4

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Using Paleo To Treat SSRI Weight-Gain...And Anxious About It

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 31, 2012 at 9:36 PM

I've been on a 'cocktail' of SSRIs and SNRIs for years to manage severe depression. I'm lucky in that I haven't been in the hospital since 2004 (woot!) and in general I'm pretty healthy. Unfortunately, all of that time on SSRIs has made it super hard to lose weight. I've stopped gaining, and with a fairly restrictive diet (1200-1500 calories a day) I've been able to keep my weight around 210. I'm a 5'8" woman and skinfold analysis suggests I've got a BMI of about 31. I'm pretty active -- I lift three times a week and do about an hour of Latin dance on three of the 'off days.'

So, given that the calorie restriction clearly wasn't working to get the weight off, my doc suggested Paleo. I've been doing it a week and it's been a challenge just to overcome those (literally) years of conditioning that 'full-fat anything is bad' and that 'eating less is good.'

I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with Paleo for weight loss when something like an SSRI has torpedoed your metabolism, and on a more touchy-feely note, if anybody can offer just some straight-up reassurance that eating more every day isn't going to kill me.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on February 01, 2012
at 04:15 PM

I think finding the right practitioner was key, but like everything else it's a combination of things. I don't know that there was or is a magic bullet for me. Taking long walks in warm weather help. Meditation helps (Andrew Johnson iPhone apps are good). Diet helps. Acupuncture helps (TCM more than TCA in my experience). Together they make it manageable without the meds.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on February 01, 2012
at 04:06 PM

Me too. Similar time line too.

912ec069b5bd84af1b6ef7545b950908

(428)

on February 01, 2012
at 02:22 AM

Exercise together with my meds and with a low-ish GI diet helped improve things a lot, but paleo is the 'next step' for me after low-GI. I want off the meds but I also know that's not the most responsible thing for me right now. Acupuncture helped a lot for my migraines and soft-tissue injuries. Was there any particular treatment modality that helped you with the depression and anxiety?

912ec069b5bd84af1b6ef7545b950908

(428)

on February 01, 2012
at 02:18 AM

It's both. Huzzah, science.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on January 31, 2012
at 11:11 PM

Not sure, but that's what I did, so I thought I'd include it in case she is! I never did paleo and SSRIs/SNRIs at the same time, so it's not in my range of experience.

1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

(6719)

on January 31, 2012
at 10:39 PM

did she say she was going off SSRIs SNRIs?

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on January 31, 2012
at 09:41 PM

Hi, CharlotteM! I can help with the second half. I've been eating a high-meat, high-fat pattern for 9 months and have never felt better. Blood pressure is lower, pulse is slower and blood glucose is great as long as I don't binge on sweet fruit. Give it a try! Can't speak to the meds though.

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3 Answers

2
5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on January 31, 2012
at 10:39 PM

Yes. I spent the better part of about 12 years on something or another, Zoloft, Paxil, Xanax, Welbutrin, etc, from the time I was 14 until I was about 26. I can say without reservation I feel better emotionally when eating Paleo then I did on any of these medications, which I never felt treated any underlying causes, just masked symptoms, and most of the time, poorly at that. I believe from my n=1 that this lifestyle helps to treat some of the root causes of those issues. So far, fiveish months, I've also lost about 30lbs and am still losing which is nice. I do still deal with some (comparatively very minor) bouts of anxiety or depression, but acupuncture helps me tremendously, and would definitely recommend finding a good one in your area to help with the transition.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on February 01, 2012
at 04:15 PM

I think finding the right practitioner was key, but like everything else it's a combination of things. I don't know that there was or is a magic bullet for me. Taking long walks in warm weather help. Meditation helps (Andrew Johnson iPhone apps are good). Diet helps. Acupuncture helps (TCM more than TCA in my experience). Together they make it manageable without the meds.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on February 01, 2012
at 04:06 PM

Me too. Similar time line too.

912ec069b5bd84af1b6ef7545b950908

(428)

on February 01, 2012
at 02:22 AM

Exercise together with my meds and with a low-ish GI diet helped improve things a lot, but paleo is the 'next step' for me after low-GI. I want off the meds but I also know that's not the most responsible thing for me right now. Acupuncture helped a lot for my migraines and soft-tissue injuries. Was there any particular treatment modality that helped you with the depression and anxiety?

1
518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on January 31, 2012
at 10:37 PM

I was on SSRIs for several years, and also coincided going off the meds with transitioning to a paleo lifestyle. I only had about 15 "sticky" pounds that I wanted to lose (even though I am still considered above my BMI, one of my pet peeves is BMI knocks you down if you are strong), but try and focus on feeling better instead of what the scale or charts say. I found it disappointing to not see very much weight loss after stopping the meds, and was too preoccupied with that to notice that my whole body shape had changed for the better (slimmer waist, larger hips, stronger legs, tighter arms...). When I stepped back and realized that my body had sneakily changed without notifying the scale or the chart, I stopped counting the calories and was better able to just calm down at mealtimes. Eating more, and really just enjoying my food, took a lot of the anxiety out of mealtime, and allowed me to be more active. After throwing out the dreaded calorie-tracker (I can still see that blue notebook in my minds eye), my weight just slowly adjusted, then slipped off until I got to the weight that I'm at today.

If food preoccupation went hand-in-hand with periods of depression (I know mine did), it become a real challenge to eat in a way that seems out of control (oh my god, I'm not counting this!), but at the same time is a diet change (which feels like it's controlling you when you first integrate it into your life). When first transitioning to paleo, to make it seem like not such a big deal, spend some time just exploring and enjoying the new foods you get to eat. I mean, full-fat, meaty, roast-y, veggie-filled food? It's so good! Don't worry too much about calorie restricting, just try out the food-field and see what you like and what you don't!

A note on going off the SSRIs- I don't know if this is common, but I started getting wicked full-body totally-debilitating aching when I stopped them. I used to get crazy body aches from depression, and it felt just like that again. So, I made a whole line up of massage appointments, used the sauna at the community pool whenever I could, and made sure I got PLENTY of rest. Hopefully it isn't a regular reaction, but just in case you haven't gone off them yet, you may want to prepare to give yourself a little R&R to adjust.

On another note, eating paleo kept my mood surprisingly steady when I stopped the meds. I'm not sure if it's all the fat, but it really shocked me how low my anxiety was throughout the whole process. I mean, I'm the kind of person that gets nervous if there is a different bus driver than my regular guy on my route, but going off the meds and changing my diet was surprisingly low key. I hope it all works out for you!

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on January 31, 2012
at 11:11 PM

Not sure, but that's what I did, so I thought I'd include it in case she is! I never did paleo and SSRIs/SNRIs at the same time, so it's not in my range of experience.

1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

(6719)

on January 31, 2012
at 10:39 PM

did she say she was going off SSRIs SNRIs?

912ec069b5bd84af1b6ef7545b950908

(428)

on February 01, 2012
at 02:18 AM

It's both. Huzzah, science.

0
50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on January 31, 2012
at 10:04 PM

Charlotte -

First off, congrats on joining PaeloHacks. Also, feel very lucky you have a doctor that has his head on straight. The majority of people here, myself included, are not so priviledged.

While I do not have experience with an SSRI, I will say with great certainty, that paleo [ assuming adherence here ] is capable of helping with weight loss through resetting your body's natural feedback loops, functionality, etc.. I have introduced a number of people to Paleo, all of which have seen weight related success and just a more positive shift in life, as well.

Most notable of those was my father, who after years of fast foods, soda, (enter anything else terrible for you here), and a sedentary lifestyle had managed to really do some metabolic damage. I got him to go Paleo for 1 year, and he not only lost 60 lbs, but also enjoy a much more active lifestyle and is noticibly more happy.

My advice would be to give it a try, and allow time to let your body heal, re-wire, etc...

Best of luck :)

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