Diet and exercise are crucial for success in recovery from addiction and other mental health issues. Many of us are aware of the “mind-body” connection, shaping treatment for mental health and behavioral concerns. For our kids, starting healthy habits early in life can help them continue on the right path as they grow into adults. At Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center in Estes Park, Colorado, we understand the value of making good nutrition and physical health choices for continued life-long recovery and happiness.
“You Think What You Eat”
We have all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” When you eat junk food or other unhealthy foods, you might feel lethargic or lack energy. Ph.D. candidate Melissa Caiyem offers a twist on the familiar phrase when discussing the “belly brain” with Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey, saying, “you think what you eat.” The foods we ingest directly impact our thinking. Furthermore, the bacteria in our gut can affect how we feel and how we behave.
What Does Our Gut Have to Do With Our Minds?
When adequately nourished with healthy foods and exercise, the bacteria in our gut create chemicals that flow to the brain. These chemicals impact the functioning of our minds. Without proper, balanced nutrition and movement, these chemicals might not be synthesized or travel to the brain when needed. Without focusing on what we are eating, we might deprive ourselves of the essential chemicals we need to deal with stress, learn new skills, or develop healthy relationships.
The Mind-Body Connection
Our minds and bodies are connected in such a way that separating the two when treating mental health or addiction will not work. We cannot merely heal from addiction by only dealing with the underlying stress or trauma at its core. We need to focus on whole health and wellness. By getting active and eating healthy meals, a person can gain the required brain chemicals to build resiliency and strength for recovery.
Nutritionist and therapist Christina Veselak discusses how missing one meal alone can cause the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for higher-order thought processes) to “go offline.” The skills vital for recovery are stored in the prefrontal cortex, and without these skills working at optimal levels, our kids can be vulnerable to relapse.
Our kids may have developed poor eating habits or are not getting much movement in their daily lives. Today, kids have several options to interact with the world without actually moving around in it! They can access all kinds of stimulation from the internet, video games, and social media. Our lifestyles often no longer include home-cooked family meals. Instead, as we rush through the day, we opt for picking up fast-foods on the go. As parents, we can set the example that our kids can follow.
Be the Change You Want to See
One of the best ways to get our kids engaged in healthy habits is to be a model and set an example ourselves. While we may wish to have our kids heal independently, recovery from mental health and addiction involves the entire family unit for successful outcomes. If we expect our kids to make positive changes related to their health, we need to create a structure and environment conducive to success. Some ways to create this environment include:
- Family dinners with healthy foods
- Family dinners can bring everyone “to the table” to talk about their day and bond.
- Healthy meals generally include:
- Protein; meat, fish, or beans
- Whole grains; whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, or brown rice
- Vegetables; spinach, broccoli, green beans, or mushrooms
- Fruit; apples, bananas, or berries
- Low-calorie, low-sugar beverages (water is best!)
- Outings for fresh air and exercise
- Parents can engage in outdoor activities with their kids to get them out and moving.
- Going to a park, on a hike, a bike ride, or just walking around the neighborhood can get you and your family moving.
- Preparing for healthy choices
- Think ahead for success!
- Plan meals in advance for the week. Planning will help with grocery shopping and allows your kids to know what to expect for meals.
- Be sure to have healthy snacks, like nuts, dried vegetables, and fruit on-hand for extended outings.
- Make cooking fun
- Plan and cook a meal together
- Have your kid choose, prepare, and cook a meal for the family.
The physical health of both you and your family will help your kids make good choices, perform well in school, and bond together. By making healthy choices a part of your child’s home life, you can set them up for success in life and recovery!
Healthy choices are critical for successful outcomes in recovery from mental health issues and addiction. Our kids may be tempted to eat junk foods or drink sugary beverages that impact both their physical and mental health. The mind-body connection is a crucial aspect of recovery. The bacteria in the gut can help synthesize the necessary chemicals that our kids need to function at their best. Just skipping one meal can impair our child’s ability to perform higher-order functions, like judgment and decision-making. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, understands the importance of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle in recovery. We are located near the beautiful Rocky Mountains for our clients to get plenty of fresh air and exercise outdoors. We also teach residents about the value of nutrition and provide healthy meals for our residents. If your child struggles with mental health issues or addiction, call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to help your family’s fire burn brightest!