One of the most common complaints people have about going off drugs is that many of them experience rapid weight gain. Substance use disorder (SUD) often interferes with appetite and metabolism in ways that result in weight loss. In most cases, stopping drug use tends to cause recovering individuals to pack on the pounds.
In many cases, this can be a good thing. This is especially true if drug use has resulted in one becoming underweight or malnourished. However, gaining too much weight so soon is also associated with several negatives.
In the short term, being overweight or obese can cause body image issues that erode one’s motivation to stay off drugs. This is especially true for people who started misusing stimulant drugs to control their weight. In the long term, obesity can significantly reduce one’s quality of life and bring a host of serious health issues, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If the individual’s body has been weakened by long-term substance misuse, these effects can be especially problematic.
This is down to a combination of factors. Many sedative drugs can numb the sense of taste and smell, and stopping their use can heighten the pleasures of eating. Other drugs can suppress appetite or cause the individual to stop self-care and ceasing use of these can likewise, encourage a bigger appetite. Many recovering individuals also start eating more to control the anxiety that often accompanies early recovery.
Understanding these causes can be key to addressing weight gain during recovery, should it be problematic. Below are some ways you can control excessive weight gain in early recovery. If you’re interested in rehabs in Boston that offer a more holistic approach that addresses these physical health issues, contact us at Boston Drug Treatment Centers.
1.) Get therapy for emotional issues
People who have just stopped using drugs tend to find it hard to regulate their emotions, which can cause nervous eating and binge eating episodes. While this is to be expected for most people trying to quit drug use, co-occurring psychiatric conditions like anxiety and post-traumatic stress make these much more likely to happen.
Addressing these disorders will typically help prevent problematic eating patterns. Because these conditions tend to contribute to substance use disorder, getting treatment for these will often improve long-term recovery from SUD as well.
2.) Eat on a schedule
Structure and routine are an extremely important part of SUD recovery. Keeping to a schedule helps conserve mental and emotional energy, which can be critical regardless of when you’re trying to resist drugs or overeating. While it will be a challenge at first, with time you should find that you’re less and less likely to eat outside of your designated eating mealtimes. This may help slow down weight gain from nervous eating and excessive snacking.
3.) Get regular exercise
Maintaining an ideal weight is a matter of burning more calories than you consume. Exercise burns off excess calories and much of the nervous energy that leads to overeating. It can also stimulate brain growth, which can be beneficial not just for drug recovery but also for developing other positive habits as well.
4.) Learn how to prepare healthy meals from whole foods
Avoiding large quantities of processed foods is just one part of maintaining a healthy weight during recovery. You also need to make sure that you are getting the right nutrition. The easiest and most economical way to do this is by learning how to prepare your own healthy meals.
This is often much easier said than done. If you’re in early recovery, you’re likely to be stressed out more often, and easy-to-prepare processed foods are a tempting solution. Learning how to eat properly and actually turning it into a regular habit is something that takes time. However, if you want to keep the pounds off, this is probably going to be the most important thing to consider.
5.) Get help from a nutritionist
Learning what you should or shouldn’t eat will involve more than just counting carbs and calories. You want to make sure that you are also eating things that promote the healing of tissues, particularly in brain cells. Consulting a qualified nutritionist will help you make better choices, not just for maintaining your weight, but also for supercharging your recovery.
Weight gain during SUD recovery is usually a good thing, especially if the individual had been underweight or neglecting to eat regularly. However, it may be indicative of other problems like anxiety, trauma, and the inability to regulate emotions, which themselves need to be addressed alongside the SUD. The failure to control excessive weight gain in recovery can also lead to body image issues that may demotivate individuals from continuing with recovery
Controlling weight gain during recovery is also important for another important reason. Left unchecked, excessive weight gain can lead to a host of serious health issues. If excessive weight gain is not addressed, individuals recovering from SUD may effectively be trading one health risk for another.
If you’re interested in rehabs in Boston that offer a holistic approach to drug and alcohol recovery, contact our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers.