How to Keep Weight Off in Recovery

Addiction and food have a strange sort of relationship. It’s common for people who struggle with addiction to eat too much or too little. Often, the factors that lead to addiction also lead to a perverse relationship with food. People will often get sober only to discover several months later that they have gained a lot of weight. If you were once close to your ideal weight but now find your clothes are a bit tight, here are some strategies for keeping the problem under control.

Beware of transfer addictions. It’s common to get one addiction under control only to have a different one pop up in its place. You miss the dopamine spike from your old addiction and replace it with something else. Often the something else is food. What’s more, we tend to get the biggest dopamine reward from foods with a lot of sugar and fat. That is, you never quit drinking and go straight for the kale. If your transfer addiction is food, you are more likely to go for sweets and fried food–exactly the stuff that will make you fat. It helps if you are aware that your increased appetite may be your old addiction in disguise.

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Ask yourself, are you hungry or bored? This is the key distinction between real hunger and addictive behaviour. Do you need nourishment or do you need an emotional reward? It’s not always easy to tell, but if you continue to ask the question, the difference will become more apparent.

Track your food. Everyone thinks he knows how much he eats, but he’s usually wrong. It’s easy to fudge 100 calories here or there. Maybe you wait until the end of the day to record what you ate and something slipped through the cracks. Maybe you never noticed that frozen dinner is actually two portions instead of one. Recording what you eat as you eat it is the only way to keep yourself honest. You can either write it down in a notebook, or track it digitally with an app like Myfitnesspal. Calories matter, but the most important thing is to always be aware of what you’re eating.

Exercise. You may be aware of recent studies that found diet and not exercise is what really matters when trying to lose weight. It’s true that the main thing is to eat a calorie deficit, but exercise is still important. For one thing, regular exercise helps regulate blood sugar. You don’t have the spikes and crashes that can make you hungry and irritable. It also regulates your hormones and speeds up your metabolism. Keep in mind that you only need a small surplus of calories every week to gain weight. You might only burn 200 calories running, but it may be enough to offset that small surplus.

While gaining weight is a much better problem to have than addiction, it’s worth keeping in mind that obesity related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes kill a lot more people than overdoses in the long run. Celebrate sobriety, but also take weight gain seriously.



Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. Smarmore Castle believes in helping patients lead a life of abstinence through 12 Step programmes, detox and medical treatment, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.

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