Weight gain is a common side effect of going through rehab for drug or alcohol addiction. For many facilities, the primary goal is to get patients sober and to keep them sober. This is understandable, but often other health issues fall by the wayside as a result. For instance, smoking has long been considered acceptable for addicts in recovery. Transferring addiction to cigarettes has always been seen as a decent trade-off for staying away from hard drugs. Food has also been a trade-off. If a recovering addict wants to eat sugar and fatty foods and it helps her stay clean, why not? Attitudes are shifting as rehab facilities focus on a total wellness approach to recovery.
Weight Gain After Rehab
Gaining weight after going through rehab has long been a common problem. Transfer addictions are often formed as a way to cope with the cravings and the urges to relapse after treatment. Some addicts smoke, others eat. Sugar can seem like a harmless replacement for heroin or meth, but it does damage. Many addicts experience the need to get a reward, and sugar and fatty foods can provide that reward.
For some recovering addicts, the problem stops with the weight gain. The extra pounds can lead to a number of health problems, and most people are not equipped with the knowledge or the skills to eat well or to lose weight and get fit. For other addicts, the consequences of the weight gain are even more serious. It can lead to devastating loss of self-esteem that turns a recovering addict back to her drug of choice. Some may start abusing stimulants as a way of losing weight quickly.
Rehab facilities and treatment centers for addiction are starting to recognize the problem of nutrition and weight gain in recovering addicts. They are making changes to help patients learn to eat well, avoid transfer addictions and lose weight healthfully. Many facilities are now employing nutritionists or registered dieticians to help patients, as well as chefs experienced in creating balanced and healthful meals.
Getting better nutrition in rehab has a number of benefits for patients in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. The first is immediate. Substance abuse causes nutritional deficiencies, and some substances cause particular deficiencies. For instance, chronic alcohol abuse usually leads to a deficiency in folic acid and B vitamins. Addicts are also deficient in many nutrients simply because eating well is not a high priority. Most addicts come to rehab in poor health as a result. Eating well in rehab can help them feel better immediately and be better able to cope with the difficulties of detox and withdrawal.
Focusing on nutrition in rehab also helps addicts learn how to be well once they leave the facility. Learning about nutrition and how to prepare healthful meals helps get recovering addicts on a path to good health once they have to live on their own again. It sets them on a path that minimizes the chances of developing a transfer addiction to junk foods.
No one suggests that nutrition is the one thing that will lead to a successful recovery, but it is an important tool that will help addicts stay sober. With good nutrition, recovering addicts will feel better, and when they feel better they are less likely to relapse.