So first of all what does recovery mean? I work with a large case load of clients who present with many forms of addictions or addictive processes. The main addictions we tend to think about are alcohol and drug abuse, but there are many more things that are addictive such as gambling, sexual behaviours, food and relationships to name but a few. There are many schools of thought about what recovery from these substances or processes may look like. For some it will be abstinence from all mind and mood altering chemicals and addictive processes. For others it may be abstinence from the particular substance that was causing them problems. There are yet others who are able to learn how to control the use of the substance or addictive process that was problematic. Recovery is individual to each and every person. I believe that recovery must include an improvement in relationships with both yourself and others you interact with. Most of the people I have worked with over the years have described how addiction has isolated them. They have become more insular, less able or less wanting to interact with others in a positive and meaningful way. Johann Hari in his 2015 TED talk describes ‘connection being the antidote to addiction’. I believe this to be oversimplified as there is a need to take in the biochemical component of addiction which I have covered in my previous blogs. Nethertheless it is important for clients to understand what recovery will look and feel like for themselves. Being able to improve their relationship with themselves and others is often a major priority. The way in which you interact with food is a major component in improving your relationship with yourself. People with low self esteem will often use food as a way to stuff their feelings of inadequacy and as an attempt to avoid low moods.
Many times when people enter into a recovery process they believe it is just about stopping or controlling the substance or process. But what if your addiction is to food? You can’t stop eating food or you will die. Recovery is about thriving. Those people who describes them selves as having an addictive relationship with food will need to find a way of still eating but in a balanced and healthy way. Counselling can help such people identify their relationships with food and what it means to them. They can explore if there are certain foods which are more likely to make them want to binge eat or restrict eating. Working with addictive relationships with food is a complex process and once recovery is obtained then the hard work is often how to maintain it. This is also true for anyone in any addiction recovery process as the disease of addiction is four fold. It effects the body, the mind, the emotions and the spirit. Learning how to eat in a healthy balanced way can be one of the components in helping many people to achieve sustained recovery.
Often you will hear recovering people talking about how they have stopped acting out on their original addiction but are now substituting that addiction with cakes, biscuits, crisps and many other refined carbs!!! Why, you may ask? Sugar is addictive. We tend to think of sugar just being in cakes, sweets and biscuits. Refined carbohydrates are forms of sugar and starches that don’t exist in nature. I have included a list below of foods that include refined carbohydrates in other words sugar or starch
REFINED CARBOHYDRATE LIST
REFINED AND SIMPLE SUGARS (often called “added sugars”)
Table sugar/white sugar (aka sucrose; may be cane sugar or beet sugar)
Confectioner’s sugar (powdered white sugar)
Honey (Even though honey exists in nature and isn’t refined, it is a pure sugar that is difficult to obtain in significant quantities without special equipment or risk. Honey affects our health in exactly the same way that other sugars do.)
Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
Brown rice syrup
Rice bran syrup
Dextrose, dextran, dextrin, maltodextrin
Fruit juice concentrates
FRUIT JUICES except for lemon/lime juice. Most fruit juices require special equipment to produce in significant quantities.
ALL KINDS OF FLOUR including wheat, oat, legume (pea and bean), rice, and corn flours. 100% stoneground, whole meal flours are less refined and not as unhealthy as other types of flours because they are not as finely ground and take longer to digest.
INSTANT/REFINED GRAINS including instant hot cereals like instant oatmeal, white rice, polished rice, and instant rice
REFINED STARCHES such as corn starch, potato starch, modified food starch–essentially any powdered ingredient with the word “starch” in it
FOODS HIGH IN REFINED CARBOHYDRATES AND ADDED SUGARS
(This is not meant to be a complete list)
All desserts except whole fruit
Ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, etc
Many crackers (100% stone-ground whole grain crackers are less refined)
Chocolate (dark, milk and white). Baker’s chocolate is unsweetened and is therefore an exception.
Breaded or battered foods
All types of dough (phyllo, pie crust, etc)
Most cereals except for unsweetened, 100% whole grain cereals in which you can see the whole grains in their entirety with the naked eye (unsweetened muesli, rolled oats, or unsweetened puffed grain cereals are good examples)
Most pastas, noodles and couscous
Jello® (sugar-free varieties exist but it’s much healthier to make your own with unsweetened gelatine and fresh fruit)
Jellies, jams and preserves
Pizza (because of the flour in the dough)
Puddings and custards
Caramel corn and kettle corn
Most granola bars, power bars, energy bars, etc (unless labelled sugar-free).
Tortillas (unless 100% stone-ground whole grain)
Most rice cakes and corn cakes (unless labelled 100% whole grain)
Fried vegetable snacks like green beans and carrot chips (usually contain added dextrin, a sweet starch)
Most barbecue sauces
Check labels on salsa, tomato sauces, salad dressings and other jarred/canned sauces for sugar/sweeteners
Sweetened yogurts and other sweetened dairy products
Chocolate milk (and other sweetened milks)
Most milk substitutes (almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, etc) because they usually have sugar added–read label first
Sweet wines and liqueurs
All the above foods contain refined carbs/ sugars and for many people in recovery they can be addictive. If we go back to the beginning of this article and look at what recovery means we explored that it is different for each individual. So for some people the solution to sugar addiction is abstinence, for others it is abstinence from certain sugars/refined carbs that are problematic and for others the solution may be learning how to control their intake of sugars. Again as mentioned above recovery is individual to each person. Only the person themselves can recognise how they need to behave to achieve what they consider to be recovery.
So what is left. Below are some examples of foods that are low in refined carbs/added sugar:
EXAMPLES OF FOODS LOW IN REFINED CARBS/ADDED SUGAR
Fresh/frozen meat, poultry, and seafood
Fresh or frozen unsweetened fruits
Whole grains (whole grain rice, oats, barley, quinoa, corn, etc)
Nuts and seeds of all types
Unsweetened nut butters
100% wholegrain rice cakes
Whole legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
Soy products (like tofu and unsweetened or sugar-free soy milk)
Unsweetened, all-natural dairy products (milk, plain yogurt, cheeses, butter, cream, half-and-half, sour cream, etc)
100% stone-ground wholegrain breads or crackers without sugar added
Unsweetened coffee, tea, sparkling water (either plain or with natural flavors or essences added), water
Unsweetened tomato sauce and other unsweetened, starch-free sauces
Unsweetened salad dressings (most fat-free dressings contain sugar–check labels). Low-sugar options include blue cheese, ranch, full-fat Italian, Greek, Caesar dressings.
Herbs and spices
Unsweetened vinegars (balsamic vinegar and certain other fruity vinegars can be very sweet–read label for carbohydrate content)
Textured vegetable protein
Daily Affirmations to help with Healthy Eating Choices
It can be very easy to fall into unhealthy eating patterns. Here is a list of daily affirmations to help you to remember to eat healthily one day at a time:
Start each day with the intention to eat healthy.
Pick an affirmation from the list below or make up or own. Repeat the affirmation to yourself through out the day.
Today I choose to eat healthily because I love myself
I eat for nutrition not for boredom.
I choose to love myself.
Today I replace sugary food with healthy choices.
I forgive myself for overeating. I will make healthier choices today.
I eat food that is good for me.
I make wise food choices.
I nourish myself with water, exercise and healthy food.
And remember that we can start each day again if we make unhealthy choices. Recovery is about self caring and forgiveness.
HAPPY AND HEALTHY EATING EVERYONE
If you are struggling with any of the subjects discussed above call Victoria Abadi Therapies on 07983726647 or email email@example.com. Counselling practices are based in the South Manchester area in Hale, Wilmslow and Northenden.