Overweight and dysfunctional eating patterns have been observed in people in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions. Overeating, binge eating, and the use of foods, especially those high in fats and sugars, as substitutes for alcohol and drug use have been reported. High rates of eating disorders have also been reported in this population but little is known about how substance users themselves experience food and eating in recovery and the roles that food plays during the recovery process. A qualitative study of 25 men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction in the U.S. found that the men's body mass index went up from 26 to 29 over the course of their recovery. Data analysis of interviews with the men revealed three main themes: excess weight gain, meaningful use of food, and disordered eating and a struggle to eat healthily that differed by recovery stage. Men in early recovery described dysfunctional eating practices such as mood and binge eating, the use of food as a substitute for drug use and the use of food to satisfy cravings. Men in mid-to-late recovery were concerned about their weight and distressed about efforts to lose weight. While food as a substitute for drugs, to regulate moods, alleviate boredom or satisfy cravings dominated early recovery, food and meals that provided structure and preparation for future living situations dominated later recovery.
Cowan, Jennifer and Devine, Carol - Food, eating and weight concerns of men in recovery from substance addiction. Appetite 50 (2008), 33-42