Seeworthy has a recent post about an article discussing the possibility that medications are making us fat. Specifically, medications for psychiatric conditions.
Speaking for my own fat self, I’ve gained about 50-60 pounds since I started Zoloft about 10 years ago. And just googling “zoloft + weight gain” leads to a hell of a lot of anecdotal stories about people who, after starting Zoloft (or other SSRI antidepressants), began to gain weight even though their diet and level of activity was unchanged.
My whole adult life, I’ve been overweight by all external measures. Through college I was a size 14, and after college I settled at a size 16 for years. And no matter how much exercise I engaged in, no matter how little fat I ate (remember the 1990s, when fat was the demon and carbs were good? Mmmmm….pasta!), I always stayed at a size 16.
(Of course, it never occurred to me, back then, that maybe the fact that nothing made my weight budge might be an indication that that was the size my body wanted to be. I was still in the mindset that losing weight, being the smallest size possible, was a goal worth achieving at all costs.)
Then I started taking Zoloft, and despite exercise, despite Weight Watchers, despite fervently embracing low-carb when it came around (bye-bye, low-fat diet beliefs of the 1990s!), my weight crept up. And oh, how I hated myself. It had to be *me,* didn’t it? I just wasn’t exercising hard enough, or long enough, or maybe it was the oatmeal I had for breakfast instead of eggs and turkey bacon.
Truly, it didn’t make sense. And, 10 years ago, all the information available about Zoloft and other SSRIs was that they could actually cause weight *loss.* The fact that it didn’t, for me, made me hate myself even more — it was like my body couldn’t even get the side effects right!
Now, I don’t exaggerate when I say that Zoloft literally saved my life. Even if I had known back then that it was causing me to gain weight, I wouldn’t have stopped taking it. And now I’m up to a size 20-22.
I’ve been tapering down my Zoloft dose since last summer — but before I made that decision, I had NO idea that Zoloft can cause weight gain. I made that decision based on a lot of reasons, all of which had to do with my mental health, not my weight. That never entered into it.
But the tapering of my dose caused withdrawal (which I expected) bad enough that I started researching ways to deal with the withdrawal, and THAT led me to tons of the aforementioned anecdotal stories about people gaining weight on SSRIs.
I admit that I’m extremely curious to see what happens to my weight once I’m totally off of the Zoloft. Anecdotal evidence is not clinical evidence, certainly, but anecdotal evidence CAN lead to clinical studies, which can then verify or disprove the anecdotal evidence. In any case, if I don’t lose weight, I won’t be disappointed, and if I *do* lose weight, I’m not going to view it as some praise-worthy accomplishment on my part. Let me offer an example:
I was at a party over the weekend, and one of the women there was crowing about how she’d lost about 3 or 4 sizes after stopping some medication she was on. And the thing is, I get that. Medication can do weird things to your body, in terms of hormones and metabolism and all kinds of other processes.
It’s just — she was SO fucking proud of her weight loss. It was all she could talk about, in a fake-self-effacing way: “The biggest pain about LOSING ALL THIS WEIGHT is that I totally have to buy all new clothes! My old ones just literally FALL OFF ME! Look at this waistband!” Here she pulled her skirt away from her waist, to demonstrate her incredible shrinking midsection. “I bought this after I started LOSING WEIGHT, because I never dreamed I’d LOSE THIS MUCH MORE! Now I have to get rid of this skirt, too!”
People were praising her, and congratulating her, and telling her how tight her butt looked, etc. And I just wanted to say, “You didn’t DO anything! You stopped taking a medication — that doesn’t mean you starved yourself or jogged holes in your Nikes!” (Not that *those* are praise-worthy, either; my point is that people were treating her like she worked SO hard to lose weight, when all she did was stop taking one medication.)
When people tell me I have pretty eyes, I don’t think “Thank you” is the appropriate response, because I didn’t DO anything to get them, you know? But I’ll pass the compliment on to my parents and their good DNA. And losing weight because I stop a medication falls in the same category.
Sure, stopping a medication can, obviously, lead to weight loss. But don’t expect me to fall at your skinny feet with admiration.