I’ve had food on my mind lately so it’s going to be the subject of this week’s blog. If you’ve just discovered this page and were hoping to read about recovery, don’t be discouraged. Food is an important component of the recovery process. How, what, and when we eat says a lot about where we’re at with self-care.
For example, when I notice I‘ve been leaning more toward sweets, carbs, white flour or extra caffeine and eating less protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s usually an indication that something’s affecting me emotionally. Maybe I’m feeling depressed, lonely, frustrated, or angry. When I catch my diet moving in this direction, I can take stock of my life and my feelings and address them. I’m able to do this is because typically my daily eating habits are healthy and balanced.
Eating habits aren’t always dictated by emotional states. When the seasons change, my diet often changes with it. Winter it’s more soups, yams, winter vegetables and carbs and summer is lighter Mediterranean-style fare. One thing is certain – a healthy balanced diet helps me to deal with emotional turmoil better than if I ate poorly.
This blog Health Food and Heroin (part one and two) will take you back to the roots of my becoming a vegetarian in the early 80’s and my interest in nouveau cuisine when it hit the culinary scene during my 20s. Keep in mind that even with this information my last year getting high I existed mainly on vanilla cake mix with milk, chocolate chip cookie dough, and tortillas with sugar. Seriously, when I gave up on my life I gave up every bit of self-care I’d ever known. My bottom was complete abandonment of self.
When I got clean in the late 80s, one of the first things I did was join a gym and start eating better – but change didn’t happen overnight. Late night espressos or ordering four or five Thai ice coffees while fellowshipping probably had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t get a solid night’s sleep for my first six months clean (though I assumed it was some hold-over effect of drug addiction). The day my 1969 Dodge Dart was stolen I ate all the icing off a large sheet cake until I was so sugared-up I passed out. This seemed a better alternative to getting loaded (which was what I wanted to do). For fun, my recovering friends and I would come up with bizarre food combinations to create speedball effects such as high sugar/caffeine followed by heavy dairy and carbs. That would be our wild Friday night entertainment. Basically during my first year clean, we were taking as much pleasure as we could acting out with whatever was at hand without the use of drugs.
In spite of the insanity we encouraged in one another, we were still going to the gym, eating healthy food, and spending days off at the beach. Once I began experiencing the positive effects of the healthy side of my lifestyle, I lost my tolerance for sugar hangovers and junk food sluggishness. A healthy lifestyle in recovery became a natural preference for one reason – I like feeling good. When my body felt good my emotions were also in balance.
I started this blog wanting to write tips for eating well in hot weather. If you are new to recovery you may walk away wondering how to create a food speedball. Hopefully you also are thinking “If I eat better maybe I won’t feel like shit”. It’s true – you won’t.
Here are some tips for your hot weather diet and grocery list:
Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh or frozen fruit and nuts make a great breakfast. Until you eat protein you will stay hungry. This is why people who start the day with a couple donuts keep going back to the box until they are horrified to see they have eaten a half-dozen donuts before noon. Start the morning with a breakfast high in protein to maximize your energy and mental clarity.
Other protein you can keep around the house to throw into other meals on hot summer days – canned tuna/salmon/sardines, boiled eggs. Cook a chicken or turkey. The meat will stretch across numerous meals. If you are on a budget, split the cost of a turkey with a friend.
Meal-sized salads are perfect during a heat wave. It’s great to keep pre-cut vegetables in containers in the fridge. Stock up on cans of beans, nuts, feta or goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, a variety of dressings and anything else you want to add to create a meal salad.
Fresh fruit is delicious but buying frozen fruit is often cheaper and on hot days is a much healthier alternative to popsicles or ice cream.
Always throw a few apples, peaches, pears or your favorite fruit into a bag to bring with you when you leave the house. Midway through morning and afternoon or during the long stretch between meals on busy days, a piece of fruit will help you maintain energy. The same goes for unsalted nuts. I am not anti-salt but choose wisely. Without adding extra salt, most people get the amount they need in the course of a day through regular eating.
Stay hydrated. Drink water. If you think 8 glasses of cola is the same as 8 glasses of water, think again. Water is water – don’t include the water used to make coffee or tea. Pure water helps flush toxins throughout your body. Cola doesn’t. If water seems too bland, add a slice or lemon or lime. Once you start drinking water, you will begin to thirst for water.
This blog is not a diet plan by any means. When I work with clients, I insist on lots of water, fresh fruit and vegetables with every meal, and clean protein (meaning protein that isn’t hidden under mounds of melted cheese or deep fried). Changing a diet will happen naturally over time if you continue to lean toward healthy choices. Go online to educate yourself on the basics of nutrition. It’s possible to eat healthy and still eat cheaply.What about pizza, fast food, or dessert? Go for it but remember -it’s going to be the healthy fresh food giving you energy, better skin, mental clarity, alleviating depression, and aiding in sleep so don’t neglect one in favor of the other.
What you eat affects how you feel. Recovery gives us choices. Choose wisely.