ClickCease Weight Gain in Recovery - Granite Recovery Centers

Weight Gain in Recovery

Table of Contents

While in active addiction, we neglect our bodies in a number of ways. To begin with, we’re putting unhealthy substances in our bodies, but we’re always usually depriving it of things that make it function properly. Drugs and alcohol diminish our natural appetite, and when an addiction gets particularly bad and we’re faced with the decision between food and our substance of choice, it’s likely we’ll go with the latter. If there are a few dollars left over, it will likely go toward something cheap and unhealthy, such as fast food, or a bag of chips. When an addiction gets so far along, the body just craves the substance and ignores other things our body needs for survival. Healthy food is rarely on the list of priorities. Drugs and alcohol also radically change the way our body reacts to food, often pushing it out of our bodies before we can even reap the benefits.

When we get sober, however, we begin again without the substances and reset our bodies. Our body will often crave sugar, as it effects the same reward center of the brain. Reintroducing food is also a shock to the body, called “refeeding syndrome,” as it’s suddenly be given nutrients it had been deprived of for so long. The metabolism might be far behind where it should be. All of these reasons and more can contribute to weight gain in early recovery, which is a challenge many face.

Between 2017 and 2018, 42.4% of the population could be classified as “obese.” After people spending time in drug rehab and getting sober, the weight gain can sometimes become a problem. The focus early on is primarily on getting sober, and putting on some weight is good as the body becomes stronger. Before you realise it is a bit of a balancing act, you might discover that you’ve gained a lot of weight. While getting sober is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do, losing weight can be quite challenging, too.


What Is an Electrolyte Imbalance?

Drugs like morphine, heroin, oxycodone, and codeine target the gastrointestinal system. When people are using these substances, they often become constipated. When they go through withdrawal, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are often common, resulting in an electrolyte imbalance.
An electrolyte imbalance occurs when a person drinks too much water. It also occurs when someone isn’t drinking enough water, or is losing too much water from diarrhea and vomiting. The body needs electrolytes because they perform several duties. For example, electrolytes maintain healthy functioning of the heart and brain, allow the muscles to contract and relax, make it possible for the nerve cells to send their messages, ensure that waste products are removed, make sure that the cells obtain nutrients, and keep the body’s water levels balanced.
The way to keep your electrolytes balanced is to eat a wide variety of foods and drink plenty of water. In most cases, people addicted to opiates are not doing this, and their health suffers.



People with an alcohol use disorder are known for not eating enough food, so they aren’t getting as many nutrients as they need to supply them with energy throughout the day. Their cells and other bodily structures are also not being adequately sustained. Alcohol also prevents the digestive system from working properly.
Alcohol interferes with the digestive process by preventing the pancreas from releasing digestive enzymes that break food down. Alcohol also keeps the body from absorbing the nutrients, and this can lead to even more digestive problems. Although alcohol may not prevent every nutrient from being absorbed by the body, it will prevent them from being transported to where they need to go, so they cannot be stored or secreted.



Some drugs suppress the users’ appetites, and these include methamphetamines, cocaine, and crack. This causes users of these substances to lose weight and to not receive enough nutrients. Stimulants may also cause people to sleep less than they ordinarily would. They may also be dehydrated from not drinking enough water, and this leads to electrolyte imbalances. Gaining weight is often difficult for people addicted to stimulants.


Gaining Weight in Sobriety

As people begin their recovery, they discover that they are gaining weight after they are finished with their time in detox. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

People begin to eat more than they have been for several reasons, including the following:

  • When they experience stress, they are not relieving it with substance use, so they begin to eat instead.
  • Outside of rehab, they would ordinarily consume their drugs of choice. Inside a rehab facility, they need to find something else to do. A lot of the time, that something else is eating.
  • They may experience sugar cravings that increase their caloric intake and lead to weight gain.
  • Their appetite may increase so that they will eat more, but their energy levels are not also increasing, so they aren’t getting any exercise. This leads to weight gain.

Any substance that is used for an extended period of time will have its own impact on a user’s diet. Part of the recovery process is learning to focus on ingesting good things and helping your body to become healthy.


Losing Weight in Sobriety

Weight gain can be problematic for people and cause stress during the recovery process. It’s possible to lose weight in recovery, but people must go about it carefully so that they do not develop eating disorders.


Pay Attention to What You Eat

While you are seeking your drug of choice, you aren’t as concerned about whether you are eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner or not. After you stop consuming the drug, the time that you spent procuring your drug of choice can now be taken up by eating. Since you are consuming larger amounts of food, you are likely to gain weight. This is a good thing if your substance of choice was suppressing your appetite.
The key is to make appropriate choices. Before, you weren’t obtaining enough nutrients, but now, you can take this opportunity to start eating nutritious foods rather than the high-calorie, high-fat foods that you have likely become accustomed to eating. These foods will only cause you to gain weight.
One good idea is to write down the foods you eat in a food diary. Then, you will know for sure that you have been making the right choices. Making different food choices has to be done very carefully when you are in recovery because you are at risk of experiencing “refeeding syndrome.”


What Is Refeeding Syndrome?

Refeeding syndrome happens when a malnourished person begins to eat again. As a healthy body secretes insulin, it lowers the body’s blood sugar levels, but this action decreases when someone isn’t eating and becomes malnourished. After the person begins to eat and the insulin levels begin to increase again, the proteins, fat, and glycogen can begin to be synthesized again.
The trouble is that this synthesis requires electrolytes, including potassium, magnesium, and phosphates, which can be depleted if a person is using substances. As the electrolytes are being used for digestion, the phosphate level in the blood gets to be too low. This causes serious symptoms, such as convulsions, delirium, confusion, and weakness. It may even cause cardiac failure that can lead to death.


Begin an Exercise Regimen

Everyone always says that you need to exercise when you want to lose weight, and research has shown that exercise does wonderful things for people addicted to using substances. In addition to that, people often use substances because they are experiencing mental health symptoms, but exercise was found to decrease depression and anxiety. Exercise also reduces the cravings that people have for their substances, meaning that it is an excellent activity for those in recovery.
Although exercise is good for you, it is another thing that you have to start doing slowly. You must begin with a low level of exercise and work up to the higher intensity levels. Your body needs time to heal after years of substance use, so getting a slow start is going to be better for you than starting out running. You aren’t necessarily going to lose a lot of weight in the beginning, but you will be living a healthier lifestyle, and you will be able to manage your weight loss in the long term.


Ensure That You Eat Nutritious Foods

While you were ingesting more substances than food, your vitamin intake was limited. Vitamins are highly important for many bodily processes, and if you are consuming harmful substances, your body receives less vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin D than it needs. This is dangerous because a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to softening of your bones.
Several of the vitamins that help the body heal and maintain your cells are deficient when your substance of choice is alcohol. This results in a vitamin K deficiency that can prevent your blood from clotting. The danger of this is that you may bleed excessively if you become wounded. If you are deficient in other vitamins, this can result in neurological damage that can be severe.
Eating healthier foods will also mean that you won’t want to indulge in unhealthy foods as often. During the substance use, your body wasn’t receiving the vitamins and minerals that it needed, but now, you are living a different life. You must begin eating foods that give you the nourishment that you need because this will help your body heal. In addition to that, better nutrition will make it so that you can do more when you are exercising.


Remember the Purpose of Eating

Before your sobriety, you may have been motivated to eat because you were craving sugar or because you were feeling stressed. Now that you are not using, you can look into the reasons that you ate the way that you did.
If you can stop and ask yourself why you want to eat at a particular time, you will be able to determine whether it is for the right reason or not. For example, you might feel hungry. This is an excellent reason to eat. You can also be craving your drug of choice and want to eat to avoid going in search of the drug, but this can lead to weight gain.


Embark On an Entirely New Chapter in Your Life

Recovery from substance use disorder is not something that you do during your treatment program only. It is a continuous effort that goes on long after you have left the rehab center. This is how you have to approach weight loss. You could starve yourself and lose a few pounds quickly, but you are not necessarily going to continue to do this, and you will gain the weight again. Besides, this isn’t a good plan because it leads to yo-yo dieting.


What Is Yo-Yo Dieting?

Your intention is to lose weight, but your body has other ideas. The body releases a hormone called “leptin” that causes you to feel full. When you start to lose weight, the body decreases the amount of leptin that it releases, so you begin to feel hungrier. The body does this because it believes that you need to replace the weight that you lost. Research has found that 33% of dieters will end up being heavier than they were before they started their diets, and this is because of yo-yo dieting.
The best way to lose weight during the recovery process is to make food choices that you can easily stick to and increase those efforts on a gradual basis. This requires that you approach this new phase in your life with patience, and you will begin to see results.


Granite Recovery Centers

If you or a loved one are searching for help with a substance use disorder, Granite Recovery Centers is here for you. Our facilities can provide you with a drug detox program that will cleanse your system so that you can overcome your physical addiction to your drug of choice. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

After detox, your journey toward sobriety is not over. We can also place you in our inpatient treatment program or outpatient treatment program so that our trained professionals can treat you for your substance use disorder.
If you or a loved one are ready to be free of drugs and want to begin living a healthier lifestyle, give us a call at Granite Recovery Centers today.