Is my pharmaceutical history hindering my weight loss?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 13, 2012 at 1:25 AM

Hello all,

I have been eating a paleo diet since early November of 2011 (with the exception of 2 weeks at Christmas where I might have eaten a small mountain of shortbread), yet I have experienced ZERO weight loss and/or body composition changes.

I am female, 22 years old, 5'9", 165 lbs, and about 26% body fat. Ideally, I'd like to get my body fat down to about 20%.

Short(er)-version medical history:

I was severely depressed at the age of 16, and was promptly slapped with a bunch of anti-depressants, which made me gain 40 lbs. I was on pretty much every single well-known brand. You name it, I was on it at one point. Up until October 2011 I was still on Pristiq and still experiencing signs of depression. As I introduced more paleo foods into my diet, these signs lifted and I stopped taking Pristiq cold-turkey with zero withdrawal symptoms (anytime I missed a dosage on Pristiq before, I had mad withdrawal). So I have been antidepressant free for about 6 months.

4 years ago, I was having trouble sleeping (I have a life-long history of insomnia), so my doctor (without taking a blood test) concluded that maybe I was hypothyroid and gave me 50 mcg of Synthroid. This didn't really help my insomnia (paleo 'cured' that), but I felt a bit better so I stayed on it. Every blood test I've ever had gave no indication of hypothyroid, yet my doctor decided that even if it was so miniscule, it may be the issue. I did lose about 10 lbs after taking it. But 2 weeks ago, I decided to screw that, and stopped taking the Synthroid. I've noticed no difference since.

I am also on birth-control (tri-cyclen lo) but have not experienced any weight fluctuations on it. I've been taking it for 2 years.

Short(er) version diet history:

I've been 'pudgy' since I was about 7 years old. In junior high and for most of highschool I stayed fairly lean due to IFing (although didn't know it at the time), and participating in competitive ice hockey 4-5x a week. However, with the antidepressants and a part-time job that let me buy all the cheesecake I wanted, I gained those 40 lbs in my senior year.

Then came the sugar addiction. I have always liked sugar. But university and a ton of stress had me eating literally lbs of it. I'm talking trays of pastries and bags of chips and 5 chocolate bars a day type-of-addicted. I didn't gain a whole lot of weight, but I felt like crap. I realized that I was addicted and tried to kick the habit. Didn't happen, especially after I adapted a vegan diet. FINALLY (i.e. 2 years later), when I started paleo I was able to stop binging on sugar and 90% of my cravings are gone.

I have noticed incredible, amazing differences on paleo. No more depression, no more insomnia, no more crashes. I have never felt like this. Ever. Yet I can't seem to lose any body fat.

Current Diet/Exercise:

I usually eat 2 big meals a day (700-800 kcal each), and within an 8 hour window (1pm-9pm). This changes slightly due to my class schedule, but that's generally how it happens. Each meal is a combination of meat (a lot of wild fish, some conventional beef and pork, and bacon) and vegetables, with a couple tbsp of butter or coconut oil. I'll usually have some blackberries/raspberries/blueberries with cream or an apple at one meal. I do not eat any nuts, or eggs (I've had intolerance issues in the past), although I do consume the small amount of fruit and organic heavy cream, and whole organic goat's milk (1 cup/day).

I tried giving up fruit and dairy for a month, but it only resulted in a lot of bloating and constipation. I started eating it again last week and immediately felt better. I have also played around with macro ratios, but have noticed little difference, although I keep my carbs to around 50-70g/day.

I supplement with a high quality fish oil.

Although I no longer play hockey (sad face), I walk about 25 km/week to and from class. I also do sprint intervals 2-3x/week and vinyasa yoga 3-4x/week. I am growing bored and impatient with my lack of results with my yoga practices (I've been at it 2 years with minimal results), so I plan on only doing isolated stretching from now on. I am starting a crossfit foundations in 2 weeks in the hopes that it will start some sort of body fat loss.

I will never go back to my pre-paleo ways, yet I can't help but feel increasingly frustrated at the lack of changes in my body. Is there a chance that my heavily-medicated years are somehow hindering my progress? Or am I doing something completely wrong? Any help/hacks would be incredibly appreciated!

Plus thanks for reading that essay. Man, if only I could do my course-work that fast.



on March 13, 2012
at 02:31 AM

I'm not 'chubby' per say, but I do carry around noticeable extra (as in rubber tire) fat in my hips, thighs, and upper arms.



on March 13, 2012
at 01:54 AM

Agree and too much Crossfit can stop fat loss if it is too stressful. Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym...



on March 13, 2012
at 01:48 AM

Do you have a very small frame? Because 5'9" and 165 doesn't sound like you'd be particularly chubby. I don't think I'd opt for crossfit style workouts, I think I'd go straight for slow and heavy weight lifting. Build some muscle...

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4 Answers



on March 13, 2012
at 02:08 AM

The only thing worse than that horrible Synthroid is dropping it without replacing it with something better. (Yeah, I did it too, and crashed harder later).

You need a real doc, one that knows what to check so you know what you are dealing with. Don't under estimate the damage prescription meds can do to your hormones. Your description sounds like who knows what from meds, thyroid, and fatigue/adrenals.

I also found that when hormones were that screwed up, strenuous exercize made it worse. Learned the hard way. My diet was azz backwards too, thanks Kaiser. :)

Synthroid went in the garbage and I'm sticking with T3 only from a dispensary.



on March 13, 2012
at 01:58 AM

I am a similar age to you (20 year old female), and I was first on anti-depressants at the age of 14, as well as some anti-anxiety pills in my later teens. The anti-depressants did make me gain weight initially (about 15-20 lbs, mostly in the hips and belly, Paxil for me too), but I can't say there was any "residual" effect of the anti-depressants in my case. I went off anti-depressants and relatively shortly afterwards was accepted onto a varsity rowing team, so I lost weight and muscled up at the same rate as the girls I entered with. After I stopped rowing, I gained weight back initially as if I was back on the anti-depressants, leading me to believe that in my case the weight was related probably more closely to my lifestyle/outlook than the medications themselves. Even though they effect your metabolism and appetite, they theoretically should not result in long term effects. This may not be your case at all, but when I was exercising without a team and eating "on my own"for a new diet (switched from vegetarian, to a short vegan period, to paleo) it took me several months to really feel comfortable with what I was doing and to fully adjust, both physically and mentally, to this new diet/lifestyle.

As far as weight, I initially gained weight eating paleo, but it was mostly in my breasts/hips and I don't mind having it so that was fine. I still have a lower belly fat pad, but my stomach did slim down considerably after about 5 months of tinkering and becoming more committed. I'm not sure what to say other than patience- if you are feeling better, it's probably just a matter of time until you start to feel your body is mirroring the health you are enjoying. If you feel so great inside, the outside will just be a bonus, and it might not be immediate. That being said, I have said that I enjoy my body at 20-25% fat, lower than that and I stop having my period and feel uncomfortable, don't get too stuck on numbers like the scale or the %- go by waist measurements and how you feel instead. Patience and fine tuning!

It does seem unusual that you got bloated after eliminating fruit and dairy- I've never heard of that before. Do you know what other food could have caused the bloating? Was it something you were using to replace fruit/dairy?

Because of the thyroid history, that's always something to keep your eye on, there are quite a few discussions on this site that you should have a browse through to hear from some folks that have been through similar things.



on March 13, 2012
at 01:52 AM

I think that you may need to be patient & do some fine-tuning.

Even without your medical history, I needed to spend the first 6-8 months replenishing nutrient stores before I was able to drop the last few pounds. (I only had ~15 to lose when I started eating Primal 15 months ago.)

Remember that every gluten "cheat" can irritate your gut lining and inhibit nutrient absorption for weeks afterwards.

Hormonal balance is everything, so here are some suggestions:

Have you had your D3 level tested? Aim for a blood level of 50-60 ng/ml via sun and/or supplements.

Have you dialed in Magnesium & Zinc?

Suggest Neptune Krill Oil to replace your fish oil.

Consider eating 100% grass-fed meat to eliminate hormones (& antibiotics) that can mess with your hormones.


on March 13, 2012
at 10:48 PM

I have never been diagnosed with depression, but have had varying levels of it, especially in the winter. I try to get in the sun every day (weather permitting), and find that it really helps my mood. Even a minute facing the sun with my eyes shut helps me.

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