Some studies show that about 25 percent of the people who take antidepressant medications report significant weight gain . The biggest culprits are the popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. When you add mood stabilizers to the mix, weight can shoot up even more.

    Although other studies show that weight gain is usually small , and that it differs from one antidepressant to another, this is still a significant problem when treating mood disorders. Patients and their psychiatrists have been dealing with this unpleasant, unwanted, and unneeded side effect for a decade or more.

    So how do you lose the weight?

    Stopping the medication is not an option, although oftentimes weight is lost quite rapidly when medication is no longer required.

    The weight-loss advice given in medical articles and physician offices is no different than advice given to anyone who has to lose weight regardless of what caused it to be gained: Stop eating junk food, eat more vegetables and fish, eat less red meat, drink water, and exercise.

    When medication changes eating habits

    One of my clients told me the following story:

    My therapist gave me a diet sheet that looked like something his mother might have followed 40 years ago. He started to mumble something about weighing my food and cutting out butter and chocolate, and not cleaning my plate.

    I told him that I know how to follow a healthy diet because, until I started on my meds, I was thin, athletic, and never ate junk food. What I need to know now, I told him, was how to turn off that voice in my head, which pushes me toward chips, candy, cookies, and ice cream. "Where did this voice come from?" I asked him, because I never ate these foods until I started on my medication. But he had no answer.

    Needed: A weight loss plan for those on medication

    Even though weight gain is now seen as an almost inevitable side effect of many antidepressants and mood stabilizers, strategies for preventing or undoing the overeating that cause it are lacking. Although there are hundreds of diet plans and many weight-loss support groups available for people who gain weight the traditional way, almost nothing is available for the formerly thin individual whose weight gain is entirely due to his or her medication.

    As another client told me, "I may look like any other fat person, but I never had a problem with emotional overeating or using food to reward myself or dealing with stress. In fact, I have never been on a diet in my life because I never had a problem controlling my eating. So when I go to these meetings and hear people talk about food being their best friend or using food to relieve boredom or anxiety, I don't know what they are talking about. I overeat because I have a persistent feeling of needing to. It is like being thirsty all the time, despite how much water you drink. And I cannot turn off that feeling."

    The ideal solution is to develop drugs that address the mood disorders without altering food intake or energy levels. But no medications that effectively treat emotional disorders have been developed which do not have the potential to cause weight gain. And no medication to halt the overeating has been found that is safe to take by people who are already on antidepressants and related medications.

    One solution: A serotonin diet

    Fortunately, there is a strategy that seems to work. We discovered it while treating clients many years ago in a weight-loss clinic associated with a psychiatric hospital. We developed specific dietary guidelines to make the brain increase its production of serotonin. Our research, and that of many others, had shown us another important function of serotonin. This brain chemical not only controls mood; it also shuts off appetite and brings about a sense of fullness or satiety. But the medications that are used to restore a normal emotional state by increasing serotonin's control over mood somehow prevent serotonin from turning off the desire to eat.

    Our approach was simple. We had our clients follow dietary guidelines that would make the brain make new serotonin. The medications they were taking did not increase serotonin levels in the brain; they made the serotonin already there more active. We knew from previous research that when carbohydrates were eaten on an empty stomach and without protein, a process was initiated that led to new serotonin being made in the brain. And our experiments had shown that when this happened, people felt less hungry and their carbohydrate cravings went away.

    Timing your carbohydrate intake

    We told our clients to eat a carbohydrate snack twice a day on an empty stomach and to eat a dinner meal that was mainly starchy foods like pasta or rice and vegetables. We told them that they could eat protein at breakfast and lunch but that protein interfered with the process leading to new serotonin being made. And since many of them were on medications that made them likely to eat two dinners, or to snack continually after dinner, we wanted to make sure that there was plenty of serotonin in their brains to turn off their evening appetite.

    It worked. Even though our clients were still on the medications that were causing them to gain weight, they were able to start losing. Of course, the carbohydrates on the diet plan were low in fat to avoid unnecessary calories and the amount of carbohydrate they were permitted to eat was also portion controlled. We told them that their brains didn't care whether the carbohydrates they ate came from doughnuts or brown rice, but they had to eat healthy, low-fat, high-fiber carbohydrates for their general health and to decrease their calorie intake.

    But it turned out that this was never a problem. Our clients had been thin. They had always eaten healthily. And once that voice in their heads telling them to eat junk food was turned off, they had no problem going back to the way they had always eaten. Moreover, as soon as they saw themselves losing weight, they were eager to get back to the gym or the other physical activities that had enjoyed before their weight gain. One of our clients, who had been an avid hiker, started climbing mountains again and another signed up for long distance charity bike rides.

    Weight gain on these medications could be prevented or minimized if patients followed these guidelines early in their treatment. But, as we found, the weight already gained from these medications can be lost easily simply by changing the diet.

    This article was originally written by patient expert Judith Wurtman.

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    How can I lose weight while taking antidepressants?
    Here are some ways to lose weight gained due to medication use:
    1. Switch to a different medication. The first strategy to consider involves changing medications.
    2. Lower medication dosage.
    3. Limit portion sizes.
    4. Exercise.
    5. Eat more protein.
    6. Talk to a dietitian.
    7. Avoid alcohol.
    8. Get enough sleep.
    How long does it take to lose weight with water?
    The length of time that it takes to lose water weight depends on how much water you're retaining, the cause of the water weight gain, and the action taken to lose it. If you have one high-sodium meal and then return to normal, healthy dietary habits, you'll likely return to your normal weight in 1-2 days. more
    How many days does it take to lose weight?
    It usually takes four weeks for you to notice a difference in yourself and six to eight weeks for others to notice. Lasting weight loss requires long-term changes to your lifestyle. One essential change key to losing weight, is tracking your progress and celebrating weight loss milestones along the way. more
    How long does it take to lose weight fasting?
    Intermittent fasting albeit an effective weight loss diet is not a quick fix. It can take up to eight weeks for you to notice significant weight loss when intermittent fasting. If you are lucky you could begin noticing changes in your body from as early as 10 days but if not, give your body up to two months to adjust. more
    How long does it take to lose Christmas weight?
    That's the conclusion of a recent study of holiday weight gain, which found it takes about five months for the average person's weight to go back to what it was before big holiday seasons. more
    How long does it take to start to lose weight?
    It usually takes four weeks for you to notice a difference in yourself and six to eight weeks for others to notice. Lasting weight loss requires long-term changes to your lifestyle. One essential change key to losing weight, is tracking your progress and celebrating weight loss milestones along the way. more
    How long does it take to lose Thanksgiving weight?
    It takes six months to lose all your holiday weight. Here's how to avoid gaining it instead. more
    How long does it take to lose water weight?
    He notes that the average person can expect to lose one to three pounds in about two days. Also keep in mind that regular workouts can result in less water retention, since sweating sheds water, glycogen, and sodium. more
    What supplements should a woman take to lose weight?
    Supplements for Weight Loss
    • Chitosan.
    • Chromium Picolinate.
    • Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
    • Glucomannan.
    • Green Tea Extract.
    • Green Coffee Extract.
    • Guar Gum.
    • Hoodia.
    How much turmeric should I take to lose weight?
    Possibly. Some studies suggest curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, may boost weight loss by nearly 5 percent if you take 800 milligrams (mg) with 8 mg piperine — a compound in black pepper — twice daily for 30 days. more
    What vitamins should I take to lose weight?
    Calcium, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin B complex, and vitamin C: These provide nutrients that help you function better all around. These also improve metabolism to assist your weight loss: Green tea: Caffeine and catechins in green tea and other products may help with weight management. more


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