You’ve probably heard it time and time again. Those who get off drugs or even alcohol will often find their weight ballooning in the next several years. Their stomachs bulge out a little more. Or, for some people, they may even put on over a hundred pounds during recovery.
It’s a very common phenomenon. Rest assured, it’s quite normal.
This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good thing for your body. Many people go to professional drug and alcohol rehabs to learn how to manage addictive behaviors and how to get off drugs and alcohol. However, they don’t learn how to live a healthy lifestyle.
“Once I got sober, I continued to eat all this awful stuff. I learned how to be sober, but I didn’t learn how to take care of all of me. I didn’t know how to cook or grocery shop because I’d never done it. I didn’t learn any life skills or how to live like an adult.”
Due to this reason, they transfer their addiction from substances over to foods. They begin to rely on foods and eating, and will start to have an issue with their weight. Let’s explore this phenomenon below.
Sugary Foods Have a Similar Effect on the Brain
Sweets are able to ease drug and alcohol craving because they stimulate similar reward centers in the brain. Sugar spikes dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens. It makes the brain feel good, and makes it believe that it is getting the stimulation that it needs. Some studies claim that sugars can actually activate and stimulate the brain just as much as illicit drugs, like cocaine and morphine.
Those who are just recovering from drugs and alcohol will tend to crave hyperpalatables. This includes anything from cupcakes to cakes to chocolate to Oreos. Simple sugars coming from apples and other fruits simply won’t cut it.
The more that they eat sugars, the more that they will crave it. In fact, research has found that sugars, and not fats, stimulate cravings. In short, the more that an individual intakes sugar, the more he or she is going to want more.
This leads to a transfer of addiction, and those who are recovering from substance abuse can easily fall into this trap.
Those who end up getting addicted to sugary foods may also see a negative impact on their self-esteem and psyche. Weight gain may cause some individuals to relapse.
Your Body Is Also Trying to Heal
It’s important to note that you’ll also gain some weight — not necessarily from eating sugary foods. After all, your body is trying to heal itself, and this process requires energy.
For example, the liver will start to regenerate and heal itself within 8 weeks. This may cause you to have a more insatiable appetite. After all, it can now process foods that it couldn’t before. It was sluggish while you were on drugs or alcohol, but now it is healthy and ready to take the world by storm.
How to Avoid Weight Gain During Recovery
The most important part to avoiding weight gain during recovery is finding an alcohol and drug addiction treatment center that will treat not only the addiction, but also any underlying psychological issues as well. It is the rehab facility’s responsibility to provide clients with nutritious foods and nutritional therapy.
There must be programs in place that can help clients learn how to eat healthily. These programs must teach clients to avoid overeating and to avoid eating unhealthy foods.
Contact the facility that you are interested in to make sure that they do offer nutrition therapy and education classes. Also, you might want to even consider taking a tour of the facility to see what the in-house chefs have to offer.
What You Can Do at Home
If you’re worried about your weight gain after being in recovery, don’t feel helpless. There are a lot of resources out there that can help you get back to a healthy weight. For one, you can consider going to mutual support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, for more resources. Many of these recovery meetings offer help and resources for this topic.
Other things that you can do at home include:
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water every day
- Switching out unhealthy sugars, like cupcakes and chocolates, for fruits
- Exercising at least 20 to 30 minutes a day
- Cooking meals at home and making sure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients
- Counting your calories to avoid overeating
- Joining a weight loss program or group
- Attending nutrition education classes
- Joining a cooking class
- Snacking on vegetables, like carrots and celery instead of chips
For now, buy some larger and more comfortable clothing. Accept your weight gain as a normal process of recovery, and be proud of how far you’ve come. Don’t let that negative voice inside your head stop you from appreciating all of the effort and hard work that you have put in.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up Because of Weight Gain
Recovering from addiction is already super impressive. It makes no sense for you to beat yourself up just because you’ve gained a little weight. Appreciate the recovery process and take note on whether you are eating healthily or not. If you aren’t, make the appropriate lifestyle changes. Don’t let a little weight stop you from enjoying your sobriety.
Here, at Amethyst Recovery Center, we want to make sure that our clients walk out the door with everything that they need to live a life of sobriety. Due to this, we offer nutritional therapy and education classes. Also, our in-house chefs cook delicious healthy and nutritious meals.
Have you gone through the recovery process? Do you have any experience with weight gain (or loss) that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.