Serotonin not only regulates mood but also turns off the desire to eat and is responsible for creating the feeling of fullness. Unfortunately, the anti-depressant medications used to enhance serotonin levels interfere with the chemical's ability to regulate appetite and satiety. Many people gain weight while taking the formulations. Depending on the type of drug prescribed, patients may gain up to 15 pounds. Individuals report that mood stabilizers make the problem that much worse. However, there are lifestyle changes that help anti-depressant users maintain or lose weight.
The correlation between weight gain and the physiological changes caused by anti-depressants are not entirely understood. Patients report some strange changes in appetite. Individuals who previously adhered to a healthy diet found that they had continual cravings for simple carbohydrates in the form of junk food. Fulfilling these desires may be one of the clues behind weight problems.
While anti-depressant medications use different actions to increase the levels of available serotonin. The body needs the amino acid tryptophan contained within certain protein foods to convert into serotonin. These foods include eggs, cheese, fish, poultry, shellfish, nuts, seeds and soy products. Though tryptophan may be in abundance, many different amino acids and other chemical compounds compete to enter the brain, and tryptophan is typically low on the list.
However, by increasing insulin levels, the amino acids, fatty acids, glucose and other chemicals are dispersed among the many different types of body cells. Insulin has no effect on tryptophan. With the competition out of the way, tryptophan has a better chance of entering the brain where it undergoes the transformation process. Raising insulin levels requires eating a meal or a snack of carbohydrates without protein.
Frequency and Quality
Researchers discovered that when patients on anti-depressants consumed two carbohydrate snacks daily along with an evening meal consisting of nothing more than high-fiber, low fat starchy vegetables, pasta or brown rice, the cravings for unhealthy junk food disappeared. Protein rich meals are only consumed for breakfast and lunch. In fact some may prefer to divide dietary intake into six small meals spread evenly throughout the day, which enhances the digestive process that is naturally slowed due to the medication.
Physical Activity Needs
Not unlike anyone else trying to lose weight, patients using anti-depressants must also increase their physical activity. The medications are reputed to be associated with slowing metabolic rate, which encourages weight gain. Being active in the morning and again at night, gives metabolism a much needed boost. A simple way to start might include getting an inexpensive pedometer and striving to walk 10,000 steps everyday. Park further away from building entrances and take the stairs instead of an elevator. As energy levels improve, include jogging, a moderately strenuous hike or a bike ride.