Total healing begins from the inside, which is why proper nutrition is essential for every individual in recovery. Substance abuse harms the body both directly through toxins that are introduced to the system and also indirectly due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as poor sleep patterns and irregular eating habits. Regular mealtimes are especially important during recovery since drug and alcohol addiction can cause a person to forget what it is like to be hungry and mistake this feeling as a craving.
Consuming whole, fresh foods and those that are prepared with care using effective, nutrient-enhanced cooking methods provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals. Optimal functioning and mental health are facilitated through a proper diet consumed at regular intervals throughout the day.
The Purpose of Nutrition in Recovery
Reconnecting with the physical body through healthy food sets the stage for a transition back to wellness. Because the heavy use of drugs and alcohol combined with poor nutritional intake takes a terrible toll on the immune system over years of misuse, the natural physical defense systems of the body that have been broken down must be given special attention and dedicated time to heal.
Poor nutrition also adds to the compromised sense of self-esteem that those suffering from addiction may already experience. Healthy eating habits have the added benefit of helping to restore a client’s physical appearance, as well as internal functioning.
What to Expect
Our dietician evaluates each new client at the point of his or her particular phase of recovery. Nutritional re-evaluations are then held at Mandala on an ongoing basis. These private sessions are designed to be collaborative and empowering with an emphasis on instilling healthful, life-long eating habits. Additionally, clients may participate in special group sessions and fun, hand-on cooking classes where they are taught the valuable life skill of learning to prepare their own healthy foods.
A number of client behaviors like snacking and regular mealtimes are explored. Clients begin to note the intake levels of a variety of fluids and foods — both healthy and unhealthy — including those that contain:
- Refined carbohydrates
It is when clients feel safe enough to share this valuable information that our nutritionist can begin to really work on specific strategies to address their unique nutritional concerns. By communicating closely with the client’s medical practitioners regarding lab results, nutritional supplements can be added if needed. For example, some vitamin and mineral supplements including B-complex, zinc, and vitamins A and C may be particularly helpful to individuals in recovery.
Once Mandala clients recognize that they have fallen into unhealthy relationships with food many are open to making the necessary adjustments in their diets. Sometimes, a complete diet overhaul may be warranted, and in those cases, the Mandala dietician will provide individually tailored eating plans. For most, simple adjustments like transitioning to smaller meals full of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and easily digestible proteins like fish, poultry and beans help to nurture their recovering brains.
What Clients Think
Once clients identify and take responsibility for unhealthy eating habits they begin to feel encouraged and excited for improvement. They may begin to see early on that regular healthy snacking with foods that contain some protein can help stabilize their blood sugar levels and mood. Light snacking or eating smaller, more frequent meals that contain minimal refined sugar and caffeine can thus reduce emotional swings and the cravings that can flare up between larger meals. The better clients feel throughout the day, the greater their chances are of maintaining long-term recovery behaviors.