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How Healthy Eating Can Help Your Recovery

How Healthy Eating Can Help Your Recovery

The topic at a glance:

Healthy Eating at Hope Rehab

Hope Rehab Lunch Buffet We recently expanded and renovated our kitchen. We did this because we recognize the importance of mealtimes for our community. Clients need to work hard to get the most out of their time with us, and a suitable diet gives them energy to do what is needed. Of course, there is more to eating than just putting fuel in the body, so we do all we can to make mealtimes something to look forward to.

Healthy eating is a key part of the program here at Hope Rehab. We are lucky to live in a part of the world where fresh, nutritious ingredients are abundant. Our menu includes salad, veggie, meats, fish and much more. We do not commit to providing special or individual diets for practical reasons, but our selection of dishes is varied enough to appeal to a wide variety of tastes and needs.

Important please Note: To keep your treatment costs at a minimum we cannot provide special or individual diets for any reason. However, clients needing extra attention will be given the opportunity to organise this themselves by going to the very good supermarket in town or the local vegetable market at their own cost. Hope provides healthy balanced diet 3 x daily and will do whatever we can within reason to assist clients with special dietary needs. All rooms have a fridge and cupboard for storage.  

At Hope Rehab we take eating very seriously. Food is our body’s fuel, its sustenance and its medicine, it effects our mood however it should taste great too, and that’s where we have got it right. The emphasis is on fresh, tasty local produce cooked to perfection by our lovely kitchen team. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared in our open plan kitchens, so you can see your meal being prepared before it reaches the table. There many different food options at every meal, tasty salads, fruits, barbeque and many local dishes. We also make sure there is a balance of western dishes to.  

– Simon Mott

Say Hello to our wonderful kitchen staff, the girls are all from the same remote village up in the hills on the boarder of Burma. They cook all your tasty food, make sure your room is clean and fresh and are generally very gentle and kind people.

Hope Girls

Why is a Healthy & Balanced Nutrition Important in Recovery?

Lunch Buffett at Hope Rehab Center

Let’s face it, if the choice is between a relapse and an ice-cream, even the staunchest ‘healthy eating’ advocate would find it hard to fault you for going with the ice-cream. It wouldn’t be wise though to see this as a ‘free pass’ to eat what you want.

The reason for this is simple: What we eat impacts our physical as well as our mental health. Consuming too much of the wrong kinds of food can leave us feeling anxious, depressed, tired, or irritable. We don’t give up drugs to feel bad. We might also be tempted to use it as an excuse to relapse if we continue to experience negative emotions due to poor diet.

Healthy eating, on the other hand, can increase our energy levels, improve our mood, and makes it easier for us to feel good about ourselves. If our overall well-being improves, it strengthens our commitment to change. Therefore, nutrition can play a crucial role in recovery.

It is sometimes argued that ending an addiction is challenging enough without adding in extra demands such as healthy eating (pun alert – you already have enough on your plate). You can even find endorsement for overindulging in junk food in the recovery literature:

We live in tricky nutritional times. I do not have all of the answers. What I do know is that we can use nutrition for empowerment, rather than disempowerment. We can teach people in early recovery how to eat for nourishment rather than simply for ‘reward’ (stimulating dopamine activity). This practice can slowly rewire the brain, change the palate, and prepare the individual for a lifetime of wellness.

– David Wiss, founder of Nutrition in Recovery (“Why Do Rehabs Neglect Good Nutrition?“)

Not Overly Rigid Nor A “Free Pass”: It’s All About Finding A Middle Way

However, there are very compelling reasons for watching what you eat in early recovery that we will discuss below.

Before we get to the benefits of healthy eating in recovery, though, a few words of caution: It is best to avoid an overly rigid approach when it comes to diet. The occasional chocolate bar, pizza, or Full English Breakfast is unlikely to cause too much harm. The problem starts when you are overindulging in junk food on a regular basis, and this is what we want to avoid. In other words, there is no ‘free pass’ when it comes to diet in early recovery, but there can be allowances.

The Dangers of Poor Diet vs. the Benefits of a Good Diet in Early Recovery

*Many clients who come to rehab in Thailand will not be used to heat and humidity. This can be dangerous because when we sweat, we not only lose water but also electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. Therefore, we always encourage clients at Hope to regularly drink the rehydration fluids we provide.

What is Healthy Eating?

Your meals represent a series of choices. Each choice is like a step that takes you in a particular direction. Over the years, similar choices, or habits, can lead you far in one direction.

– Donald Altman (“Meal by Meal“)

There is so much nutritional information available these days that it all becomes a bit confusing. To make things worse, there can be disagreement between the experts as to what we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be eating. The good news is: We don’t have to become experts in nutrition to begin eating a healthier diet. Let’s keep things simple by just implementing a few time-tested tips including:

Some of us find it easier to put our focus on eating healthy food rather than avoiding certain foods. As we start to feel the benefits of more wholesome food, we just naturally lose interest in the stuff that is bad for us.

The Dangers of Comfort Eating in Early Recovery

Comfort eating is sometimes described as an attempt to eat away our emotions. This is habit picked up in childhood when adults give us food (often sugary stuff) to make us feel better. We begin to associate eating certain foods with comfort, and this becomes a habit that follows us into adulthood. This can mean that when we no longer have alcohol or other drugs to turn to for comfort, food becomes the obvious replacement.

Comfort eating is a danger in recovery because it means we are still trying to avoid dealing with our emotions. It is just exchanging one form of escapism (drugs) for a new one (food). Of course, you could argue that comfort eating has less of a negative impact than drug abuse. However, on the long run, it can destroy our lives in much the same way.

Mindful Eating for People in Recovery

Mindful eating is all about learning to give our body what it wants rather than relying on habitual behaviors such as comfort eating (see above). By learning to observe how our body reacts to food more objectively, we begin to effortlessly make better food choices.

It is because we are unaware of the impact the unhealthy stuff is having on our body (mindless eating) that we continue to crave it.  It is because we are out-of-touch with the process of eating that we continue to eat even when we are not or no longer hungry.

Here are a few tips to help you eat more mindfully:

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