A Hidden Cause of Obesity and Reversing Antidepressant Weight Gain

 

I know it does no good to shout at a TV screen but I do it anyway. Watching advertisements for upcoming specials on “obesity in America” or “best diet tips” or “the best way to fight weight gain” provokes my on-going one-sided argument. 

When I see doctors such as Dr. Oz or Dr. Gupta talk about weight-loss interventions and offer their support to individuals on their long journey to weight loss, I keep hoping they will at least occasionally focus on those individuals who gained weight from their medications. They never do. That is a real problem. For the 25% of the population whose use of antidepressants is causing them to gain weight, the doctors’ wise and supportive words are irrelevant. Even the Queen of Weight-Loss Discussions, Oprah, has not addressed this serious issue and the silence from other media such as women’s magazines is overwhelming. Yet it has been years since the SSRI’s have been identified with weight gain and at least 40 years since drugs like lithium and the early group of antidepressants were known to be associated with obesity. 

Discussions about antidepressants and weight gain are all over the Internet, from scholarly articles listing the many drugs that cause weight gain to blogs by those who are experiencing obesity from their use. Typical is one I came across on the website All Experts asking about the use of an amphetamine-like drug, phentermine, for weight loss. The female writer said she took phentermine and lost weight but stopped the drug because she needed to go on an antidepressant. She took Lexapro and gained 35 pounds, stopped that, started Prozac and gained another l0 pounds. Her desperation at gaining so much weight caused her to quit the antidepressants to go back on the amphetamine-like drug. She said her family is begging her to go back on her antidepressants and she wants to know if she can take phentermine along with her serotonin reuptake blocker, Prozac. According to the pharmacist-expert, she can’t. The FDA prohibits combining an amphetamine-like drug such as phentermine with an SSRI because it might lead to serious illness or even death. The writer is clearly upset by the answer and it is possible she will still take the phentermine because losing weight is more critical than a possible lethal side effect. Her problem, which is so typical of many on similar drugs, is greeted by silence from media experts on obesity. 

What is equally upsetting about our national discussions on obesity is the finger pointing at someone who is 100 or more pounds heavier than he or she should because of treatment with mood stabilizers or atypical antipsychotics. We see someone morbidly obese and immediately assume that the individual is obese because of bad food choices, eating too much and lack of exercise. We don’t understand that the individual may have been thin before going on the medication, and may have always eaten healthily and exercised. Unless we are on similar medications ourselves, we would not know how it feels to have an antidepressant or mood stabilizer take away our control over eating and leave us so tired we cannot bring ourselves to exercise. Medication-generated weight gain is almost never acknowledged in the seemingly endless national discussions about the obesity epidemic, in the monthly magazine diets or the seasonal focus on weight-loss by television’s medical experts. 

The lack of attention paid to this problem in the media has led some, like the overweight blogger, to seek out solutions such as taking drugs that are potentially dangerous. Others may despair at following the diet advice given on television and in magazines because much of it doesn’t work for people on antidepressants. And some, of course, will give up their medications because the emotional pain of being obese is worse than the emotional pain of depression. 

Yet the solution to losing weight while on antidepressants is easy and simple. It simply requires knowing that brain serotonin does more than regulate mood. It also regulates appetite. 

When enough serotonin is made, eating stops. Drugs such as the SSRI’s may promote the activity of mood-enhancing serotonin but for reasons we do not understand the same drugs may prevent the activity of the class of serotonin that enhances satiety. Giving more drugs to shut off the appetite is not possible because there are no drugs right now that are safe and effective.  

Decades ago, MIT researchers showed that consuming carbohydrates without protein triggers the production of serotonin. When this happens food intake slows down or stops. The solution to losing weight on antidepressants is to eat snacks or meals based on non-fruit carbohydrate like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, cereal, and cornmeal. These foods, by eliciting normal insulin secretion, increase the amount of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that goes into the production of serotonin. Once made, serotonin increases satiety and turns off the urge to eat anymore. We utilized this approach in a hospital-based weight-loss center whose patients had gained weight on antidepressants, mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotic medication. (This is described in our book, The Serotonin Power Diet.) Unlike phentermine or other drugs that may cause serious side effects, the only side effect from using carbohydrate as an appetite suppressant is weight loss. 

© 2010 Judith J. Wurtman, PhD, co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet: Eat Carbs — Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant — to Stop Emotional Overeating and Halt Antidepressant-Associated Weight Gain 

Guest Author Bio
Judith J. Wurtman, PhD, co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet: Eat Carbs — Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant — to Stop Emotional Overeating and Halt Antidepressant-Associated Weight Gain, has discovered the connection between carbohydrate craving, serotonin, and emotional well-being in her MIT clinical studies. She received her PhD from George Washington University, is the founder of a Harvard University hospital weight-loss facility and counsels private weight management clients. She has written five books, including The Serotonin Solution, and more than 40 peer-reviewed articles for professional publications. She lives in Miami Beach, Florida.

©2022butyoudontlooksick.com
  • Jacky

    Thanks for your comment. Your experience completely reflects mine – I’ve supported Dr. Wurtman’s industry for years and have nothing but health and weight related issues to show for it. Everyone should read Anatomy of an Epidemic to learn the background of this black pit of despair industry and what it’s done to us.

  • K.

    I too gained about 100 lbs in my ten + years of hell on antidepressants. I’ve tried almost all of them and none of them really do more than slap a bandaid on the problem. I have lost my motivation, my creativity has suffered and I have a whole slew of health problems now that no one in my family has ever had – and for what? To keep an already filthy rich industry rolling in the money? My overall health and quality of life has taken a serious nose dive since being on this crap. I could write about the negative effects for days. Please reconsider before taking these kinds of medications and seek alternative therapies.

  • jwllover

    What a total crock. No way will that “diet” help with serotonin production or weight management. I’ve been on antidepressants for about 10 years, and went from a slim 115 to a fat 160. I’m almost done weaning off effexor, and I’ll NEVER take this crap again. Instead, I take the Omega complex and magnesium.

  • Stella Rose

    That would NOT work for me. I am on Methadone, because of building a high tolerance to a pain medication I was taking for painful uterine fibroids. This drug has made me gain 80 pounds in a year due to craving and eating nothing but carbs and sugar. Oatmeal us primarily the main staple I eat.

  • Jas

    @norahdavexeverett:disqus, Based on my experience, I would say almost certainly its the meds.

    I recommend try to exercise A LOT. It probably won’t stop you gaining weight, but should slow down the process. More importantly, you can maintain your fitness so that when your (hopefully soon) feel consistently better and are able to stop the medicine, it will help get back in shape again.

    I took paroxetine for one year and gained a lot of weight. After stopping it was easy to lose most of the weight again. I decided not to worry about anything. I did quite a lot of exercise (purely for enjoyment) and was fairly careful with what I ate. . . one day I was pleasantly surprised that all of my old clothes fit again.

    About 10 years later I took fluoxetine for 3 years. When I started the medicine I began running 10KM / day!!! And doing lots of weight lifting. Despite this I still gained loads of weight. At first it was quite a lot of muscle, as I’m male so respond to weight training in that way. But I just seemed to be getting heavier and heavier. . . eventually, I thought the exercise wasn’t helping so I cut it down, and then gained LOADS more. (not muscle this time).

    I’m feeling pretty good lately and have stopped the fluoxetine. Hopefully I’ll be able to reverse the weight gain, although I’m expecting it to be harder as I’m ~ 40 years old now.

    I don’t regret taking antidepressants, but would’ve tried to stop sooner, had I known about this big side effect.

  • scatter

    Oh that’s interesting – is it an iodine supplement?

  • woonsocket

    Hi Kim, It sounds like we’re both on the same “regimen.” Fortunately, a life of weight gain and weight loss hasn’t hurt my blood glucose level. That could change overnight. “Weight of the Nation” was on cable and when you see a specimen of an obese heart or a liver, it’s enough to make you puke. Then they showed images of fat-saturated liver cells. Now there are articles on the internet saying that if you’re over 55 yrs. and you’re obese, it may be too late to reverse the damage. They say it happened to older mice but they never studied humans. We need hope.

  • woonsocket

    I have to take anti-depressant or I can’t function or sleep. You’re right about everything not working. I’m killing myself with the added weight. I’m going to try again to lose weight again but with a difference. My metabolism is shot so I’m going to spread nutritious foods over 9-12 hrs. It’s not going to be fun, I’ll be hungry & calories will count. The idea is to kick-start my metabolism. This pretty well the end of the line. If I keep up what I’m doing now, I’ll be dead in 2 yrs.

  • Kep

    I take zoloft for over 10 years and not able to lose weight. A chiropractor put me on iodine, and finally I am losing weight with diet and exercise. Suzy cohen,s book ” Drug Muggers” discusses this as well. So happy. I guess ssri displaces iodine in the body and effects metabolism.

  • milo

    I have maintained the same unhealthy diet and since quitting my medications i have more energy and weight loss and my body is starting to take its natural form again

  • milo

    so on anti depressants you just don’t feel food i always thought it was because they block a certain inhibitor leading to some hormonal trouble. Also what about the fact that ssri’s impede kidney and liver function.

  • Gynecologist mountain view, ca

    Superb kind of work by the team as on this particular topic people needs more precise information and special attention to it.Thanks a lot.

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  • Trillium

    This article is just a bunch of bunk by another Phd trying to sell a book. I can tell you that grains do not work and are actually worse. The fact she is endorsed by the American Dieticians Association should be a BIG red flag for folks. They want to control the message much like the FDA whose conflict of interest with big food and pharma are almost laughable. We don’t fund the FDA adequately. The FDA could not even keep their doors open if it were not for the fact that so they have to accept million dollar annual fees from these big food and drug companies. They don’t bite hard on the hand that feeds them. The American Dieticians Associations follows the junk science the FDA adopts due to political pressures. This information is not hard to find.

    Follow the Human Microbiome Project which just finished a 5 yr data dump from researchers from all over the world. The NIH collected all the data. They know that beneficial bacteria all over your body is critical to health. Well those SSRIs can really kill off gut flora. But hey there is not any long term studies for Paxil to know what this drug does. The FDA approved this without understanding long term affects. Wink wink. When folks get off these drugs they have horrible side affects. Diarrhea, vomiting, metalic taste in their mouth, stomach upset, zinging in their ears and the list goes on and on. It took me about a year to have some sort of normalcy. But I was never the same. Unbelievable. The irony was I asked about if this drug was addictive and they swore it wasn’t. I had addiction in my family and made it a point to avoid drugs. Well the fact they are having so many gut related issues should tell you that the gut flora has been impacted in a big way. Now that I have been off of Paxil for many years I can tell you that I now have many autoimmune conditions. If you follow THE guy with Celiac disease, Dr. Fasano he has made a link between ALL autoimmunity and leaky gut. Leaky gut can be caused by eating grains and other foods but also by lack of beneficial gut flora due to antibiotics or other drugs or my guess we all have a combination of these factors. That is why the Human Microbiome Project is bigger than the Human Genome Project was. They are trying to figure out which strains we are missing and how to replace them. You have 500-600 strains in your gut alone and some so delicate they can’t even be cultured and had to invent technology just to see them for the first time. If you have bad gut flora the LAST thing you want to do is eat starchy carbs to feed them since that only makes your gut even leakier. Dr. Wurtman is a joke since if she was really tracking the top researchers she would have NEVER advised this. I have a very restrictive diet and even I could only lose half of my obesity. I can control my autoimmune conditions much better via diet. So something is going on in my gut and it all started after getting off of Paxil. Gut flora impacts metabolics. When they took skinny mice and put the gut flora of a fat mouse in it they skinny mouse got fat. The reverse was also true. I gained a ton of weight on Paxil and only able to lose half now. Get off the SSRIs and then eat Paleo and autoimmune protocol and then work on ways to keep gut flora limping along until they can figure out a safe fecal transplant type approach to reseed our guts. I hope a class action suit is brought against these companies that mislead us on these SSRIs. I wish that we would fund the FDA so they can actually follow the good science and not be so utterly influenced by their funders. Right now big drug offers autoimmuners another nightmare solution…a string of autoimmune suppressing drugs that have horrendous side affects. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…Oh and btw Paxil never really worked well. I should have never been put on that. They hand these out like candy to keep patients out of their waiting rooms and a cheaper HMO approach to managed care. I swear they use Paxil as a catch all and way too many people are put on SSRIs and when they don’t work ( typical) they switch to other drugs that don’t work. You become their ginnea pigs since they don’t know enough about these drugs. You have become these drug company cheap participants to the trials they really should have done before getting a rubber stamp from the FDA. The problem is that only the positive outcomes are most likely published in medical journals. These drugs get approved easily and then the deaths come or other serious adverse affects come to light and then the drug gets pulled. Forcing the FDA and these companies to publish ALL trial outcomes is also key to this.

  • Ash

    SSRI’s completely screw up your hormones. Of course it has nothing to do with appetite.

  • Norah Davex Everett

    well I have been on antidepressants for a year. my doctor kept switching up my meds every time id meet him because of my mood swings. Every meeting hed see I had gained weight and would switch me up and then the next meeting hed find I gained more weight. I don’t know what to think. Are the meds responsible for my weight gain over that period? I gained 40 pounds over that period and still cant lose the weight

  • Natalie

    I am on Cymbalta and have lost weight. I eat a lot of Greek yogurt, hard cooked eggs, very little meat, but I eat Alaskan salmon (canned) and fresh fruit. When I was on Effexor, I gained 40 pounds and craved sweets much more. I think you have to bug your doctor to try a different medication. That is what I did and I know I was annoying, but you have to push for your own health because only you know what works for you.

  • fat fuck farma victim

    what a worthless crock of horseshit this is. in one single year on zoloft my weight doubled, from about 100 lbs to about 200 lbs. no doctor at the time would believe me that it was the drugs and not something i was ‘doing.’ i was doing what i always had done. i had always been very athletic and had always eaten a super clean diet (i was what todays fat whiners might call orthorexic.) i was pushing 40 at the time and still fit comfortably in my clothes from high school pre-SSRI. it is now more than 10 years since i was weaned off and like many SSRI survivors i have never been able to drop the weight. and your suggested dietary changes are useless. believe me, i have tried them. in 10 years since weaning i’ve only ever been able to drop half the weight and i need to stay in deep keto and work out constantly including a lot of heavy lifting to even maintain that level of (50 lbs overweight) obesity. as a shill for big pharma poison i hope your weight doubles, and that you end up with all the health problems associated with obesity (as i have,) and further hope that none of your doctors believe you and all treat you like shit. just like mine have. i mourn for the life and body and health SSRIs stole from me. and despise the doctors who facilitated it. and the real kicker? it has recently been disclosed that SSRIs are less effective than a placebo. anyone who prescribes SSRI poison needs to die in a fire made of AIDs. yesterday.

  • ellejae

    Thank you so much for this article! I have looked for a reason for my weight gain for years! I suffer from major depression, and have been on various medications. I have also gained weight steadily, even though I don’t eat much. I joined Weight Watchers after all the media about over-eating, convinced that I was eating more than I thought. I found myself eating more food than normal, and after gaining two pounds, quit. I have been so frustrated about this, and worst of all, no-one believes me, even my friends. It helps a lot knowing someone else is going through the same thing.

  • kim

    I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 1997 after a traumatic event. I am now 100 lbs heavier. I used to eat right and exercise and did not have a weight problem. The weight started to pack on in the first year on antidepressants. Five years later my thyroid stopped working and over a period of 7 years I gained 100 lbs. I believe it to be a combination of the medication making me feel complacent about everything in my life, a much slower metabolism, a heightened appetite and a lack of emotion/care. I binge eat now, I have no energy and I just don’t care about much anymore. Libido, work drive, self esteem, creativity all went out the window. It is much like being in a zombified state and I can honestly say, without question that life is most certainly not better on these medications. There must be alternatives.

  • Chris N22

    I got one when I was 12 I was very track basketball baseball and football athlete I was diagnosed with bi polar and deppersion abd was put on depeakote and abilify then next 8 years I gained about 180 pounds It got hard to be active and messed w some nerves these lats 2-3 years I been trying to lose weight and have been active working out eating somewat healthy and noting eating as much and I can’t seem to lose more than 10-15 pounds

  • Feelinglost

    Here’s one for you..I had to get off of Celexa and Lamictal because my health insurance changed and wont cover my doctor visits. I have been off of them now for 2 months. In those two months I have gain 30 pounds! Explain that! I have not changed how I eat since on the meds…help!

  • Ashley

    I am auditioning for the Biggest Loser this weekend. Maybe they will pick me and we can finally get national attention on the problem. I have bipolar disorder and I have gained 120 pounds in the past 10 years.

  • ellie

    I have a Dr. That I work for who is telling me to do just the opposite. He said to take all sugar and carbs. Out of my diet because they make me have sugar highs and lows. That they are mood stabilizers but don’t need them because that’s what my antidepressant is for. He said it will just turn into belly fat. I give up. I’ve tried every diet and no success. I have gained 76 lbs in 5 years on effexor.

  • Good share! This may be a problem to most antidepressant especially the SSRI’s.  While it doesn’t happen to everyone, but when it does occur, it can be a snag that should not be ignored.

  • I have been on effexor, an SNRI, for almost a decade as well as many other drugs. I went from a healthy 130lbs to 240lbs in that time. I quit effexor last year (it took me nearly a year just to get off it) but had to go back on because nothing else worked for my anxiety/panic/agoraphobia and my emotional well being was more important to me than my weight. I’m still on effexor and still 240lbs. I joined a gym but it’s just so hard. Nothing seems to be happening with the weight loss. I know a part of it is my fault; I don’t exercise enough, I just don’t have the energy and I am such a picky eater that I can’t eat most things that are healthy without vomiting. I just don’t know how to get rid of this excess weight.

  • Johnhopps

    SSRIS have caused me to put on 33 lbs. From a thin 229 to a chunky 262. I have been on 4 ssris in trying to find one that didn’t cause me weight gain. No luck. I have stopped 3 times and have almost lost all of the weight before trying a new med and gaining again. This time Prozac 40 mg was the culprit. I have been off the drug now for 4 months and have lost 5 pounds. Each time I take an AD it takes longer and longer for the weight to come off. I eat way less than I burn off and it just doesn’t come off. There’s no explanation.

  • Thank you so much for this article, doctors need to be more upfront with their patients about ALL of the possible side effects. Thanks for the help!

  • I had no idea about antidepressants doing this. Thanks for the heads up

  • Thank you so much for these responses. I have been on Neurontin (2400 mg a day) and trazadone (300 mg a day) and have gained over 35 pounds in the last year. I have always been thin (115-120 pounds) and now I weigh nearly 160. I think I am going crazy, but the doctors tell me that I was underweight before so they don’t think there is a problem. This extra weight is ruining my life. I have an entire wardrobe of clothes that I cannot wear. I used to wear size 6, but now I am wearing a size 40 C bra and my jeans are a size 16!!! Please let me know if anyone has any answers to this problem as I am really dying from the extra weight and won’t even go out anymore. Thanks in advance for anyone who can give me any advice. Sincerely, Mary Alice Carter

  • I am also very thankful for this article! I have always been a little “chubby” but never over 200 lbs, at 5″10. When I started taking my antidepressants I weighed 165 lbs. Within the first year I gained 60 lbs!!!! It has now been over 5 years and I weigh 305!!! I have always ate a little more than I should, but it was never a big problem untill I started the meds. I know that’s what it is, because you don’t just gain 60 lbs in one year, without any changes in diet or exercise. This absolutly needs to be a big discussion in the media, because I know there are other people out there thinking “Why am I gaining so much weight?” without being told by there doctors or anyone else that there meds are the possible cause.

  • Melody Ream

    Thank you Judith for sharing this information with us. I’ve always had “weight issues” and am to the point that I tune out that entire portion of the doctors visit that tells me how I need to lose weight…yada yada yada…. I’m hoping to bring this up to my next doctors appointment. And not just my primary care, but the “ologists” as well. Weight loss is not my primary goal, but being healthier is important. I have to live with my diseases but if I can do it in a healthier manner I may be able to fight longer and harder to live a more meaningful life.

  • I’ve been off and on bi-polar and anti-depressant meds for 5 years now. I finally stopped taking them a year ago because of the weight gain, and also the horrid nightmares that the anti-depressants gave me. I was so fed up with being told that I weighed 150 lbs too much and had too high cholesterol. I did research online and took my findings to my new doctor who is very cooperative. Since then, through my own hard work and study and the doctors silly little tests, I’ve found out that I have Sleep Apnea, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Of course, these things all contribute to my fatigue far more than my mood disorders.

    Thank you doctors, for not listening to me, and shoving pills down my throat that made me gain 100+ lbs and raise my cholesterol to scary heights.

    Six months ago I switched to an entirely vegan diet. I’ve lost 35 lbs, and my weight is slowly slowly going down and down. My doctor still wants me to lose another 50 at least, but all I can tell him is to hold his horses. It’s not exactly easy to exercise when you injure yourself just by sleeping wrong. 😀

  • Beth Schroeder

    I think if I hear one more medical person tell me to loose weight, drink 22 gallons of water a day, and walk 30 miles (slight exaggeration, but not much) after just talking to me about my 7 or 8 (I’m losing track they are racking up so fast) chronic illnesses and the 2 page list of drugs I take, if I had a gun I’d probably shoot them! I’m with all of you about Oprah, Oz and the other skinny gods out there who fail to make a repeated, loud statement that there are many, many people in our society who appear to be morbidly obese, but it is not for lack of trying to loose weight! Many people with serious health issues, separate from obesity, are made obese by the medications they take, the inability to properly exercise and their medical conditions themselves. They can add any disclaimer they want about this is not an excuse for not trying to loose weight they want. They should be emphasizing that eating healthy and exercising TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY ACCORDING TO YOUR DOCTOR, should be the goal for every person. No one should be judged based on their weight!

  • Amy

    Extreme diets, extreme exercise, together or separately, have the effect of shutting down the body’s ability to lose weight. Your body adapts to the new diet & starts once again conserving as much energy as possible in the form of fat, stopping weight loss & in some cases even reversing it (depending on the level of caloric deprivation). I know how they say exercise “revs up” metabolism, but the fact is that it only does so to a limited extent. The body adapts to the energy expenditure & quits losing weight. If you think about it, it has to – otherwise star athletes would wither away to nothing despite high caloric intake in some cases.

    Some people are born with bodies that want to hang on to every calorie that goes in the body, regardless. You can tell who they are – their ancestors survived famine, survived low food supplies (think serfs who had to give most of their food to the “nobility” as taxes; there were some who died of starvation while others survived-I think every one of them has GOT to be in my genetic lineage somewhere!). They survived because hunger couldn’t kill someone whose body had stored every calorie as potential energy in the form of fat!

    Plus, a few years ago, someone came out with a finding of a certain retrovirus that was present in about 85-90% of all fat people they’d checked, but was rarely, if ever, in thin people. But just like the 1991 findings of an at that time unknown retrovirus being present in 85-90% of people with CFS/ME, the findings were ridiculed. “Fat contagious?” articles abounded with doctors calling the findings “unscientific” & blacklisting, systematically, the researchers (physicians, lab techs, etc) to the point where they could no longer practice their professions; they couldn’t even get jobs. Fat people were ridiculed if they insisted on more research. “Quit blaming anyone or anything else but yourselves for your fat. You’re all lazy, undisciplined, unwilling to do the hard work of diet & exercise,” they said. The same thing happened to the 1991 CFS researchers; in fact, the lab tech got such a horrible case of CFS that she can barely function. She may not be alive anymore. And for another decade or so, CFS patients continued to be told they weren’t really sick, that all they needed to do was adopt a healthier lifestyle, suck it up, & continue living, or see a shrink if they couldn’t figure out how to manage that task.

    Meanwhile, people suffer.

    Yeah, I suppose there are people out there who fake having CFS well enough to fool people into thinking they’re sick when they aren’t. And there are plenty of fat people who might lose most or all of their excess weight if they dieted & exercised, but they “poor me” people to the point where they’re disgusted. Most of us could benefit from a better lifestyle. But there are a lot of people out there who are obese who shouldn’t be – & not just people on medications that have caused weight gain. How about those people in 3rd world countries where getting ONE meal a day is a gift? Or those who live in garbage dumps & eat half-spoiled food? How in the world do THEY become obese? Yet it IS happening. Obesity has been called a “global pandemic.”

    And diabetes is blamed on obesity when it could very well be that diabetes CAUSES obesity.

    Where would I get such an idea? From my son & his pediatric endocrinologist. When my son was 6, he’d had a few bad viral infections in a row starting around Halloween, going through Thanksgiving & Christmas & his birthday (which is Christmas Eve, & which we have always celebrated as a distinct celebration different from Christmas). After that, he went from having slims be loose on him to having huskies be tight, in ONE YEAR. His eating habits & activity hadn’t changed at all, & because we were all fat in both families for generations, even during the Depression, I’d been careful with his diet. When, at age 12, he was diagnosed with type 1 (autoimmune, not obesity-caused) diabetes, the endocrinologist asked me if, at any time in the past he’d had a sudden weight gain despite no change in diet & activity, & if it had been preceded by viral infections. He said it was at the time of that weight gain that my son had gotten diabetes, it had just taken years to show up. Apparently, the body’s immune system had attacked a viral infection where the virus was the same general size & shape as the islet cells in the pancreas, the ones that produce insulin. The body’s immune system had started attacking those cells, & they’d responded by increasing insulin production, which had caused weight gain. Eventually, the antibodies the body created to attack the beta cells in the pancreatic islets were sufficient to overwhelm all his body’s attempts to produce enough insulin, & the symptoms showed up.

    Increasingly, adults in their 40s, 50s, even 60s are showing up with type 1 diabetes. Dubbed “type 1.5” or LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood), it is a true, insulin dependent diabetes never tested for at their age, until they nearly die despite medication, diet, & exercise. More & more, evidence is suggesting that diabetes is a progression, not several discreet diseases, & it’s a well known fact medically that most type 2s, regardless of how compliant they are with their diet & exercise, will end up on insulin within 3 years. That indicates a continuum of sorts. I know of many illnesses that seemed like something else or a different form of a disease, where research discovered a continuum existed that they hadn’t seen before. but I can tell you that all the adults I worked with in an inpatient research center in the late 80s-early 90s had struggled with weight gain from their insulin use. Many obsessed about getting several hours of workouts completed in a day, to avoid moving to an overweight status. Most non-obese type 1s struggle with weight gain. Until the advent of Levemir & Apidra in the last few years (levemir being a long acting insulin taken 2 times a day & Apidra being a short acting insulin used to cover for meals & high sugars for whatever reason they occur), all insulins caused weight gains. These 2 supposedly don’t cause weight gain but don’t cause weight loss, either – but do make it simpler to lose weight on insulin. And whether insulin is injected or if pills force the body to make it, it still causes weight gain unless, apparently, it’s one of those 2 insulins – both of which are VERY, VERY expensive (Levemir costs around $80/vial; I believe Apidra is closer to $120, or was last time I checked).

    To me, all this means one thing: Diabetes is the epidemic that causes obesity, not the other way around. More & more research hints at this – but those researchers have learned from the peddlers of cures for obesity to word their research very carefully, to tantalize other researchers in the field who might come to the same conclusions, conclusions that might lead to a cure with a bit of creative thinking.

    The problem is, OBESITY & DIABETES ARE HUGE MONEY MAKERS. To those out there who like to feed on the pain of others, you don’t solve the problem, you find a way to make money from it. Just think of all the diet books, products, clubs, places that send you icky frozen meals, gyms, herbal supplement companies, diet pill companies, & considering Alli, the OTC diet pill, has a side effect of “rectal seepage,” I imagine incontinence products & those who sell odor-killing items for use in hiding the smell of oozing stool, are also making a bit of money. Let’s not forget weight loss surgery – a surgery with such a high morbidity (disease causing) & mortality (death) rate that it would not be permitted were it not done on fat people. Yet, WLS patients lose a max of 80% of their excess body weight, some as low as 40-60%. Many fail & stretch the food pouch until they regain their weight. Others spend months after the surgery deathly ill from infections in the incisions (blamed on poor physical hygiene & body habitus, not on poor surgical technique in placing the incisions). For many, there is at least one complication of the surgery that will result in a prolonged hospital stay. At the 5 year point, where most studies stop following WLS patients, is when osteoporosis, loss of skin elasticity, osteoarthritis, heart failure (from prolonged malnutrition due to feeding issues), high blood pressure, avascular necrosis of the hip joint (necessitating joint replacement)…the list goes on & on. One of our neighbors aged a good 30 years after he hit the 5 year mark; he walks like an old man, in obvious pain. Although seeming healthy those first 5 years, to the point where I wondered if it might be safer than I thought, after that 5 year point it was like looking at a time lapse photography session spanning months & years, a session of someone aging way beyond their years in a short span of time. The kicker? HE’S STILL CONSIDERED MORBIDLY OBESE. That’s right, the WLS often leaves people that far from their goal weight.

    On the diabetes side, why do we have tons of types of insulins, & things designed to balance the gastric hormones of leptin (which causes weight gain) & grhelin (which shuts down appetite & aids weight loss)? And, why do we have so many, many new type 2 diabetes pills that are pulled from the market as dangerous months to a few years later?

    Why not a cure? BECAUSE DOCTORS & OTHERS ARE GETTING FILTHY RICH FROM OBESITY & DIABETES. Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

    For that reason alone, I know the only research they’ll do into diabetes is research to find new ways to make money off diabetics while condemning fat people while they’re doing nothing at all to figure out why some people can eat enough at one sitting to feed a family of 6 for a week, do so every meal, & still end up rail thin.

    You see, if they fix it, several things happen:
    1. They stop earning money & so do the bloodsuckers who earn their living in “peripheral” markets
    2. People realize they’ve likely been hoodwinked & start to sue
    3. There will be no way to kill off enough people to make socialized medicine world-wide solvent

    We can’t have that, now, can we?

  • Beth

    Boy, this hits home. My son has bipolar disorder with psychotic features. He used to be skinny and active. He takes lithium and trileptal and the most weight-positive anti-psychotic, zyprexa, because that is all that will control his psychosis. He has gained so much weight and of course feels sluggish. It’s bad enough to go through puberty, much less to do it with a mental illness and with meds that cause you to gain weight when so much attention is placed on appearance at that age group.

  • carla

    And hows about adding our old friend prednisone and the like to the list? FOUR YEARS STRAIGHT I’ve been on this stuff. 60 pounds. Nothing will come off. And the 40 pounds before that came from the 1st round that was I was given a while before that and was able to get off of it. With everything I tried even after I was off the pred the first time, I only ever lost 8 pounds. So let’s add steroids you need to survive and function with a disease that makes it hurt for you to move at all to that list. I am SO TIRED of the assumptions about my weight. I am SO TIRED of people looking at me with ”that look”. You all know the one I mean. It’s the look you only get when it’s directed at you, and you only get it when you have a weight problem. “Eat a salad’ is a hilarious sling to throw at a stranger with a weight problem, BTW. Keep that one up. Perhaps I should tell you about my all celery 2 week fast, or my experience of drinking nothing but disgusting lemonade with pepper and syrup in it…while losing NOTHING. Well, there was some loss with the lemon thing, but it was nothing that wasn’t back in 2 weeks after eating normal, healthy food. So yeah, don’t get me started on this topic!

  • Janilee

    OMG! Seriously? That is so awesome! I crave lots of carbs like mentioned, but am constantly told my Doctors and Dietitians, no no no! I’ve been told to limit these foods like crazy. I’ve been starving myself for months and only lost 6 pounds. I’m gonna try this for a month. (I track what I eat) So I’ll come back in 1 month and tell everyone how it’s going.

  • Claire

    I gained 65 pounds in three years from Prozac, Zoloft, Atavan, and about five other drugs…thank you, thank you, thank you, somebody please make sure this woman is heard around the world.

  • Darlene

    I have a list of providers that range from my pulmonologist to my primary care physician, with several others in between. Taking stuff from prednisone to neurontin, as well as an SSRI, I have watched my weight balloon horribly in the past four years. Finally, after my PCP fussed at me last visit (despite the fact that my blood pressure medicine was cut in HALF) because I still need to drop 100 lbs., I asked her “how”? I’m not a candidate for the meds due to all my health issues including kidney disease and COPD/asthma, nor am I a candidate for bariatric surgery. When the CFS and sleep disorders cause my energy level to be slightly higher than a slug, and a medicine side effect pretty much shut down my kidneys, how can I exercise? So, she and I have (hopefully) hit on adding a med for the daytime sleepiness that will give me the kick up of energy I need to be able to exercise. I feel like the 50 lbs. I’ve lost since last July is a significant accomplishment and am glad to see an article that addresses weight gain issues caused by medications!

  • It’s no surprise to me that there’s a sensible chemical solution to the seritonin weight gain problem — or that most doctors aren’t aware of it and just routinely harass patients. I don’t even want to discuss weight with doctors. Their ignorance and arrogance is so insulting that I don’t want to bother arguing it or dealing with the stress.

    What seems crazy to me is that this information doesn’t get included with the drug itself. The weight gain in itself is enough to make a number of people who need antidepressants go off them, if they knew there was a way to keep it under control they might choose to use them.

  • Vicki

    Thank you so much for this article! Just recently I started Weight Watchers. I even made myself go to the gym this week and walk on the treadmills for 40 minutes. I stepped on the scale…and absolutely nothing. I didn’t even lose half a pound. Talk about adding to my depression. Yes, doctors tell us all the time we need to lose weight, lose weight, and I don’t disagree. However, walk a mile in our shoes. I also thinks it’s interesting that people who don’t know our personal situations feel free to judge, when they have no idea what’s wrong with you medically or what could be causing the weight gain. I believe people who are chronically ill have so much more empathy and sympathy for others and are less likely to judge. *sighs* I’ve decided not to give up on the WW, keep plugging away, and if the scale still shows no movement, well then I’m take “that’ to the doctor!

  • Nene

    Thankyou so much for this article-I`m going to print it & take it with me when I see my specialist next. It`s even more upsetting when the Doctors that prescribe such medications,then notice you have gained an enormous amount of weight (for the first time in my life) and then advise you that “you must lose weight somehow”???!!!

  • Dori

    Registered Dietitians that have training and expertise in pediatric and adult weight management are well aware of weight gain as a potential side effect to many antidepressants and other medications. A consultation with a Registered Dietitian might be worth a try. You are right though – this is unfortunately not talked about in the media.

  • I agree with Elisa. Talking back to the TV can make you feel better (for a minute). I often do it too.
    Thank you for a very interesting article, very enlightning. I was not slim and never exercised when I started taking all sorts of meds for Fibromyalgia and Fatigue, and of course gained more weight. Not long ago, I started to treadmill. I know I will never run any marathons, nor do I wish to, but at least, I feel like I have some sort of controle over the weight gain, which has seemed to stop.
    Keep the instructive articles coming! This is a GREAT place to seek info. The comments are also good to read.
    Thanks to all!

  • ElisaTB

    The article should say, “non-fruit, non-CHOCOLATE TOFFEE NUGGET carbs.” An excellent point made and seconded. And yelling at the TV is fine. I taught both my daughters (and my husband) to talk back to the TV. At least you won’t just sit there and soak up what’s being said.

  • Zoann Murphy

    Thank you so much for this article. I have been on antidepressants for years and never heard from a doctor that the meds could cause weight gain – I was only told that I was being lazy & eating too much as my weight ballooned. After adding prednisone to my daily medication routine, I gained 150 pounds in 8 years and there seems to be no way of loosing any of it. I am a steroid-dependent asthmatic, so no getting off the prednisone; and if I don’t take anti-depressants, I curl up in a ball and hibernate. Talk about a catch-22.

  • Elspeth

    Ever since I started taking antidepressants about 25 years ago, I have gained weight (I’ve taken a variety – tricyclics, SSRIs and am now on Wellbutrin) and have been unable to take it off. I’m also on prednisone and a number of other meds which have weight gain as side effects. Like Renee, I have been told by different doctors that I need to lose weight, but have never offered any options as to how to go about this. I once had a professor in charge of practicums who told me I had to lose weight because employers would take one look at me and never look at me again (and this was when I was about 30 pounds overweight). It’s horrible to be discriminated against like this when it’s something we don’t have a lot of control over, despite all attempts to eat healthily and exercise. I don’t know if the Serotonin diet will work or not, but we shouldn’t have to go through all of this bullying, harassment and shaming just because we aren’t as skinny as a rail.

  • Thank you! Thank you!

  • Renee

    Thank you for this article! Weight loss due to anti-depressants is a huge problem for those of us who are chronically ill. Yet, not one of my physicians ever discussed it with me or gave me suggestions for how to combat it. One of my physicians grabbed hold of some of the excess weight around my middle and told me I needed to get rid of it. That was his entire contribution to my problem! I don’t see him any more. I have done much research on my multiple auto-immune disorders, and I have never seen this topic addressed. You cannot possibly know how many people you have helped with this article.

  • Rachel

    Unforunately endocrine problems such as diabetes, insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, adrenal problems, and so many other common issues all cause weight gain too. I wish doctors and the media would focus on medication and illness (including things like arthritis) as causes of obesity.