I’ve never been a huge fan of sports, but up until my first year of university, I was a pretty fit guy. Unfortunately, the “freshman fifteen” curse was more like a “freshman thirty” for me, and I struggled to get rid of the extra weight.
As time went on, my weight would slowly creep upwards and then plateau for a while, which would give me time to buy new clothes and get used to things. Then it would start to creep upwards again, and the cycle would continue.
For about five years as an adult, I started fencing three nights a week and lost quite a bit of weight by being particular about what I ate and exercising. My right knee has always been tricky, though, and the more I fenced, the worse it got. Eventually I had to give it up, and my weight inexorably went back to where it was before I’d started exercising.
My first psychiatric drugs were prescribed by my then-GP. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite do the trick and I ended up in the hospital. When I left the hospital three months later, I was taking four different psych medications and had put on fifteen pounds. Those fifteen pounds sure weren’t caused by the hospital food – while the meals were good, they were not not what you’d call “large”.
A little over a year later and I’m now on six psych medications and have put on a total of about 45 pounds. Buying new clothes is an inconvenience, none of my good clothes fit, and I’m concerned about what long-term effects there will be on my health. Diabetes, for example, runs in my family.
But let me tell you this: I will not give up those medications myself. I can exercise and eat healthy foods so I can try to be a “fit fat person”, but I can’t exercise or do anything to help myself or anyone else if I can’t get out of bed. My looks are not as important to me as being a functioning person is.
I’m not saying that I want to keep taking all this medication forever. If Dr W and I decide I don’t need as much of something or that I can go off a medication entirely, I’m all for it. If the only way to keep me stable is to keep taking them, then that is what I will do.
I’ve been told that there are several reasons as to why psych medications make some people put on weight. One is that they can make people crave carbohydrates. Another is that they do something to the gut bacteria so digestion works a little differently. I don’t know how true these are but I am pretty sure I can personally verify the carb craving aspect. I want candy. All the time. And that is bad.
The good thing is that it’s easy to make sure there’s no candy in the house. What I do need are my medications; without them I would be in serious trouble.