In episode 294 of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Chris Scott and Matt Finch discuss how to customize your diet for recovery. They talk about their personal diets during addiction, before recovery, and how the diets changed over the years from detox to early recovery to full recovery and so on.
They also share some specific “miracle” foods that worked well for them, and how you can customize your diet for your own individual needs
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Chris Scott: As with alcohol recovery and any other lifestyle change or behavior change or pattern, even if it's not a change, but be clear on your why. If you're considering changing your diet, why? Are you entering a body building competition? Are you worried about your blood work? Do you want to support your heart health? Are you trying to impress your spouse or get more dates? Or is this a displaced compulsion from another thing that you stopped doing and now you need an outlet to control?
Matt Finch: Scientists have begun to explore the effects of CBD on inflammation and addictive behaviors. In a study from Neuropsychopharmacology titled Unique Treatment Potential of Cannabidiol For the Prevention of Relapse to Drug Use Preclinical Proof of Principle, researchers found that alcoholic rats given a non-THC version of CBD oil, reduced their alcohol-seeking behaviors and prevented high impulsivity often seen with alcohol withdrawal. A one week administration of CBD oil produced these effects for five months, even though CBD itself left their systems after three days. And this is just one of the numerous studies pointing to potential benefits of using CBD for wellness.
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Announcer: Thanks for tuning to the Elevation Recovery Podcast, your hope for Addiction Recovery Strategies, hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.
Matt Finch: Greetings and welcome to episode 294 of Elevation Recovery. Today, Chris Scott and myself are going to be doing basically a part three of our little short nutrition series, which started two episodes ago with my father John Finch talking about the fundamentals of nutrition. He was basically doing the science of macronutrients, so carbs, protein, fat, and fiber, how many calories are in each of those, nine, four or zero, and then what are carbohydrates made of? What are the building blocks of carbs? What are the different types of fats? What are the building blocks of fats? What is protein made up of? We discussed that. He also talked about micronutrients, vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals, and how to optimize something called nutrient density, meaning high amount of micronutrients per calorie of the macronutrient. It was a very technical episode.
He also talked a lot about... He was trained by the Joel Fuhrman Eat to Live program, so his diet was basically 10% to 20% protein, 50% to 60% carbs and the rest fat. That diet, which is high plant-based, low animal products, seems to be really good for longevity and disease prevention, not necessarily is it the best diet for somebody that's trying to overcome an alcohol or a drug disorder or addiction. Then on the next episode after that, we had Chris Engen, founder of Nutrition for Recovery, and she is a specialist with a lot of different training backgrounds, traditional training, addiction and mental health nutrition training and certification, and so we talked about more of the addiction and recovery-specific nutritional protocols, which are typically higher protein than 10% to 20% and more focusing on eating more consistently every two to three hours, getting protein and other general guidelines.
What Chris and I are going to do in this episode is we're going to discuss diet customization tips, and we'll do that partly by explaining what our diets were like when we were addicted, Chris on alcohol and me on anything that was a drug and alcohol. Basically I was a garbage head. And we're going to talk about then what our diets were like going through the detox and the post-acute withdrawal, how our diets changed over the years from early recovery to late recovery, to the years that we've been fully recovered, meaning done with addiction, on to new challenges in life. And we'll talk about some of our miracle foods that we've found, some of the things that have worked for us, and how you yourself can take the information that you like, leave the rest, start to develop new resources that you can test out intelligently on yourself and get into more of a rhythm and habit and have your lifestyle optimized for transcending diet.
Once you are able to figure out how to eat well for your situation and for addiction recovery, for whatever phase you're in, and that's an area of constant and never-ending improvement, then you can use all that energy, focus and bandwidth that you save by focusing on other challenges, bringing up other weaker areas. Once you get your diet just automatic, just a total you don't even think about it, or you think very little about it, it's just automatic that you're always eating a great or a pretty good diet for yourself, and it's just... I've been like that for years. I haven't had a single binge or bender on nasty foods and eating for comfort like that... It's been many years since I've done that, but for the first many years of addiction recovery, I would have phases of doing that, and so then you got to figure out, okay, I got to get my eating back on track.
That steals focus and that steals your will and that steals energy and bandwidth, like I said, to be able to do other things, so diet, supplementation for your individual needs should be, in my opinion, a high area of focus of mastery. Where focus goes, energy flows, so we want to focus on our eating patterns. It's critically important for recovering from a substance use disorder. Nutrition is critically paramount. It's the primacy of nutritional rehabilitation for addiction recovery, and with that, I'll open it up. Good to see you again, Chris. We haven't done an episode in a while together. Actually. It's been quite a while, so it's good to be here with you again.
Chris Scott: Yeah, good to be back. I think it's a good topic as well. I've had some... Discussions lately have been about diet and, yeah, I don't pretend to have an in-depth scientific knowledge of everyone's ideal diet. I'm skeptical of people who do. Nor am I a nutritionist per se. Everything I know about diet comes from experience and is purely anecdotal or picked up from what my instincts tell me are right for me from certain resources, and obviously like you, I've read dozens of books on the subject, a lot of which actually have come from private clients over the years. Recommendations or have you read this book? Have you read that? They kind of help me keep my finger on the pulse of what's going on, but as everyone probably knows or suspects, diet is super susceptible to hype and fad of the month or fad of the year, and it's like things come and go and then a few years go by and it's like, "Well, what happened to this thing that people were talking? What happened to that superfood? Why don't I see it in ads anymore?"
Then you realize that there's a lot of marketing that goes on with diet, and I really think it's everyone's responsibility to use some process of intelligent experimentation to determine their ideal diet for whatever period of life that they're in. And also it has to be tailored to their particular goals, so someone who is trying to beat alcohol cravings or drug cravings is going to have a different diet from someone who's training five hours a day for an Olympic event because they're an MMA fighter or something like that. But it's amazing to me how many gray areas there are with diet and how much confusion there is, and I know some high level athletes of some guys that I train with in MMA who are trying to get into the UFC or doing high level stuff, and yet they have very basic questions often about diet.
It's hard to know where to turn, and you'll hear that... I'll often hear my diet has been X, Y, and Z lately. Sometimes it's like my diet's been Popeye's for the last... Down south, that's basically a greasy fast food chain that I've been to once and I had to take a nap after. I'm like, "I don't know how you function." There seems to be a tolerance with bad foods, as there is for alcohol, and then sometimes some period of withdrawal for people who quit it, but just last week it occurred to me that I haven't had... I have far from a perfect diet, and I'm still very much in the process of figuring out what's right for me, and again, I think there's a phase aspect here, so it depends what phase I'm in.
Have I gained a little bit of weight? Is it harder for me to move around when I'm working out? Do I want to cut fat, or do I want to gain muscle? How much cardio am I doing and how much weightlifting am I doing? All of that's going to affect my macro calorie needs, and also my micronutrient needs as well. Things like electrolytes, if I'm sweating and it's the summer, I'm probably more likely to take more electrolytes or maybe a bit more magnesium, or opt for fruits and vegetables that can supply me with some of these things. It all depends, and I think that it's not a bad thing to have a flux with diet over time, as long as you're comfortable with that flux and as long as you have some baseline idea of what you're doing in the sense of what have I done before and what's worked what? What's made me feel better?
I tailor my diet more than anything to my mood, and of course we could go the route that I used to go with for determining how much I should drink, which is how much makes me feel good. Well, all of the alcohol makes me feel good. How much Five Guys or In-N-Out makes me feel good? Well, all of it. Well, fine, in what time period? Immediately or for several days afterwards? Because if I were to go eat fast food for... If I went on a binge for several days, I might enjoy it for 20 minutes at a time, but then I would just feel like hell. Same thing with alcohol or whatever, but now when I... I've rewired my brain, the same way that I've rewired my brain to look at alcohol and think ugh. That's actually... Like... That's my visceral reaction.
But it used to be like, "Ooh, fancy cognac," or whatever, and now it's like... Imagine how I would feel if I drank half a bottle of that, or even three shots of that. I would feel like hell after the initial feeling disoriented or lightheaded or whatever. That's kind of how I look at buckets of fried chicken or whatever else might seem exciting. When I just did a four hour workout, I might have an irrational fantasy about eating some Taco Bell or whatever. I don't think I've had Taco Bell in 10 years. But yeah, so I've managed to rewire my brain so that I desire the foods that are best for my mood in a medium term sense, medium to long-term sense I guess. And also, I think there's a similar phenomenon as happens with drugs and alcohol where part of the satisfaction you get from food is actually the result of anticipation, and in that sense, there's a placebo effect with food, with bad food.
If you spend all day fasting and then at the end of the day you're going to reward yourself with five Big Macs, then of course you're going to enjoy it because you've been waiting all day, you've been thinking about that, you've been objectifying that thing as your premium desire above all else. And that's what I used to do with alcohol as well, and so I would start feeling satisfaction before I even took the drink of vodka or when I was watching the glass of wine being poured, so I think it's important to keep the psychological layer in mind when we talk about diet. Now though, I know that if I have dinner and it's, let's say I'm cooking for myself, if I'm sauteing brussel sprouts in olive oil, maybe adding a little bit of honey or agave or Celtic salt and some fresh ground pepper, maybe caramelizing some garlic and onions to throw the brussel sprouts on top of, and then I have a nice steak, maybe a dry aged rib-eye or Kansas City Strip or something like that... I know we're getting fancy here, but I'm trying to...
This is stuff that I would really like to eat and also makes me feel really good. And then maybe I slice two potatoes real thin and I throw them in the oven at 400 degrees with some Cajun spices and duck fat. That to a... I guess a traditional nutritionist might tell me I'm eating too much fat, I don't need all that protein, whatever. I know that for my body that makes me feel amazing, and I know what my blood work is, I know what my health markers are, and I know that my inflammation is low and I'm not worried about consuming a relatively high amount of fat, because I keep my carbs pretty low, so that's... I know I'm all over the place with this, but I know that for me, and this I think is the theme, from what I think is relatively intelligent experimentation over the years, I've found that if I keep my carbs somewhat low and I keep my fat somewhat high but very selective...
I'm talking olive oil, avocados, grass fed steaks, or at least decent quality meat, saturated fats, maybe coconut oil, maybe I'm cooking something in coconut oil, but I keep the protein high, the fat moderate to high and the carbs fairly low. I feel best. I've tried the alternatives. I've done Mediterranean diet with imported Italian pasta and fish and sauteed spinach and olive oil. That's fine, but I do best for me, I know that my mood is best and my sense... I can almost sense inflammation now. The same way that if I were to have a drink, if someone made me drink a martini, I would feel inflamed, for lack of a better term. My gut wouldn't be right. It would mess everything up. I would start feeling under the chin, the little... It seems like fat, it could be water retention. My face would start to feel a little puffy, especially under the eyes.
And I can get that reaction actually from just eating badly for a few days, but if I were to pound vodka, that's exactly what would happen. It's also what seems to happen to me when I eat a big dish of pasta or if I pig out and have lasagna. Sometimes I'm willing to make that trade-off. If my mom or family friend or whoever decides to make homemade lasagna, it's not unlikely that I'll decide that's a trade-off worth having. And also if I know that they're going to do it, I might also make it so that I'm not consuming too many carbs or other things that I know are inflammatory for me before I'm going to have it. If they say, "Hey, in two days I'm making homemade lasagna," then I'm going to keep my carbs pretty low, so that that ends up being the carbs that I get. And maybe I'm just refilling my glycogen levels and my muscles rather than storing it as fat, and hopefully not causing too big of an insulin spike. But because I know my body, I know what I can handle.
Now, that doesn't mean that I don't have cheat meals. I think in my book, Drinking Sucks, I may have mentioned, and in some of my earlier blog articles and videos on YouTube, I may have mentioned that every Sunday after I quit drinking, I decided to have one cheat meal where I would actually stuff myself with everything that I wanted to eat during the week but didn't, and that was my reward. And what I actually found was that over time the cheat meal itself got better because I was gradually reconditioning my brain to crave the foods that were good that I was eating during the week, and so then on top of that I layered another strategy, which is if I have serious sugar cravings and it's not my cheat meal day and it's not an appropriate time to eat a donut or a cookie or whatever, that I will keep L-glutamine around, which is great for sugar cravings, great for alcohol cravings as well, because alcohol's a highly refined sugar, and I will take five grams of L-glutamine and that more often than not would totally cure me of the temporary sugar craving.
There's a little hack there as well. There are also some other nutrients that can be helpful, like chromium or even... This might sound weird to people, but I would take a swig of extra virgin olive oil and eat some raw arugula and then maybe some prosciutto or something, or some cheese that's not Velveeta cheese but real cheese, and that would cure me of the sugar craving. There's actually a study done recently, but it found that people who snacked on more savory foods rather than sweeter foods tended to gain less fat. That's not particularly surprising. It might be if you're like a 1970s nutritionist because it's like, "Well, wait a second. Cheese has more calories than carbs, they should be able to do the carbs." But there's other things going on. I would suspect that their hormones and the hunger hormones are kept in check better by those more savory fat and protein type food.
I know that for me, and that might not be the case for everyone, but for me, if I snack on grapes, I'm not going to feel as good as if I snack on high quality cheese and maybe some cooked vegetables. I found that for me as well, even though I will occasionally have, as I said, raw arugula, or there are certain vegetables that I'll eat raw, I find that I do better with vegetables sauteed in olive oil, which might increase the bioavailability of some of the nutrients, but also for me, just makes it easier to digest. I'm not the type personally to do giant Caesar salads, and even if I did, I'm thinking about what the hell is in this Caesar dressing? How much soybean oil did they put in there?
I'm just going through a step by step of how I think about diet. At some point after I had already had a lot of success with that, be good during the week and have your cheat meal on Sunday, I started reading literature on fasting, so I kept that and I also incorporated time-restricted eating. I'm not the type of person to go on a week long fast and I feel like that's not ideal for people who do a lot of activity, and I didn't want to stop lifting, I didn't want to get stir crazy in my house so that I could fast for a week and skip workouts. And I also didn't want to just do my work outs and fast because that could be dangerous. I don't want to have hypoglycemia in the gym and get lightheaded or whatever when I'm trying to deadlift big weight, so for me, time-restricted eating made more sense.
And so that just meant that I started trying to not eat until I was actually hungry. That was the first thing, because oftentimes people get up and they eat like it's a duty. But then the machinery of all the cellular and biological machinery involved in processing food as well, it all gets turned on, and so there's some research suggesting it might be best to wait a bit. And there are certain benefits to eating in a defined window. You get more autophagy, your cellular cleanup that occurs when you do some level of fasting, that might clean up senescent cells or aging cells, might help your gut, your digestive tract, and might help with mental clarity as well. I found that for me this relatively low carb, high protein, which also is good for the liver, especially if you're recovering from alcohol addiction, you need more protein than most people, so pretty high protein, a decent amount of... I'd say moderate to high amounts of fat. And then for me, minimal carbs.
It seems to be that most people can get away with either a high carb and a low fat diet, or a low carb and a high fat diet, and... I think I said that right, but basically there's a trade-off. you can do carbs or you can do fats, and it's not that you have to cut one out, although some people do, but be careful. If you're eating a lot of carbs and a lot of fats, unless you need to gain weight, it is probably not a great thing, but some people out there do need to gain weight, in which case opt for healthy carbs and healthy fats and still eat a lot of protein and try to get those micronutrients in as well. I personally respond very well to animal products. I tend to eat a lot of eggs, and I notice on days when I don't eat eggs I have less mental clarity, which is weird.
That often happens when I'm traveling because I don't have time to cook eggs and by the time I'm ready to eat in morning, it's no longer morning. I typically don't eat until 11:00 AM or noon because of that time-restricted eating, and I try to stop eating at 6:00 or 7:00 PM. Sometimes that gets pushed... Well, I guess forward in the morning or back at night. Maybe I'll do an 8 to 10 hour window, but if I can do a 6 to 8 hour window, my mental clarity's great, my sleep is better, and I find that I have more energy, especially if I'm keeping fats relatively high and carbs relatively low, to the extent that I'm not having blood sugar swings at all, and I'm fasting, then I feel good, I feel like my digestive system gets a rest at night.
Yeah, so that's where I'm at, at this point. Now, of course there are all sorts of things, I don't want to go down rabbit holes, but compliance can be hard for anyone who has a certain style of eating, especially if it's healthy. Let's say you go on a vacation or you go somewhere and you start eating stuff that you wouldn't normally eat, and then you come back and then all of a sudden all of the big neon signs for the fast food places look pretty good and you're like, "Well, I didn't eat until noon today and now it's 4:30 PM and I have to have dinner but I'm hungry, so I'm going to get," whatever it is. I'm going to get tacos or whatever. I don't judge myself for that in the same way that I don't think people who are trying to, let's say adjust their alcohol use downwards, should judge themselves for a binge, because then you get stuck in the cycle of negativity that just drags you downward.
It's like, "Well, I suck, so therefore I should have 12 tacos, because that's consistent with my identity of being a sucky person with no willpower." Rather than think about it that way, I try to say, "All right, how can I incentivize myself to do better starting tomorrow?" Or I'll pick a date. If tomorrow's not feasible for some reason, I'll say, "All right, starting on Monday..." And often it's good to start things on Monday or on Sunday even, because the start of a new week, it's like I'm going to start prepping my meals again. I was just telling you before this podcast that I got back into the practice of meal prepping, for one because of convenience, and two, equally importantly, because that helps me monitor what I'm actually putting in my body.
It's really hard to figure out what's going into food when you're eating out or when you're going somewhere else to eat, even if it's a friend who's cooking for you. Sometimes it's tough, so for me, I basically only take care of my breakfast and lunch, which is sometimes the same meal, just twice the amount of food as a normal meal. And I know what I like to eat, so as I was saying to you, what I've recently done is I started... And keep in mind, I'm not telling people what to eat, this is what works for me based on my activity, which is relatively high. I'm doing hours of training typically every day, whether it's strength training, yoga, which I don't even count as exercise anymore because it's not that hard unless it's hot yoga, in which case I'm sweating a lot and it's hard.
And then mixed martial arts, so boxing, Mai Thai, wrestling, live sparring. That's hard and I need to eat a lot of protein to recover from that, so what I found is there's a blend of... There's certain foods I love to eat, that I crave, and that are also really healthy for me, so I just put them all in the same meal essentially, and I stack them on top of each other in glass Tupperware, so for me it's like I get two... Every three days I do this, so I meal prep twice a week, and for each meal, or I guess each meal, which covers breakfast and lunch for three days, it consists of two relatively large russet potatoes that I slice really thin, I put Cajun spices and duck fat. Not a huge amount, but a spoonful of duck fat on top of it. I bake it in a cast iron pan at 400 degrees until they're nice and crispy.
That's like the bottom layer of my... That's like the crust of my glass Tupperware. I can see you getting hungry. I'm going to get hungry as I do this. Then I have a layer of scrambled egg on top of that and then a layer of Cajun spiced... And I could switch up the spices, but Cajun spiced bison or ground grass-fed beef on top of that, and then I like to have some caramelized onions and bell peppers, kind of like Chipotle does except I don't know what Chipotle puts in their peppers and onions. I guarantee you it's something... I don't know, it's probably canola oil, or if it's not canola oil it's probably sunflower oil, maybe slightly better, but I try to avoid seed oils as a general rule as much as I can.
And that's been the case for a long time, even though that now is the new hype, avoid seed oils, which I guess is a good thing because people should. But I'll cook that with grass-fed butter or olive oil, and so here I have this.... Essentially it's almost like a reverse shepherd's pie except better, and better for you, and I just take it out of the fridge, I'll heat it up, put some hot sauce, I like ghost pepper sauce because I really hot stuff, and I'll eat as much of that as I need to for breakfast and lunch for three days, and then I make it again. And the process of cooking it's pretty therapeutic because I'm slicing things, it looks pretty. The onions and the peppers are cool. They look pretty when I'm making them, and then they kind of sizzle down into this nice caramelized blend of vegetables that I really like.
And this isn't the extent of what I like, but right now this is the phase of what I make. I could switch it up. Maybe I'll do sweet potatoes, maybe I'll sub out the onions and peppers and do broccoli rabe, which I also like. Chop that up and saute it, put it on top. Maybe I'd have a phase of doing blackened chicken thighs instead of bison or beef, or maybe I'd have a phase of doing fish, making fish work in that somehow. There's all sorts of things that you can do. That's how I like to meal prep, which is a stark contrast from the meal prepping that I used to do when I was more in a body building style phase right after college. I was drinking a lot, but I would basically boil chicken, cook rice. There's chicken and brown rice and steamed broccoli, that's the bodybuilder diet and it's boring.
You can pour spices on it, but it gets boring, and I got to the point with that where my meal prep would just rot in my fridge, and three weeks later I'd be like, "Oh, what's this? Oh yeah, I made that and I haven't eaten any. I've been eating pizzas and whatever else because there was nothing appealing about it." I think the key, the trick, if there is one, is to figure out what foods you really like. How can you combine them so that it's easy and convenient and satisfying for you to make them, prepare them regularly for yourself, and then just heat it up and eat it, or eat it cold? But that's where the imagination comes in. It's the same thing with any other element of lifestyle design. It's like if you're isolated and you live alone, then there are some things that you like to do and you need to figure out what they are and then you need to put them on your schedule.
It's the combination of imagination and being proactive, and of course people would say, "Well, how much should I eat?" I tend to eat to satiety. I guess there are people out there who, and fault through no fault of their own, their mental wiring with food has been scrambled to the extent that even if they went on an elimination diet where even if they tried just carnivore or vegan or whatever, they would just be eating way too much. But I don't think anyone's hopeless. I do think that hacks like L-glutamine can be used to help with carb cravings, or just excessive food cravings maybe, for people like that. And also the time-restricted eating seems to be really helpful. I know a saying going around that I've heard several people say to me, it's like, "Well, I stopped dieting and I started fasting and that's when I started losing my fat."
All right, I guess it makes sense. If you're not snacking on cookies at 9:00 PM then maybe you're doing better than you were before. Or even if you're not snacking on anything at 9:00 PM you're doing better than you were before. And then you get also the benefits of fasting. Autophagy, releasing more growth hormone when you're asleep, etc. It's little things coming together, combining with being proactive and just doing it. Once you come up with a plan, do it. I'm a big fan of planning, but also a big fan of not shaming yourself for not sticking to the plan. If you don't stick with your plan, I don't think there's something wrong with you necessarily. There's something wrong with your plan. As for me, when my plan was boiled chicken with nothing on it, and brown rice and broccoli and then I didn't end up eating it, my plan was messed up.
Now I don't... Right now I'm thinking about what I have in my fridge and I want to eat it after this podcast, so I think we can make this really easy. And then sometimes there are other variables that get in the way. Some people travel a lot. I think especially for them, it's like, "All right, well, if you can't meal prep, then what are certain places you can go to and order things that are consistently healthy?" And you might have to make trade-offs. Maybe there's no perfect restaurant for you, depending on where you are, but I actually had a good phase of losing fat and keeping my mood high after I got fed up with a period of where I was eating too many carbs, my diet was kind of all over the place, I just stopped thinking about it.
I got busy and oh, there's pizza? All right, I'll eat it. Oh, there's cookies? Someone has cookies. All right. And then I said, "You know what? I'm only going to eat Chipotle and I'm not going to have rice or beans." I would have double or triple meat... Keep in mind I was working out a lot at the time, but double or triple meat and then guacamole and then the peppers and onions, and then maybe some pico on top of there, and that was it. And I actually had a good period, I think I lost 15 pounds where I ate that instead of whatever the other crap was that I would've eaten, so there was no meal prepping involved there, but I had a plan, I had an idea in my head of what I was going to do, and then I implemented it. And the reason I stuck with it was because it was rewarding enough, it was convenient and satisfying enough, and I also noticed progress in my physique and in my mood.
I noticed that when I stopped eating too many carbs, for me, that I had more mental clarity, so I could do a podcast at 4:00 PM and not have brain farts constantly. And that was rewarding enough for me to keep doing it, I think we just have to lace those neural pathways, as we do with quitting drinking or transcending alcohol, try to lace them with dopamine in the right direction, and then not get too hung up if we have a setback. We just think, "All right, well, how do I tweak the plan? How do I imagine something that is actually going to work better for me?"
Matt Finch: Brilliant. I love it all, and a few things popped into my head just towards the end of that. One was how Julia Ross, when you had interviewed her maybe a year ago, year and a half ago, how she was talking about carbohydrate addiction, that problem, and how a lot of people when they quit drinking, then they'll substitute from all the sugar from alcohol into simple sugars and carbs in general, processed carbs in general. Just high carbohydrate amount, and Dr. Ken Starr too, when you interviewed him and when I interviewed him, yeah, he was just touting the benefits of lower carbs and getting clean carbs. Not these processed white bread and white flour and white tortillas. Yeah, eat those if you want, but how much of your diet are they? Are they every day? Are they once a week?
At this point... When I was growing up, I grew up in a household where my parents didn't eat red meat, and so us kids didn't eat red meat either, and we ate a lot of tofu and brown rice, and broccoli, and rice cakes, and tuna fish, and some turkey, eggs, and my mom was... I love my mom to death, but she was not a very good cook. She can cook some good meals and stuff, but it's not like... You know how some people's mom or even dad when they're growing up, they just are amazing cooks, have lots of recipes, they're learning new things, and so my household growing up wasn't really like that. It was kind of like just not the best tasting food, especially for kids. And it was... The main reason I'm bringing this up is because I got addicted to carbohydrates growing up. I had a lightning fast metabolism and all these foods that I was eating, they weren't filling me up and they weren't giving me that feeling of being comfortable in my own skin.
There wasn't enough vegetables and fruits, and I guess tuna fish, I could've ate a lot of that, but lots of things that weren't filling me up. Turns out that I do really good on high fat, medium to high protein. That's just my sustainable best thing. I eat so much these days, so much unsalted pasture-raised butter, so many free range pasture-raised eggs. I go on phases with grass-fed beef. I love grass-fed beef so much. Recently I was on a phase where for two weeks in a row I had either a Real Burger on a brioche bun with pickles and ketchup, and mayonnaise, and lettuce, and tomatoes, and red onions, and melted cheese, and then some days I was having lettuce wraps with barbecue sauce and ranch, and raw red onions and that's it, and just the beef and some cheese, so growing up, I didn't know much about food or about diet.
Before the internet, pre-internet and pre getting into learning and personal development, reading books, I didn't know about stuff like that, and so I was addicted as a teenager, and all throughout my 20s and early 30s, this is a long time, totally addicted to carbohydrates. Pretty much almost every day of every year. Sodas, breakfast burritos, fast food cheeseburgers, deli fast food sandwiches, making lots of white toast, like eight slices of white toast with butter and jelly, and have a glass of orange juice and a white onion bagel with cream cheese, and a smoothie with no protein powder in it at all. Just apple juice, bananas, strawberries, high sugar, vanilla yogurt. I developed really bad hypoglycemia, and then when I started addictively drinking at age 22, that exacerbated hypoglycemia and exacerbated my cravings for the simple sugars.
Long story short, whenever I was addicted, my diet usually was horrible. It was hardly ever even okay. I had a bad diet for a lot of my life, but then when I quit this last time, 11 years ago now, then all of a sudden when I was quitting, I wanted to get better muscles, I wanted to rebuild my physique, so like you Chris, I was eating a muscle building diet, which was higher protein, maybe medium or higher fat. But I was also eating... I was eating a pretty good amount of carbs too back then, so for the first four years, I'd say, maybe five years, my metabolism was still high. This is post-addiction. And so I did, I consumed a lot of calories, I was really physically fit and really physically active. I was surfing and circuit training and jogging and very physically active, and it was only when I really started to read a lot of books on nutrition, which I had never done before, so I started to read a lot of books, listen to podcasts, and I started to learn a lot, and I was like...
It was blowing my mind as well because this is information that I had never known before. The only problem was... This is in early addiction recovery. The only problem was I developed, what's that thing called? It's a DSM disorder. I forget the name of it right now, but it's where you're too obsessed about healthy, clean eating for your specific... Orthorexia, I think it's called. Pretty sure it's called Orthorexia or something like that. I developed that. Oh, I can't go eat this, I can't eat out at this restaurant. They don't have anything that I could eat. Stressing myself out like, "Oh, I have a lunch break coming up at work as a drug and alcohol counselor and I'm starving to death, but I don't want to get any of the food around here. I didn't pack my lunch."
There was this huge amount of stress regarding I needed to put in 100% perfect foods, which had been based on what I'd been reading, so I went from one extreme to the other. We're talking about polarity here and the spectrum of healthy eating for my needs and eating for taste, basically eating for taste and comfort to where I could eat a breakfast burrito with beans added to it, and two cans of Mountain Dew and just get all super stuffed and very comforting. Anyways, after I went from the extreme of eating whatever I wanted and drinking and drugging, then I went to the extreme of being too obsessed with diet, being too rigid and too strict on my diet. It was a long process of finding the... Now that I went on both those edges, I had to learn how to live more in the middle, the middle way, the more of sustainable moderation.
Anyways, I know we got to go pretty soon. We could even do another episode after this if we wanted to continue to go further on nutrition, but what I did was a process of figuring out what it took for me to not be stressed about diet and nutrition, to not have to continually be focused on it and be paying conscious attention to it, how to make it enjoyable, easy to maintain and be consistent with, optimized for my specific type, my specific needs, my specific resources and preferences and taste buds, different phases of life. Like I was saying at the beginning of this, diet and supplementation is a very important area of life, especially for people that have gone through addiction, and also especially for people like me that are empaths, high sensitives that have seeming to be more sensitive constitutions, more sensitive systems. I've always been very sensitive to lots of different foods and processed foods, and artificial chemicals, sweeteners, colors, artificial scents.
For whatever reason, biochemically, I'm pretty sensitive to a lot of that stuff, and back when I was in the addiction phase of life, I didn't know any of this stuff about myself, so I was constantly just poisoning myself with processed foods and really refined sugars and artificial flavors and sweeteners, and then... Nowadays it's a process of, I don't think hardly anything consciously about it. For years and years now, I feel like diet and nutrition and health, food health has been something that I've transcended, I've outgrown. I'm still learning as I go, but I've reached such a foundation and developed so much consistency and neural pathway wiring into just... I just make the right decisions. Yeah, I eat pretty much anything really. I eat all sorts of foods. There's nothing off limits for me regarding food, but it's now about, it's not what I prefer.
I don't prefer a bunch of candy. I don't prefer eating breakfast burritos every single day. I don't prefer stuffing myself with a bunch of white spaghetti noodles and garlic bread and a big glass of milk four nights a week. Once every couple months or something. Like the freedom model, which we've talked about on here, and you recently interviewed the co-founder of that, Mark, the freedom model says for alcohol and for drugs in general, once we get to a place where we don't prefer it anymore, then it becomes a non-issue. With me, with my diet, I don't prefer going on benders of fast food like I did even as short as probably five years ago. I just don't ever prefer that. I don't prefer eating more than 20% to 30% crappy foods. Usually I'm in the range of 80% to 90% really clean, really healthy, and then 10% to 20% whatever sounds good, whatever I want, whatever sounds easy or convenient.
Since it's the vast majority of my eating is organic, whole foods, real foods, like Chris Engen, who I just interviewed last time said, "Eat real food." And that starts with having your kitchen filled with whole organic food, real food. A lot of things are edible food-like substances. Julia Ross calls them Frankenfoods. A lot of the stuff that you buy at the grocery store, all of the aisles for the most part are edible food-like substances. In the grocery stores, when you go around the corners of it, when you go and hug the outside realm of it, those are all the foods that are usually the organic fruits and vegetables and meats and seafoods, and another thing that I learned from Michael Pollan, from his food documentary, Eat to Live... Or no, called something else. In Defense of Food. Great documentary by Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food.
He says that the foods that are the healthiest for you don't have to scream and yell at you with marketing and advertising. You don't see broccoli going, "I'm reduced fat, I'm high in phytochemicals, I'm low calorie." You don't have to see grass-fed pasture-raised beef, grass-fed grass-finished really high quality beef doesn't say like, "Hey, check me, I'm really high in B vitamins and B12 and really good protein and this'll be great..." Doesn't have to scream that stuff. Then you go to all the aisles in the middle of the store, all these chips and snacks and boxes of cereal and other types of edible food-like substances where there's lots of ingredients that you can't pronounce. Here they are yelling at you with their marketing, "Reduced fat, low sodium, no fat, gluten free, GMO free." Beware of that. And then I know we got to finish up here, but I will just say a few more things.
Optimize your home, specifically probably your kitchen, for eating healthily, for maintaining consistency. I like to have a really good blender. Having a good blender is key for my nutrition. When I go shopping at the grocery store, I don't buy a whole bunch of crap. I'll buy a little bit of treats sometimes, and then for whatever reason, over the past several years, I've been able to moderate... Moderation. Moderation. When you're able to get to a point where you can eat well for quitting an addiction, and then early recovery, which Chris Engen's got a great course on that, which we talked about last time, 7 Steps to Feed Your Recovery. If your problem is alcohol-specific, Chris has Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0 at fitrecovery.com/course. A huge section in there, a big module with lessons and activities on customizing your diet for not only for alcohol recovery, for quitting drinking, for early recovery, but also for your individual biochemistry, for repairing your neurotransmitter bankruptcy. Specifically at a minimum, dopamine and GABA bankruptcy.
Alcohol monopolizes our ability, when we drink it consistently, to create those neurotransmitters. This is so important, especially coming into the holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas. It's a dangerous time for people to just eat whatever they want, but what I'll say to that is it is no... And this is a quote that I'm paraphrasing. It's no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Just because everybody else potentially around you is going to be eating holiday foods, is going to be drinking holiday drinks, merriment in the spirit, that doesn't mean that you have to as well. That's the group, that's the herd, that's the collective, so you could just be average and just not have good standards regarding your food. It could be a should for you, rather than a must eating healthily. You could just do what every everyone else is doing and be the status quo.
It's all up to you. Or you could make this diet customization for whatever phase of life you're in, whatever goals you have. You could make that a topic that you're really interested in, passionate about, and not obsessed with, but just really, like I said earlier, this quote, where focus goes, energy flows. It doesn't take a lifelong focus, it takes targeted focus. For each person it's different, but for a specific amount of time, which is different for everybody, for you to make this an area that has become habitualized, programmed into your routine, to your life. It takes a big learning curve at the beginning, depending on how far you've gone into this. If you're a total beginner, there's a big learning curve, but there's more resources out today than ever before, and Chris, you were saying this before we started the episode officially, how your instincts and discernment regarding what you read about nutrition and health, it's... You're not impressionable to the point where, "Oh, this doctor is saying that I should eat like this, so I better do this."
You're listening to experts and listening to different sources of information and reading it, but ultimately you're relying on your instincts, your intuition, your discernment, your inner knowing, your body.... Your development and intuition and relationship with your mind and your body. Your body's telling you what it needs, and so you're more so listening to experts and learning about research studies and the properties of specific super foods and all that, but ultimately you have a heavy reliance upon, as I do, eating for yourself, eating for, okay, what are my miracle foods? What makes me feel the best? What makes me feel the worst? What tastes the best? What is the most convenient and simple for me? You're continuing to dial that in, and anybody can do that. You don't have to rely on recipe books or anything. You can eat however you want, as long as it's something that's good for your goals and it's sustainable. This is an area of huge customization.
Chris Scott: I just want to be clear, as with alcohol recovery and any other lifestyle change or behavior change or pattern, even if it's not a change, but be clear on your why. If you're considering changing your diet, why? Are you entering a body building competition? Are you worried about your blood work? Do you want to support your heart health? Are you trying to impress your spouse or get more dates, or is this a displaced compulsion from another thing that you stopped doing, and now you need an outlet to control? I think it matters profoundly as to why you're thinking about diet, and I think everyone should. Obviously it's something we have to do. It's not like with drinking, people can quit drinking. Well, you can't quit eating, so you have... I suppose you could, but you wouldn't probably live very long. It's something that we all have to grapple with, what's the optimal diet for ourselves?
But I think it's also worth asking yourself, what are your standards for yourself and why are those your standards? And how much effort do you want to put into designing something, and is this a temporary phase, as it would be for a body building competition? There's a wonderful trainer, really cool Cuban lady actually at the gym I go to. She's approaching 50 and she's in better shape than anyone there, whether they're 20 or 50. Just ridiculously good shape. She does periodic bodybuilding contests and she cares a lot about how much weight she can lift and things that most people, especially at 50, aren't thinking about. She definitely does all sorts of meal prepping and planning and counting calories, but only for certain phases, and then she relaxes a bit, but she doesn't let herself go, and I think that's because like me... And I'm not training for a bodybuilding competition, I'm not trying to be the most ripped guy around, I train so that I can...
Because I enjoy... I train and I model my diet towards feeling healthy, energetic, and radiant, and enjoying this, as Joe Rogan would say, meat vehicle that I have to drive around for the rest of my life. I found I get more pleasure from that than I would from eating apple pie every night before bed. With that said, I don't keep apple pies around, because if they were in my kitchen, I'd probably end up eating them before bed, so I have to think about it. But for me it's less of a compulsion and more of an informed choice, so I think being clear on your why and then setting up your environment and your daily routines such that you end up naturally desiring the things that are optimal for you and your goals is the best way to go about it. And that's just a principle for lifestyle design generally.
Matt Finch: Love it, love it so much. And I'm so glad you brought that up. When I first quit now 11 years ago, I didn't know too much about the link between nutrition and addiction and that kind of stuff, but my why was I had looked like crap for so long, just underweight, malnourished, bad skin, just not even at all to the point that I wanted to look, and that made me feel even more uncomfortable in my own skin back then. I wanted to get to a good weight, get toned muscles, have better skin, partly because I knew that would help me. Back then I was really self-conscious and really low confidence and social and generalized anxiety, so I was using the... Yes, I loved to work out and it made me feel really good, so part of it was getting the natural highs, so eating well, you needed to eat well to make sure the fitness stuff you would actually get the muscle gains and the fat loss from all that.
Part of it was I loved feeling good from eating well, part of it was I wanted to look better, and that was so I felt more confident in my own skin. Nowadays, I don't care. Our hot water's been off here since Sunday and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from Friday at 8:00 AM till Sunday at 3:00 PM we couldn't be in our apartment because the whole place was getting termite fumigated, so there was a tent over this whole building and all those buildings. I was at my parents' house and I didn't shave over there because I didn't need to, but now it has grown out, and my head and my face haven't had any hot water, so I could shave with cold water, but I just don't feel like doing that. I could drive over to my parents' house and shave.
Back in the day, I would've done that, maybe even a few years ago I might've done that. Getting ready for this podcast. Oh, I have to be clean shaven or mostly clean shaven for the podcast. But nowadays, my goal for eating healthily and exercise, it's not to feel comfortable in my own skin. It's not so I can have self-confidence and not be thinking people are judging how I look. Luckily I don't care about that at all anymore. I think it comes with age. Age and spiritual growth and personal growth are all part of it. But also right now, I'm not looking for a girlfriend. I've been single for a year straight, so if I was in a mode of wanting to get into an intimate relationship, well, then when it came to my eating, I'd be eating more calories and I'd be hitting the weights harder than I have been, and I'd be getting myself to a good position not because I felt like I was going to get judged by someone, but when you're into dating and getting in relationships, you want to be really working on yourself and having more energy.
Since I've been so single and so monk mode, just total monk, hermit mode, just focused on family and work and clients and creative content, my diet has been pretty low calorie, actually. Some days I pig out, but a lot of the days I've had a lower appetite, but so now it's basically mental health, Chris. Long story short, in the phase I'm currently at in life, not addiction, not early recovery or detox, not long-term recovery, from a recovered position, many years recovered, current eating phase is just mental health. I want to make sure that I'm not depressed, that I'm not anxious, that I have as much focus as possible. People's why can be all sort... My why is so I can have really good mental health. That's a great why.
At the beginning, my why was so I could look better, so I could have better mental health. I thought those two were connected. They kind of are, for a lot of people they are, but one of my goals in growth has been to become to the point where I don't care. I could be like a burn victim with burns all over my whole body with a really deformed face, and my goal would be to, even if I got to that position, to still be confident and to still not have self-consciousness, to still have really good high mental health. The coolest part about this process is we get to keep going in life and growing, getting better at diet, getting better at supplementation, getting better at self-confidence, getting better at self-esteem, getting better at matching your lifestyle with your needs and your goals. Getting better at knowing what you want and focusing and harnessing yourself into getting what you want.
A lot of people just tune out and scroll on social media and scroll on YouTube, and they're just basically pawns to their environment and to other people's wills that are stronger than theirs. There's a point where one can realize that they're stuck in this matrix, say, "Enough is enough. I'm going to strengthen my will to the point where now my will is more powerful than my environment and other people's wills, and now I'm going to make these changes, stick with them and keep my standards at a high place." And then that becomes totally ingrained into my beingness, and now there's nothing else I can do. This is just it. And then you get to another iteration of yourself and your character, maybe years down the line or whatever it is. Yeah, diet is just one puzzle piece, but it's a big puzzle piece.
Chris Scott: Hey everyone. Chris Scott here. If you like the information on today's episode regarding supplementation and empowerment strategies for addiction recovery, then please subscribe to the Elevation Recovery Podcast and leave us a rating and review on iTunes. And if you benefited directly from this information, I'm confident in saying that you'll love the information-packed online courses that Matt Finch and I have created. Matt Finch's Ultimate Opiate Detox 4.0 is a 6 module 30 activity course that contains video lessons, written lessons, PDF downloads, worksheets, audios, and much more, and it has everything you could possibly need to know to conquer opioid addiction in the easiest and most comfortable way possible. My own course, Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0 is the most cutting edge resource for anyone who wants to transcend alcohol and build their best lives. To get these courses, to learn more and to read testimonials, simply go to opiateaddictionsupport.com/ultimate. Again, that's opiateaddictionsupport.com/ultimate. For Matt's course or for my course, go to fit-recovery.com/course. Again, that's fit-recovery.com/course. You can also go to elevationrecovery.com to see the show notes for this episode.
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