to avoid being hungry.
#4. Listen to Your Body.
There is a lot of information about balanced diets from all kinds of sources—everyone from your mother to government agencies has all of the answers when it comes to what you should be eating. But do you know who has the best ideas about what you specifically should be eating? Your own body. Listen to it. Your body will crave what it needs most. If it is craving too much of something at first, eventually, it will reach its homeostasis and desire a more balanced diet. During addiction, we lose touch with our bodies, so we develop that interoceptive awareness and intuition by learning to eat again. Trust what your body tells you.
#5. Don’t Be Afraid of Dairy.
Do you still feel like you could use a little more nutrition in your daily diet, but you are unsure where to get it? Unless you are lactose intolerant, try dairy. Dairy products get a bad reputation, but they are very healthy and contain the right proteins and fats your body needs to heal after addiction. Adding yogurts, cheeses, and milk products to your diet will give you plenty of nutrition for your money.
#6. Processed Foods Are Okay.
Despite what your middle school Health teacher told you, processed foods do have nutritional value. In fact, for some people who used substances for a long time, their gastrointestinal systems may have been so damaged that they may not be able to process the raw fruits, grains, and vegetables. For these people, their bodies actually need food that is already processed.
#7. Don’t Restrict Yourself.
So much of our shame and unhealthy ideas about food and body image come from restricting ourselves from the foods we really want to eat. We tell ourselves we cannot, we should not because we do not want to be fat or want to look a certain way, but psychologically, that makes us desire the food more. Then we binge eat, we may purge, and disordered eating occurs. You are coming out of addiction. Don’t restrict yourself. Just eat.
#8. Don’t Judge Your Foods.
Society, our moms, our friends, and others tell us certain foods are good or bad for us. But all food is simply food. When you judge your food, you create a psychological issue surrounding it that often leads to disordered eating and mental health problems. Don’t judge your food. Just eat what you want, when you want. Listen to your body. It will tell you when to stop. When you take away the moral judgments, your body will guide you to eat what it needs to be healthy.
After addiction, your body needs food to heal. There are some straightforward rules to follow to help your body, most of which involve listening to your body and eating. When you eat regularly and ignore societal commentary and judgment about foods, your body can get the nourishment it needs. At The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women, we believe in feeding the mind, body, and soul in recovery. Our residential treatment facility has a nutritionist available for those with disordered eating and eating disorders, and we prioritize eating three meals a day plus snacks to help you heal. We offer trauma-informed care in a safe, non-judgmental environment for women at every stage of life. Our Costa Mesa, California facility is located between the sunny beaches and tranquil mountains and is a refuge for your healing process. Contact us today at (714) 581-3974 to learn more about our women’s program.