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Gaining Weight on Medication? Here’s How to Switch to Weight-Friendly Alternatives

Is your medication causing unwanted weight gain? It’s a frustrating and all-too-common problem that many people face. The good news is that there are weight-friendly alternatives available. In this article, we’ll explore how to switch to medication options that won’t sabotage your weight loss efforts. 

Weight gain is a known side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and corticosteroids. While these drugs may be necessary for your health, the weight gain can be particularly disheartening, especially if you’re already struggling with your weight. 

So, what can you do? First, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. They can assess whether a medication change is appropriate and safe for you. Together, you can explore weight-friendly alternatives that won’t compromise your progress. 

We’ll discuss various approaches, including switching to medications with fewer weight-related side effects, exploring non-pharmacological treatments, and incorporating lifestyle changes to support your overall well-being. 

Don’t let medication-induced weight gain derail your health goals. With the right strategies and support, you can find weight-friendly alternatives that work for you. 

During a thorough work-up with the BodyByBariatrics surgical or medical weight loss programs, we will review multiple classes of drugs and explain medications that are either weight neutral, cause your to lose weight (win-win!) or gain weight (boo!).  

Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Dovec is a Diplomate with the Board of Obesity Medicine and geeks out on our poor dietitian, Hannah Schuyler, RD, with her explanation of pharmacology on the DoctorXDietitian Podcast Episode going over medications that may be causing you to gain weight.  

The impact of medication on weight gain 

Medications can have a significant impact on your weight. Certain drugs, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and corticosteroids, are known to cause weight gain as a side effect. This weight gain can be attributed to various factors, including increased appetite, slowed metabolism, and fluid retention. 

When you’re already struggling with your weight, the additional pounds can be disheartening. Not only does weight gain affect your self-esteem, but it can also have negative implications for your overall health. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. 

It’s essential to be aware of the potential weight-related side effects of your medication and take proactive steps to address them. By finding weight-friendly alternatives, you can manage your health without sacrificing your weight loss goals. 

Common medications that can cause weight gain 

Several commonly prescribed medications can contribute to weight gain. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are often associated with weight gain. These medications work by altering brain chemistry, and one of the side effects can be an increased appetite or changes in metabolism that lead to weight gain. Antidepressants and antianxiety medications that commonly cause weight gain include Paroxetine (Paxil), Amitriptyline, Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), and Duloxetine (Cymbalta). More weight neutral alternatives include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), and Escitalopram (Lexapro). A great choice that helps with weight loss (and is a part of the anti-obesity medication, Contrave) is Bupropion (Wellbutrin).  

Antipsychotic medications, used to treat conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can also cause weight gain. These drugs can affect the way your body processes glucose and insulin, leading to increased fat storage and weight gain. The medications that cause weight gain include Clozapine, Olanzapine (Zyprexa), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperdal, Lithium, Perphenazine, and Ziprasidone. More weight neutral psych medications include Haldol, Ziprasidone, Carbamazepine (Tegretol), Lamotrigine (Lamictal), and Oxycarazepine (Trileptal).  

Corticosteroids, commonly prescribed for conditions like asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disorders, can cause weight gain due to their effect on fluid retention and increased appetite. If you had a gastric bypass, please let us know prior to taking any by mouth steroids, so we can prescribe you medications to protect the lining of your stomach like a proton pump inhibitor (i.e., Protonix or Prilosec). If you are taking corticosteroids for an inflammation treatment, go with NSAIDs as a better alternative that is weight neutral.

For those who suffer from Diabetes Mellitus, you may be prescribed insulin, sulfonylureas, glitazones, or glitinides which cause weight gain. There are very popular and effective alternatives that lead to glycemic control and weight loss including Metformin, GLP-1 agonists (i.e., Semaglutide), GLP-1/GIP (i.e., Tirzepatide), Pramlintide, SGLT2 Inhibitors, and alpha glucosidase inhibitors.  

While these medications are sometimes necessary for managing certain health conditions, it’s essential to work with your healthcare provider to find weight-friendly alternatives that can achieve the same therapeutic effects without the unwanted side effects. 

Understanding the connection between medication and weight gain 

The connection between medication and weight gain can be complex. In some cases, the medication directly affects your body’s metabolism or appetite, leading to weight gain. In other cases, the medication may indirectly contribute to weight gain by influencing factors such as insulin resistance or fluid retention. 

For example, antidepressants can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, altering the way your body regulates hunger and fullness signals. This can lead to increased appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods, ultimately resulting in weight gain. 

Antipsychotic medications, on the other hand, can interfere with the body’s ability to process glucose and insulin, leading to insulin resistance and increased fat storage. This can make it challenging to maintain a healthy weight, even with regular exercise and a balanced diet. 

Understanding the connection between your medication and weight gain is crucial for finding weight-friendly alternatives. By identifying the specific mechanisms through which the medication affects your weight, you and your healthcare provider can explore alternative options that minimize these side effects. 

The importance of talking to your healthcare provider 

When it comes to managing medication-induced weight gain, open communication with your healthcare provider is key. They are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to assess your unique situation and guide you towards weight-friendly alternatives. 

Start by discussing your concerns about medication-induced weight gain during your next appointment. Your healthcare provider can review your current medication regimen and evaluate whether a switch to weight-friendly alternatives is appropriate for you. 

It’s important to note that not all individuals will experience weight gain on the same medications. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and other underlying health conditions can influence how your body responds to medication. Your healthcare provider can consider these factors when determining the best course of action for you. 

During your conversation, be prepared to share information about your weight history, lifestyle habits, and any other medications or supplements you’re currently taking. This information will help your healthcare provider make an informed decision and recommend weight-friendly alternatives that align with your overall health goals. 

Remember, your team at BodyByBariatrics is your partner in managing your health. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, voice your concerns, and advocate for yourself throughout this process. 

Exploring weight-friendly alternatives 

Once you’ve discussed your concerns with your healthcare provider, it’s time to explore weight-friendly alternatives. There are several approaches you can consider, depending on your specific situation and the medication you’re currently taking. 

One option is to switch to medications within the same therapeutic class that have fewer weight-related side effects. For example, if you’re currently taking an antidepressant that is known to cause weight gain, your healthcare provider may recommend trying a different antidepressant that has a lower risk of weight gain as outlined above. 

In some cases, non-pharmacological treatments may be a viable alternative. For instance, if you’re taking medication for anxiety or depression, your healthcare provider may suggest therapy or other psychological interventions as an adjunct or alternative to medication. 

Lifestyle changes can also play a significant role in managing medication-induced weight gain. By adopting healthy habits such as regular exercise and a balanced diet, you can support your overall well-being and mitigate the impact of weight gain. 

Conclusion: Taking control of your health and weight 

Medication-induced weight gain can be a frustrating and disheartening experience. However, by actively exploring weight-friendly alternatives and making lifestyle changes, you can take control of your health and weight. 

Start by talking to your healthcare provider about your concerns and exploring medication options with fewer weight-related side effects. Consider incorporating non-pharmacological treatments and lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet, to support your overall well-being. 

Remember, managing medication-induced weight gain is a process that requires patience and perseverance. Surround yourself with support, seek out reputable resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. 

With the right strategies and support, you can find weight-friendly alternatives that work for you and achieve your health and weight goals. Don’t let medication-induced weight gain derail your progress. Take the necessary steps to prioritize your health and well-being. 

We got you! Good luck! 

XOXO, 

Dr. Betsy Dovec
BodyByBariatrics 

*Our blogs do NOT replace medical advice. Seek the help of your health care professional if you have questions related to your condition. We strive for patients to achieve healthier, happier, longer lives through weight loss surgery.  

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