Why Is It So Hard to Lose Weight After Antidepressants?

1. Make conscious choices about sodium

Avoiding too much sodium in your diet is smart for anyone looking to eat healthier. But patients on steroids or antidepressants might want to consider paying extra close attention.

That means avoiding processed foods, canned foods, and fast foods, since they’re often packed with sodium.

“Eight percent of our sodium intake comes from these foods,” says Cabrero. “The general population in the U.S. has 3,300 to 3,500 mg of sodium per day, when it should fall more around 2,300 mg. Reduce these foods that have naturally a ton of sodium.”

Cabrero recommends you learn how to read nutritional labels in order to understand what’s in your food.

To curb weight, use the same strategies you’d use to control weight with or without the added effects of medication. Choose low-calorie foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, eat fiber-rich and slow-to-digest complex carbohydrates, and drink lots of water.

People taking antidepressants should also be aware of hyponatremia, which is low sodium in the blood. This is especially important in the first 28 days of starting antidepressants, as low sodium levels can lead to more severe health problems.

If you’ve been newly prescribed an antidepressant, your doctor should monitor you for signs of hyponatremia, including:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • lethargy
  • confusion
  • cramps
  • seizure

Your doctor can help you avoid hyponatremia.

Rapid weight gain after stopping venlafaxine

Posted
2 years ago,

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Hi there, I’ve gained weight over the past 6 weeks after coming off of venlafaxine — I was on it on and off for 5 years.

I thought it was due to the supplements I started taking (5htp, l-tyrosine, vit b complex) but I’ve read a few reports of rapid weight gain after coming off meds.

Has anyone else heard of this??

Can the weight be lost?

I’m exercising and eating super healthy and gaining weight by the day……, help!!

1 like, 43 replies

Eating a potassium-rich diet is great for people who are looking to lose weight gained because of medication — potassium flushes out sodium. And a potassium-rich diet is linked to other health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, protection against stroke, and osteoporosis prevention.

Potassium-rich foods include:

  • bananas
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocados
  • coconut water
  • spinach
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • potatoes
  • beets

Managing your condition is a priority, so there may not yet be any options that cause little to no weight gain.

Still, ask your doctor if there are any alternative medications or treatments that would maintain your health without the extra pounds.

For people on steroids, ask if going on the shortest, most effective dose is a possibility.

If you’re taking antidepressants, bupropion (Wellbutrin) may be less likely to cause weight gain.

For people who have come off medication, intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight, provided it’s recommended by your doctors.

“I usually suggest a gut rest. This is a 12-hour window when you don’t eat, which should start about 2 to 3 hours before bed,” says Cabrero. “A lot of times after dinner we end up snacking on foods that are not nutritious, nor are even related to hunger.”

4. Eat small, frequent meals

Your appetite can increase while taking specific medications, so you may be tempted to eat more.

Instead of having three massive meals throughout the day, breaking up your food into smaller, more frequent meals can make you feel like you’re consuming more calories because you have little time between snacks to be hungry.

It’s recommended to stave off hunger by eating six small meals a day versus three large ones.

Cabrero suggests you try to integrate nonstarchy veggies, or what she calls “volume-rich foods,” into your diet. “They’re nutritious and don’t have a lot of calories,” says Cabrero. Experiment beyond cut-up carrots: try veggie soups and salads.

5. Stay active

Staying active is important for overall health as well as weight loss or maintenance. Depending on your level of health or current symptoms, you may want to consult your doctor first.

“Depending on what other symptoms are going on, physical activity is something to be sure to do,” says Cabrero. “You might not be as active as you were before, but light yoga, walking, or something along those lines helps to keep you mobilized and improves overall health.”

7. Get some quality shut-eye

A good night’s sleep can do wonders when you’re trying to lose weight, especially if you’re taking steroids for any condition.

“With steroid use, patients find that they won’t sleep well, and that increases your appetite for sugary foods because you need that energy burst,” says Cabrero.

Here are 10 ideas for natural ways to sleep better.

Do you lose weight after going off Effexor?

I’m sorry to say this, but nobody knows.

There is no uniformity to how serious symptoms are or how long antidepressant withdrawal syndrome lasts, and Effexor is more widely known for having severe symptoms in a greater proportion of patients than some of the other antidepressants, insofar as information has even been collected on the issue. While all antidepressants cause withdrawal syndromes that can knock you on your ass or even kill you, SNRIs are a bit more publicly acknowledged in that sense (and some law suits have even been pursued due to how drug companies tend to underplay the risks…

Background: 33 y.o. female, off and on anti-depressants since age 20; Currently have been off for 3 years.

I last took Effexor ER, and while taking it I gained 45 pounds in 6 months. I was not eating anymore than usual, and was actually exercising (although in the light range), but hadn’t exercised before beginning it since my depression had gotten so bad. I begged my dr to take me off it since the weight just kept piling on, and she refused. I finally took myself off. I even told her…»if you think I was depressed, what do you think all this extra weight is gonna do?»

By the way, I am 5’2″ so a weight increase from 130 to 175 was very significant.

After coming off the meds, I exercised more and lost about 15 pounds in 5 months. I stayed at that weight for another year (160) before being able to lose anymore weight. I then began exercising even more and lost another 10 pounds (over 6 months). Now it’s been another year and half and I have not been able to lose any more weight.

I think my metabolism is permanently screwed up from the antidepressant. I counting calories a few times just out of curiousity, since I didn’t think I was eating a lot. And it turned out my regular diet (not me trying to diet) was eating about 1000 calories a day. From everything I read, it says I am not eating enough. I have tried to increase my intake of food (yes veggies and protein….not carbs and sweets) but it hasn’t made any difference.

I want to know what I can do to jump start my metabolism? Has anyone else had a similar issue after antidepressants or could this be something else? I do have a family history of both thryroid disease and diabetes.

Many people do, but it is not a guarantee.

The dysfunctions caused by Effexor which caused you to gain weight will not necessarily be corrected just by stopping Effexor—some may stick around, or take months or years to be corrected.

Sometimes there are permanent changes or damages that can contribute to abnormal weight even after Effexor has left your system entirely. The mechanisms and commonness of such outcomes is not particularly studied, though epigenetic changes, physical and functional changes to organs and organ systems (including the brain and nervous system), and permanent changes t…

Hey!  I have found someone with the same problem!  I was on effexor for about a year and I gained more than 20 pounds in that short period of time!  I was very small, like size 3 pants…now I am size 9 sometimes 7 if I’m lucky.  I was on effexor for anxiety and now I don’t think it was worth it at all because now I am more depressed than ever about my weight.  I used to weight about 112 before taking effexor.  After getting off of effexor I weighted 136!  I had to buy all new clothes b/c nothing fit and I got even more depressed!  I refused to go on any depression medication because weight gain is a side effect for most of them.  My husband thinks I’m crazy, but it’s a big deal to me.  I don’t feel good about myself.  I don’t feel sexy or attractive either.  Let me know if you figure anything out that works because I want this extra weight off ASAP!

Thanks and good luck!

Tara

Hi there,

I had put on over 40 lbs when on effexor.  I quit back in June and it took until October until the weight started coming off.  While on the pills I was working out 6 times a week, and eating super healthy (no sugars, no white flour, no alcohol), but I was stuck.  The doc kept telling me more exercise and less eating.  Well if I had worked out anymore I would have had to given up what little social life I had, and eating any less would have probably been unhealthy (I’d say I was around 1200 calories).  I quit the pill and dropped my routine back to 4 times a week and allowing myself happy hours of Fridays.  Sure enough after months of this the weight is coming of and still coming off.  You body takes times to adjust to any chemical or hormonal changes.  Just as it probably took time to adjust to taking meds, it will take time for your body to flush them out.  Eventually you’ll get back to where you were, it just takes patience.  I’d say give it 3-6 months to get back to where you were before the meds.  I a tough with witdrawal symptoms when first quitting the meds.  I would cry if somebody even said hello to me, but my mood balanced out right when the weight started to come off.  Good luck to you!

Hi everyone…..

Effexor put a lot of weight on me, too.

I`m just now getting results using a weight loss clinic. Pills, shots, diet exercise, and not much food. And water, lots of water.

I am still on effexor and probably will be for a while yet.

This  diet , is at least motivating me to really keep working at it and hopefully be able to get off the diet meds, and the effexor sometime,too.

I originally was taking Paxil for 2 years for depression and anxiety and then a friend of mine mentioned she was taking Effexor and the side effects were less. I have been on Effexor 150mg for 2 years and my weight gain is disgusting. I am 40 years old and was never bigger than a size 2 and now i am a size 8 and feel very undesireable. I am now on my 3rd day off of effexor and am feeling the side effects (not fun) but hopefully worth it. How long does it take for the weight to start coming off?

I have been taking effexor for about 4 months. I also have gained weight, but didn’t have any idea it could be from this. I have recently tried to get off this drug and it is an absolute nightmare!! I tried to wean myself off very slowly. My Dr. put me on 300mg. I started by alternating taking 2 one day and then 1 the next for about 2 weeks. Then I started taking just 1 a day. So far everything was ok. Then I went to taking 1 every other day. Still ok. Just last week I went off completely. What a nightmare!! I started having nightmares, brain zaps?, dizziness, nausea, eye problems. I have never felt this bad!! This is a drug that needs to be taken off the market. I have researched and read many other peoples testomonies and have not heard  anything good about this drug. Please do your research before taking any drug your dr prescribes for you. They don’t always know what these drugs can do to a person.

I was on Efexor XR for a year for anxiety.  It worked really well for my anxiety but made me gain 20 lbs!!! that’s a lot when you’re 5’4 and used to weighing 112:(  During the year on Effexor I was working out 3x a week with a trainer ans started running!  I couldn’t understand why I was gaining weight and not losing.  And YES it was a nightmare to get off this drug.

I’d love to hear how everyone is doing!

Side effects from medications are common, although usually not severe enough to halt treatment. Anyone who has listened, perhaps unwillingly, to the recital of side effects on a television commercial for a medication is aware of the number of health problems that might arise while taking that particular drug. But unless the side effect is death, one assumes that most of these adverse events go away once the medication is no longer taken.

Weight gain is a common side effect associated with many medications prescribed for depression, and/or anxiety, or the pain of fibromyalgia. We know that the weight is gained for the same reason weight is usually gained: More calories are consumed than needed by the body for energy. But even though most of the people gaining weight as a side effect of antidepressants and related medications may become overweight, they differ from the typical overweight or obese individual. The latter typically struggle with their weight because of a lifestyle of eating too much, exercising too little, and in many cases using food to deflect emotional issues. But people whose obesity is a side effect of their medication may never have had a problem maintaining a normal weight prior to their treatment. To them, gaining weight was as much of a shock and disruption to their body as losing hair is to a patient on chemotherapy.

They’d never dieted. Why would they? They never needed to

Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and atypical antipsychotic drugs seem to alter appetite by inhibiting serotonin-based regulation of the appetite function. A persistent need to eat remains after the stomach is full of food, along with cravings for carbohydrate snacks. Sometimes the need to eat interferes with sleep, and leads to waking up in the middle of the night. Medication-associated fatigue frequently accompanies the overeating side effects, so the motivation, and indeed the ability, to work the extra calories off through exercise becomes difficult or impossible.

All of this is well known, and even if a prescribing physician may not mention weight gain as a side effect, countless studies have confirmed it to be so.

So if weight gain is caused by the medication, then weight loss should follow its discontinuation. And it does, for many people: Once the medication is out of the body, normal appetite returns, fatigue diminishes, and the patient returns to eating and exercising normally. Increasing serotonin level and activity prior to meals diminishes any lingering inability to feel full after eating or to control snacking. Consuming small amounts of fat-free, low-protein carbohydrate foods such as oatmeal an hour before mealtime or as an afternoon snack increases serotonin sufficiently to resume normal appetite control. Returning to a vigorous workout schedule once the side effect of fatigue disappears accelerates weight loss.

But not everyone is able to lose the weight even months after the medication is stopped — and no one knows why.

Formerly fit individuals are horrified to find that the 15, 25, or 50 pounds they gained on their medication is hanging around like a relative who won’t quit the guest room. Diets are tried and discarded for lack of success. Aerobic and strength-training workouts are increased in frequency and duration. Yet the pounds stay on.

The result can be feelings of despair and desperation. It is as if someone who loses her hair while undergoing chemotherapy learns that she will be bald for the rest of her life. Patients who have become obese due to their medication believe their bodies will be permanently changed. They believe they will never return to the bodies they had before their medications, and grudgingly and often angrily resign themselves to accept being overweight or obese.

Some suggest that water retention may be responsible for the increased weight, but once the medication is out of the body, the excess water should be lost. Others point to some muscle loss before and during the early stages of treatment, when depression had led to weeks of inactivity. However, rebuilding muscle mass doesn’t seem to produce any significant weight loss. It is possible that metabolic rate decreased as a result of treatment, and therefore is slowing weight loss. But studies on thyroid function in patients treated with Zoloft or Prozac did not show any functional change in thyroid hormones.

So at this point, there is little to offer someone who has tried to lose the medication-associated weight by dieting and exercising, and is failing.

Is the weight finally lost, many months or even years after the antidepressants or related drugs are out of the body?  Are the extra pounds still attached to the body five or ten years later? No one knows. There are no long-term studies following patients after they discontinue treatment to see if weight is lost and, if so, what produced the weight loss. Interestingly, there are many studies showing that after a weight-loss diet is over, people’s weight eventually returns to the heavier pre-diet weight or «set-point.» Perhaps it is time to see whether people whose weight gain is a consequence of antidepressant treatment will also return to their own set-point.

UPDATE:

It’s been 114 days since I cold turkey stopped taking Effexor and Wellbutrin. The physical side effects have almost completely stopped. I forget that I ever took it for weeks at a time. It took 3 months to completely stop having brain shudders or feelings of vertigo. The only issue I am currently having is issues breathing when I fall asleep. I shift around in bed all night and stop breathing. I don’t know why the apnea has become so intense. I don’t know if it’s related.

Nights up until 5 am reading about ET and demons have slowly begun to return as has general feeling of dissatisfa…

That is not predictable.


If Zoloft caused or contributed to weight gain, how quickly those gains will reverse after discontinuing Zoloft is not predictable and cannot be generalized between persons and situations. The encouraging thing is that many or most people do starting losing medication weight within the first year or so, some of them rather quickly—within just days or weeks. Returning to your normal weight is a bit more complex, though.

Whether or not you will lose this weight is not guaranteed, but losing at least some of it is quite probable. It may take weeks, months, or even longer…

How to control weight gain caused by medication

If or when you do this you really need to do it under a Dr’s. supervision. The dose should be lowered a little at a time. In the mean time, coming off of that you Dr would need to prescribe you something to take the place of the Effexor that you are coming off of. A SNRI withdrawal is almost as bad as coming off an SSRI. I had a gyno stick me on Prestique, it was the latest and greatest thing at the time, it was new and suppose to be fantastic. Yeah, didn’t work for me. I stopped cold turkey which was a bad idea but I didn’t know better at the time. I had cold sweats, vomiting, insomnia got worse, I lost weight but the worst thing were the brain zaps, that feeling that your brain has static electricity and it don’t want to stop. The only things that helped me were Pepcid AC for the nausea and zofran or phenergan suppositories for the vomiting. A B-complex helped and did CoQ10 the only thing that helped with the brain zaps was a benadryl about every 4–5 hours. It took me months to finally get over most of the withdrawals but the brain zaps were the worst and lasted the longest.

I would definitely do this under a Drs. supervision and titer down accordingly. I think most of the time Drs don’t realize how painful withdrawals from these meds can be. Best of luck.

If you want to lose a few extra pounds that you’ve put on since taking a weight gain-inducing medication, you’re already on the right track.

Armed with that knowledge that gaining weight is a potential side effect, you can make more conscious choices when it comes to meals and exercise.

“If you know that these medications have the potential side effect of weight gain, you can take the appropriate steps to be prepared,” says Cabrero.

Here are seven ways she recommends you take off — or fight off — unwanted pounds.

What medications cause weight gain?

Antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers are common drugs that have the most potential to increase weight gain.

With approximately 13 percent of Americans currently taking antidepressants — and without medication options that don’t cause fluctuations in weight — a lot of people can’t avoid being put at higher risk for unhealthy weight gain.

Steroids like prednisone may also have similar effects.

Alanna Cabrero, MS, a registered dietician at NYU Langone Health’s IBD Center, says steroids are often “used to tackle inflammatory conditions like IBD, Crohn’s, arthritis, lupus, and osteoarthritis.”

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