Mary Bamford RD, MBA, BSc (Clinical Nutrition), Registered Dietitian at Renascent
You can nourish your body in ways that support both your immediate and long-term recovery with addiction. I invite you to consider the helpful eating habits below. Consider what are you are doing well already and what you can build on to support your recovery?
Five Nourishing Habits in Addiction Recovery
Eat three regular meals each day.
Choose foods that your great-grandparents recognize as food.
Plan your weekly menu.
Avoid using sugar or ultra-processed foods as a distraction, coping or recovery tool.
If you have food addiction, fully abstain from sugar, ultra-processed foods and your own addictive trigger foods.
1. Eat three regular meals each day
Food is fuel for your body and brain. It is important to fuel your body consistently throughout the day because it helps keep your brain and your mood calm.
When cars run out of gas, they stop. When humans run out of fuel, they keep moving but becomes hungry and angry, “hangry”. Allowing yourself to get hangry nudges the reward centre of the brain to have self-doubt, negative thoughts, anxiety and possibly cravings. This is unnecessary stress in a person with a history of addiction.
2. Choose foods that your great-grandparents recognize as food.
Eat mostly fresh food that your great-grandparents recognized because they grew and raised that kind of food. There were no ingredients they could not pronounce and no ingredients they could not recognize. That leaves simple, delicious foods.
3. Plan your Weekly Menu
Make a weekly plan for meals, grocery shopping and cooking to make your overall pattern of eating nourishing. You have many choices. To be healthy you can choose Mediterranean, Nordic, Okinawan, Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo and many other traditional and modern eating patterns. Choose a pattern that you enjoy and can sustain.
Regardless of the pattern you choose, for each meal, plan to have foods providing protein, fat and vegetables or fruit. Here are some helpful guidelines:
For protein choose foods such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, yogurt, cheese and “legumes” (such as kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and tofu). Minimally processed protein foods are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals in addition to protein and often fat.
For optimal health:
Choose fish at least twice per week;
Choose legumes at least three times per week.
Yes, some fats are healthy. The myths that started in the 1970s that dietary fat and cholesterol cause heart disease and are “bad” are fully de-bunked by good science. Include foods containing fat at every meal such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, real mayonnaise made with olive oil, coconut, coconut oil and butter. Also choose dairy products that contain some fat. No need for fat-free.
For optimal health:
Choose a handful of nuts or seeds at least 5 times per week;
Avoid margarine and commercial trans fats found in ultra-processed foods.
Vegetables and fruits are filling, flavourful and rich in many essential nutrients. Make at least half your plate at every meal vegetables or fruit. Have fun with colours. Include reds, purples, oranges, yellows, greens and white. Dark green vegetables and berries are particularly rich in nutrients.
For optimal health:
Make a habit of having fruit with breakfast and vegetables as part of both lunch and dinner;
Choose a dark green vegetable (such as spinach, broccoli or salad greens) at least five times per week;
Choose berries at least 3 times per week.
Grains are not essential. It is a myth that whole grains are loaded with nutrition. While it is true that whole grains and “entire” grains are vastly superior to refined grains, they are not a nutrition powerhouse. Grains have small doses of some nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet grains but are not necessary for optimal health.
If you choose to eat grains, choose small portions:
For women, ½ to ¾ cup of cooked ‘entire grain’ is plenty at a meal
For men, ½ to 1½ cups cooked ‘entire grain’ is plenty at a meal
If you are still hungry with no grains or a smaller portion, consider adding more vegetables or fats (nuts, cheese, oil, butter, cream, etc.) to your meals.
Entire grains are the best form of grains to eat. Entire grains include brown rice, steel cut oats, quinoa, wheat berries, and pot barley. Whole grains are a reasonable alternate to entire grains when you are pressed for preparation time. Whole grains include whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, rolled oats, quick oats.
Dessert twice per week is “moderate” or “reasonable”. The most studied dietary pattern is the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean pattern, choosing desserts, sweets or treats twice per week is moderate. That means in the context of an overall healthy diet, this amount of dessert does not reduce health. The portion size of this moderate dessert provides about 200 to 300 calories.
“Desserts” are the foods not mentioned above and include cakes, pastries, ice cream, potato chips, deep fried foods, soda pop, sweetened beverages, sugar, corn syrup, white bread, white rice, etc.
An alternate evidence-based guideline for desserts and sweets comes from the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA recommends the maximum amount of added sugars one should eat in a day. For women it is 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons). For men it is 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons).
This is a reasonable amount of dessert or sugar for a “normal eater”. This does not apply to somebody who eats sweets compulsively or addictively.
All of us recovering from addiction need to avoid using sugar or ultra-processed foods as a coping or recovery tool when we are triggered to use our drug of choice.
A brain that has had an addiction to one substance, can more easily substitute another substance to add a second addiction.
Since sugar is a substance that can be addictive in its own right and abuse of sugar has many negative health consequences (such as weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease), it is not a good substitute for alcohol or any other drug of choice.
Using sugar to help you recover or manage cravings can eventually trigger a relapse of your drug of choice or become a second substance addiction on its own.
At the time the Big Book was written, sugar and ultra-processed foods were not readily available and they regular consumption was not part of “normal” culture. If I could make just one edit to the Big Book, I would delete the suggestion to use sugar as a substitute for alcohol.
5. If you have food addiction, fully abstain from sugar, ultra-processed foods and your own addictive trigger foods.
For people addicted to “certain foods”, moderation is a “harm reduction” treatment and not effective for long-term recovery. Abstinence creates a peaceful life and recovery.
Three Rules of Thumb in the Kitchen
To modify your favourite recipes:
Use minimally processed fresh or frozen meats, vegetables and fruits;
Use healthy fats and oils;
Choose olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut, butter and cream
Avoid vegetable shortening, margarine and ultra-processed oils such as canola and corn
Use enough fat in cooking to make the taste and texture of your food delicious;
Many recipes from the 1980s are reduced in fat and flavour (with added sugar or starch to attempt to improve texture).
Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. Our description of the alcoholic (addict)… our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
a. That we were alcoholics (addicts) and could not manage our own lives.
(Is this you – yes-no?)
b. That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism (addiction).
(Are you beyond human aid – yes-no?)
c. That God could and would if He were sought.
(Are you willing to believe – yes-no?)
Being convinced (of a, b and c), we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?
The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. (Are you convinced – yes-no?) (AA p. 60)
Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic (addict) is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though they usually do not think so.
Above everything, we alcoholics (addicts) must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!
God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.
This is the how and the why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. (Would you agree – yes-no?) Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director (yes-no?). He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. (AA p. 61-62)
Step 3 Paycheck
When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our own little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn. (AA p. 63)
Step 3 Instruction
We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: “God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him. (yes-no?) (AA p. 63)
If you can answer yes, then let us take this prayer together and we will have taken step three.
Excerpted from “Big Book Sponsorship – The Twelve Step Program – Big Book Guide”, which can be found in its entirety here.
Although I cover a wide range of issues in my counselling practice, there is one aspect that dominates my new-client inquiries: requests for help with careers.
For many of us, our work is a major part of our lives — and it exerts a profound effect on our emotions and relationships. Forty hours engaged in anything each week will have an impact on our experience of life.
Some of my career counselling clients are seeking a job. However, most already have work that they find it unfulfilling. They are spending their lives engaged in activities that feel empty. They want to use their gifts in a way that yields a greater sense of purpose.
With these clients, I usually run through common career counselling methods at first — assessment of interests, discussion of new options, assistance in writing cover letters and resumes. But with most people, I find that I need to take a deeper approach.
When a person feels like a round peg in a square career hole, it is tempting to believe that the answer lies in simply finding a better job or a new career. But I have seen people bounce from one job to another (or from one career to another) all the while continuing to feel mismatched.
As time goes on, I’m becoming convinced that the real answer to career issues lies in discovering our true purpose here — our calling. This is an inner discovery, not a worldly search.
And what is this calling? Ultimately, you could say, our calling is to discover who we really are.
Finding the Gifts
Most of us see ourselves as little people on a big planet — separate individuals competing with other individuals to get our needs met. There is a pie out there, and we need to get a bigger or better slice of it.
The whole world is designed to support this perception. Life seems to pass us by, with what we have always at risk of slipping away. We need to continually strive to get and keep the things that keep us safe. Compete, acquire, protect — this is how many people see their work lives.
But I find that the secret of career success is to shift our perception. Instead of seeing ourselves as limited creatures in need of a better situation, we can see ourselves as inspired, gifted beings empowered to improve every situation we find ourselves in.
In my practice, I frequently find myself having a conversation like this:
“I hate my job,” says my client.
“What do you hate about it?” I ask. “Everyone is rude where I work.”
“Rude?” “Yeah. Everyone is mean. It’s a terrible place to work.”
“Do you think you could improve things a little?” “Improve? In what way?”
“You seem like a kind-hearted person. Could you bring some of that kindness into your workplace?” “Me?”
“Sure.” “Why should I have to do that? I just want to get out of there.”
“Don’t you think that your experience of work might improve if you bring some of your kindness into your office?” “Nah, I just want out. I want to find something better.”
What that person isn’t realizing is that he’s missing an opportunity to solve his problem at the core. He feels powerless, at the mercy of his company culture. But he actually possesses a remarkable inner power — a power that can be accessed by pouring forth his gifts into the world.
As this person learns to access his spiritual gifts, and share them with the world, he will see them expand. He will increasingly access his wise mind, and will experience greater clarity and peace.
Solutions to problems will become more apparent. His vision will become clearer. He will gain greater levels of understanding. And of course, he may feel inspired to pursue new job or career opportunities — but he will be doing so from a place of inspiration.
I believe that finding our gifts within, and allowing them to flow into the world, is the purpose of our lives here. This calling allows us to see who we really are.
If you have questions about how you can improve your own work activities, I invite you to try the following process:
1. To begin, try to step back from any thoughts you have about what you need and how to get it. These thoughts (usually quite fear-based) are often the clouds that obscure the light. You might say:
I do not know what I need,
How to get it,
Or the form that it may take.
I am willing to clear and open my mind.
2. Next, turn to your wise mind — the spiritually-inspired part of your consciousness. Even if it takes some practice to “search around” for it, it’s worth the effort. You might say:
Perhaps there is a part of me that is filled with inspiration.
Perhaps a part of me has enormous gifts to share with the world.
I am willing to turn to that inspired part.
I am willing to let it guide my steps.
3. Finally (and this is often the challenging part), try to sit quietly and receptively for a while, waiting to receive guidance about a step or two to take. If your mind wanders, you can ask your wise mind:
How can I share my gifts with the world?
How can I bring joy to the world in a way that I enjoy?
How can my gifts be used today?
I am willing to receive guidance.
That’s it… If you don’t seem to “get anything” at first, the effort it still worth it. I’ve sat with clients, engaging in this type of practice for ten or twenty minutes until they began to get a “hint” of inspiration from the wise mind. But that hint grew as they practised.
I believe that there are limitless ways for you to share your gifts — and that as you share them, you will gain a greater understanding of the spiritual glory within you. This is the great healing shift. It is a shift that brings happiness not only to you, but to all those around you as well.
Excerpted from the Quiet Mind newsletter by Dan Joseph and reprinted by kind permission of the author. To sign up for the free Quiet Mind newsletter, please visit www.danjoseph.com.
We’ve heard the quote before: “what a man thinketh, a man does; what he does, he becomes…”
When I clearly understood the importance of being a good example for my children, I revised that old quote: “What a child sees, a child does. What a child does, a child becomes.”
With help from others wiser than I, I came to understand that wanting to do a great job of raising my children meant doing a great job of raising myself. In short, like millions of other COAs, I had to grow up with my children. I also had to go back into my own childhood and heal painful memories, as I am also a firm believer that, “What you don’t feel, you can’t heal,” and “what you don’t heal, you pass on to your children.”
Children pay a high price for compulsive, addictive parental behaviours such as alcohol and drug addiction. We know genetics and home environment load addicts’ children with the highest risk of becoming abusers of alcohol or other drugs, or addicted persons themselves. COAs are also more likely than others to suffer child abuse, depression, and anxiety. We have more behavioural problems and three times as many hospital admissions.
I started my life with addiction in a violent alcoholic home. Behaviours I adopted served me well as a child: taking the blame, being the hero, being a people-pleaser, zoning out. But in adult life they backfired, leading me to struggle with work addiction, money mismanagement, a chaotic lifestyle, and alcohol.
Shortly after filing for divorce from my husband of seven years I read a quote from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and it struck me hard: “If you botch raising your children, nothing else you do really matters.” I pasted that quote on my bathroom mirror, and thought about it often.
I was at a crossroads. Faced with two bewildered little children and a failing business, I toyed with swapping my two nightly beers for a six-pack to knock the edge off the day. I couldn’t do it. I knew if I repeated the alcoholism modelled by my father, my children would end up as scarred as I had been. I needed help. Today I believe that knowing you need help is the first step to becoming a TurnAround Mom: a parent pledged to sanity, sobriety, gratitude, and responsibility. A mother who’d be proud to see her children do the same things she does.
For help with re-parenting myself and parenting my children, I turned to a program for alcoholics’ families and found instant and healing support. I devoured books on parenting and asked parents I knew and admired from church and school how they were raising their children. Studying parenting and recovery became my dual passions. I went to work with a parenting expert, attending countless workshops on parenting and personal growth. One theme kept rising to the top: if I don’t like something my children are doing, I’d better look in the mirror to see if I am doing the same thing. I can’t expect better than the example I set.
Sharing this “child see, child do” tip brought a lot of “Ah ha!” reactions from my peers, people like me who want to do a great job of parenting, but because of the hurtful, neglectful behaviours modelled to them as children, are clueless as to how.
In this time of turmoil, giving our children a sense of belonging, trust, and security is more important than ever. Without these anchors, many children seeking relief from their fears will turn to alcohol, drugs, compulsive sex, and other self-destructive behaviours, especially if parents model compulsive, addictive behaviours. For many of us who grew up in the insanity of addiction, intensity, or abuse, or became addicted, abused, or stretched to the breaking point, incredible challenges erupt. Chief among these challenges: if I don’t know what serenity feels like, what sanity looks like, how can I create a sane and loving home?
My book, “The TurnAround Mom”, is filled with experiences, processes, tips, and tools that I hope will answer that question. My hope is that it will raise awareness of the suffering that parental substance abuse brings, and comfort COAs by reminding us that sick old cycles don’t have to be repeated. Working together we could see a grassroots campaign to create an association of TurnAround Parents that would help generations of children grow up and thrive in saner, more loving homes. It would be healing for our children, ourselves, and our nation.
Carey Sipp is the author of The TurnAround Mom, a feel it, heal it guide to help survivors of family addiction and abuse stop the pain and raise happy children. It is available on amazon.ca.