Sobriety effects all aspects of your life – and health. While your official rehab treatment helps to treat the mental and emotional effects of addiction, your physical health has probably taken a hit.
Healthy eating and frequent exercise are key ingredients to an active life, and can even help you recover from addiction.
Drugs and alcohol have severe effects on the body and inhibit your nutritional intake. Further addiction and withdrawal can rob your body of the nutrition it needs to run efficiently. By changing your diet, you can begin to repair the damage done to your body – particularly your internal organs.
These changes in your diet may have to run deeper than you think. Did you know that you are likely already addicted to sugar? Not totally your fault. The typical American diet is loaded with sugar. Everything from ketchup to (plain) bacon to crackers all have added sugar. It’s added for taste, but can also elicit an effect in the brain similar to cocaine, causing dopamine levels (feel good hormones) to drastically increase.
Your dopamine levels are already all out of order due to addiction. Decreasing your sugar intake can help them adjust back to normal. Healthy foods can also improve your mood and sustain it.
When you eat good, you feel good. And when you feel good, your odds of maintaining a sober lifestyle are much higher.
Here are a few basic tips to start eating healthy:
- Commit to eating “real food,” especially plant-based foods. Try to avoid anything “diet” or modified for lower calories, eat the real stuff!
- You don’t necessarily have to count every calorie, but read the labels to know what’s in your food and the effect that amount of calories will have on your body
- Choose whole grains over white and eat as many vegetables as you can get!
On a psychological level, exercise reduces and relieves stress and changes your brain chemistry. It gives your brain those same feel good hormones and gives you a more positive outlook. Physical exercise also offers a reward system, giving participants a feeling of progress and accomplishment – another brain function that can be damaged by addiction.
Exercise isn’t just a great healing tool, it’s also a great sober activity. Whether you go to the gym or hike or participate in team sports, you can keep yourself busy and build new relationships around an activity that’s fun and beneficial to your sobriety. Having community support is invaluable, and surrounding yourself with those who value physical health can help you stay on track.
Here are a few exercises to get you started:
- Start with a daily walk or run. A regular, dedicated effort to getting up and moving will help more than you think
- Don’t be afraid to try something new like yoga, paddle boarding, or even curling!
- Look to your local parks and rec for community team activities, but be wary of any “beer leagues”
Choosing sobriety is all about treating your mind and body the way they deserve to be treated, and healthy eating and exercise are a part of that. The mental and emotional work is important, but the way you treat your physical body will help round out your treatment and create sustainable success.