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Tuesday, 13 September 2016 09:43

National Recovery Month

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"As we celebrate Recovery Month, it is time for Congress to knock down the barriers to treatment and recovery for 26 million Americans suffering the ravages of alcohol and drug addiction." –Jim Ramstad

Most of the publicity in September goes into National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and rightfully so,  but we also want the public to be aware of National Recovery Month with drugs and alcohol, and even binge eating and compulsive overeating disorders.  

Back in 2003, President Bush launched "Access to Recovery," a program that increased the availability and effectiveness of current alcohol and drug treatment programs. An additional 300,000 Americans will get needed treatment with the extra $600 million allotted to this cause. This program helps educate Americans on the fact that addiction treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. The observance’s main focus is to praise all the gains made by those in recovery from these conditions. 

Recovery is possible despite an on-going struggle to overcome all the physical, mental, emotional and deeply spiritual needs that exist for those addicted. Few truly realize how devastating an addiction really is unless they've experienced it firsthand in some way. Treatment centers have a vast task to accomplish. Too many times the social stigma of recovery and prejudice to the addicted has been a challenge for proper treatment to take hold permanently. Please don't be mislead thinking alcoholism is a simply a matter of "drinking too much” and/or simply a matter "will power." There is a real brain chemical and emotional hold for the addicted. 

Food Addiction

But what does binge eating or even compulsive eating have to do with recovery from alcohol and drugs? What is distressing is that, little known to the mainstream public, alcoholics frequently turn to food (they are actually encouraged to eat more sweets) as a way of coping with the desire to drink or use. This is just one more whammy to unintentionally promoting excessive eating.

It is becoming more known that fast food and many highly processed foods especially, are made in such a way they become physiologically addictive. The bottom line is, regardless of where addictive behaviors come from, alcohol, drugs or foods, all arise out of primitive neurochemical reward centers in the brain that override normal will power and overwhelm ordinary biological signals that control natural hunger. Experts from Mayo Clinic say "Yes, studies show that some foods actually have a narcotic-like effect on our brains. So, when you overdo it on fast food or sweets, remember that it's not just a lack of will power on your part. It's a chemical reaction." The best remedy is to get away from processed foods in particular that frequently come with excess amounts of sugar, fat and salt that create neurochemical reactions in the brain, then stay away from them once you are off of them. Go for fresh whole foods as much as possible.

Most people don't think of food as an addiction. And eating disorders frequently go beyond bulimia and anorexia, the more common forms of eating problems. There is the compulsive eating and binge eating, requiring various forms of the same care, both psychologically and nutritionally. Those who binge and compulsively overeat for emotional reasons (in addition to the physiological component) also suffer miserably. 

Bingeing and compulsive eating have both now been classified as real eating disorders. It is my hope that with almost 70% of the population overweight and well over 300,000 people having health related problems related to their weight, this form of eating will be taken more seriously in the same way as drugs and alcohol are. Weight gain is only a symptom of the psychological turmoil inside. Being sent to any weight loss center is not the full solution. Food is not the underlying problem although the type of food can certainly be part of the addiction process.

In-depth expert nutrition still needs to be addressed appropriately. But the underlying emotional turmoil also needs to be addressed before weight reduction can be permanently tackled. Sure, the super-sizing of meals in restaurants, lack of activity and too many sodas all contribute to the obesity epidemic, but obesity still has emotional and addictive components to it. All that being said, if you have suffered with emotional or stress eating and have never been able to change it, we encourage you to take more professional steps to gain control over it. Dieting alone will not "cure" it.

"The goal of spiritual practice is full recovery, and the only thing you need to recover from is a fractured sense of self."-Marianne Williamson

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