Weight loss and diet after withdrawing from psychiatric medications

Since my marathon 6 year withdrawal process from a large cocktail of psychotropic drugs (some of which are notorious for weight gain) I’ve lost 56 lbs of the 100 or so pounds that I gained on the drugs over many years.

I’ve mostly stabilized at this weight and I wonder if I will continue losing or not. Weight and obesity in general are very complex issues and once a body gets set at a higher weight, significant weight loss is largely (statistically) impossible. This is documented by the scientific data, but it doesn’t stop consumers from spending tons of money on bogus weight loss products and gimmicks. (and yes, that last link is to a funny website, but the article links to some good source materials that is really outside the scope of this blog post. See this post too: Why are we getting so fat? Obesity in the modern world)

Now that statistic is only that: a statistic. I don’t think that everyone fits neatly into statistics, but by and large with the current most popular methods to lose weight, people will not keep it off. And that is, indeed, held up by the stats.

That said, I don’t think I am one of the masses when it comes to that stat. I was heavily drugged on multiple weight gaining drugs and now I am no longer taking them and I’ve also gone to extremes in turning my diet around that it might be monumentally healthy and help heal the gross disabling iatrogenic injury the psych drugs left me with. It should be noted, that the disabling iatrogenesis is a much more serious issue than the weight on its own.  And so my diet is truly healthy and therefore does NOT involve deprivation.  Both the diets wholesomeness and the importance of not being deprived I believe will go a long way in regulating ones weight though it may take more time than diets designed to shed pounds. I was also a very active and fit athlete before I got drugged. Having been heavily medicated and also having been a fit athlete makes me a bit unusual among the population in general…it does NOT make me terribly unusual among a good number of the readers of this blog, however, who have also gained weight as a result of psychiatric drug use.

I asked my doctor who has worked with a fair number of long-time users of these drugs what he had seen in those who had gained a lot of weight. He’s helped many people free themselves from the pharmaceuticals and then he also helps them recover from the disabling effects of the drugs  aftermath. I’ve only been consulting with him for about a year. He was quite a find. There are tragically very few doctors who have his experience and understanding. In any case, I asked him how people lost weight in general and if most people did or did not.

He said most people do, but not all at once nor all right away. He said that it’s much like what has happened with me.  There is an initial weight loss and then many people stop losing while they are still recovering and the autonomic system and all the hormones etc are stabilizing. He says in the end most people lose about 75% of the total weight gain.

I would be pleased with that. I’ve lost a little over 50% now. I’d be happy to lose 25% more while I continue to eat really well and not worry about my weight.

Of note: I’ve not made weight loss a priority AT ALL. Other than having the whimsical desire to lose weight like every other woman in a fat hating culture, I’ve not actually made it a focus, period. I’ve made getting healthy a priority and focus. I eat wholesome, natural,  real whole food and as much as I want.  I feel bad enough without adding feeling hungry to the bouquet. I do not eat grains as my metabolic issues don’t allow for it. There are a lot of foods I don’t eat, actually. But I do not concentrate on portion control or calorie counting AT ALL. From the foods I do eat, I eat whatever I like and as much as I like. What I like does take into consideration what I’ve learned is healthy for my body. That means I eat fruit sparingly as my body doesn’t like high levels of sugar and that includes natural sugars. Since I’ve learned to eat so well I don’t crave any foods anymore and I don’t ever over-eat. There is simply no desire or compulsion anymore. Those seem to be problems caused by eating the wrong foods! A lot of people find that cravings go away once they learn to eat appropriately for their needs. This can take time as it seems the withdrawal process itself also exacerbates blood sugar issues. And while on meds blood sugar issues are quite often simply a given, so be kind to yourself. This is a process. 

I generally eat every 2 or 3 hours because of blood sugar and metabolic issues, but now that I’ve been doing that for several years and also eating such good blood sugar balancing foods it’s not as essential that I do it religiously anymore. I eat all the healthy FATS I want. Fats are very important for brain health and healing. I eat saturated animals fats that have been grass-fed and pastured (important distinction from conventionally grain-fed animals that are factory farmed in enclosed spaces) and I eat fish oils and coconut oil and olive oil. I do NOT eat industrialized seed oils. Yes, most vegetable oils are industrialized seed oils. (corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower, etc.) They are not good for your brain. (scroll down a ways on that page after you click to read about oils)

When people find the way I eat surprising, I further surprise them by telling them that my lipids (cholesterol, tryglicerides etc) and my blood sugar greatly improved when I removed grains…and yes, I was only eating whole grains and for some time non-gluten containing whole grains. Any grain product seems to reek havoc on my lipids and blood sugar both! Saturated fat on the other hand seems to improve my labs as well as make me feel better. Go figure…sometimes much of what we learn is wrong. I do eat LOTS of veggies of all kinds including sea vegetables. (yes, sea weed) This is my favorite sea weed product. And it’s a great deal: Pacific Wakame (Dried Seaweed)

When I eat this way I not only feel better but my blood work actually looks a heck of a lot better too. The blood work improvement is an indisputable fact. Whether or not I could somehow get such good results another way I can’t be certain, but I’ve certainly tried many different variations of “healthy diet,” with whole foods and always did lots of research to accompany my personal experimentation. I’ve concluded we’re all different and the scientific data can be manipulated to support almost anything, so I use my body as the final judge.

I want to underscore again that all these changes I’ve made has been to help regain my health. I was bedridden for 2 years so weight has absolutely not been a priority. Nor has ideology. Feeling good and healthy and strong are my only priorities. Someday if I’m well that might shift, but I think it’s important to underscore that it may not always be the best for your total well-being to make weight-loss or pursuit of an ideology the primary goal. My theory is that a healthy body that feels deeply satisfied is going to lose weight in a much more sustainable way and it will do it naturally. And it’s held up for me. I’ve lost 56 lbs and not for one second has a desire to lose weight been a motivating force with the foods I choose to eat.

In our society today whether people eat animal products or not is a hot issue. I would prefer not to eat meat but have found I must. I’ve also found that I’m intolerant of dairy and eggs, so that leaves only meat and fish. I have found others like me in my community with similar physical ailments who have found that animal products are essential. I’ve experimented heavily with purely vegetarian methods of nourishing myself without meat since I deeply value the lives of animals and have failed. This choice does not come without pain. I’m always happy for those who find they can thrive without animal products and I certainly don’t begrudge those who can. I hope someday to regain enough health that I might be able to once again carefully tweak most if not all of the meat out of my diet. I write explicitly about this issue because we are all different and people need to find what works for both their body and their spirit together. Sometimes the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit seem to conflict. Such is life. Never simple.

So to continue, I exercise when and if I can. I’m extremely proactive but also careful to listen to my body as I’m very sick and there are times it’s imperative I rest. I do yoga and I walk mostly, but I do lots of other things too as it feels safe and appropriate.  Yard work and gardening is my other current favorite.

Anyway, I know from my work as a social worker with folks on these drugs as well as from communicating with 100s of readers now that the issue of weight as it relates to having been on psychiatric drugs is a big one. And so I’m sharing these thoughts with you as my body changes in a multitude of ways.

I’ve written many posts over the years on the issue of psych drugs and fat. I collect them here: Psych Meds and FAT

That link includes discussion about the blaming and shaming of people on psych meds for gaining weight even when it’s constitutionally impossible for some people to not gain weight while ingesting these medications regardless of what they do in terms of exercise and diet. Psych meds change people’s metabolism in extreme ways that cannot be controlled quite often. Hence the high rates of diabetes and other  serious metabolic disorders in the population of people who take psychiatric drugs.

Psych Meds and FAT is another page that is part of the drop-down navigation menus at the top of the blog. It is always available under the Nutrition heading. It is also updated when appropriate.

For info on how I eat see: Nutrition and gut health/Mental health and diet  and:  Gluten: if you’re unconvinced see the collection of studies from medical journals here (with commentary)

It’s an ongoing journey — learning to live well.

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters