Renaissance Ranch

Cooking Up Something Good in Recovery

Feb 20, 2023

Cooking may be America’s unsung past-time. Industry reports suggest that more than seventeen million cookbooks are sold in the United States every year. On the numerous holiday “feast days”, we gather together for homecooked food. And let’s not forget that there are entire television networks devoted to cooking.

Most of us know the facts about how harmful substance use is to our bodies. But many of us may not be aware of the detrimental effects that using controlled substances has on our lifestyle and, consequently, our nutritional health. As we walk steadily through the month of February and to the inevitable dawn of Springtime, there is no more perfect time to take up a new hobby. Why not make that hobby one that can improve your health and expand your creativity, like cooking? Read on as we explore the benefits of cooking in recovery.

The Health Effects of Substance Misuse

Substance misuse often results in harmful changes to the way we live our lives. People who engage in substance abuse may have a poor diet and may not be food secure. That lack of nutrients from irregular eating habits will have a negative effect on the substance user’s body for years to come.

Even though we have moved into the recovery phase of our treatment, we still need to be concerned with nutrition. The maladaptive habits of poor eating and nutrition can carry over and linger in our recovery.

Now is the time that we relearn how to eat, and a big part of that is learning to make the food ourselves. There is no better way to ensure a balanced diet than to feel secure that the foods we put into our bodies are the ones our bodies need.

Finding Your Creative Center in Recovery

Studies show that people who are creative are more successful during treatment and less likely to experience a relapse during recovery. As you may imagine, there are more than a few ways that being creative can help in treatment and recovery from substance use.

First, being creative can distract you from the problems you face in life. While we do not want to hide from our problems, we all need to escape from the rigors of life from time to time. What is important is that our escape is healthy, and creative outlets fit that bill.

Secondly, creativity helps us to express ourselves in ways that we would not normally be able to. Have you ever painted a picture and looked at it afterward, bewildered about where such an image came from? It came from inside of you. That was how you felt, and you brought it to life with brush and paper.

Cooking can fulfill this same creative purpose. As an added benefit, cooking allows you to take more direct control of your nutrition and health. It can also provide a social outlet if you take a cooking class at a college or local learning annex.

The Benefits of Cooking

There are more benefits to cooking than just nutrition. Food can bring pleasure. We do not cook complicated chocolate dishes to be able to decrease our waist size. We carefully and painstakingly craft it for the sheer enjoyment of eating its decadence.

Studies show that introducing cooking interventions in inpatient settings and community learning settings for those recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) yields positive results. People in treatment and recovery enjoy cooking because it allows them to socialize, boosts their self-worth, increases their quality of life, and has a positive effect on their treatment and relapse prevention.

In most of these settings, researchers found patients preferred the nutritional components of learning to cook. While this motivated them, the patients and those in recovery also enjoyed the social outcomes and how the interventions helped them to overcome bad habits they had previously learned. This allowed them to discover positive nutritional goals.

Nutrition and Cooking in Recovery

Consuming a healthy diet is nothing new. From grade school, we learn about food groups, the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, and maintaining a balanced diet. Eating healthy is good for everyone, but especially so for potentially undernourished populations, such as those in treatment and recovery for substance use.

Some controlled substances can alter how your body processes the food you eat. This can make you lose weight and make it difficult to gain it back. As a result, your body may not get all the nutrients it needs from the foods you consume.

Research studies have shown that the use of certain controlled substances actually changes the biological parameters by which the metabolism functions. But they also show that increasing amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in nuts and fish, can help repair the damage and may also decrease the chances of relapse.

This may sound bad, but it can be corrected. The solution is long-term: making sure you keep eating the right foods, healthy fruits and vegetables high in nutrients, protein, smaller amounts of starches, and limiting oils, sugars, and fats.

How Cooking and Nutrition Improves Your Recovery

Starting to cook as part of your recovery can have a lasting impact on your life, both in and out of your program. Learning to cook improves knowledge of nutrition, gives you new skills and purpose, allows you opportunities to socialize with like-minded people, and, most of all, gives you a creative outlet.

Whether you are boiling water for pasta and making eggs or learning to cook jambalaya and soufflés, cooking is a valuable and creative skill. So, release your stress, tap into your creative center, and get cooking!

On a cold night in winter, there are probably few things more enjoyable than coming home to a hot meal. There is just something about the way that warmth spreads through your body as you eat it, the way the flavors combine, and the way it fills your soul. But first, the meal must be cooked, and by cooking you are stirring up your own sense of creativity. Did you know that studies show therapeutic benefits to cooking for individuals in recovery? Whether you take up cooking as a hobby or as a stress release, there are significant mental health and nutrition benefits of cooking for individuals in recovery. To find out more, call (801) 308-8898 today.