Psych meds make you fat

This was a response to Therese Borchard’s piece from June 18th at PsychCentral. She is writing about good eating, lifestyle and exercise habits in the context of taking psychiatric drugs, which is fine, but I wanted to add my two cents. I put this in the comment section. I’ve added to it a bit for this post as I did not write carefully and I’ve had more time to think about the issue now than when I wrote the comment:

I ate well and exercised and still gained 100 lbs. I was not a glutton nor was I lazy. The truth is you can do everything right and still get fat on psych meds.

The problem is a society that hates fat people, the problem is not you.

I’m off all weight-gaining drugs now. Not because they made me gain weight—I actually got used to that — but because they are neurotoxic in general and I realized the likelihood of dying early on a huge cocktail of these meds was likely. I also realized that my emotions and spirit and soul were muted to the point that I had a kind of deadness inside of me. I did not want to live like that anymore.

So weight was not the reason I made the choices I made. It’s not really the best reason to make these choices, though it could certainly be one of many. I, however, never cared whether I lost the weight or not, my priority was to my health, and my mind and spirit. It is possible to have excess weight and be healthy. So it simply wasn’t the motivating factor.

I researched alternatives to the meds and now I’m virtually off everything and will be done with my detox in a matter of weeks. The weight has fallen off me without my having to do anything. So tell me how was that my fault??

It’s as disgusting now to be praised about my weight loss as it was to be blamed for the gain. I’ve done nothing to deserve praise. I simply stopped the drugs that caused the weight gain.

Anyone who tells you you can control your weight on these drugs is lying. Some people don’t actually gain weight on these drugs and good for them…but those of us who are prone to it cannot do anything.

It’s still, of course, a good thing to eat well and exercise…that should never be stopped. it keeps us healthier even if we’re fat. I am not writing this to suggest people give up good habits. That would make it worse. The thing is I always had good habits.

Anyway if you are like me all those people who try to make it your fault are simply lying to you.

It is not your fault. It is the drugs.

If you eat a ton of junk food and never exercise, then yeah, you can do stuff to help minimize damage and it makes good sense to have good habits, so sure make those changes if there is room in your life for them. Just don’t expect weight loss. Do it because it’s good for you.

No one should ever stop taking drugs precipitously but I do think that most people can make small incremental changes and come off most if not all meds. It’s not something to be taken lightly or done without serious attention to alternatives, but it is possible.

We are not told this and that means we are not given true informed consent. Everyone who inspired my journey has had hellish bumps with “mental illness” and have learned how to wean themselves from drugs and heal and live fuller and richer lives.

Meds will never heal they will only control symptoms. For some that may be the goal and that’s fine as long as we understand that is the choice we’re making.

Anyway, the point is we do have choices.

It’s also not the end of the world to be fat. It’s other people’s hang ups and it’s ours if we want to make it our hang up.

Just know it’s not your fault. I worked in mental health as a social worker for over a decade. It was horrifying to see how many people are blamed for being fat when it’s not their fault at all. The drugs will make certain people gain weight no matter what.

I was also blamed for my weight gain by my a therapist I had early on in my medicated life. She told me I was fat because I was a glutton–it wasn’t a side effect of the Depakote and neuroleptics I was on and never mind that I was thin before I started them. So I know exactly how bad this can be.

In any case remember this is not license to eat whatever you want and stop exercising. That is never healthy, of course, but it is an attempt to help you stop blaming yourself. It’s simply not your fault.

Just so you know, when I did choose to go off meds, I did radically change my diet.

But!!!! Big but!!

The diet I’m on is not designed for weight loss. It is designed to help my body, mind and spirit be healthy. It’s actually high in healthy fats for example—I also don’t worry about animal fat since I eat organic, grass fed meat. So, yeah, I am on a rigid diet but it is not a weight loss diet and I don’t count calories or watch portion control. I eat 7 times a day to control hypoglycemia and I eat whatever I want from the foods that are good for my body, mind and spirit.

Okay, peace to you all.

More posts on psych meds and fat here.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

20 Responses

  1. EF

    ” It’s as disgusting now to be praised about my weight loss as it was to be blamed for the gain. ”

    That is such a concise and TRUE sentence for many of us.
    I have had weight fluctuations my entire female life, from thin to rounded and back, for various reasons including stress, hormones, work, meds, finances, and more stress.
    At one point I went from 150 [normal] to about 105 110 as I waited for medicaid to ok an operation to fix a burst ovary.
    I was 35 or so and looked to myself like a weak prisoner. I was not focused or strong or happy that thin.
    Imagine my horror when, at my thinnest awfullest, longtime friends male and female all kept telling me how great I suddenly looked. It irked me in a deep feminist way that I was valued and praised for my exterior so much. They all kept telling me I was so ‘lucky’ it was a side effect of being weak and ill, and told me to ‘keep it up!’
    It made me realize ALOT about certain people who I had thought were above that way of seeing me [and all women] and how i want to be perceived. And it def made me realize that I do not want to be a thin old lady.

    yes the weight thing is just another variable fact of of the med tapdance….an aspect that most people dont have to sweat but that changes for us on a whole different level.

    Thanks for your carefully insistently worded pieces here on this site….
    It is always needed for some to hear again:
    You are not at fault here, they lied to you, and this is just cause and effect. You were given untrue information to begin with. Your weight is not a bad thing you did, and may not be a forever sentence.

    Just this realization is so crucial in untying alot of anguish and shame and even anger.

    Thanks for RE-iterating important things like this when they pop up.
    I refer people to this blog ALL the time, especially young people, teens, and parents of young kids with ‘issues’ and your words just may help them deflect the worst of what yourself and many on this blog have been through.

    Thank you for keeping it all here in a searchable place and making it clear and welcoming.
    SO many people like myself are online looking desperately for alternatives.



  2. EF

    ….and when I was subtly blamed for the gains…when friends/family hinted that my clothes looked tight or that I was getting ‘matronly’ ….it was very easy to laugh it off and I thought ‘damn how amazing they even noticed!’

    but the envious congrats and leers upon finally looking like a skeleton with tits were enough to turn my stomach and made me cry for what they said about the world….

    better to be ANY size with a brain and heart my own than off-balance to fit into the world’s idea of me.



  3. As I’ve said many times, when I took myself off the drugs, it was only 2 months before I went from 305 to 265. Losing the rest has been more problematic, what with foot problems and stamina issues.


  4. I DID quit the most potent of my psych drugs because they made me fat. I think that is a good, valid reason to quit psych drugs.

    I think saying something to people who lost weight is a no-win situation. Yesterday a guy asked me if I knew who he was. I could not place him. It was very embarrassing. Finally he told me who he was. He must have lost, at the minimum, 100 pounds. He was still a little chunky. I told him he looked really good.

    Then I wondered if he thought, “Well what did I look like before?” But he said, “I feel really good too.”

    I don’t know what you are supposed to say to someone who has lost a significant amount of weight.

    We get congratulated for lots of things that we didn’t actually work for.

    Like when you get engaged people say congratulations. I always thought that was weird.

    But if you did go off psych drugs, then you did actually do something. I don’t see anything wrong with someone congratulating you. What do you want them to say? Do you also not like it if they comment on new clothes or a haircut?

    EF…it does sound strange if you were underweight that they congratulated you.

    I was underweight for a while and people were always telling me about eating disorders….part of it was mania.


  5. What do you feel would be an appropriate thing to say to you?

    I had Great-Grandma who always worried if anyone lost weight and and she would say, “You’ve lost weight, are you sick?”

    Do you want people to say nothing?


  6. I find that relating my reason for the horrific weight gain, via psych drugs and the weight loss, which was way too fast and threw me into a chemical “mania”, must leave so many uneducated people pondering, “well if she took them, she must have been CRAZY”. But i find that kind of thinking so limited and retarted[yes bless them too] but I don’t have time to dwell there, or let it bring me down. I am more concerned with the “after shocks” of having mercury poisoned teeth that hurt 24/7 and may be the reason for acting loco, inaddition to the toxic meds. I am very concerned with a liver that types Hep C, because of the damage done by those damable prescription drugs, and also the constant state of dehudration I stay in which has my skin looking pruney, since 2004 and the intoduction of Topomax, which brought the rapid weight loss, the teeth issues and fibromyaligia symptoms. A mmouth and eyes that stay dry, and loss od vision to non legal in my right eye. And I wonder about my bones which could be accelerated by the meds to break down. Dang aging is accelerated by these Big Pharma,money making life altering, poisionous, man made CHEMICALS. I will never be the same, but I will be, and I focus on that. And not the body, but what is in side. My soul. Sorry, as a single gal, not too many guys are past the visual… Hoping one will someday….
    I have the body of an Earth Mother Goddess, and I’m ok with that. Loosing the effects of negaitives that others caught up in the hype… Bless em, but freaking leave me alone. I am 5’10 and have been called an Amazom. That s chill, most of my pals are shorter. Just is.
    I have a 6’7″ son!!~
    I stay in more, which is the path to awakening spiritually. And I am happy


  7. EF

    …yeah people do have differing ideas of ‘fat’ …of course, ….but G you are SO right that the prevalent cultural assumption is that ANYone who gets thinner, at ANY rate, for ANY reason [even dire bad ones!] should be envied and grateful and strive to keep that smaller shape.
    THAT is the creepy vibe that chapped my ass in a large way that whole year I was ill.
    Even after I told people I was thin as a result of being involuntarily ill, they STILL acted that way.
    I did not move or look younger, my hair was a wreck from it, and yet smaller equalled better to them.
    It made me remember how when I would increase in size in my 20s [happily , yet manic thru out] and people would notice they would tend to ask or tell me in a literal whisper…have you gained weight?….like it was the worst thing they could ask.
    It just made me so aware that there were a few more layers that I hadn;t realized were there between how certain friends saw ME and how I assumed they did.

    As for commenting, whenever I myself see someone for the first time in a long time….and I do yearly events so I am always seeing the same people only once a year for each event….and they have some significant change going on {examples might be: Weight, Haircut, Tattoo, obvious injury, new kid or pregnancy, new divorce, etc…stuff that you know people EXPECT you to notice or even ask you to}… policy is to smile, stare them in the eyes, say something neutral and positive as possible {like “Hey! You’ve changed!”} and then let them tell me about it if they want to…but the main thing is to then always clearly ask:” So How Do You FEEL now?”

    …sometimes it;s clear to me they feel bad or good about the obvious change, but to have someone notice it fast, and then really focus on how YOU FEEL if even for a minute, is a good thing. It gives people…sometimes even shy people, …an opening to be honest and even to disagree with the status quo [what everyone tells them it’s appropriate to feel]

    This may sound like a psych-y strategy but it cuts to the chase and lets THEM say things that will show you their true mind about the change, even if it is ambivalent or negative. And hell yes is is sometimes hard to not impose your values on them as you discuss it, or as you react to a big or weird change or news. Really just paying attention to someone;s eyes as you ask them that will tell you where they are at sometimes.

    and yes rapid weight loss will make you a toxed out space cadet.
    It’s amazing to me that all the shows and bullshit online about ‘melting’ away pounds or working out like a machine to shrink sizes…and nowhere do they address how it can re-flood your system and literally make you ill.
    Nope just the carrot prize of being smaller in the eyes of the world.
    Sometimes I look at the extreme before and afters and the face on the before looks YEARS younger and happier than the face on the thin after shot.

    the assumption that everyone over a certain size wants and needs and could possibly even partially control getting smaller is major Ignorant Bullshit and something I think we need to teach kids about in schools way way way early. It’s as dumb and embarrassingly backward a view as racism, and affects women more sometimes.

    sorry to ramble, its just my experience-informed view and I am glad you all are discussing it here.

    ~ ef


  8. Legan

    This also happens to men. I dated a man who was heavy, (I only describe him as such in relation to this post..) and I loved him very much. Many many many times I was amazed at the inappropriate comments that strangers would make to him in regards to his body. It disgusted me. Never mind people you know, but complete strangers.

    Also, psych meds do cause profound and weight gain. The most troubling thing about the weight gain is not necessarily the physical changes per se but moreso the fact that the weight is usually caused by metabolic dysfuntion or ‘low grade’ diabetes. Interesting to note that one of the older methods of subduing psychiatric patients was to induce insulin shock. One has to wonder how these newer drugs were conceptualized.


  9. hopeworkscommunity

    I am also very tired of the medicine causing weight problems. It brings me to tears. I gaine 60 lbs on anti depressants. I struggle to lose and get nowhere. Can’t they ever create a drug that doesn’t put weight on while it solves other problems?!


  10. urocyon

    I just ran across this blog–excellent discussion! I was on a weight rollercoaster for the whole ten years I was on heavy-duty meds, and it helped point out some truly sick attitudes. Losing way too much weight too quickly last year did, too, when I was looking after my mother and unable to take decent care of myself. It was truly hard to believe I was hearing some of the compliments–heck, my grandmother even complimented Mom on losing weight from terminal cancer!

    Legan has a good point. The “you’ve done it to yourself” weirdness about medication-induced weight gain is hard enough to deal with, without neuroleptics in particular packing it on you thanks to insulin resistance (especially in younger people) and other metabolic weirdness. I may have had high stress hormone levels before that–hard not to if you’re getting treated as crazy, eh?–but have very little doubt that the antipsychotics helped me get diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at 32. It had actually been going on for at least 5 years, in retrospect, since I was on the meds. Then a lot of people are quick to blame you for being sick because you’re such a fat, lazy slob. *sigh*


  11. Thank you for your comments. As a person that has bipolar and lives a healthy lifestyle I am appauled at your thearapist suggesting the weight gain was somehow your “fault” or within your control. I am a marathon runner, and my psychiatrist was very sensitive to my concern with weight gain. She also believed in the benefits of my running and the long term effect it had on my mood. I am grateful for that. I also have a child with muscular dystrophy. I am glad he does not currently have to take steroids as I have seen the effects that medication has on others, and his doctors are also very sensitive to his weight gain, wanting him to stay on the lower side as transfers would be difficult for his caregivers.

    I believe in healthy physical activity and there are ways in which to do this no matter what the person’s “dis”ability if there are creative minds among the professionals and caregivers (my son enjoys swimming and we make it a point to do that as much as possible) I also have the same view on nutrician (my son enjoys salads, and we try to limit the amount of processed foods he has as they promote weight gain with little nutricianal value).

    I agree there are choices. Noone needs to be ruled by their “dis”ability or mental health. There are also solutions to some of these troublesome issues that are typically not the mainstream but with creativity and open minds everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy their life.


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