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One of the hardest parts of recovery is filling in those gaps once occupied by addiction. For many, finding healthy activities to mentally and emotionally stimulate themselves can be a challenge. Overeating, and subsequently weight gain, is often a result.

The first thing to understand is that weight gain during recovery is perfectly normal and expected. Years of drug and alcohol abuse damages our bodies. During recovery, they require energy to repair themselves and grow. Addicts in recovery are hungry…a lot!

There is another reason why addicts in recovery tend to eat frequently and that is because of how their brains have been “rewired” from years of dependency. When using, an addict’s brain releases chemicals that makes the body feel good. When drugs and alcohol are removed, the brain still craves those chemicals. Sweet food, salty food, and fried food are often easy and delicious substitutes. All those calories come with a price – weight gain.

The good news is weight gain during and after recovery is normal and can be reversed. It just requires additional changes to your everyday routine and diet. Here are just a few things you can do to help –

  • Follow an Eating Schedule and Stick to It – This means eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eating on a regular schedule helps you get out of bad habits like late night snacks or mid-afternoon binge eating.  It also minimizes the number of calories you put into your body daily.
  • Seek Out and Eat Natural Healthy Foods – When you get those cravings for something sweet, eat some fruits instead of a cookie or a donut filled with empty calories. If you’re hungry and think about eating a bag of chips, snack on vegetables that will help you feel full without the salt and calories.
  • Get Plenty of Exercise – The easiest method for losing or maintaining weight is to burn more calories than you consume. If you cheated on your diet, make up for it with an extra mile on the treadmill or go for a walk around the neighborhood. If you feel a craving coming on, get on the floor and do some yoga or meditate.

Don’t let weight gain knock you off your path towards recovery. It is a natural occurrence that happens to many people who are now living full, health, drug-free lives. Continue making the right decisions and follow the path laid out in front of you.