After years of substance abuse, Shelly finally found herself on the other side. Six months sober, she’s living a life that she once thought impossible. That’s the good news.
Now for the bad news: Shelly’s gained 30 pounds. She thought she’d made a healthy decision to get sober. So why is she putting on this much weight – something that’s clearly not healthy?
Weight Gain and Recovery
Shelly’s just one of the 65 percent of people who gain weight in recovery. Since it’s such common occurrence, there must be common causes, right? Yes, there are. If you’ve noticed the scale starting to tip in your newfound sobriety, it’s most likely due to one or more of the following factors.
- You’re Out of Practice
Before you got sober, how much time and energy did you spend planning healthy meals, exercising and ensuring your body’s proper nutrition? If your answer’s anything but zilch, you’re a rare find. While all of your energy was focused on your recovery you weren’t concerned about these things. Once sober, maybe you developed the habit of getting a “quick fix” via food. Maybe you consume a lot of fast food or processed junk instead of nutritious meals. Or maybe you don’t make time for exercise. No matter the details, you need to change these old habits and start taking better care of yourself physically.
- Your Body’s Repairing Itself
How long was your body deprived of proper nutrition? Months? Years? Decades? Substance abuse damages organs, disrupts normal body functions and creates nutrient deficiencies. In early sobriety, your body’s healing. These repairs require large amounts of nutrients, such as healthy fats, proteins and vitamins.
- You’re Self-Medicating with Food
Did you know food can stimulate your brain in ways similar to drugs? Sugary, fatty and salty foods light up our brain’s reward center and cause the release of “happy chemicals.” When you’re no longer using substances to achieve this high, you might turn to food as a substitute. It’s also a common coping mechanism to use food to deal with withdrawal and cravings. The important thing is to not give in to these urges. If you do, you can develop a tolerance just like you did with drugs. You require more and more food to achieve this “high” and continue in this cycle until you’ve substituted drug addiction with food addiction.
You’re Not Doomed to Obesity
While this struggle is common, you aren’t destined for an unhealthy life of overeating and weight gain. Take the steps to develop healthier habits, curb this weight gain and move forward with a newfound, healthy lifestyle.
Additional Reading: Trading Crutches: 5 Dependencies Swapped in Sobriety
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