When you were in active addiction what was your diet like? Late night fast food? Microwavable meals full of preservatives? Fatty or sugary snacks like chips and cookies? Most people who suffer from substance abuse problems have very irregular or poor diets. Addicts may also choose to spend most or all their money on drugs, leaving next to nothing to pay for nutritious foods like vegetables and fruits.
If you are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, as it will support sober living in a variety of ways. But before we get into that, let’s look at the impact of drugs and alcohol on physical health.
Substance Abuse and Nutrition
There is a very clear link between poor nutrition and substance abuse and an addiction nutritional deficiency is common among people who abuse drugs and alcohol. MedlinePlus outlines several ways drug and alcohol abuse harms the body:1
Opiate addiction can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, which all lead to nutrient deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances.
Alcohol abuse damages the liver and the pancreas. This results in an imbalance of calories, fluids, protein, and electrolytes.
Alcohol abuse can also result in B1, B6, and folic acid deficiencies, which can cause problems with the nervous system and anemia.
Alcohol abusers frequently suffer from high blood pressure, malnutrition, and diabetes.
Cocaine or methamphetamine abuse can cause rapid weight loss, dehydration, and memory loss.
Long-term marijuana abuse can cause cravings for fatty and sugary foods, increasing a person’s weight over time and potentially leading to obesity.
Any type of substance abuse or alcohol addiction can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies and related medical conditions. Enrolling in drug detox and completing an alcohol and drug rehab program are great steps to achieving a healthier lifestyle. With ongoing treatment, residents of sober living houses can continue building on that healthy lifestyle with the assistance that structured living and peer support provide.
Importance of Nutrition in Addiction Recovery
Maintaining a healthy diet is an essential aspect of sustained sobriety. Balanced nutrition enhances a person’s social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being, supporting sustained sobriety.2 Sober living residents will experience many physical and mental benefits if they choose to prioritize healthy eating throughout the duration of their transitional living programmes and after programme completion. Maintaining a healthy diet while transitioning into a life of independent recovery isn’t always easy, but it will help the body, mind, and spirit heal as newly sober individuals learn how to maintain their sobriety.
Here are a few of the main benefits for sober living residents who prioritize nutrition in recovery:
Physical healing: First and foremost, a healthy diet will replenish lost nutrients and enhance physical healing. It takes time to repair the physical damage done by drug and alcohol abuse, but a diet rich in amino acids and other key nutrients will help individuals overcome physical deficiencies.
More energy: Nutritious foods also fuel the body, providing more energy to participate in physical activities.
Stronger immune system: A healthy diet will also boost the immune system, protecting you from sickness, infection, and disease.
Mood enhancing: Healthy eating habits also enhance mood and behavior, which will serve as natural treatment for sober living residents suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
There are plenty of benefits to maintaining a healthy diet in addiction recovery, but a person with unhealthy eating habits may be more likely to relapse.
How to Maintain Good Nutrition in Recovery: 5 Tips
If you’ve recently completed a drug rehab programme, it can be challenging to return to your life at home without a plan to maintain healthy eating habits. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to maintain good nutrition in recovery on your own and regain physical and mental balance in your life:
Consult with a dietitian. As a person who is in recovery from addiction, your nutritional needs may differ from the average person. Although you may be done with detox and drug rehab, your body will still need time to recover and rebalance itself. Consulting with a dietician is a great way to properly asses your nutritional needs, get a plan in order, and work with someone who will help keep you accountable to your dietary goals.
Stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods. Maintaining a healthy diet is difficult when you’re surrounded by tempting, unhealthy, and overly processed foods. On the other hand, if you make sure your refrigerator and pantry are well-stocked with healthy, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats, you’re much more likely to make wise decisions about the food you eat.
Meal plan. Achieving your goals for healthy nutrition in recovery will be much easier if you have a plan. For example, you may want to write out a schedule of daily meals for yourself, so you aren’t caught off guard, hungry and without a plan. Choosing a certain day to meal prep may also help you prepare meals ahead of time so that breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks are easy to access and take with you to work or school.
Set goals for yourself. Just like you prioritize your recovery goals, setting goals for your nutrition is just as important. Having goals for your nutrition and physical health will help keep you motivated, accountable, and will also be a great way to keep track of your progress.
Don’t forget about physical exercise. Healthy eating on its own is great, but pair it with physical exercise and you’ll really start seeing and feeling the results. A healthy, balanced diet will ensure that you have the energy to stay active in recovery and the two together will promote more restful sleep as well as decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
Maintaining a healthy diet in addiction recovery has countless benefits that reach far beyond physical looks and abilities. By prioritizing nutrition in recovery, you may find that many different aspects of your life will improve, from your physical and emotional health to your spiritual health.
Nutrition for Recovering Addicts in a Sober Living Programme
A transitional housing programme, such as the ones The Bridge Foundation Homes provides, are excellent resources for individuals in recovery. Even after completing a long-term drug rehab programme, men and women in recovery need additional support to continue a lifestyle of sobriety.
Sober living homes provide many essential recovery support services that recovering individuals need, including:
A safe, sober living environment
Education and career assistance
Time to practice living sober on their own
The structured living environment provided by a sober living home helps residents develop healthy habits for themselves, such as waking up at a regular time each day, keeping their living space clean, exercising regularly, and cooking and preparing their own meals. Sober living residents who receive nutritional guidance also gain more confidence regarding cooking, eating, and planning healthy meals on their own.3
Residents of transitional housing programs don’t have to be nutritional experts to experience the benefits of a healthy diet. Maintaining self-care practices and incorporating the following nutrients into regular meals will do the trick.4
Healthy carbs – Fruit, bread, whole grains, and starchy vegetables
Fiber – Apples, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and berries
Protein – Chicken, lean beef, beans, lentils, and eggs
Vitamins and minerals – Bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, dairy products, and dark green leafy vegetables
Healthy fats – Avocados, cheese, vegetable-based oils, and nuts
Sober Living Programmes Promote Healthy Living Among Recovering Individuals
At The Bridge Foundation, our sober living programmes provide many opportunities, life experiences, and skills that will help individuals in recovery develop healthy self-care routines, including the development and maintenance of a healthy, balanced diet.
Although our programme does not specifically provide meal prepping courses or classes on nutrition and addiction recovery, residents are provided the opportunity to practice grocery shopping and meal planning in a safe, structured group home where personal growth is always a priority.