Maintaining your recovery from addiction is something you have to work at every day. That means managing your stress levels, continuing to attend therapy or AA meetings, and working through residual cravings.
But there’s another part of avoiding relapse that may not be as top of mind: Controlling your sugar intake.
With the holidays just a few weeks away, it can be extremely difficult to avoid sugary sweets and desserts. After all, how can you say no to a delectable yule log or a sweet chocolate mousse trifle?
In this article, we’ll review how sugar can put you at risk of relapse and then give you 5 sure-fire ways to eat healthy during the holidays and avoid sugar in your recovery.
Why Sugar is Considered a Relapse Trigger
Sugar is known as a replacement or transfer addiction, especially for those who are recovering from alcoholism. This is because sugar elicits similar effects as alcohol and drugs. For example, substance abuse triggers a rush of dopamine that leads to euphoria. Sugar does the exact same thing, boosting the dopamine levels released to help you feel good.
Furthermore, sugar acts as a quick fix to blood sugar levels. When someone struggles with a substance like alcohol, they tend to have severe fluctuations in blood sugar levels that lead to irritability, aggression and impulsivity. These symptoms can continue even into recovery, causing sugar cravings that can escalate to addiction relapse.
5 Ways to Deal with Sugar Cravings During the Holidays
You’ve worked hard to get to where you are today, so you obviously don’t want the holidays to derail your recovery. But with friend get-togethers and family holiday parties that will have countless plates of appetizers and desserts, how are you supposed to keep your pro-recovery diet on track?
Luckily, there are a number of ways to eat smart during the holidays this year:
- Eat a Healthy Meal Before Going to Holiday Parties. When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to immediately dive into the chips, cookies and sugary holiday drinks. A great way to avoid this is to eat a healthy meal before you go out with friends or attend a holiday party. You’ll start your evening feeling full and won’t be tempted to indulge in unhealthy snacks as you wait around for dinner to be served.
- Don’t Socialize by the Food Tables. It’s extremely easy to mindlessly snack while you chat with friends and family members. To avoid this, try guiding the conversations to other parts of the room away from the food. This way, you won’t be tempted to grab any additional snacks
- Fill Your Appetizer Plate with Healthy Snacks. Holiday parties oftentimes have bowls and plates of cookies, chocolates and chips available to munch on before dinner. Instead, turn your attention to the veggie and meat plates. As difficult as this may sound, it’ll be a lot easier if you eat ahead of your holiday party.
- Leverage Your Support System. The holidays are oftentimes the one time of year where all your family and friends come together and eat. You may feel tempted to snack if you see others doing it or you might feel pressured to try your aunt’s dessert, so you don’t hurt her feelings. Make sure you have a family member or friend at the party who is part of your support network. They can help you keep your diet on track and steer you away from sugary foods or drinks if you’re feeling tempted.
- Find Ways to Keep Your Mind Off Food. The more you think about the colorful desserts displayed across the kitchen table, the more you’ll be tempted to indulge. To avoid the temptation, focus on doing other things. You can watch a Christmas movie, go for a walk outside or build a snowman (weather permitting), or play cards or boardgames with friends and family. If you can keep your mind busy, you won’t be as tempted to eat sugary snacks and desserts.
Find Long-Lasting Recovery at The Raleigh House
At this point, you understand that sugar has the potential to derail your recovery. But what if you really want a gingerbread cookie or a dish of pudding? Do you have to cut sugar out of your diet entirely in order to maintain your sobriety?
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The quick answer to those questions is, no. Enjoying dessert from time to time won’t break your recovery, but it’s important to keep everything in moderation. If you’re eating more sugar than you should or if you’ve already relapsed, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you need some help getting your sobriety back on track.
At The Raleigh House, we can help you get back on the recovery path by developing new dietary habits and techniques to avoid relapse. For help, fill out our form or contact us today to get in touch with one of our friendly admissions team members.