When it comes to achieving and maintaining an optimal state of mental health, your mental healthcare provider may feel it’s necessary for you to be on medication as part of your treatment plan. Unfortunately, a common side effect of some psychiatric medications is weight gain.
Some studies have concluded that 1-4 cases of obesity is associated with mood or anxiety disorders, and patients can gain up to 7% of their body weight from being on psychiatric medications. Common psychiatric medications include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. As far as why we might gain weight while on psychiatric medications, the reasons vary, and people can respond very differently as far as side effects are concerned. Some medications may interfere with signals that are responsible for satiety (fullness) cues, and oftentimes if you are diagnosed with depression/anxiety, you may overeat or become less active as a result of the diagnosis itself, whether on medication or not. When it comes to medication-related weight gain, you can discuss with your medical provider the options you have as far as adjusting/changing medications. But usually you are left without the option of changing medications, as your psychiatric condition must be treated too. Working with a dietitian to learn appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes can dramatically make a difference when it comes to managing your weight while on medication.
When it comes to a successful weight management program, some core strategies to target include:
Understanding how your plate should look at each meal is essential to managing portions. It’s also important to understand how much of each macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) you should be consuming each day based on your individual needs. With visuals as well as some simple tips to take home and try, learning how to portion control over time will become easier and easier.
Becoming more mindful at meals is a way to cut down on portions as well as understand your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. Slowing it down and simply allowing for a minimum of 20 minutes to finish a meal is one of many mindfulness exercises to help naturally allow your brain to process the fact that you are getting full.
Keeping a food journal for a certain period of times allows patients to become accountable and more aware of exactly what we they are eating. It allows both the patient and their dietitian to work together to understand not only what they are eating but the overall structure and timing of their meals which is equally important.
Setting realistic goals is essential and it’s extremely important. A dietitian can help provide insight into setting dietary goals as well as provide accountability to help patients follow through with the goals that they set for themselves.
Helping patients work through dietary changes to help address emotional eating is very important as well. Dietitians can focus on specific foods and dietary habits and patterns that can help minimize emotional eating behaviors while patients are working through core issues of their emotional eating with their mental healthcare provider.
Physical activity is a vital component of a weight management program, as well as for a patient’s mental health and wellbeing. When setting exercise goals, start small, and work up from there: it’s good to begin with a realistic, manageable exercise regimen one can be consistent with vs. a lofty goal that one can only stick to for a couple of months.
For patients that are on any psychiatric medications, it’s important to know that weight gain can be a possible side effect. When managing our weight, there is no “one size fits all” dietary plan. It’s essential that dietary goals be individualized, and working with a registered dietitian is the best way to ensure that this happens.
By: Katie Godin, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian – Raleigh