Diet and exercise have long been the staples of healthy living. Fad diets and exercise regimens are founded on a central truth—diet and exercise can change your body. However, what the fads fail to teach us is that in order for us to create lasting impacts, we need to have one more essential component: a healthy relationship with our bodies. And what’s more, we need to treat our bodies in the same way people generally treat one another in healthy relationships—with kindness and respect.
Addiction and the Body
The journey of recovery from addiction shares the same need for kindness. Those in recovery must learn to be kind to themselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. However, kindness in relationship to one’s body and physical health is also integral to lifelong recovery.
One of the reasons addictions are so powerful is it hijacks the very body that has so much potential to bring the life and energy needed for genuine healing. Those who suffer from addiction are well aware of the toll that ingesting and withdrawing from substances takes on their physical self: mood swings, fatigue, changes in appetite, muscle and bone pain, mental health problems, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, among others.
For months or years, those in active addiction subjected themselves and their bodies to toxic substances and altered states. However, for those beginning the path towards recovery, as their body has become dependent upon the presence of the substance within it’s system, they soon find that returning to “normal” is a long and difficult road.
To combat the power of addiction, those in recovery can harness the power of a positive relationship with themselves. Establishing a positive relationship with your body begins by learning to be kind.
Being Kind to Yourself
Kindness towards yourself does not have to be as abstract of a concept as it seems. When leaving a life of addiction, it may be difficult to stay away from the damaging internal narratives about your choices and the things you did in the past.
Choosing to offer yourself kindness begins with self-compassion for the person you were, what you knew at the time, and what you were up against, as well as choosing self-forgiveness for not being capable of making a different choice.
Kindness towards self in recovery means not allowing that narrative to take over or immobilize you, but to propel you to move forward, with intention.
Being Kind to Your Body
Kindness to your body indeed begins with diet and exercise. However, it is not so much about a list of foods to eat and exercises to do. Rather, kindness to the body involves understanding why and what you eat or drink and why and how you move.
Learning the why, what, and how of your body leads to a healthier, kinder relationship with yourself.
Eating kindly means being kind to your body by being intentional about why you consume and what you consume. Kindness does not happen by accident. You choose to be kind. You decide to be kind. Likewise, you can choose to be kind to your body by determining why you want to eat or drink.
The why behind your eating habits is based on your because. “I am eating this because…,” “I am drinking this because…,” “I want to eat this because…,” “I want to drink this because….”
Too often, we get trapped in unhelpful motivations in our eating habits. This might look like eating because we’re bored, because we want to “numb out,” or because we feel like we deserve it after a long day. However, healthy reasons for eating are based on the natural purposes for eating—energy and longevity (long term health).
Once you know your why for eating or drinking, you will be able to make healthier decisions about what to eat. When you decide to eat for healthy purposes you will automatically have answers about what to eat.
What you eat and drink will begin to answer simple yet important questions:
- Why am I eating right now?
- Is this food or drink going to give me healthy energy?
- Is this food or drink going to promote long term health (physical and mental)?
If the answers are yes, you have a healthy choice in front of you. If the answers are no, you will do well to draw on supports and go back to the drawing board to make the choice to eat kindly.
Of course, strict adherence to these “rules” or situations when they are broken can often become its own vicious cycle of excess or restriction and shame. Here, too, requires kindness towards ourselves to allow for mistakes and then gently point ourselves back towards our ultimate goal.
Like eating kindly, moving kindly means being intentional about why you are exercising with the added question of how you are exercising.
Often the question of “Why are we exercising?” is usually best answered by its inverse: “Why are we not exercising?” Reasons are plentiful when it comes to why we cannot or do not exercise. Developing and sustaining motivation is half the battle to building a healthy body that is no longer dependent on substances for energy.
A healthy, kind relationship with your body starts with changing your perspective from why you cannot or do not exercise to why you want to and why you can exercise.
|Change: I Can’t Exercise Because…||To: A Better Perspective|
Determine to have a healthy relationship with your body by writing down the excuses that keep you from moving your body and choose to reframe your thoughts.
Keep at it!
To sustain your “why” for exercising, choose how you can exercise based on your interests, social supports, location, and daily routine. There are innumerable ways to exercise.
If you are exercising because you want to be away from addiction triggers and closer to social support, choose to exercise with people outside or at a gym. If your reason for exercising is to combat the effects of substances on your physical health, choose exercises that are developed to restore balance and function in the body like yoga.
Listen Kindly: How Your Body Speaks
As you begin to put kind eating and exercising to practice you will likely become more in tune with changes in your body. This awareness of your body means you are learning to listen to what your body needs.
Your body speaks in various ways because it is made of fascinating connections between your brain and other organ systems. These connections in your body alert you to how your choices are affecting your body.
What Your Addiction is Saying
Substance use leads to several physical symptoms of distress in your body as well as lasting medical conditions. Your body speaks through these symptoms and conditions.
Below is a brief list of ways that your body speaks to you about the condition of your health due to substance use and several other life factors:
- Skin rashes and conditions
- Muscle aches/pains
- Joint discomfort/pain
- Breathing issues
- Digestive issues
- Heart tension or strain/pain
- Changes in body temperature
- Sleep issues
- Back and neck aches/pain
If you are struggling with substance abuse, give yourself a moment to check in with yourself: what of the above symptoms are you experiencing? How have you been treating your body lately?
Honesty with yourself about the use or abuse of any substances is the best way to be kind to yourself and have a healthy relationship with your body, but it doesn’t stop there.
Making the step to seek treatment for yourself and combat the negative habits that have taken up space in your life is the best way to make kindness actionable.
Treatment at Washburn House
We offer some of the top addiction treatment programs in Worcester, MA, including:
- Medical detox
- Inpatient rehab program
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- Day treatment
- Addiction and mental health counseling
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Extended care program
Eating kindly, exercising kindly, and listening kindly will go a long way in your journey of recovery. By choosing what (and what does not) goes in, you are choosing to value yourself and your body throughout your recovery. Check out some of our programs above or give us a call at (855) 298-3104 to speak with someone today!