Fat Pharms: Antidepressants and Weight Gain
Up to 25% of people who take antidepressants gain weight. Is there anything you can do about it?
Antidepressants and Weight Gain: The Diet and Exercise Link
Not surprisingly, experts also say that some of the same tenets that help us control our weight under normal circumstances may also help us while using antidepressants -- including eating healthy and getting enough exercise.
"The best thing you could do would be to head off the weight gain before it starts by switching to a more nutritious diet and increasing your daily exercise as soon as you start taking an antidepressant," says registered dietitian Samantha Heller, MS, RD.
If, in fact, you've already started packing on the extra pounds, Heller says switching to a healthier diet, cutting calories, and increasing exercise are still worth the effort.
"Even if you don't lose weight immediately, you can begin controlling the gain and help your body to stabilize for a while," says Heller.
Moreover, a steadily growing body of scientific evidence suggests that increasing your daily exercise may affect not only weight loss, but also help your depression. In one large study of more than 3,400 Finnish men and women published in the journal Preventive Medicine, researchers found that those who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, and stress than those who exercised less frequently or not at all.
"The bottom line here is that not only can healthy eating and exercise help control your weight gain, they can also improve your depression, which in turn may help you to cut down on your medication -- and that in turn make weight loss easier," says Heller.
Experts warn, however, not to severely restrict caloric intake while taking antidepressants. Not only may this affect brain chemistry in a negative way, any strong sense of deprivation may contribute to feelings of depression.
So how do you diet without feeling deprived? Heller suggests enlisting the help of a registered dietitian: "In the same way you may need the help of a psychiatrist in dealing with your depression symptoms, you may also need the help of a registered dietitian to devise an eating plan that can help you lose weight without impacting your depression in a negative way."