Cooking for Health and Recovery

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Have you heard of the latest trend for substance abuse treatment and recovery? It’s not mindfulness meditation, yoga, or even pet therapy. It’s probably not so much a new form of therapy, but people are finally starting to recognize the positive effects of taking cooking classes. An added benefit is creating a class that addresses the nutritional needs of recovering addicts who may need to replace the nutrients they lost during their drug or alcohol use.

You may not be too handy in the kitchen but that’s okay–you’ll find that you’ll improve over time. Many people with substance abuse problems have discovered cooking and went on to become chefs. For example, how many chefs have you seen on shows like “Chopped” who have a history of substance abuse? Quite a few if you haven’t seen the series. So how can cooking help your health and recovery?

Why Are Cooking Classes So Effective?

Think about it–for years inpatient treatment centers have been using creativity to occupy the mind, stay busy, and relieve stress. Is cooking any different? Think about the skills you can develop learning to cook. You learn time management, preparation, how to create inventive dishes, and your mind is constantly thinking about what to do next. You also have a time element that makes it a little more challenging than other forms of therapy.

As a bonus, you can learn how to prepare healthy food. Eating right is an important component of recovery in order to replenish the nutrients that you lost while using substances. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can focus on general health and wellbeing. The better you feel, the more likely you’ll stay sober and avoid a relapse. Learning to cook makes you stronger mentally and physically. That’s certainly a winning combination if you’re in recovery.

Some of the skills learned in cooking class include learning how to eat healthy, being more independent by cooking your meals instead of going through the drive-through or ordering takeout, and boosting self-confidence, creativity, and stress relief when you use cooking as a stress outlet. A lot of treatment centers focus on recovering from substance abuse and learning how to cope with cravings. A lot of people also need to learn simple life skills again, like cooking. Maybe you weren’t taking care of yourself when you were abusing drugs or alcohol. Maybe your whole day was consumed with getting high without caring about anything else. Now you have to relearn those life skills and cooking is a great way to do it.

Cooking Classes for Addiction Recovery

A conventional cooking class is a great start for learning how to cook but people are now developing cooking programs that are specific to aiding in the recovery of the mind and body after addiction. An example is some of the cooking classes offered at the Boston Medical Center. They have previously recognized the importance of nutrition with patients who have heart disease or diabetes and they even run a store of fresh food for low-income patients.

Now they are branching out to specifically treat nutrition in recovery. Their “Cooking for Recovery” class teaches healthy cooking but it also addresses what they call “mood enhancers” to fight against cravings with vegetables and whole grains and avoiding “mood depressors” heavy in sugar. Registered Dietician and hospital chef Tracey Burg also teaches the importance of fiber in bacterial health which can help with some of the serious stomach issues people have during recovery.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire is also following suit. When patients come into a recovery meeting, they may have sugary sweets and drinks, but they can go home with fresh fruits and vegetables. That sure beats coffee and donuts.

What About COVID-19 and Social Distancing?

The current coronavirus pandemic can present a challenge to taking cooking classes when you’re stuck at home. There are many online cooking classes that you can take from the comfort of your own home. Moreover, the telehealth company Lionrock offers free cooking classes for those in recovery by combining cooking classes with virtual recovery meetings to give you support online. Not only do they post the recipes in advance to allow you to get the ingredients and cook along with them, but after preparing the food, you also get to sit down and eat together online. So you get to cook, eat, and have a recovery support group meeting all in one. The class is designed to overcome the isolation we are all experiencing and to help people improve their physical and mental wellbeing, whether they are a recovering alcoholic or recovering from a substance abuse disorder.

Treatment for substance use disorders and mental health issues uses many effective holistic programs including mindfulness meditation, yoga, and equine therapy. All of these help deal with stress and adjustment to a new life, but cooking is the latest formal trend to help a person learn new coping skills in recovery. This form of therapy also addresses nutritional deficits that someone with a history of substance abuse may be struggling with. They may not have been taking care of their bodies for a long time and the cooking class teaches them how to cook healthy meals. People in recovery can cook, eat, and find a support group all in one. At Everlast Recovery Center, we know how important proper nutrition is for someone recovering from addiction. That’s why our inpatient facility feels like home and serves you home-cooked meals. We also offer other holistic therapies such as yoga and art therapy, but if you’ve abused substances, you may have a very real nutritional problem. We also help with counseling and follow-up with an aftercare program. Our Riverside, California facility offers low ratios of professional staff to residents and we can help you start over and enjoy a healthy, sober life. Call us at 866-DETOX-25.


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