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:
This was first posted in June 2009
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.
For a good comment thread with lots of people’s experience with this issue see here where this post was first published.