So, you’ve finished an extensive rehab program, and now it’s time to take all of the new behavioral techniques you’ve learned in therapy and implement them in your everyday life.
The only problem is that though the root of the addiction seems to be identified and remedied, often, addiction behaviors will transfer into habits such as overeating.
That’s right. Many times a recovering addict will pack on the pounds after rehab, turning their past emasculated, drug-dependent bodies into a sober and thicker physique.
In the New York Times’ article, “Off the Drugs, Onto the Cupcakes,” Dr. Pamela Peeke offered profound insight on why many recovering addicts will suffer from overeating.
“Once off the drugs, the brain craves uber rewards of the hyperpalatables—Mint Milanos, Oreos, any sugar,” she said. “An apple’s reward doesn’t cut it.”
Though the goal may be to acquire health in mind, body, and spirit, sometimes it takes a little longer for the body to catch up.
Weight gain can be a frustrating aspect of recovery. Albeit, it can be a sign that you’re actually getting healthier.
But for those struggling with excessive weight gain, here are a few tips on how to combat cravings and perceptions.
How to Slow Weight Gain: Fewer Cupcakes, More Cooking
Going from forgoing food for a quick fix, not thinking about prepared meals in rehab, to having to consider nutrition as a part of your recovery journey can also be intimidating. Although your cravings seem to be screaming for every sugary, fried, and creamy delectable in sight, these are often normal signs of your body reacting to the deprivation of drugs.
According to KCI.org, an anti-meth blog, these cravings are a response to our body’s nutritional needs and chemical reactions in the brain. Therefore, drug addicts who neglected their bodies while using may suddenly feel an urge to eat foods high in sodium and fats as a “survival tactic.”
Cravings are normal, but sometimes our response to a craving may not be. This is why learning to prepare and control your own food is so important.
Learning to cook can essentially limit your intake of unnecessary sugar and calories found in processed foods. Eating more nutritionally and holistically can also control cravings, overeating, weight gain, and terminal illnesses.
Take one of our alumni, Daniel Parker, for instance. After finally conquering a bout of relapses, doctors found a tumor the size of a cantaloupe in his chest and informed him he could potentially lose his life if diagnosed with cancer.
“To decrease my chances of becoming a cancer patient, I had to change even more for the better. Meaning I quit smoking cigarettes, I quit drinking soda everyday all day. I go to the gym and swim every day. I also see a personal trainer once a week,” he wrote in his blog post, “Daniel Parker’s Experience with Addiction.”
Just like Parker, many recovering addicts struggle with a proper balance of nutrition and exercise after rehab. In particular, opioid and meth addicts may struggle with producing enough dopamine to have enough energy to get through a workout.
If this is you, start slow! You will see results if you maintain consistency.
To start out, we have outlined a basic meal plan that can help launch your physical recovery and slow your weight gain.
1/4 cup of cooked steel cut oats 1 Veggie Burger 1 Pound Sirloin Steak
1/2 cup of blueberries 1 Whole wheat bun Arugula, Parsley, Red Pepper Flakes
2 boiled eggs Fresh mozzarella Salt, Pepper, Garlic Cloves
Marinara Sauce 1 Sweet Potato
For more information about these recipes, click on the italicized links above. Also, fresh fruits, such as blueberries, apples, bananas, and strawberries, can be added to the plan as snacks in between meals. Lean meats, such as fish, turkey, and chicken, make a great substitute for red meats.
Get creative with your cooking, and don’t stray away from healthy fats and carbs, such as avocados, olive oil, vinaigrette dressings, whole wheat pasta, or quinoa.
For those struggling with severe malnutrition and weight loss as a result of drug addiction, you may have to increase caloric intake while those who are looking to lose a few extra pounds after rehab may have to lower caloric intake.
Get Up and Get Moving
After a rough, seven-day detox, exercising may be the last thing on your mind.
Especially for meth addicts who may have exerted their brain’s dopamine levels during continuous use. This may result in a condition known as anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure, according to The Fix.
Fortunately, with the help of cognitive therapy and antidepressants, recovering meth addicts can regain most of their normal dopamine levels in less than two years after rehab.
But, during this time, weight gain can occur in a recovering addict who struggles with depression or is seduced by the lure of crispy fried chicken, flaky doughnuts, and gooey, cheesy pastas. Studies have shown that foods high in fat, sodium, and sugar often release the same amount of endorphins as drugs.
So if you’re struggling with the extra pounds but don’t have the energy to get to that 7 a.m. spinning or kickboxing class, try not to get too anxious or stressed. Your brain’s chemical reactions are probably still adjusting to its new equilibrium.
What you can do is start from your current physical level. Since overall health and fitness is the goal, start by stretching and warming your muscles with yoga or walking a mile at your local park or track.
Another great workout for beginners is swimming. Scorching heat seems to be on the daily weather report in Florida, so cooling off in a pool not only feels great, but it’s a chance to benefit from a full-body workout as well.
Working out three to four times a week for at least 30 to 60 minutes will garner the energy and endurance your body needs to start tackling more intense workouts such as circuit or weight training.
No matter your size, addiction, or physical health, there are always opportunities to boost your fitness and channel those addictive behaviors into something more beneficial.
As always, in all of the exciting journeys you pursue post-rehab, be careful not to get caught in a cycle of transferring your addiction into a different channel, such as exercising or eating. Always adopt a healthy balance between family, spirituality, and fitness, and stay accountable with 12-step fellowships, mentors, and counselors.
Learning to have fun, setting goals, and keeping abstinence in mind, here’s an ageless proverb from Finding Nemo that will keep you on track, despite the circumstances: just keep swimming.
Need Help Finding Treatment?
Ultimately, weight gain is just one of the effects of deciding to transform into a better version of you. Perception is key when it comes to adjusting to your new body; therefore, accepting yourself in recovery and making that integral change is always the catalyst for another important form of health: mental health.
At Ocean Breeze Recovery, we are committed to the overall wellness of our clients. With activities such as motivational interviewing, our clients learn how to control cravings with physical and therapeutic practices. If you, or a loved one, are struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are available 24-7 to assist you with any questions about treatment. Call us at 855-960-5341. A chance at a new life is just a phone call away. Are you ready for the journey?
Did you Know…?
Did you know September is National Recovery Month? Check out what to expect on Ocean Breeze’s website as well as our other facilities!
Also, if you, or a loved one, is looking for an opportunity to start a new lease on life at a treatment center, don’t miss the Delphi Behavioral Group’s Scholarship.