The road to healing is paved with challenges, one of which your teen may encounter is weight gain. Depending on your child’s struggle, weight gain might be a very promising thing (if they were battling an eating disorder) or it might be something to look out for (if they’re replacing a previous addiction with a food addiction). Your child is already dealing with the physical and mental consequences of recovery and surprising weight gain can be an enormous stressor. Here is why it might be occurring and what you can do about it.
Why Weight Gain?
Research has found an association between the characteristics and personality traits of people who abuse substances and people who abuse food. This means that,if your child is already prone to addictive behaviors, they may be replacing one addiction with another during recovery.
Your teen might also be eating emotionally: Recovery generally requires a huge mental effort and your child may be distracting themselves with food or looking for a serotonin boost in the form of carb-heavy and calorie-dense snacks. If you suspect that your child is using food as a placeholder for their substance of choice, get involved. Discuss the issue with your teen as well as with your teen’s doctor to decide on the best course of action. Take steps to emphasize nutrition and a healthy lifestyle when supporting your teen through the recovery period.
Weight Gain and Eating Disorder Recovery
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Weight gain during recovery is not always a bad thing, but it can be difficult to communicate this, especially if your child struggles with an eating disorder. Anorexia is characterized by a “hunger-high”, a cycle of obsessiveness, inflexibility and control; the battle to break the cycle is a fierce one because many anorexics view eating as defeat. However, if your teen is already on the road to recovery, they’ve acknowledged that continued starvation is not an option and have started the healing process.
Depending on the extent of damage done to your child’s body while they struggled with an eating disorder, the road to a healthy weight might be a very difficult one physically. Make sure to talk with your teen and your teen’s doctor in the early stages of recovery about the discomforts and complications that they can expect to encounter as they gain weight. Mental preparedness will help your teen cope with their weight gain. Be encouraging, supportive and open with your child during this time.
Weight Gain and Severe Substance Abuse Recovery
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If your child has been struggling with a severe substance addiction, they’re likely to gain weight during the recovery process as their body begins to heal. Your teen’s body has been stripped of many nutrients as they’ve abused it and re-nourishing may lead to healthy, desired weight gain.
Make sure that your child has access to nutritious foods (it may even be a good idea to develop an eating plan with your teen and their medical professional). Physical changes might cause your child some discomfort, both physically and mentally, but it’s important to remind them that it’s all part of the healing process.
Recovery is a difficult process; your child needs your complete support along with whatever treatment they’re going through. Stay informed and share your knowledge with your child—the clearer the path to health, the easier it is to copy with physical changes, such as weight gain.
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