When we get sober, we make an agreement with ourselves to stop getting drunk and high. What we are not aware of, is that sobriety really entails a journey much deeper and more spiritual than simply putting the bottle down. With this change eventually comes the need to clear out a lot of other poor habits we have in our lives, and for many of us, this means an overhauling in what we eat.
I don’t know about you, but before I got sober, I survived on coffee, gummy worms, toast, and cans of Chef Boyardee. I never had much of an appetite, thanks to whatever I was or was not putting into my body. Every ounce of my being was filled with drugs, booze, or sugar. No wonder I felt like death all the time!
Now that we are sober, poor eating habits can be lumped into the category of step 6 and 7, character defects. We know what we are doing is harmful but we find comfort in the easy access, the sugar rush, the quick fixes, and the salt content. Whether you eat like a dumpster, or whether you still struggle with even eating at all, here are some tips and facts around how nutrition can affect sobriety.
Sugar = Addictive
There has been substantial research showing that sugars activate the same receptors in the brain as drugs and alcohol. There has also been research about cheese, but let’s not get crazy now. Have you ever noticed why coffee, candy, cookies, and other sweet snacks are always at the meetings?
We love sugar! It triggers that same response we look for when we got drunk and high. I’m not saying everyone in sobriety should cut out all sugars, because honestly, I didn’t get sober to miserable, I love sweets.
However, eliminating a few of these items, a few times a week, will help your body adjust into sobriety:
- Energy Drinks
- Extra-Sugary Coffee
- Sweet breakfast foods
- Did we already mention energy drinks?
Sugars are often the hardest thing to give up, but the reduction of them pays off the most.
Eating a Balanced Diet
I’m not 100% sure that the food pyramid is still a thing, or if it was debunked for being paid off by the dairy and grain industries, but in general, eating some sort of balanced diet will help to keep the body regulated.
This also depends on what YOUR body needs. Some people need a lot of protein; some people don’t. Some people do well with lots of greens; some people don’t. To make a long story short; eating a diet that makes you feel good, awake, and energized, will pay off a lot more for early sobriety. Working through the Post Acute Withdrawal phase can be a real pain if there are immense amounts of sugar and caffeine disrupting the delicate system.
So, don’t worry about going vegan or keto or anything wild and life-changing, just try to focus on implementing some of these basic structures where you can:
- Cutting fast food
- Having a protein, a green, and a starch on each plate
- Replacing candy and sweets with fruit
- Replacing chips with trail mix, veggies, etc.
We as human organisms are literally created by the foods we eat. Our bodies break the food down into the building blocks that get used to regenerate our cells. If we start to take little baby steps to ensure that the fuel we are using is stronger, we will become stronger, bodily, mentally, and even emotionally.
Food and Emotions
In a 22 year study named, the Whitehall Study, researchers were looking for correlations between specific diets and doctors visits. Evidence was shown linking sugar intake and depression. The research found that:
Patients who ate 67 grams of more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than patients who ate 40 grams or less.
Similarly, studies have been shown that people who eat red meat frequently have higher levels of inflammation. This can lead to headaches, joint pain, bloating, and tight muscles. Apart from that, dealing with the emotional and physical side effects of getting sober can be a hell of a time. The mood swings, the chronic fatigue, the lack of energy, adding sugar and depression and anxiety and headaches into the mix makes it a heck of a lot harder.
Eating healthily makes us healthy. It may not always be the easiest way or even the most delicious, but in the long run, it benefits every aspect of our lives.
Eating and Eating Disorders
There is a whole society of people in the rooms that have struggled or are currently struggling with a form of disordered eating. This class of people should feel encouraged, when they are ready to start looking at food, to speak with a registered nutritionist around what they should add or cut from their diet.
The main goal, for anyone, in any area of their sobriety, is to try and eat a balanced diet wherever possible. Taking the extra step to avoid the drive-through and prepare a home-cooked meal can make all the difference, even if it is just mac and cheese. Stepping into the process of cooking for yourself creates a feeling of pride in yourself. Even if you aren’t a great cook, making yourself a meal is humbling after a long day where all you want to do is get a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich.
Creating healthy eating habits with nutritious foods affects how we sleep, how we feel, our energy levels, and how we think. Just like with every other aspect of our sobriety, it will take some work to get used to, but it will pay off in every area of your life.