My Health and My Meds
In 1994 I was put on Prozac. By 1997 I had gained 25 pounds. In 1998 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My meds were changed a lot over the next few years; also in 1998 I quit smoking (lasted 3 years) and gained another 20 pounds. Then I went on Seroquel and gained 35 more pounds. I'd gone from 125 pounds to 205. I'd been thin my whole life - and now I was fat and carried a pot belly that made me look 7 or 8 months pregnant. I was miserable.
In 2007 I said enough is enough and made a radical change to my diet. I bought software that would let me keep track of everything I ate along with calories, protein, carbs and fat content. It also keeps track of calories burned by exercise. In about a year I lost 30 pounds.
Then along came stress and depression and I ate whatever, and as of today, I have gained back half of what I lost. And today I was told I am borderline diabetic and was prescribed metformin. Of course, I also need to change the way I eat and get some exercise!
Diabetes runs in my family, but would I have gotten it if I hadn't gained 80 pounds? Maybe not. Heart-related conditions also run in my family, but I never had high cholesterol or high blood pressure until I gained weight. So am I angry that psychiatric medications packed all these pounds on me? You bet I am. And I have no doubt most of you reading this are, too.
But it is possible to lose weight while taking psych meds - even a notorious one like Seroquel or Zyprexa. I found the key myself, and a few months later it was backed up by a scientific research study. That key is keeping track of what you eat.
The study found that when two groups of patients had nutrition and fitness counseling, but only one kept records of what they ate each day, that second group lost weight - and the group that didn't keep records gained weight.
So I did it right. And although in the last few weeks, suspecting I was having problems with high blood sugar, I've made some changes to my diet, I still haven't been recording it. Starting today, I will.
Why does this work? Because you can see right away whether you're going overboard. I like using the software because it has a food database and tells me how many calories, etc., are in tons of everyday foods. If I enter what I've eaten throughout the day, I can tell if I have to have a light dinner - or if I can have an extra snack.
I want to get back to 125-130 pounds. I looked good. I was easily able to do simple things that are difficult now (like getting out of the bathtub!). I want to have my cholesterol and blood pressure back under control, and to reverse the trend toward diabetes.
And thus my advice to all of you who are struggling with your weight because of psychiatric drugs is simply: record what you eat. I'm proof that it works - and proof that if you stop, you gain.
Reference: Ganguli, R., Vreeland, B., & Newcomer, J.W. Strategies to integrate physical health care into mental health: Monitoring and managing weight gain in the mentally ill. Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc. March 2007. 11/1/07.