An American doctor writing for the Psych Central website recently published an important piece that should get the attention of professionals within the addiction recovery environment. Dr David Sack, MD entitled his piece 5 Lessons Addicts Can Learn from Weight Watchers. In it, Dr Sack discussed some of the methodologies employed by the American weight loss programme known as ‘Weight Watchers’; methodologies he believes are applicable to addiction recovery.

Sack’s assertions are rooted in the belief that compulsive eaters suffer from some of the same brain abnormalities as those who are addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs. He believes overeating can be a condition that produces the same pleasurable feelings of euphoria we normally associate with other substances. If Sack is correct, and the science suggests he is, some of the successful principles from programmes like Weight Watchers could be transferable to recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Dr Sack’s five lessons are as follows:

  1. Flexibility Is Necessary – Weight Watchers understands the importance of making sure its diet plan is flexible. It knows that a single plan is not going to work for every customer. In the addiction recovery business, the same philosophy is encapsulated in bespoke treatment plans. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for every recovering addict. 
  2. Understanding the Body – Weight Watchers strives to help their customers understand how the body works and how food choices relate to physiological functioning. When individuals understand their bodies, they can make wise choices long after their diet programme ends. Dr Sack believes giving addicts that same knowledge will help them make better choices after completing rehab. 
  3. Lifestyle Changes – The Weight Watchers programme is quick to point out that what it offers is more than just a diet. Their programme is designed to encourage a change in lifestyle that promises to help customers maintain a healthy body weight long after their diets have concluded. Addiction recovery works the same way. Recovering addicts need to change the way they live if they are to permanently abstain. 
  4. Group Support – We all know the power of group support for overcoming personal problems. Weight Watchers takes advantage of it, so do addiction recovery programmes. The support group dynamic is something we are already doing a good job using in addiction recovery. 
  5. Goal-Driven Progress – Losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle through the Weight Watchers programme requires that short and long-term goals be set. Individuals work through those goals in much the same way a toddler learns to walk: one step at a time. This may be the most important lesson to apply to addiction recovery. It should not be open-ended and without a way to measure success or failure. Addiction recovery needs goals that can be worked toward and achieved. 

What Dr Sack has proposed makes a lot of sense in light of the current body of knowledge relating to addiction recovery. Where certain recovery programmes are failing day-in and day-out, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate. Perhaps it is time to ask why such programmes are failing and what can be done to change things. It could be that some of them are not implementing the five things Dr Sack mentioned in his piece.

Substance abuse and addiction are serious problems that can destroy individuals and families. We urge you to contact us at Addiction Helper if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol. We want to assist you by helping you get the treatment you need to overcome your struggles. You can do this if you are willing to reach out for help.

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