Category Archives: exercise

Guest Post: Healthy Balance as Alternative Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is a long and challenging road. The traditional recovery methods, such as a faith-based 12-step program, are generally useful, but not everyone embraces them. Some believe that there are more effective ways to battle their addictions – even going as far as saying that they can conquer and cure addiction. For some, seeking methods to change their lives through alternative recovery is the only way to manage (or defeat) their substance use disorders.

Traditional treatments

Traditional addiction recovery is a focused group-therapy based program rooted in Christian faith. It follows the 12-step program, which were initially developed in 1935 as part of Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps are progressive and ask the addict to confront their addiction and identify the reasons, triggers and stressors while coming to terms with the pain and destructiveness that the addict has caused himself and loved ones. There are clear call-outs to one’s higher power.

Some prefer to separate their religion from their addiction, so several alternatives have arisen over the years that omit the spiritual message while preserving the strength of the steps in a secular format. These programs include LifeRing, Smart Recovery, Rational Recovery and others.

Alternatives to 12-step programs

Beyond omitting the references to a higher power, other alternative addiction recovery programs abandon the 12-step framework entirely. These holistic therapies target addiction by rooting out causes related to one’s mental state or history. They can also act in a supporting role in addiction recovery, similarly as self-care can provide comfort and support. Holistic alternative therapies can be extreme such as with scream therapy, or can be mild as in art therapy. Since a lot of these therapies are new and ever-changing, there has not been much in the way of clinical testing done on their effectiveness.

 Food and nutrition’s role

 Addicts often lack the foresight to maintain a healthy eating plan. Combined with the damage caused by drugs and alcohol, poor nutrition can make the body weak and therefore susceptible to relapse. It’s accepted that food can be used as part of a successful recovery plan. Alcoholics, for example, often find greater success staying sober when eliminating grains and gluten from their diets. Adding foods high in nutrients is astoundingly beneficial. B Vitamins, zinc, and probiotics are just a handful of the vitamins and minerals that can help heal the body — and mind — from the inside.

Exercise as an alternative recovery

For some, an alternative, but less extreme solution to addiction is to make one’s life healthy. A focus on exercise, for example, has been effective for many. Some have replaced an unhealthy habit with the healthy obsession of fitness. Exercise is scientifically provento target and trigger many of the same brain chemicals that drugs and alcohol stimulate. “Runner’s high” is nearly identical to the rush of inebriation, at least to the brain.

It makes sense, then, that exercise can fill the hole left when an addict attempts sobriety. The only problem with using exercise as a recovery tool is the hard reality that many people who exercise peter out at some point, or otherwise get burned out and either stop or switch to some other activity that might not provide the same brain chemical benefit.

If sustained, however, exercise can be the key to long-term sobriety and improved overall health. Healthier people tend to avoid destructive behaviors and are generally too busy living their active lives to waste time doing drugs or drinking excessively.

Since a healthy diet supports exercise and provides nutrition that usually is lacking in an addict’s routine, eating better can also be an alternative recovery component.

Other healthy activities

When someone catches a fitness and wellness “bug,” they also can see positivity spread throughout their lives. This is also the case when someone gets hooked on yoga and mindfulness. An addict can completely rewire themselves and create a healthy balance that is squarely focused on their body and mind. Hobbies and positive social interactions further the well-rounded benefits of alternative recovery.

Addiction is tough to manage, so it’s understandable for those afflicted by substance abuse to reach out for alternatives. Although they are adequate for some, many still need the structure and programs afforded by the 12 steps. For these people, alternative therapies can be complementary methods that help keep them sober.

Post by Kimbery Hayes




Photo Credit: Unsplash

Happy 2018

Another year is in full swing. We’ve had some blistering, record breaking cold weather here in Virginia over the past few weeks. Much colder than we’re used to and for a longer stretch of time than we’d like. We had a 3 day break where it swung all the way back up to 70 degrees, but now we’re back with the lows in the low teens and highs still below freezing.

Some small updates from SRTH. We still have three chickens who are braving the cold. They have a heated coop and a water heater to keep them hydrated. They are missing the grass since it’s been frozen and all eaten up with no regrowth yet. I’ve just started trying to sprout some extra chia seeds for them to see if they will go for that. I gave them a frozen/thawed soft pumpkin the other day. They seemed to enjoy the insides until it froze again and now it’s a solid mess of pumpkin mush and seeds.

As for me, if you read my GBS post from the summer, I’m happy to report I’m back to life as usual. Abilities are 100%. I’m still rebuilding strength to lift heavier and my feet/toes get a little tingly at the end of the day, but I’m not complaining. I’m running 3+ miles (when it’s not brutally cold out), lifting 3-5 days a week and riding my mountain bike when (again) the weather is respectable. I’m working part time as an outpatient dietitian at Specialty Nutrition and Health a couple times a week after my full time job at the hospital.

The new year is a time a lot of people use to start new habits, stop bad habits, make other life changes and make goals. Here are my goals for the first half of the year:

  1. Post at least two times a month- articles, journal reviews or garden/farm updates.
  2. Deadlift 250 lbs by March 30th, and 300 lbs by June 30th.
  3. Make time to meditate 4 days per week.

It may seem a little odd that I haven’t posted any food goals. I will continue to research and learn what foods are best for me, but also try and focus more on lifestyle and environmental factors including stress, sleep and gut health. I’m reading Brain Maker by Dr. Perlmutter right now which is about how gut bacteria and the lack thereof may be a root cause for disease. So one of my food goals this year might be something like “make fermented vegetables.” We are still making kombucha, but will try and branch out and make more “healthy bacteria” foods.

Let me know if you’re making any food/diet/lifestyle changes, or have some questions about anything health and wellness related.

Here’s some articles to read about interesting wellness related stuff!

Type 1 Diabetes may be reversible?

Microbes are the cause of Alzheimer’s 

Saturated fat does not clog arteries





Running to the Beet

This will be in the next edition of the Miles and Minutes Running Magazine.

You get it early though, as I wrote it and published it with the department head from school.


Paula Inserra, PhD, RD
Associate Professor
Virginia State University

Wesley Smith
VSU Nutrition Student


IMG_2680-300x225Running to the Beet.

Music pumps us up and helps us get through those long, tough miles. It gets our adrenaline flowing and heart racing. It helps us cross the finish line energized and ready to take on the world. But what if there was another kind of ‘beet’ that could help us really dig down and give it all we’ve got? Maybe even shave a few precious seconds, or dare I say minutes, off our chip time. Would you try it?

Most of us are accustomed to the pickled beets that act as salad toppers, tasting like vinegar and ready to stain your favorite shirt. I don’t think anyone liked them as a kid and few of us like them as adults.  But what if they gave you that extra edge, that extra oomph to achieve the speed goal that seems just out of reach? What if they gave you some extra grit in your soul to go another mile? And what if it didn’t taste like vinegary dirt? Now we’re getting somewhere.

Beets are one of the richest sources of dietary nitrates. Recently, research has shown that nitrates may improve blood flow throughout the body. Researchers found that beetroot juice enabled people to exercise roughly 16% longer because of the nitrates’ ability to reduce oxygen uptake, making exercise less tiring. Via a system of chemical reactions, your body converts the nitrates in the beets into nitric oxide in your blood. Nitric oxide expands arteries and improves oxygen delivery to working muscles (1). Consuming whole beetroots has also been shown to improve running performance and perceived exertion (2).

The good news is that we can get performance enhancements from consuming whole beetroot and juice without relying on questionable supplements, which may have adverse health effects. Plus eating whole foods like beets can provide additional health benefits, such as decreasing blood pressure (3). And remember that dark red color that stained your shirt? It turns out to be a potent antioxidant, a type of phytochemical called anthocyanins. The more color a fruit or vegetable has, the more of these phytochemicals are present, making beets a great source!

The biggest side effect of eating beets, or drinking beet juice in normal doses is “beeturia” which is the technical term for passing red or pink urine after eating beets. Don’t be too alarmed if you notice some of the red dye in your stool as well. Now, this may be a little unsettling, but since it poses no harm just keep humming to the “beet” and enjoy the fast splits in your next race.

So how much do we need? Research shows that 16-20 oz. of beetroot juice is the best “bang for your buck” dose, and it has the most effect on blood nitrate levels between 2 and 3 hrs. after consumption.(4)(5). If you’re eating whole beets then the beneficial effects can be seen by eating just 1.5 cups about 75 minutes prior to exercise.

Fresh beets can be purchased in the produce department, sometimes with the greens still attached. You can use the greens in your salad and then go to town on prepping the beets any way you like. Slicing them like an onion and then chopping the slices into strips will help them cook faster. Try them in omelets, soups, stews, roast them in the oven with other colorful root veggies, and even making a beet and sweet potato casserole. The simplest way to cook fresh beets is to trim them. Place in a pot with 3Tbs lemon juice and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender, about 50 minutes. Place under cold running water, peel and enjoy.

If washing, chopping and cooking beets is too much work for you, most grocery stores sell beets in a jar or can with just water. No vinegar. No salt. Just beets! And they’ve been cleaned and sliced for you! They are softer and ready to put into any hot dish at the last minute or eat cold. Don’t throw out the water though. That water is chock full of nitrates too. You might actually see bigger gains by drinking that juice than eating a cooked beet. And if you really love beet juice, you can buy it in a convenient re-sealable bottle to take with you to the gym, road or trail.




(1)   Wylie LJ, Kelly J, Bailey SJ,  Blackwell JR, Skiba PF, Winyard PG, Jeukendrup AE, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM. Beetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose–reponse realtionships. Journal of Applied Physiology. 115(3):325-36.

(2)   Murphy M, Eliot K, Heuertz R and Weiss E. Whole Beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 112:4, 548-552.

(3)   Siervo M, Lara J, Ogbonmwan I, Mather JC.  Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Nutrition. 143(6):818-26

(4)   Bailey SJ, Fulford J, Vanhatalo A, Winyard PG, Blackwell JR, DiMenna FJ, Wilkerson DP, Benjamin N, Jones, A. Dietary nitrate supplementation enhances muscle contractile efficiency during knee-extensor exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol 109:135-148, 2010.

(5)   Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vahatalo A, Blackwell JR, Dimena FJ, Wilkerson DP, Taff J, Benjamin N, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1-7(4):1144-55.