Ask the Expert – Matthew Lovitt
Second in the Series, Ask the Expert, Liv’s Recovery Kitchen Meets with Nutritional Expert, Matthew Lovitt. Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT) Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®, Matthew Lovitt, of Twelve Wellness, specializes in the holistic treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction with food and fitness. With over 7 years of continuous sobriety, he is uniquely qualified to help individuals, families, community organizations, and treatment facilities develop holistic recovery programs to better support lasting sobriety.
Located in Midland, Texas, Matthew utilizes the latest and greatest nutrition science in conjunction with the lifestyle philosophy and guidance embodied by the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to:
• Educate, engage, and empower individuals in recovery
• Create and enhance existing treatment programs
• Build stronger sobriety networks and communities
Matthew believes that the holistic treatment of substance use disorders should leverage the therapeutic power of food and lifestyle to support the journey towards spiritual awakening. Only programs that consider every dimension of the human experience will be able to provide a fulfilling and sustainable recovery experience.
Matthew is also a regular contributor at Vibrant Wellness Journal, The Fix, and Mind Body Green where he provides general health and wellness guidance to those in and out of recovery. Now featured at Sober Nation!
Ask The Expert
“The first couple years of my sobriety were rough, which is what I imagine it’s like for most…Then I realized how powerful that same knowledge might be in the recovery community and I was off to the races. I quit my job shortly after and started studying holistic nutrition full time.”
Liv: What have you had for breakfast today?
This morning I had some steel cut oats mixed with some vegan protein powder and topped with cinnamon and a few raisins. This is my go to breakfast, but when time is short and don’t have the time to cook oats I will have a few hard boiled eggs and some leftover veg from the previous night’s dinner.
Liv: What inspired you to train in nutrition?
The first couple years of my sobriety were rough, which is what I imagine it’s like for most. I started to work out seriously as a way to blow off some steam and reduce the stress I was dealing with while trying to clean up all the wreckage of my past. Naturally, I started to eat cleaner as my physical fitness improved and then I started that my ability to handle life and recovery greatly improved. When I was eating clean I was a lot more objective and accepting and a lot less emotional. I was able to think more clearly before, during, and after all the stressful situations that popped up. Then I realized how powerful that same knowledge might be in the recovery community and I was off to the races. I quit my job shortly after and started studying holistic nutrition full time.
“Well, I was a polyamorous user, chronic relapser, and was almost destined to spend a good amount of time in the corrections system. But, as my diet and lifestyle changed throughout the recovery process, my life took a completely different path.”
Liv: How does holistic nutrition differ from, say, advice you would obtain from a dietician?
Holistic nutritionist use the systems approach, which means that we look at the entire body when determining the best approach for modifying diet. It is also important for a holistic nutritionist to consider a client’s current nutrition knowledge base, access to healthy food, time and money resources, support network, sleep and stress. There are so many variables that need to be taken into account when guiding individuals into a healthier lifestyle that we must take a holistic approach instead of simply suggesting things like eat more whole grains and less sugar when, for example, a client is trying to better manage blood sugar. Holistic nutritionist always advocate for whole food nutrition, while some other nutrition, diet professional allow or even advocate for “healthy” processed foods.
Liv: Can you explain how your experience makes you best placed to offer this type of nutritional approach to a person in recovery?
Well, I was a polyamorous user, chronic relapser, and was almost destined to spend a good amount of time in the corrections system. But, as my diet and lifestyle changed throughout the recovery process, my life took a completely different path. My physical health, outlook, and relationships changed. I started working with addicts in inpatient treatment facilities and coaching individuals with some more time in recovery how to take their sobriety to the next level. I don’t know if that makes me best placed, but I’ve been through it all and was able to come out the other end happy and healthy and sober, which I suppose says a lot.
“Without the ability to really dig down and recognize a problem exists and then ask for help, there is not a whole lot we can do to improve your nutrition…”
Liv: What does a typical client look like?
The majority of the clients I see are in long-term inpatient treatment for opiate addiction. Outside of treatment, my clients come in all shapes and sizes addicts and alcoholics, men and women, old and young. But, one thing that unites them is that they are all working hard to change their lives, which is refreshing.
Liv: How do you incorporate the 12 steps in your approach? What you mean by AA’s lifestyle philosophy?
Before any substantial nutrition work can be done, the client has to admit that something isn’t working and be ready to make a change. This applies to both addicts and normies. Without the ability to really dig down and recognize a problem exists and then ask for help, there is not a whole lot we can do to improve your nutrition. Of course, we all change through the recovery process physically, emotionally, and spiritually so staying connected with our bodies is essential to developing a holistic program that adapts to our needs as the body changes.
Liv: Would you say there is a correlation between food addiction and addiction to drugs? What is the science behind this correlation?
Oh, man, absolutely! Food is a drug and is often treated as such when we remove the drugs or alcohol. Most of our food choices are driven by our emotional state and if we are unhappy with life or ourselves, circumstances that may contribute to addictive behavior, we may be prone to eating foods that are not ideal for our health. There are a variety of other reasons one can get addicted to food sugar, salt, stimulating food additives, etc. but the majority of food addicts are seeking relief in food that they aren’t able to find elsewhere.
“Food is medicine for the body and the soul. When we eat according to our values, put thought into our nourishment, and consciously choose to change our lives, we grow to great spiritual lengths.”
I believe it was Socrates who said something to the effect of, “Let food be thy medicine,” and I couldn’t agree more. There are foods that promote health whole fruits, veggies, whole grains, meats, etc. and those that deplete health sugar, processed foods, sugar sweetened beverages, cookies, chips, etc.
Liv: You talk of holistic nutrition enhancing treatment programs. How can good nutrition contribute to the wellness of a recovering addict? How will it impact their recovery?
I talk about this extensively on my website, but the first thing that anyone in early recovery should do is transition for processed to whole foods. Don’t worry so much about proteins, carbs, and fats, just start cooking stuff that isn’t purchased in a box. This will dramatically increase your intake of vitamins and minerals, substances that are essential to repairing the body, and decrease your intake of toxic substances like sugar, salt, and industrial fats. These foods will also help stabilize blood sugar and enhance brain function, two areas that are often in need of a lot of attention early in the recovery process.
Liv: In your bio you talked about how you can harness the power of holistic nutrition to become spiritually awakened, what does that looks like?
Food is medicine for the body and the soul. When we eat according to our values, put
thought into our nourishment, and consciously choose to change our lives, we grow to great spiritual lengths.
Liv: How does nutrition feature in your recovery?
Eating well is the foundation of everything in my life. With good sleep, positive relationships, and a giving spirit, proper nutrition allows me to grow in every facet of life.Liv: What is your favourite meal?
Pho, a traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup.
Liv: What would you describe as your top 5 tips to those in recovery, wanting to embark on a healthier approach to their nutrition?
1) Eat real food.
2) Ditch sugar.
3) Drink more water.
4) Learn to cook.
5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.