Many people who are newly sober struggle to find the right balance of strategies to maintain their sobriety, keep up the progress they’ve begun during treatment, and achieve a certain equilibrium that allows them to see the wisdom of the choices they make. It isn’t always easy or clear cut.
How do you safely combat weight gain in early recovery? Here are some suggestions.
Be Consistent with Bed and Wake Time
The old saying is “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” There is certainly some truth to the healthy part and there’s new research to back this up. A study out of Brigham Young University shows that it’s the consistency of bed time and wake time that influences body fat. In fact, a consistent wake time is particularly important. Those who wake up at the same time every morning tend to have lower body fat.
Other study findings include the recommendation to get between 8 and 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Anything less than that was associated with higher body fat in study participants. Staying up late and sleeping in may do more harm than good. That’s because it throws off internal body clocks and doesn’t allow them to get into a consistent sleep pattern, thus having a negative impact on physiology.
Bottom line: Set a regular time to go to bed and wake up in the morning. Use an alarm clock to get up, if necessary, although over time this probably won’t be necessary. Once your internal body clock becomes used to the consistent sleep and wake time, you’ll be able to wake up automatically – refreshed and ready to go.
Ignore Political Correctness
When you’re invited to a party or a family get-together and the food and drink are seemingly limitless, do yourself a favor and forego the temptation to consume more than you want or need just to be politically correct.
If offending the host or hostess makes you feel a little uncomfortable, put a small portion on your plate and nibble before setting it aside with a napkin on top. Give appropriate comments about how great everything tastes and how appreciative you are to be a part of the festivities. No one will notice you didn’t stuff yourself. They’re too busy filling their own plates and socializing.
What if you are picking a snack or food item for yourself and another person, possibly one who’s demonstrably overweight? Being politically correct, according to one study, might mean that you cut a piece of pumpkin pie for that overweight aunt or uncle, and then cut a larger one for yourself so that you don’t offend your relative. The best strategy in this situation might be to have your uncle cut his own piece of pie or make both pieces small enough to be healthy choices. That way, neither of you goes overboard – and you’ve stuck to your strategy.
Learn Better Ways to Manage Stress
People tend to eat when they’re stressed. It’s important to discover new and more effective ways to cope with stress than reaching for that greasy bag of chips, cutting a huge piece of decadent chocolate fudge cake, or wolfing down an entire pizza in a single sitting.
Recognize that being in recovery won’t automatically eliminate stress from your life. You will need to adopt ongoing strategies to counter stress build-up. Here are several approaches you may wish to take:
- Drink more water. You’ll feel fuller quicker and cut down the likelihood that you’ll overeat. Hydration is vitally important for healthy body functioning, which is especially important in early recovery.
- Go out for a hike. Getting in a few walks a week will help you maintain a trimmer physique and aid in keeping pounds off. The endorphins released during a walk, or any form of vigorous physical exercise, help lift your mood as well. When you feel your spirits lifted, you’re less likely to reach for food in an unconscious manner to cope with stress.
- Keep a video journal. You have goals you want to achieve in recovery. Now is the time, when you’re new to recovery, to capture your thoughts and feelings on video. This is something that’s for your use only and serves as a visual reminder of what’s important to you. Record how you feel you’re doing today, what’s on your agenda, what successes you’ve had in your recovery goals, and what lessons you’ve learned from your efforts thus far. Mention approaches you’ve tried that have proven successful in keeping you from overeating or eating without thought (mindless eating) and strategies you’ve used that helped you better cope with stress. This will help motivate you to continue these healthy behaviors until the pattern becomes natural.
Share What Works with Others in Your Network
There’s nothing that succeeds like success. When you discover something that works, be willing to share your tips with others in your support network. By the same token, if you feel you’ve reached an impasse or are in danger of sliding backwards, definitely reach out and talk with your fellow support group members about what’s going on.
What you’re experiencing isn’t all that uncommon. Many people in early recovery struggle with unexpected weight gain. They’ve quit smoking or drinking or doing drugs, but their new, healthy coping skills are still in their infancy. Some haven’t addressed the underlying issues so they are still in need of an escape, if not through drugs or alcohol then through food. As a result, they may overindulge in some other area, substituting one addiction for another. This is called cross-addiction.
The recovery community is also a great source of encouragement when you need it most. Consider this a two-way street, for there will be times when you are the one offering words of encouragement to someone else who’s in doubt, feeling pain, or needing the comfort of a friend.