I was asked a question in a group today, “Well what foods cause relapse?” (This was in the context of substance addiction.) My answer:

Food itself isn’t going to cause a relapse. That’s not what I intended to convey. But eating a diet filled with processed sugars (versus the sugars you would get from eating apples or grapes, for instance) and unhealthy fats (versus the fat you get from nuts, salmon, or avocado, for instance) does not provide the overall nutrition one needs.

Most people don’t know there is research that demonstrates that fat/sugar trigger the same dopaminergic brain pathways that addiction does, which helps explain why we crave what we crave.

Without proper nutrition, it takes longer for the body and brain to heal, for us to feel better, think better and learn better – therefore increasing the odds of relapse. Additionally, as we binge on sweets, our blood sugar is spiking, dropping, spiking dropping and we all know what that up-down-up-down is just like – our using/drinking.

So what I convey to my clients is recovery is all about the process of creating an environment in which the odds of relapse become very low – by removing as many triggers as possible, and developing more and more coping skills.

And as an outcome of my personal recovery experience/treatment, research, education, and clinical experience, I strongly believe we are making a mistake in not emphasizing exercise and diet with the same vigor with which we emphasize 12-step programs.