Photo source: netdoctor.uk.co
Is it possible to not gain weight, and even to lose weight while taking antidepressants?
When I was 30 years old, I had an 8-month-old baby, my first treasure, I was on maternity leave, everything seems to be going great, but one morning I fall, I literally fall on the ground while trying to pick up my baby. Why? The morning was quite typical, a swimming class and pear puree kind of morning, that was just too much that day. I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say that in my mind, everything was fine. I had no symptoms of depression, my moral was even good. BUT I was in a CONSTANT state of rushing, of panic, of putting pressure on myself to be the perfect mommy, the super woman that does it all and never gets tired. So, that morning, I fall on the ground, dizzy, numb, my legs incapable of holding my body weight, nauseous etc.
I spent the next complete month in bed, not capable of functioning. After multiple blood and neurological tests, the diagnostic falls: post partum depression and generalised anxiety syndrome.
ME?? NO!! Prescription: antidepressants and psychologist.
Eight years later, I had reached 201 lbs. Not because of the antidepressants, I never blamed them. I was eating like crap, never exercised and I had baby 2. But still, I was 38 and I wanted to lose the weight. And YES, it is possible to do so even while taking antidepressants. I lost 53 lbs and still losing!
Reading on social media posts like:
“I don’t want to take antidepressants because I don’t want to gain weight” or
“I want to stop my antidepressants because I’m gaining weight”, breaks my heart.
For me, mental health is crucial. Having the choice between being in my bed like that whole month and being skinny or be out and about living life, being functional but fat, I choose fat and functional any day. But that’s not even the choice you have to make because it’s possible to not gain weight and to even lose weight while taking antidepressants.
Yes, it might take more time and be more difficult than for someone else, but certainly not impossible. If you eat healthy, per your caloric needs, yes, it does require for you to determine your caloric needs and yes, you must keep track, especially at first and more importantly than if you not taking any medication, but its so worth it, to understand what your body needs to not gain weight and/or lose weight.
Here are two reasons why people gain weight with antidepressants:
1. Appetite comes back. Often appetite decreases when in a depression. It wasn’t my case but its common. When the person starts to feel better with the medication, the appetite comes back and the person starts eating more. But if that person has been in a too big caloric deficit for too long, that person’s metabolism has decreased so even if this person eats “normally”, it is possible for that person to gain some weight.
2. Most antidepressants cut off the “I’m full” signal sent to the brain, so we are always hungry. This is my case. We must learn to ignore the hunger, and that’s where knowing your caloric needs and keeping a food journal become crucial. Eating becomes a rational act, not an instinctive one and even less an emotional one. “Listening to your hunger” becomes impossible. If I were to listen to my hunger, I could easily eat 3000-4000 calories a day when my needs to lose weight are 1500 and my needs to maintain weight are 2000. So, I eat my 1500 calories and I deal with the hunger after that.
I’m not saying its easy, but don’t stop yourself from taking a medication because you’re scared of gaining weight. If you’re disciplined with your eating and your workouts, you wont gain weight and you can even lose weight. So, no need to sacrifice your well being for fear of gaining weight.
Here are a few tricks to deal with the hunger caused by antidepressants:
1. Drink, drink drink. Water, sparkling water, teas.
2. Eat raw veggies. I never counted my veggies, that’s the only food group I will eat as much as I want.
3. Find hobbies you love. When you’re busy, you wont think about eating as much. We often eat out of boredom, so find hobbies that keep you busy.
4. Write your food journal, revise it when hungry to see if you didn’t eat enough throughout the day for real.
5. Talk to yourself, loudly, everyday, to remind yourself of your goal and of the discipline you must have to reach it.
And remember, there is ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel and there are tons of resources to help you out there! It’s a sign of strength to reach for help, not a sign of weakness.
If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to communicate with me!