If you google “antidepressants and weight gain” you will stumble upon a series of chat groups of people sharing their experience of how, even keeping with the same routine, had significant weight gain. You will find articles of doctors refuting such claims, other doctors claiming their patients gained weight and how they created this great diet that works, and other medical professionals saying their patients lost weight. Even the medication you are on will not list it as a possible side affect on the medication pamphlet; however, dig a little deeper on the manufactures website and you may find it listed.
How do I know? I’ve googled this subject, several times.
You see about a year ago I was placed on antidepressants and subsequently I gained about 30 pounds over about 5 months. I had kept up with the same exercise and healthy eating routine but the weight came on and stayed on.
But let’s dive a little deeper on that exercise and healthy eating statement.
True, I was exercising the same amount and true, I was eating healthy but there was one key item that I was missing to this puzzle.
I was hungry all the time; even after finishing a meal and ravishing at night. I would try healthy snacks and smoothies but the only thing that would stop it was processed carbs and sweets. My go-to was peanut butter on bread, which in itself is not unhealthy but add this after a dinner or between meals and that’s extra calories, fat and sugar I was taking in. Now, my husband and I are intuitive eaters. Essentially this means, when you feel hunger you eat. However, in my case the lines were blurred between hunger and wanting to eat for an emotional reason. I couldn’t tell which one I was feeling, it all felt like hunger. So although, it appeared to me that my routine was the same, my body and brain chemistry were not and I gained weight.
Let me be clear here, it wasn’t the weight gain that made me upset, it was that my body couldn’t do all the things I loved to do properly. I began to feel lazier in my daily routine and my exercise regime. And even though I was doing good things for my body, I didn’t feel right in my skin but I was doing great things for my mind and that was my focus. My focus was recovering from my depression and I had to keep this in the forefront.
This is not a sad story, I have begun my journey back to a healthy body and I feel great. In fact, I love my body even more today and I’m “bigger” than when I started. My journey into a depression was a full mind-body overhaul and I would not change ONE THING about it. It has taught me so much and, although there were days of frustration and unkind words to myself and about my body, I have come out on the other side in love with who I am inside and out!
If you are thinking of coming off your meds just because of weight gain, I ask you to only do this under the supervision of your doctor or an other mental health professional and ensure you are getting proper mental health treatment. Consider staying on the medication for the length of time you set with your doctor (there should be an end game to meds, with proper treatment you can be med free).
If I were to go back and have to do this all over again, these are the 5 tips I would follow to help keep my whole self healthy
1) Assess hunger
If you have eaten dinner and it’s 8 p.m. and you feel hunger first drink a huge glass of water and see if you are really hungry or if you are eating out of boredom or emotionally. Usually getting up and away from the kitchen and the couch helps. Go for a walk or get ready for bed. If you are truly hungry, for example, you finished your workout late at night or didn’t eat enough during the day, then eat something healthy-ish.
2) Eat something healthy-ish
What are you craving in-between meals? Is it PB on bread, like me? Hummus? Chocolate? Likely, you are not craving brussel sprouts. You see, for me, I was working out late at night (it’s kinda my business!) and therefore I would try an after workout smoothie when my body was saying PB and bread. I would have the smoothie and still feel hunger. Then I would go for the protein balls, still “hungry”. Then I would finally have what my body really wanted and by that time I was likely 600 calories over my daily intake. If I had eaten what I was craving in the first place, it would have been fine. But that push for “I need to eat healthy” vs. what my body was saying, affected my health.
3) Add simple carbohydrates (CHOs) to your meals
There are studies that show people who added simple carbohydrates to each meal while on antidepressants lowered their craving impulse and decreased their weight gain. These studies are small and have not been repeated to assess validity; however, knowing how I reacted on the medication and my craving for sugar and simple CHOs, I know this could have helped me.
This is key, even with my regular exercise routine I gained weight. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had stopped. I know you may not want to because depression takes every bit of energy out of you but you have to move your body. Move your body everyday and consider a hot vinyasa class, this was a huge part of my recovery.
5) The weight will come off after you are off the meds but it takes time
And I mean TIME so have patience. The cravings will decrease, your energy will return and your body will release the weight. It took about 14 weeks after being completely off the medication that my body started feeling like normal. Patience and giving yourself a break, you needed time to heal, is all you need.
I hope that this article can help someone who is struggling see the light at the end of the tunnel. I understand how frustrating it can feel when you feel like an alien in your own body but know, that this too will pass.
If you feel you could use some help moving and fuelling your body and want someone who has been through it, then let’s chat. Register here to book a free 20 minutes discovery coaching call and let’s get a plan in place for you.