Does the Food I Eat Affect My Mental Wellness?

We have often heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” but does the food we eat actually have that much of an impact on us? The short answer is “yes.” Eating healthy meals and choosing nutritional foods can have an impact on both our physical and mental health.

The mind and the body are connected and many wellness recovery programs emphasize the importance of the mind-body connection. The “mind-body connection” refers to the idea that our physical health can affect our mental health and that our mental health can affect our physical health.

The mind and the body relay messages to one another about how we feel. When we feel sick or ill, we tend to also feel “down” or “blue.” During physical exercise, our minds release a rush of “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins that improve our mood. The foods we eat impact our physical well-being, and, by the mind-body connection, impact our mental wellness.

Replacing Unhealthy Diets with Healthier Options

A large part of recovery is replacing our unhealthy habits with newer, healthier habits. While we may think of recovery as a means of just controlling or changing our addictions, recovery is more accurately described as the process of making healthy life changes.

For most of us in recovery, we may not have learned the best ways to care for ourselves. We may have neglected our physical health and mental well-being while engaging in self-destructive, addictive behaviors. Most 12-step programs and recovery treatment may only focus on addressing our addictions.

Programs like these can be incredibly beneficial components of our recovery treatment. However, recovery involves much more than addressing our addictions. Recovery is about changing our way of life to develop healthy habits that we can utilize for a lifetime.

Holistic approaches that incorporate ideas from the “mind-body connection” can greatly enhance your current treatment. Your diet is one of these areas that you might be overlooking.

What We Eat Can Affect How We Feel

Anything that we put into our bodies will have some effect on our minds and our moods. Some foods will make us feel hyper and lead to a crash, like foods that are high in sugar. A “sugar crash” can make us feel moody and depressed for a short time.

Foods with high amounts of calories can leave us feeling tired as our bodies digest the food. We might feel like we have less energy as our body needs to divert its attention to the process of digestion. Other foods can affect our gastrointestinal systems, giving us heartburn or leaving us feeling bloated.

Those of us who experience heartburn may have a difficult time sleeping due to the painful sensations in our bodies. When our sleep is affected, our moods can become negatively impacted. We may feel tired and irritable throughout the next day.

Some foods, while leaving us feeling full and satiated, may not provide the nutritional content that we need to feel our best. Many people have deficiencies in certain minerals or vitamins that can alter the way that they feel. If we are experiencing any co-occurring mental health disorders while in recovery, we might benefit from checking with our doctors about any underlying medical issues that may be increasing our symptoms.

Some doctors might recommend blood work to verify whether or not a vitamin deficiency can be affecting our moods and mental health. Our doctors may even refer us to a nutrition specialist or dietician for ideas on how we can improve our eating habits. Doctors might also recommend dietary supplements to improve your mental health.

Making Small Improvements to Change Our Eating Habits

Healthy eating habits may be overwhelming for some of us to start. We may not know how to cook or what kinds of foods to eat. We can start by making some small improvements. For example, if someone is experiencing difficulty sleeping and they drink sugary sodas before going to bed, they might benefit from drinking water or some other sugarless, decaffeinated beverage later at night.

If someone eats a lot of fast foods because they feel rushed, they can ask for water instead of soda and resist the urge to “super-size” their meal. Sometimes, we do not eat enough during our busy days and then overeat later at night with unhealthy snacks.

We can plan for our day by packing healthy snacks, like dried fruits or nuts, to keep us from getting too hungry throughout the day. Overall, making some small changes with our eating habits can have a big impact on our daily lives. Take time today to consider your eating habits and how they might be affecting your mental health and well-being.

New research is coming out to highlight the effects of nutrition on our mental health. During our busy lives, we may feel too pressed for time to plan for healthy meals. We may be overlooking our eating habits and not prioritizing meal planning. When we are not planning or considering the importance of our diets on our overall health, we may eat fast foods with low nutritional content. We might also neglect to eat well throughout the day, which can lead to overeating at the end of the day. When we feel hungry, yet rushed to eat, we might be consuming whatever is immediately available with little regard for the impact the food will have on us. Camelback Recovery understands the importance of replacing unhealthy eating habits with healthy ones to improve our overall health. We provide healthy foods for our participants and even help with cooking meals. We believe that healthy eating habits are just one of the many ways to achieve the healthy lifestyle you may be seeking in recovery from addictive behaviors. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 to speak with our staff about our treatment program.


Why Are Healthy Eating & Fitness Important In Addiction Recovery?

People recovering from substance abuse are looking for healthy habits to replace the old bad habits of drinking and using. Replacing bad habits with healthy ones helps to increase your quality of life, prevent relapse, and give you a sense of purpose.

A healthy diet and exercising are vital for those in recovery. A specialized professional can supervise a plan to make sure you stay on track. Partaking in such activities heals your body from the inside out, which can only help after putting poison into your body for an extended amount of time.

Diet and exercise also have an impact on your overall quality of life in sobriety. You can stay motivated by maintaining this sense of structure in your life, while also practicing an important form of self-care.

A Healthy Die

Many addicts’ brains constantly crave sources of dopamine. If they are not receiving a sufficient amount from their diet, they are likely to seek it elsewhere from unhealthy places. A well-balanced diet that gives you continual energy and makes you feel good is crucial to success in recovery.

What Foods Are Best for Those in Recovery?

It’s important to remember that your body is gradually healing as it goes through recovery. Because of this, simple sugars and refined flour should be avoided. Both can cause the brain to heal more slowly, while inhibiting the body’s overall ability to recover.

Make sure you are choosing from the various food groups:

  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Bread and grains

By providing yourself with the proper foods, vitamins, and minerals, you are giving yourself a better chance at recovery. This is because the lack of a proper diet can lead to symptoms of withdrawal, ultimately causing the individual to feel discouraged in their sobriety.

Addicts & Malnutrition

Many addicts have several nutritional deficiencies as a result of their past substance abuse. These deficiencies can cause changes in brain function, damage internal organs, damage teeth, and even suppress growth.

Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts can lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, brain damage, pregnancy complications, and other health issues. By restoring your body with healthy foods, you are giving yourself the best chance at recovery by healing your body in conjunction with exercise.

Regular Exercise

Exercise adds structure to your day by giving you something to do at specific times. It can also help combat boredom, which can be a trigger for some in recovery. After exercising, individuals feel more in control, and like they have a sense of balance in their lives.

Physical activities are easy to quantify and keep track of. This promotes positive reinforcement as you show yourself that you are committed to your health, your recovery, and ultimately, your success by checking it off your daily to-do list. Exercise also gives you physical results that you can see and feel.

Exercise can benefit your mental health as well. Regular exercise helps fight anxiety and depression because it releases natural endorphins into the brain. This positive mental state can be activated and maintained after exercise as you go about your day.

Start Small

You don’t have to start exercising intensely. In fact, it is recommended to begin with low-intensity activities and gradually working your way up to more high-intensity exercises. Start by doing yoga or going for a daily walk, then work yourself up to running, riding a bike, or playing sports. By continuing to take small steps in your exercise schedule, you will begin feeling better about yourself as you build self-esteem and confidence.

Exercise & Other Health Issues

Substance abuse can be linked to other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety and health issues such as hypertension and diabetes. Exercise helps to combat these health concerns by lowering blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Physical activity also helps fight against depression by stimulating serotonin production in your brain.

Too Much of a Good Thing

It’s important to note that you can actually exercise too much. Many addicts have the mentality that if something in a small quantity is good, then more of it must be great. For example, if 30 minutes of running feels good, then two hours of running must feel incredible. But if your body is not prepared, strenuous exercise like this can result in severe injuries.

This mentality of excessive exercise is connected to the fact that people with addictive personalities are constantly seeking instant gratification. This is why it’s important for an exercise physiologist or another trained specialist who is familiar with patients in addiction recovery to monitor your exercise routine.

Fitness Community

A sense of community support is crucial for those recovering from substance abuse. By joining exercise groups, running marathons, or attending exercise classes, you are able to feel like you are a part of something bigger. You can also create strong friendships that give you support to lean on.

Balancing a healthy diet and a new exercise routine can be challenging, especially for those who are just entering recovery. But if you make the effort, your body will thank you for it.

Are you struggling with sobriety? A sober living home may be the answer. Camelback Recovery provides a wide variety of services under the umbrella of sober living and recovery coaching. Everything we offer has been specifically selected to contribute towards your recovery journey and long-term sobriety. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 to get started.