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Give Your Recovery a Wellness and Fitness Boost

Friday, 11th May 2018

Give Your Recovery a Wellness and Fitness Boost - Guest Blog By Michelle Peterson

Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction.

Those in recovery from substance abuse find the most success when they rethink their lives. While the causes of addiction are many, its results are clear. Unhealthy lifestyles fester under addiction’s weight. This means the focus while the focus may be on treating the addiction the big picture is overall health and well-being. Accomplishing this means incorporating healthy habits into your life - effectively squeezing out room for bad habits to build roots. For many, these healthy habits come in the form of exercise, diet, and self-care.

Exercise has long been touted as an antidote to addiction. Some jokingly say that they are addicted to working out. It may be that they are deeply committed to working out, and it may be a passion, but there is a big difference between obsession and addiction. Obsessions can become unhealthy if they take away from normal functioning in your life, but this is unlikely in the case of exercise. A true addiction takes away from good things in your life. Someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can miss work, neglect responsibilities, harm relationships and become physically unhealthy because of their addiction. Someone who is obsessed with working out improves their life.

The similarity between addiction to drugs or alcohol and obsession with working out is that they both trigger pleasure receptors in our brain. The neurobiological rewards from running, for example, are built into each of us as part of the evolution of our species. Our ancestors had to rely on physical fitness for hunting and evading our predators. Our brains still give us a chemical reward for activity, even when it's on a treadmill miles away from hunting grounds.

When we get high or drunk, we temporarily feel good, in a manner similar to exercise's brain chemical reward. When we work out sometimes, we feel a lot of pain that is immediately rewarded by euphoria from adrenaline and a good feeling of working out. But exercise does not need to be an obsession to become a healthy part of your life. Simple, sustainable daily exercises are one part of a bigger picture of health.

Healthy diets go on the back burner when someone is going through addiction. Drug use can negatively affect appetite and when users get hungry, they are more likely to turn to junk food and other unhealthy items take the place of healthy eating. During recovery, your body needs as many nutrients as it can get. Vitamins, minerals and fiber each play a part in restoring our bodies after the onslaught of addiction.

Moreover, food can be incredibly comforting. Sometimes people in recovery can replace substances with overeating. The key to avoiding this is a balance. Enjoy healthy, great-tasting food and fill yourself up with wholesome ingredients such as fresh vegetables. Many exciting vegetable-forward recipes will fill you up and make you feel good at the same time. Healthy eating does not necessarily mean a vegetarian or vegan diet, but focusing on plants as a base. Consider trying out a plate with green, red, orange and other garden colors, and you'll get the idea.

A third component encompasses overall self-care. There is some overlap as healthy eating and exercise are components of self-care. But here we are referring primarily to the complementary nature of treatments and personal actions that make you feel good. Self-care including massage and meditation, but can also include hobbies and getting sufficient sleep.

Healthy eating and activity combine to form one of the strongest recovery tools. Maintaining sobriety is easier when whole-body health becomes the focus of recovery.