Addiction is a chronic disease that requires treatment for a lifetime. Unlike some chronic physical diseases, treatment for addiction is not as simple as taking a medication. Recovery from addiction requires a combination of therapy, support, willpower and lifestyle changes. Making changes to your diet and how you exercise can be a useful part of that treatment. Anecdotal evidence, as well as rigorous scientific research, has proven that a nutritious diet and an exercise regimen can help you cope with your disease.
How Can Diet Help Addicts?
The first and most obvious way in which a healthy diet can help you is that it can restore some of the damage that you have done to your body. Drugs and alcohol really take a toll on your physical health. Much of treatment for addiction focuses on the psychological harm, but your body is suffering too. The substances you have been abusing have caused harm to your body, but you also have likely not been eating well, as your addiction was your main focus.
Some of the common nutritional issues that addicts face include electrolyte imbalances due to diarrhea and vomiting, vitamin deficiencies caused by excessive drinking, being overweight from smoking marijuana or from lack of exercise, and malnutrition from simply ignoring what you put into your body. A steady diet of cheap junk food is not unusual for addicts.
Focusing on your diet when you are in recovery can help to correct some of the damage you have caused by using drugs and by ignoring your nutritional needs for a period of time. Reestablishing a rounded and healthful diet will immediately begin to make you feel better. It will also give you something positive to focus on. A major struggle for addicts in recovery is finding something to fill the gap left by drug or alcohol abuse. When you focus time and energy on preparing good meals, you give your mind something positive to focus on.
How Can Exercise Aid Addiction Recovery?
Exercise, like nutrition, is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle, for addicts and non-addicts alike. Regular exercise helps you to maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, maintain strong bones and muscles, and improve your mood. All of these are important reasons for anyone to exercise, but for an addict in recovery, they become even more important.
Another reason to turn to exercise in recovery is the natural high that it can give you. When you exercise, your body produces chemicals called endorphins that make you feel good. The so-called runner’s high is a result of endorphins and refers to the positive feelings associated with the activity. In the absence of the high that you sought for so long from your drug of choice, depression is possible. The endorphins from exercise can be a powerful substitute for the artificial high that drugs gave you.
Move Forward In Recovery, But Don’t Substitute Your Addiction
Using diet and exercise as aids to recovery is overwhelmingly positive. Good nutrition and regular exercise can help your body heal, can improve your mood, and can give you a positive focus for your life.
The only risk is that of substituting your addiction. Addicts in recovery are at risk of substituting their substance of choice with an activity. It isn’t guaranteed to happen to you, but be aware of the possibility of your focus on diet and exercise becoming obsessive. Listen to your loved ones too. They may see the signs before you do. In spite of this risk, taking care of your diet and focusing on exercise are great ways to help you move forward in recovery.
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