Battling Weight Gain after Addiction through a Low Carb Lifestyle
by Helen Richards
Those who have recently completed rehabilitation for addiction should note that often, the recovery period can be accompanied by weight gain. The reasons are manifold; some drugs (such as meth) curb the appetite; when an addict stops using them, they can feel overwhelmed by strong cravings. Other drugs (known as uppers) can provide users with an intense surge of energy, which they will often replace with high-sugar foods (which provide an instant ‘high’ but do not provide lasting energy). Weight gain during recovery can be a struggle because overeating and addiction have similar effects on the brain. Pleasurable (yet often unhealthy) foods, like drugs, activate the brain’s reward center, causing the release of natural opioids and feel-good hormones. The substitution of high-carb foods for drugs is a ‘short-term fix’ that can have disastrous results in the long run.
Sometimes, overeating during recovery is linked to untreated depression or anxiety. Chronic drug or alcohol abuse can actually increase the severity of symptoms for these common mental conditions. Often, the nutritional deprivation which occurs during substance abuse poses a strong risk for the development of mood and anxiety disorders.
The benefits of a low carbohydrate lifestyle for those recovering from addiction are manifold; not only can low carb foods stop them from gaining weight, they can also quell the powerful cravings for high sugar foods, which can lead to a host of unwanted health conditions, including obesity, Type II diabetes and heart disease. A low-carb diet can help recovering addicts in the following ways:
Low carb diets are highly efficient at promoting weight loss: Evidence from studies has shown that a low-carb diet can help people lose weight more speedily than low-fat diets, and can also be more efficient during the maintenance phase. Low carb meals are also more efficient at lowering triglyceride levels. They provide the biggest boost in healthy HDL cholesterol. Research has also revealed that healthy diets which replace carbohydrate with protein or fat are more efficient at lowering blood pressured and bad LDL cholesterol than higher carbohydrate diets.
Promoting heart health: Most illegal drugs have adverse cardiovascular effects, which is why the consumption of heart-healthy meals is crucial during recovery. Scientists at Harvard University note that a low-carb diet can promote heart health, whenever the protein sources are healthy. Note that low carb doesn’t mean no-carb. Fruits and vegetables promote heart health too, so take your pick from the wide range of low-carb, seasonal produce available.
Low-carb diets decrease cravings for sugary foods: Those who are addicted to sugary and highly refined foods such as biscuits, chips and cakes encounter intense craving episodes when they are deprived of their favorite foods. When it comes to the low-carb lifestyle, however, the initial cravings soon come to a complete stop. Low-carb diets help us maintain stable energy levels throughout the day, meaning we never feel the need to indulge in fast food to get us through the day when we are feeling lethargic.
Low-carb diets require commitment and discipline: Recovering addicts who embrace the low-carb lifestyle can find that for the first time in their lives, they are giving due importance to their diet. Following a low-carb diet requires commitment and consistency. Recovering addicts need to learn the process of knowing how to shop for the right foods, and how to prepare them in a palatable manner. Those who make a true commitment to the low-carb lifestyle can find a host of unexpected benefits, including a boost in their self-confidence as they watch excess weight drop off and as they begin to look and feel healthier and lighter.
Great skin: Those who have indulged in excess alcohol or abused harmful drugs often have skin that looks aged beyond their years. The low-carb lifestyle is ideal for those seeking to boost skin health, since one of the main causes of wrinkles and saggy skin, is excess sugar. Too many carbs lead to the cross-linkage of collagen, leading to aged, haggard skin which lacks elasticity and luminosity.
Helen Richards works as a writer and editor, she’d spent most of her working life prior to this as a nutrition and fitness expert, with a focus on young men and women who suffered with varying degrees of Eating Disorders. She’s now a full time mom to two children of her own and fits in her article writing round her family life!