Thursday, September 20, 2012

Good Nutrition And Dining Together Enhance Recovery

Enjoying lunch at Cottonwood Tucson

Good nutrition and recovery 

So often when a person makes the critical decision to embrace the idea that recovery is possible and comes to treatment for their disease of addiction or mental health disorder they soon learn that part of treatment will and must include learning or relearning how to "break bread" with a small group of people. We know this because as the disease of addiction progresses the addict soon avoids eating with their family and friends. They come home late for dinner or not as all, they spend a good part of their day concentrating on how to find their next drink or drug of choice. The addict isolates themselves and good nutrition takes a back seat to everything else. Idea of sitting down at a table and enjoying healthy food and conversation is almost foreign.

Recalling the family dinner table

We would like to think that every person has warm memories of dinner with their family. Even if every meal wasn't picture perfect and every conversation meaningful, sitting down together to "break bread" offered the family an opportunity to relax and regroup. This is probably why many television series over the years have almost always included a scene of the ensemble cast eating together. Depending on your age you might recall dinner scenes on "Father Knows Best", "Leave It To Beaver", "Ozzie and Harriet", "All In The Family", "Family Ties", "One Day At A Time", "Roseanne", "Friends", "Seinfeld", "Everyone Loves Raymond", "Modern Family", and "Parenthood". Even classics like "M.A.S.H." almost always included a scene in the mess hall.

Research about the importance of family dinners

Much has been written about the importance of family meals. In 2006 TIME Magazine wrote an article The Magic of the Family Meal and in this article they reference the findings from ongoing research conducted by The National Center On Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA).  CASA has been publishing research on the Importance of Family Dinners since 2003; the latest, The Importance of Family Dinners VII was published in 2011. Here is an outtake of their latest research:
"The Importance of Family Dinners VII finds that compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are almost four times likelier to use tobacco; more than twice as likely to use alcohol; two-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana; and almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future."

The efficacy of family dinners evolves into shared meals beyond the nuclear family

When we talk about family dinners it is important to remember that as we mature not every mealtime is or can be shared with our nuclear family. As children start school they learn how to spend lunchtime with their schoolmates; they trade food, they talk about school activities and share details about their life. In high school teenagers gather with their favorite friends and catch-up on the news of the day. College brings a whole new dimension to sharing a meal in a cafeteria sitting with strangers and then gradually looking forward to each mealtime to take a break from the rigors of college classes. And as we take our first job we soon learn that sometimes the best part of the day is taking a break to eat and talk with our co-workers. Sharing a meal is almost always more than about nutrition, it includes engaging with others...finding comfort with people with whom we share a common bond.

Healthy recovery includes treating the whole person 

Here at Cottonwood we focus on treating the whole person - body, mind and spirit. Our holistic approach includes good nutrition. Good nutrition is not just about serving healthy food, but also teaching our patients how to shop for and cook with fresh fruits and vegetables. For many patients this can be a new experience or it is a skill they need to re-learn. Keep in mind that many patients have been isolated from friends and family members for a long time, so sitting down to share a healthy meal with others may be something that has been missing from their life for years. Sharing a meal with other people, taking time to relax, engaging in conversation, and learning how to be part of a social community is all part of the first steps in recovery.

We often talk about having fun in sobriety. Sharing a meal can indeed be part of this fun.

Remember: The Art Of Recovery Expo is Saturday September 22, 2012

Executive Chef Richard Serna
One of largest statewide National Recovery Month events is The Art Of Recovery Expo. This is a FREE to the public, one-day event offering educational workshops, resources and solutions organized by TogetherAZ. The event is open to those in recovery, recovery professionals, those seeking recovery, and families and friends of those in recovery, and those needing recovery. This year the keynote speakers will be John Bradshaw and Herschel Walker. The event will be held from 10:00AM - 5:00PM at the Phoenix Convention Center, Hall F.

Cottonwood Tucson is a Supporting Sponsor of The Art Of Recovery Expo and our own award winning Executive Chef Richard Serna will be demonstrating health conscious recipes.


We welcome your comments. Do you have fond memories of family mealtimes? How do you handle making time for family meals?

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