What To Do If You Gained Weight Due To Anti-Depressants?

Written by Aparna Mallampalli , BEd (Biological Sciences), MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition

Antidepressants play a major role in treating depression. But, their use is found to increase bodyweight in many people – but not in everyone. However, weight gain is also majorly associated with factors like your eating habits, sleeping pattern, lifestyle, etc.

If you gained weight following the use of antidepressants, here is some good news for you – you can lose it again. In this article, we discuss why antidepressants may cause weight gain and how to reverse it. Keep reading! 

How Do Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain?

A study conducted in the UK links the use of antidepressants to long-term increased risk of weight gain (1).

SSRIs are antidepressants that inhibit the functioning of serotonin (a chemical produced in the brain that affects the way you feel). This may cause weight gain in the presence of a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and a Western diet (2).

Diet plays a key role in losing weight after antidepressant use. We take you through the dietary changes you can make in the next section. Read on!

Role Of Diet In Reversing Weight Gain Due To Antidepressants

The weight gain caused by antidepressants may be reversible to some extent. A diet high in fruit and vegetables may help you lose and maintain weight. A study suggests that substituting carbohydrates and fat with protein and increasing the intake of low-fat dairy may help in losing weight (3). Hence, maintaining a healthy diet is crucial. But, consult a doctor before starting a new diet.

Maintaining a proper diet to lose weight is only a job half done. It should always be complemented with physical exercise. Keep scrolling to know more.

Role Of Exercise In Reversing Weight Gain Due To Antidepressants

Exercise plays a key role in not only losing weight but also maintaining it. Research suggests that people who exercise twice or thrice a week experience significantly lesser depression, anger, and stress (4).

You can start your exercise regimen by walking, a 15-minute jog, brisk walking, and yoga. Gradually increase the exercise duration, which will help you maintain the lost weight. An hour of exercising (especially in the morning) may help boost your mood. However, make sure you also follow a balanced diet.

A few antidepressants may cause weight gain during or after treatment. Let’s have a look at the common antidepressants that may cause weight gain.

Common Antidepressants That May Cause Weight Gain

1. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

A few examples of TCAs are:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Nortriptyline
  • Imipramine
  • Desipramine
  • Dosulepin
  • Doxepin
  • Clomipramine

Use of TCAs may lead to a minor weight gain between 1 and 5 kg (5).

2. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

A few types of MAOIs that may cause an upswing in weight include:

  • Isocarboxazid
  • Phenelzine
  • Tranylcypromine
  • Moclobemide

Use of MAOIs may result in a weight gain of 1-5 kg (5).

3. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs may result in weight gain when they are taken for extended durations.

The commonly used SSRIs are:

  • Citalopram
  • Fluoxetine
  • Paroxetine
  • Sertraline
  • Escitalopram

Use of SSRIs may increase bodyweight by 1 to 5 kg (5).

4. Serotonin And Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

This class of antidepressants is also used to treat anxiety and chronic pain (long term), specifically nerve pain.

A few examples of SNRIs are:

  • Duloxetin
  • Venlafaxine
  • Levomilnacipran
  • Milnacipran
  • Desvenlafaxine

Use of SNRIs may see bodyweight go up by 1-2 kg (5).

5. Other Antidepressants

Use of the antidepressants listed below for extended periods may induce weight gain:

  • Trazodone
  • Nefazodone
  • Mirtazapine
  • Maprotiline
  • Mianserin

These medications may make your bodyweight shoot up by 1-5 kg (5).

Depression is hard to deal with. But, the right medication can help you combat it effectively. However, you should also consider other options that may help you deal with depression. Read on to know more!

Other Options For Treating Depression

1. Yoga

Research suggests that yoga is an effective option for reducing depression (6). Start by doing basic asanas for a few minutes a day before moving to more advanced poses and increasing the duration slowly.

2. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils that are applied to the skin or inhaled. It has the potential to ease the symptoms of depression. Aromatherapy massage has been shown to be more beneficial than inhalation aromatherapy for treating depression (7).

3. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy (talk therapy) involves talking to a therapist regularly. It is a reliable treatment option for people with mild to moderate major depression. In fact, it has been found to be just as effective as antidepressants in these cases (8).

Is there a way for people who are on antidepressants to avoid weight gain?  We discuss this in the next section.

How To Avoid Weight Gain When Taking Antidepressant Medication

1. Follow Timely Eating

Planning and timely eating of meals help avoid unnecessary calorie intake. Research shows that this can effectively help manage obesity and maintain weight (9). Plan your meals a day in advance and avoid binging on processed or ready-to-eat foods.

2. Include More Protein In Your Diet

Antidepressants may increase hunger and induce craving for carbohydrates (10). Taking more dietary protein may significantly promote weight loss, satiety, beneficial changes in body composition, and reduce food cravings (11). Hence, include protein sources like peanut butter, soy, tofu, chickpeas, and lentils in your meals.

3. Get Sound Sleep

Sleep deprivation may lead to weight gain (12). Therefore, sleeping for a minimum of 8 hours may prevent this change in weight. Avoid daytime naps as it they can affect the sleep quality during the night. If you are habituated to daytime naps, make sure their duration is less than 20 minutes. Also, do not take more than two naps a day.

4. Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly helps accelerate weight loss, maintain weight, and promote overall health (13). Try switching between different exercises like brisk walking, steps climbing, and jogging to avoid monotony. Start with simple exercises and slowly extend their duration.

5. Increase Fluid Intake

Adequate fluid intake may support weight loss by promoting lipolysis (fat loss) and decreasing food intake (14). But, avoid drinking store-bought fruit juices as they are filled with sugar. Instead, try infused waters with lemon, cucumber, or berries.

The Final Takeaway

Some antidepressants may cause weight gain, but they play a major role in treating depression. This weight gain may be reversed to some extent by following a suitable diet and doing exercises regularly. It is also possible to avoid weight gain while on antidepressants by taking some measures like timely eating, taking more protein, having a sound sleep, exercising regularly, and hydrating the body adequately. Have a word with your doctor before making any changes in your medications, diet, or physical activity.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Do you lose weight after stopping antidepressants?

After stopping the use of antidepressants, your body slowly readjusts to the change. You may see slight weight loss. However, it should becoupled with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle to speed up the weight loss.

How long does it take to feel normal after quitting antidepressants?

Once symptoms recede, it is ideal to wait for 6-9 months to discontinue antidepressants. It could take about 1-2 weeks to feel normal after stopping antidepressants. However, speak to your doctor as feeling normal after quitting antidepressants depends on the type and duration of the antidepressant used.

Do antidepressants affect your memory?

A few antidepressants may affect memory in some people but only for a few days. Avoid self-administration or stopping the medication on your own to minimize potential negative effects.

References:

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  1. Antidepressant utilization and incidence of weight gain during 10 years’ follow-up: population-based cohort study
    https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k1951
  2. SSRI antidepressant use potentiates weight gain in the context of unhealthy lifestyles: results from a 4-year Australian follow-up study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5629701/
  3. Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3225890/
  4. Physical exercise and psychological well-being: a population study in Finland
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10642456/
  5. Drugs That Affect Body Weight, Body Fat Distribution, and Metabolism
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537590/
  6. The Efficacy of Yoga as a Form of Treatment for Depression
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5871291/
  7. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5241490/
  8. Managing depression in primary care
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5563525/
  9. Timing of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Effects on Obesity and Metabolic Risk
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6893547/
  10. Body Weight Changes Associated With Psychopharmacology
    https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.53.7.842
  11. Increased Dietary Protein as a Dietary Strategy to Prevent and/or Treat Obesity
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6179508/
  12. Sleep and obesity
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3632337/
  13. Physical Activity Plays an Important Role in Body Weight Regulation
    https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/360257/
  14. Increased Hydration Can Be Associated with Weight Loss
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4901052/
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