Dieting and Healthy Eating Habits in Addiction Recovery

February 27, 2023

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

Overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a wholly transformational process. Effective treatment programs address not only how addictive substances have affected an individual but also their continued effects on each person’s physical and mental health. 

Feelings of anxiety, depression, panic, shame, guilt, and more are all incredibly prevalent throughout each stage of the recovery process, and a person’s physical health and dieting habits are just as intimately linked to their overall recovery. Unfortunately, eating disorders can be common among those overcoming addiction and mental health disorders. Understanding the effects of these disorders and the importance of nutrition throughout recovery is necessary for sustaining lasting recovery success.

The Prevalence of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are common illnesses that affect many people across the United States, with approximately 20 million women and 10 million men challenged with overcoming eating disorders and their effects. However, not all eating disorders are the same, with the most common eating disorders manifesting in one of three forms:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, or simply “anorexia,” is an eating disorder defined by an individual’s refusal to eat. It is commonly informed by unrealistic expectations for a person’s body or unhealthy beauty standards, coupled with an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight. 

This eating disorder is often coupled with feelings of anxiety or depression, especially related to an individual’s perceived body image. A person may also experience additional stress about constantly having to lose weight, even when such weight loss is not necessary or could contribute to worsening health consequences.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, or simply “bulimia,” is an eating disorder where an individual may not necessarily feel the need to cease eating but will often induce their own regurgitation of food after a meal in an effort to prevent such food from affecting their weight. While those diagnosed with bulimia will often experience similar stresses or unrealistic expectations as those diagnosed with anorexia, it is often accompanied by a feeling of being out of control of their own dieting habits, moving from binging food to purging food repeatedly. 

Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder is another common eating disorder. Those engaging in binge eating consume higher volumes of food that is necessary for the body in a given sitting. An individual will often continue eating until physically unable to continue, often with intense feelings of discomfort. However, such habits may also come with feelings of shame or guilt after a binge, further impacting an individual’s mental health as much as their physical health. 

Eating disorders are often paired with challenging mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, panic, and much more. However, it is also common that those diagnosed with an addiction to drugs or alcohol also meet the criteria for an eating disorder. Dedicated professional treatment to address addiction, eating disorders, and accompanying mental health disorders all in tandem is necessary for effective healing. 

Dieting and Addiction

Creating an effective diet is an important part of addiction recovery. Even if an individual is not diagnosed with an eating disorder, malnutrition is still common as a result of substance use. However, eating disorders can manifest as a result of addiction for many reasons. 

First, the use of addictive substances may be used in an attempt to self-medicate the mental health disorders and feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, and more that are all common among those diagnosed with eating disorders. The regular use of these substances, especially as a means of coping, can quickly develop into chemical dependence and addiction.

The use of stimulant drugs can be especially dangerous in informing the development of eating disorders. Using stimulants such as Adderall, amphetamines, cocaine, and more can all compromise an individual’s diet further. Certain substances like stimulants can eliminate the feeling of the need to eat a healthy diet, even while such practices are having an active, adverse effect on their health. 

The Need for Professional Dieting Support

Eating healthy is essential for those navigating their recovery from addiction and challenging the effects of eating disorders. Providing the body with proper nutrients not only empowers those in recovery to take control of their own dieting habits and instill a degree of agency in their recovery journey, but it also ensures that the body and mind have the resources needed to address the physical effects of addiction. 

Malnutrition can make it difficult to physically heal from the use of drugs or alcohol and the damage they can cause to the body. In addition, the effects of mental health disorders can be exacerbated by unhealthy diets, with these unhealthy diets bringing further feelings of anxiety, depression, and more. 

Overcoming addiction and creating a healthy diet in recovery to address each person’s physical and emotional needs are crucial. Professional support and recovery programs can provide education and guidance with nutritional support while helping those in recovery create their best healthy eating habits, whether they are inside the facility during detox or residential treatment or are navigating their life outside the facility during intensive outpatient programs. 

On-site dieticians, curated mealtimes, and medical support during recovery programs can help each person construct a healthy dieting routine while providing the right foods a the right volumes for effective physical and emotional healing throughout recovery from mental health disorders or the use of addictive substances. 

Addiction, mental health disorders, and eating disorders are all intimately linked, and it is necessary to address each of these in tandem. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand that none of these affect an individual in isolation, and whether you are oncoming your use of drugs and alcohol, navigating mental health disorders, or creating a plan to address eating disorders, we can create a plan that is right for you. Our comprehensive approach to the entire continuum of care allows us to address how these affect your life, as well as the stresses and personal challenges that inform them. For more information on how we can help you overcome addiction and eating disorders, call us today at (480) 741-9414 or complete your insurance verification form.