My First Vlog Episode – Healthy Eating & Recovery

HealthySalad-2

Today I had the idea to start making videos to educate others on significant recovery concepts while letting them know about my book. So, I jumped in feet first despite my nervousness and here is my first VLOG!

After watching the above video I would love to hear about your experiences in this area. How has eating impacted your recovery (or life) and what changes would you like to make in this area that would improve your life?
Also, if you’d like to learn more on the topic of recovery, I invite you to subscribe to my Youtube channel.

Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley. If you benefited from this article, please “follow” me on this blog and on Twitter, “like” me on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!

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The Dark Side of Sugar

Halloween Candy

Halloween is a celebration of sugar. Cloaked in creative costumes, we savor sweets in several settings, whether parading from house to house with kiddos or partying with friends. Somehow these evenings often end with a massive sugar stash or a major sugar crash. They are often inseparable.

But for those in recovery, is there a hidden danger in this excessive consumption of sugar? Is it wise for addicts in recovery to limit their consumption of sweets or is sugar intake irrelevant? I have wondered this for some time myself.

In an article by Christina Veselak, LMFT, called Relapse and Sugar Dysregulation, these questions are addressed head on. Veselak explains that “consuming a high sugar diet” is a “primary relapse trigger for all recovering addicts”. As it turns out, eating simple carbohydrates (like candy) has a rapid effect on blood sugar that can be detrimental to those in recovery. The article describes why this is true, noting how blood sugar spikes lead to “unpredictable mood and behavior swings” that “strongly induce relapse”. Conversely, “cravings, relapse, and addictive use” are induced as blood sugar drops. Dr Kelly McGonigal (12:50) echoes this perspective, sharing about how these blood sugar peaks and valleys negatively impact the brain as well. In her book The Willpower Instinct, she describes how excessive sugar obliterates self-control. For these reasons, it appears evident that sugar is a strong trigger for addictive behavior. To read about how these processes occur in the brain and body, check out this article for further details.

Another harmful character trait of sugar is that it is highly addictive (see video below). For addicts, cross-addiction with sugar is a valid possibility. In times of stress or suffering, choosing not to turn to a “drug of choice” but instead to sugar can create a new dependency. This is not successful recovery but instead trading one addiction for another.

Choosing Not to Crash

In light this information, what can be done? Dr McGonigal recommends avoiding blood sugar crashes by eating foods that give you lasting energy (click here for specific food recommendations). Similarly, in The Psysiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control, Michael Gailliot explains that “restoring glucose to a sufficient level typically improves self-control”.

With this information as a guide, it is recommended that moderation and mindfulness be exercised on this popular holiday and in everyday life. It is my hope that this information will not limit your enjoyment of the festivities but instead add to a more meaningful experience with minimal triggers. May you savor this season, experiencing an abundance of  joy and authentic connection.

For additional useful tips for managing recovery over the holidays, check out “Holiday Recipes for Relapse & Recovery”. Another relevant resource is Nutrition in Addiction Recovery. For those experiencing food/sugar addiction, check out our treatment program for those seeking recovery in this area, called LifeStyle Transformation.

If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us and share this with others. Thank you!

-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!

The Science of Self-Control: Why Christians are Called to Self-Care

As a Christian who values health yet finds maintaining healthy habits difficult, I’ve sought scripture that commands self-care. It seems that I would gain something if the Bible directed me to exercise or eat healthy or get a good night’s sleep.

Does God care about our physical health or is spiritual vitality all that matters? Certainly, we are to be good stewards of what God has given us, including our bodies. Likewise, if our bodies are the “temple” of God, does that obligate us to maintain its through regular upkeep?

A recent discovery crushes all arguments that minimize the importance of self-care for Christ-followers. As the article below attests, neuroscience shows that basic self-care like sleep, exercise, and healthy eating play significant roles in boosting self-control. Without them, self-control is significantly weakened.

Without question, Christians are called to be self-controlled. Self-control is not only a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but a quality that is commanded numerous times throughout scripture (1 Peter 1:13, 2 Peter 1:5-9, Titus 1:8, 1 Thess 4:3-7, etc). It applies to resisting temptation to actively sin (i.e. in anger, lust, gossip, etc) and to maintaining disciplines that promote spiritual health (i.e. prayer). Certainly, we depend on God’s Spirit to strengthen us. We have the responsibility to do our part as well.

The recent article I wrote called “The Neuroscience of Sleep: Strengthening the Brain to Resist Relapse”, specifically focused on the science of sleep and self-control. This is life-giving information. Tiredness equals temptation. Think about it – when Jesus was near death, praying in the garden, the tiredness of his disciples was problematic (Matthew 26:40-45). In a moment when Jesus needed their support, they slept. Their self-control to stay awake and prayerful diminished because they were too sleepy. It seems their tiredness stole their experience of meaningful prayer in a historic moment.

We too have countless “divine moments” and opportunities to resist temptation and to spread love. If our brains are poorly functioning because we get 5-6 hours of sleep or fail in other significant areas of self-care, our strength to carry out these parts of our purpose will be diminished. In recovery circles, sleepiness is viewed as a “trigger”, meaning it is common for those who are sleepy to be weak when it comes to “falling off the wagon”, returning to addictive and self-destructive behavior.

All of us suffer when we don’t start our day rested and energized. We suffer when we seek immediate gratification over eternal reward (impulsivity) and others suffer as they experience the consequences of our sin. When we are careless or distracted, our communities miss out on experiencing Christians who are infused with excitement, expressing God given gifts that bless the world. May we seriously consider the weight of this challenge to care for ourselves in ways that boost our self-control, propelling us toward the abundant life Christ promised to those who follow Him.

Click here to read about the neuroscience of SLEEP

Click here to read about the neuroscience of EXERCISE

Click here to read about the connection between NUTRITION and addiction

*If you found this article helpful, encouraging, or inspirational, please FOLLOW my blog to receive future articles….and please share this with others! Thanks!

-Written by Forest Benedict

Fasting in Faith, Hoping for Healing

Have you ever hoped for a miracle in the face of dire circumstances? When weighing the evidence reveals a discouraging reality, it sometimes feels foolish to believe in something better. That’s the place I find myself now, as I continue to pray for healing while my friend suffers through his brutal battle with cancer.

But is not the hallmark of our faith believing in the impossible? Hoping in what is unseen? Trusting there is something invisible that is purposeful and powerful and meaningful? Even when our physical eyes see circumstances beyond our control, we have the audacity to believe in something more. We trust in what is unseen. More importantly, we trust in Who is unseen. And we trust that He cares.

Would we dare to be like Esther, who sent out the historic message, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Esther did everything in her power to seek change in a moment when the reality was dismal. She admitted that her plan had no guarantees. In fact, she knew she would die if God did not do something spectacular.

We too are taking steps forward in the midst of disappointments. Even though our friend’s strength dims, yet we hope. Like in Esther’s circumstance, our efforts will not guarantee a specific outcome. We could fast and pray and seek the Lord and see sickness prevail.

When I consider the choice before us to either resign or keep a steady course, my friend’s wise advice echoes in my ears. This great man that we continue to pray for has trained many of us to race. Because of his leadership, I ran my first half marathon several years ago. He taught me how to pace myself to endure the long, grueling course. “Then”, he would say, “when you’re getting near the finish line, maybe in the last mile, you give it everything you’ve got, finishing the race in one last burst of energy”.

We are there now. Some of us are discouraged as we see signs that our friend’s finish line may be near. It is not time to give up hope. No, it is time to sprint! Instead of resigning to hopelessness, let us run this last leg with strength and perseverance.

Join us as we fast and pray, not with diminished faith, but with emboldened trust in the One who can breathe life into dust. Whether God heals or doesn’t, we can testify that in this last leg we gave it our best, that we finished this race with a fighting spirit our Coach would be proud of.

Whether our friend wins or loses his run against cancer, at least we will know that hopelessness did not have the final word. Our many voices, joined in unified prayer will either bring the miraculous healing our hearts hoped for or provide our dear friend with a thunderous chorus that cheers him across his last finish line into the arms of Christ.

 

Crossing the Finish Line