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If you’re carrying around some extra pounds, you may be thinking about going on a diet. But is dieting in recovery a good idea?

Early recovery is a time of drastic change for most people. You’re learning new ways of thinking and behaving. You’re exercising more and eating healthier food. You’re meeting new people and letting old, unhealthy relationships go. Meanwhile, you’re probably working or caring for your family and handling all of the daily minutia life throws your way. Do you really need to add a diet on top of all that?

Dieting in Recovery: Good Idea, or Bad?

Across the board, addiction and mental health professionals warn against adding unnecessary stress to your life during early recovery. Your focus should be on staying mindful of your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. Dieting takes a lot of mental energy, and it can lead to frustrating setbacks in recovery if an impossible diet erodes your self-confidence and leads to negative thoughts.

But not to worry. Just because you’re not dieting in recovery doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight. In fact, experts now know that dieting doesn’t really work for the long-term. What does work is making healthy lifestyle changes at a sustainable rate?

Here are five simple lifestyle changes you can make to lose weight without going on a restrictive diet.

1. Exercise every day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stresses that exercise is the number one factor for shedding pounds and maintaining a healthy weight.1 The CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This means riding your bike, swimming, or walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

2. Cut sugar out of your diet.

As recently as 20 years ago, dietary fat was demonized as the culprit behind obesity. Turns out, the real villain is sugar. In fact, Harvard University School of Public Health cites sugary drinks alone as a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic.2 Cutting sugar out of your diet as much as possible will help melt those pounds off.

3. Stop eating fast food.

One of the fastest and most permanent ways to lose weight without dieting in recovery is to cut fast food out of your diet. Enjoy it on occasion, but don’t rely on it for your main sustenance. Instead of hitting the drive-thru, make food at home. It’s healthier and has far fewer calories, and cooking can be a relaxing way to wind down from a busy day.

4. Eat a plant-based diet.

You don’t have to become a vegetarian to lose weight. However, cutting some meat out of your diet—even just one or two days a week— can go a long way toward revving up your metabolism, building strong muscles and losing extra pounds. Replace meat with healthy plant-based foods like grains, beans and nuts, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

5. Take good care of yourself.

When you feel good, it gives you self-confidence and leads to better choices. Feeling good means taking care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, and keep your stress levels as low as possible. Meditate or practice yoga every day to improve your mindfulness and self-awareness and reduce stress. Find ways to have fun and enjoy your life in the skin you’re in.

So don’t worry about dieting in recovery. Making these lifestyle changes will produce benefits surprisingly quickly. But start small, and stay mindful of your goals every day. That way, you can sustain the changes over time for long-term success.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/
  2. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/
Dieting in Recovery? Try These 5 Lifestyle Changes Instead
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