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Why Veganism is the Ideal Diet during Recovery
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Why Veganism is the Ideal Diet during Recovery

When a person who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol takes the brave step to embark on recovery, it is vital that they approach recovery from a multi-faceted perspective. Cognitive behavioral therapy and the 12-Step method are two ‘gold standard’ treatments for addiction recovery, yet lately, the world’s most forward thinking rehabilitation centers are also stressing the importance of holistic therapies (like yoga and mindfulness meditation) and nutrition, in achieving long lasting success. The reason why a varied approach is recommendable is because no two recovering patients are alike; some will benefit greatly from a mindfulness approach; others are deeply inspired by the yogic lifestyle, which emphasizes the importance of kindness to all sentient things (many yoga practitioners are, therefore, vegan); still others gain much from the company of other recovering individuals, via group therapy and community volunteering.

When it comes to a healthy diet during recovery, veganism has very much to offer. For one, many patients find that as they stop using drugs or alcohol, their weight increases. Sometimes it is because of the metabolic effect drugs have previously exerted; at other times, it is because of the anxiety generated by cravings or the process of recovery itself. One important study carried out recently by scientists at the University of Southern California placed participants who needed to lose weight, on one of five diets: vegan, vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, and omnivorous. Weight loss was ascertained at a two- and six-month mark, and the results were clear: those on the vegan diet lost the most weight. Veganism not only helps us feel young; it also makes us look younger, by boosting skin with a host of vitamins and minerals, which stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.

The goodness of veganism goes beyond skin deep, of course; after months or years of addiction, veganism, with its focus on fresh, healthy, seasonal produce, is an excellent way to bombard the body with much needed antioxidants and phytochemicals (or ‘light energy’) which fight the ravages caused by free radicals.

Veganism introduces recovering addicts to a healthy lifestyle that will stand them in good stead for many years to come.  One large-scale study which observed the nutritional habits of over 450,000 persons in Europe, found that those who consume a diet that is rich in plant-based foods, have a significantly lower chance of dying from heart disease and stroke. Plant-based diets battle inflammation and help keep a plethora of diseases at bay (including breast cancer, obesity, ovarian cancer, colo-rectal cancer and Type II diabetes).

If you are recovering from addiction and you’d like to get started on the immensely satisfying journey that is veganism, try to ensure that most of the produce you consume, is organic. One recent study found that organic produce contains higher levels of antioxidants, and lower levels of heavy metals like cadmium. The researchers found that without the synthetic chemical pesticides applied to conventional crops, organic plants produce greater amounts of phenols and polyphenols, which help prevent diseases caused by oxidative stress, such as certain cancers and heart disease. Crops harvested from organically managed fields sometimes have pesticide residues, though levels are up to 100 times lower than in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Researchers noted that by switching to organic produce, we can obtain up to 40 per cent more antioxidants, which is the equivalent of around two portions of fruit and veg a day (without consuming additional unwanted calories).

For an optimally healthy meal plan, ensure you consume top quality protein sources (such as lentils, beans and nuts), food with plenty of calcium (dark, leafy vegetables will do the trick), and iron-rich foods (including sesame seeds and dark green vegetables). Obtain Vitamin B12 from fortified products, and make sure you get enough time in the sun, to obtain enough Vitamin D. You will find that as you become familiar with veganism and meet more people with a shared interest in delicious, healthy, ethical food, you begin to learn all the little tricks that can make this type of diet so satisfying – new recipes, ways of preparing food, new preparation styles such as those taught by the raw food movement, and much more. Veganism is the kindest diet not only to our Planet (because the carbon footprint of a vegan is so much lower than that of an omnivore), but to ourselves and during recovery, kindness and compassion may just be what the doctor ordered.

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  1. chichi23
    I went vegan around the beginning of my recovery and it gives me something to do, as well as a being part of my self care. I cook a lot of my food from scratch now and I find that to be relaxing as well as empowering. Knowing that I can practice compassion by not contributing to the suffering of animals has also helped to lessen shame around my addictions. I still eat mostly vegan and love being a resource for friends who are interested in changing their diets. Thank you for posting this.
  2. plant based addict
    plant based addict
    My name is Adam Sud. A little over 4 years ago I weighed 320lbs, I was an undiagnosed type II diabetic, had undiagnosed high blood pressure, I was a drug addict, a fast food addict, and suffering from severe depression. At this point my life consisted of sitting in my filthy apartment, surrounded by fast food trash while either on massive amounts of Adderall or eating processed fast food. I was miserable all the time and blamed everyone and everything else for my situation in life. I was constantly self-conscious about my weight and I was never comfortable in any social situation without being on my drug. I was barely working and running out of money. I knew that I was heading towards the day when I would be living on the street and the reality was that day was very close. I had literally spent every cent I had on drugs and drug fueled compulsive shopping. I had hit my rock bottom and then I suffered an overdose. I finally picked up the phone and called my father for help. Two weeks later I checked into rehab. It was during my first 24hrs in rehab that I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic with high blood pressure. I was put on 7 prescription medications, diabetes meds, blood pressure meds, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, adhd meds, and sleeping meds. I remember feeling utterly disgusted because I knew that I had done this myself. This was entirely my fault and for the first time I had to take responsibility for my lifestyle. But I had an amazing realization, if I am the problem, then I get to be the solution. Luckily, I had the good fortune of being able to attend the very first Engine 2 plant-strong immersion several years before this. At this immersion, Rip Esselstyn and his incredible team empower people by teaching them how to take charge of their health and their lives with a whole-foods, plant-based diet. While I was there I was still very much an addict and to be honest, I was using at the immersion. But, I attended every lecture and I learned that by adopting the principles of a plant-strong lifestyle I could prevent and even reverse most of the chronic western diseases and make myself heart attack proof. Because of the immersion, I knew what I needed to do. These were lifestyle diseases that are completely reversible through lifestyle change. I took it upon myself to reverse my type II diabetes and high blood pressure by implementing a plant-based nutrition plan into my recovery program of medication and therapy. What I didn't realize was that plant based nutrition would become the backbone of my entire recovery. Now, I am a 7th generation Texan who was addicted to fast food. This was no easy switch. I read a book by Dr. Doug Lisle called “The Pleasure Trap: Mastering The Hidden Force That Undermines Health and Happiness.” What I learned from this book was what I have come to believe is the one invariable truth when it comes to lifestyle change and recovery. In order to successfully change my life I had to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That has become my motto for entire recovery. “Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is the key to lifestyle change and recovery.” Within 4 months completely I reversed my type 2 diabetes and blood pressure, in 10 month I lost 100lbs, and within 1 year I was off of all 7 medications I was prescribed in rehab. Today I am over 4 years sober and weigh 165lbs. I realized that plant-based nutrition has an amazing power in regards to addiction recovery. I became a certified holistic lifestyle coach and developed a program using plant-based nutrition as a tool for addiction recovery and relapse prevention. I now run groups at sober-living houses and Intensive Out-Patient Therapy centers in LA. I had the honor of speaking at Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 plant-based health immersion in Arizona in May 2015 and 2016, the October 2016 immersions, I was a featured speaker at the 2Forks event, Plant-Stock in 2016, and the 2Forks Weekender Event in Cleveland. I have also been asked to be a speaker for engine 2’s entire 2017 schedule. I have given presentations at recovery centers across the country and national recovery conventions about the power of plant-based nutrition in recovery. I have also had the honor of being a guest on the Rich Roll podcast, Running To Mental Health podcast, The Food Heals Podcast, Break The Stigma Podcast, Lean Green DAD podcast, and have been featured on Forks Over Knives and T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell. People always ask me about what I’ve lost and I enjoy telling them about the 140lbs, the diseases (Obesity, type2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression) and the 7 medications. But what I enjoy more than all of that is what I have gained. Early morning runs on the lake with my dad, a real relationship with my Dad and the rest of my family, my self worth and self-confidence, my purpose in life, the ability to help others, most importantly, my twin brother Bobby. He has moved in to my place in LA to start his own plant strong journey. In 4 months he lost 50lbs, been taken off of his type 2 meds in a week, and dropped his blood pressure from 140/100 to 120/80 in 3 weeks. Today, I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have ever been and the healthiest I have ever been in my life. Plant based nutrition didn't just save my life it has given me the ability to create an entirely new one. It's one that I look forward to living every single day. I firmly believe that the simplest change on your fork can be the most profound change of your life. I know it was for me.


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