Ask Paul at the RSIC: Eating healthy while overcoming addiction |

Ask Paul at the RSIC: Eating healthy while overcoming addiction

By Paul Snyder | Special to First Nation's Focus
Eating healthy is one of the key components to creating the new you.
Photo: Getty Images

RENO, Nev. —

Client: “I haven’t used in 3 months.”

Me: “WOW! That is a big deal. You haven’t smoked anything or drank any alcohol in 3 months. Now how do you feel?”

Client: “A lot better. I haven’t had hangovers, I got a job and my family is talking to me again.”

Me: “So, what new issues are coming up in your life?”

Client: “I can’t lose weight. I’m gaining weight and I hate it.”

In the Medicine Wheel, The Elders consider a person’s health to include spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health — the whole person. This month we’ll focus on physical health.

Many times people have the false belief that once they discontinue using substances, they will automatically transform into a healthy, happy person who has minimal life issues.

When we compare the substance using life to a non-substance using life, the problems are considerably less. However, we all have struggles and challenges.

The Elders teach us the idea of life’s challenges is to learn from these experiences, grow through them and share healthy solutions and wisdom with others so their burdens can be less.

I hear many people who become concerned with their weight after being substance free. Women usually say they want to “lose weight,” while men usually say they want to “get in shape.”

I find that visualization and mindfulness techniques are beneficial. I also rely on our specialists to refer clients. I’ll begin this article with a thought change process, and then ask advice from a specialist in this area.

You become what you think of daily. Everything that is created by people started with a thought. Let’s use a visualization technique from the book “The Secret.”

Now, imagine yourself at your perfect weight. If you have a picture of yourself at that weight, carry it around. Remember how that weight feels and act like you are that perfect weight.

Ask yourself how a person with the perfect weight would behave or what that person would eat, and follow that person’s lead. Visualize yourself as that person.

Now ask yourself these questions: How do you look? How do you feel? How do you feel in your clothes and how do your clothes look on you? What is your life like? How do you act during the day? What do you eat? Do you exercise and if so, how much? Do you like this person? How does it compare to how you feel now? Is this person happy, healthy and having fun?

If you can think about it, you can create it. Do you believe you can achieve your goal? Can you be persistent enough to achieve your goal? Let’s have the “ideal you” be your guide.

We’re still visualizing the perfect weight, so what do you choose? Apple or donut? What would “ideal you” choose? How does “ideal you” act, exercise, care for herself/himself and care for others? Begin thinking, “that’s how I used to be.” Stop thinking, “that’s just who I am.”

You are creating the new you. The reason to stop using substances is to live to your potential and enjoy family, friends, community, good food, activities and yourself. Start creating the new you with your future you as a guide. How fun is that!?!

Also, we need some education and expertise to help us create a total strategy, so I visited with Stacy Briscoe, the Diabetes Program Manager and a nutritionist/dietitian and diabetes educator at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, for advice and recommendations to help launch into the new you. Here are some questions for Stacy:


Stacy, what is the most common reason diets fail?

It’s tough to classify into just ONE reason since we are all different and come to weight loss with different perspectives, but we see a lot people get frustrated that they aren’t losing, and give up. I guess you could say that not being patient enough with your process is a common theme.

Often, it has taken someone a while to gain the weight they’re trying to lose, so one cannot expect it to go away instantly! Weight management is a “slow and steady wins the race” game.


Stacy, what is the most successful approach to losing weight and how much weight can a person lose and still be healthy?

Consistency is key, being patient with yourself, not depriving yourself, drinking plenty of water (about 64 ounces/day), getting regular exercise (minimum 150 minutes/week or 30min/day), having support, and of course a balanced diet are some of the most important components to a good plan.

Also, I often talk to patients about “defending your nutrition environment.” If you know that Twinkies are your downfall, then keeping them out of the house is one of the best ways to enable yourself to make good choices.

Many individuals find it helpful to see a nutritionist regularly and log their intake as it helps keep their head in the game. You don’t have to log every day, but a few days a week can go a long way towards making sure you’re not eating too many calories as well as give you an idea of where most of your calories are coming from.

Also, eating breakfast is so, so important to jumpstart that sleeping metabolism in the morning!

A safe rate of loss is to lose about 10% of your body weight in 6 months. That equals out to about 1-2lbs/week, which is safe and a maintainable, reasonable goal. If you weigh 220 pounds, and you started tomorrow, that would put you at 198 pounds by April! People lose at different rates, but that’s the general guideline we go by.


Stacy, what are the most common foods that hide calories and what are the best foods to eat that will keep a person feeling satisfied with energy and not pack on the calories?

A diet high in empty calories is a diet that makes it easy to pack on the pounds. Foods like sodas, candy, chips, sugar and white starches (low fiber breads, bagels, white rice, crackers) all are very easily digested by the body, usually very high in calories for the consumed portion, and low in fiber and protein.

Foods that have protein and fiber and water should be the foundation of the foods you eat! That means lean meats, fish, cheese, eggs, non-starchy vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, greens, cucumber, celery, etc.), whole grain carbohydrates and little to no processed or boxed foods.

Protein is one of the best tools for cutting hunger. For example, so many patients will tell me they don’t eat breakfast because they’re hungry soon after eating it, but once they add a protein to that breakfast (a hard boiled egg, a few nuts, or a string cheese) that breakfast keeps them satisfied clear through to lunch.

If I have a patient, no time for a snack and I’m STARVING, I’ll grab a string cheese to cut my hunger and it prevents my stomach from growling during the session!


Stacy, what else would you like to share?

ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and lifelong food habits. Events that occur in childhood can greatly impact our habits around food as we age. Having inadequate food, abuse, being food-deprived, or having someone excessively focus on your intake as a child can give you troubles around food later on.

It’s important to explore those experiences with a trained counselor because once those issues come to light, you can work through them and see success.

Also, health is not just the number on the scale! Yes, weight loss can be a side effect of healthier eating and increased exercise, but body composition (the amount of fat vs. muscle in your body), cholesterol levels, liver function, heart health and blood sugars can all improve outside of weight loss, and those are also things that define us as healthy.

Finally, please remember the Elders teach us in the Medicine Wheel to be healthy spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. Although we concentrated on physical health this month — all areas in a person’s life are essential for a healthy balance.

To contact Stacy, please email or call 775-329-5162 x 1945.

“Ask Paul” is a health column by Paul Snyder, MA, LADC-S, a Substance Use Counselor at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center. It publishes each month in The Camp News, the monthly newsletter for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony community. Have a question for Paul? Email him at