As a specialist in integrative medicine, I believe in honoring the whole person — mind, body and spirit — as each is intricately inter-related with the other. This is especially true in the field of addiction medicine, where my holistic, whole-person approach to recovery goes beyond just abstinence. Instead, my goal is to teach the addict that, in addition to traditional detox and recovery plans, a healthy lifestyle is critical and integral to successful long-term recovery.
I’ve created an easy way to remember the daily practice of healthy mental, nutritional and physical activity behaviors. I call these three pillars of recovery “The Three Ms: Mind, Mouth and Muscle.” You’ll notice I started with “mind” because the entire process begins with laying down a powerful mental foundation fueled by your passion for wanting to live long and well, while sustaining lifelong recovery. Mental fitness, then, involves learning healthy, productive ways to self-soothe, stay in the moment, maintain vigilance, plan your day, organize your life and rein in the three “Is”: impulsivity, irritability and impatience.
This may be surprising, but new research has shown that what you eat significantly affects your overall recovery success. That’s the “mouth” in my three Ms. In essence, for optimal detox and recovery, the right food counts. When you enter detox, the great majority of addicts are malnourished. Regardless of weight or size, many of you have been dining on junk food. Once you’ve detoxed, a large number of you may experience a cross-addiction from drugs, alcohol or sex, to the so-called “hyperpalatable” sugary/fatty/salty food combinations. You still want that high and the uber-tasty reward of the hyperpalatables is what you reach for.
Those without a history of substance abuse may have become food-addicted as a result of overeating refined and processed food products due to emotional trauma. Therefore, being mindful of every mouthful of nourishing, satisfying whole food is essential to eliminating food addiction, which leads to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The third pillar, “muscle,” is a call to arms — and legs! Science shows that when you become more physically active through a variety of movement options — from yoga, running and dancing to walking Pilates or playing on the work softball team — you actually improve mental function while also dampening down damaging addiction genes. Talk about a royal recovery win-win!
These three Ms are the building blocks addicts can use to repair and reclaim the hijacked reward centers in their brains, nourish their mind and their body and live a life of successful, fulfilling and joyful recovery. In the blogs to come I will discuss how each pillar works and simple daily exercises you can practice to transform those first tenuous steps on your journey into well-honed habits and rituals to support lifelong recovery.