Side effects: nausea, headaches, Prader-Willi syndrome...
August 12, 2011 4:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm taking a medication that slows down my metabolism whilst ramping up my hunger. What are some foods I can eat to lessen potential weight gain?

When I say 'hunger', I don't mean feeling hungry because it's getting toward teatime. I mean ravenous - so hungry that it's actively distracting, so hungry that one would almost consider picking up a hamburger off the street and eating it. It is not fun.

I already carry a little weight, and I plan to resume Couch to 5k once the initial tiredness that comes with the meds wears off (right now I do not have the energy to do anything other than lie on my bed reading - even cooking, blow-drying hair or tidying up feels like a massive task. It sucks.)

I admit I am quite lazy when it comes to cooking, as are many who work full-time and cook mostly for themselves. Generally I will have a bowl of cereal in the morning (some kind of muesli thing) at work, or toast/boiled egg/sausage sandwich at the weekend and if my boyfriend is over. I have a home-made sandwich for lunch - falafel wrap, pastrami bagel etc - and in the evenings I try and have a stir-fry, a baked potato with cottage cheese, or some of that filled pasta (tortelloni type stuff from the supermarket that takes minutes to cook.) That sounds like a lot of carbs written down - I have found that not having carbs at lunch makes me feel hungry mid-afternoon. One weakness is I work in an office where there is nearly always birthday cake/chocolate, and frankly I am weak-willed. Especially when my stomach says 'GIVE ME FOOD NOW NOW NOW OR I WILL MAKE YOU FAINT' despite me already having breakfast and lunch.

Other info: I share a house, so I have access to the usual cooking equipment but not a food processor/blender. Food prices in the UK are expensive just now too, and canning isn't a thing here. I also do not eat bananas, lamb or duck, for reasons not interesting enough to go into here - although given how good for you they are I do wish I could manage to actually keep down a banana! I work in an office and commute by public transport, and I live in London where there are supermarkets everywhere but few markets selling cheap fresh produce (at least not that I can access locally).

Favourite foods are toast, houmous, potatos, cheese (halloumi/feta), roasted tomatoes and ice-cream, so giving up any of these will be a pain. I do NOT want some kind of Diet where I have to give up whole food-groups, weigh my meals to the gram or buy £70 worth of supplements, organic mushroom oil or 'detox' for a week. Nor is it too realistic that I will be able to cook complicated, expensive meals each evening. I will be unlikely to stick to it and I need something sustainable as these meds are likely to be a long-term proposition.

Any advice welcome!
posted by mippy to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well, make sure you drink plenty of water for a start; it reduces the feeling of emptiness. A couple of litres a day seems about right to me, and that's water (still or sparkling) - I find anything with artificial sweeteners just makes me more hungry.

Also, trying to get more protein, and even a little more fat, into your food balance might help. Carbohydrates are notoriously bad at being filling in anything other than the short term. So nuts, pulses and lean meats are a good way of tipping a sandwich-and-potato diet back into balance, and work well as snack food. Buy some nice-quality lean sliced meats (ham, turkey, chicken, beef) and keep them in the fridge at work; eat them as they are, or with a bit of salad, rather than in sandwiches. Fruit, dried or fresh, is also good as a snack but probably won't do a lot to curb the hunger. I'd suggest raiding your nearest Julian Graves or Holland and Barrett for a range of healthy-ish snack foods to distract you from the cake and chocolate at work.

A lot of research seems to indicate that fats have a strong role in regulating appetite, so don't be afraid of foods that, while otherwise healthy, are high in fat.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:38 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hearty soups with tons of veggies. I've accidentially lost weight during periods I'm all about homemade soups and stews, since the liquid content is filling. Also, fat is filling, but so is a larger variety of flavors per meal, so treat yourself to more than one veggie side, etc.?
posted by availablelight at 4:45 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who, when he is pre-gaming for a huge meal (what, you don't do this?) like all-you-can-eat sushi, eats nothing but watermelon. He's hungry, and doesn't want his stomach to shrink up (gotta fill it with sushi!), so fills it with the low-density, low-fat/calorie melon all day.

Obviously you shouldn't skip meals and replace them with watermelon--that would be crazy. But as a way to stay sated in between your (healthy, balanced) meals, you could eat a whole lot of watermelon without doing much damage. It's mostly water, anyway, and hydration is important.
posted by phunniemee at 4:49 AM on August 12, 2011

I should have said - I drink tons of water. I only really drink water, tea, and smoothies/fruit juice, with a bit of alcohol now and again. I don't drink soda al all as I don't like it.
posted by mippy at 4:51 AM on August 12, 2011

Still try the soup idea! Especially heavy on the veggies (i.e. bulk). Also, you'd be astonished (or maybe not, now that you're watching it) at how many calories are in smoothies and fruit juice. If you don't have a good idea of what you're actually consuming, in terms of what's high and low calorie, try or the daily plate.
posted by availablelight at 5:10 AM on August 12, 2011

For a portable hunger-killer, try cans of V-8 or tomato juice (50 calories). You can add Worcestershire sauce to jazz it up (Virgin Mary).
posted by Scram at 5:24 AM on August 12, 2011

Oooh, I did have some Bloody Mary soup last week. It was lovely.

Question: is it calories I should be looking at, or food types?
posted by mippy at 5:37 AM on August 12, 2011

Fill up with vegetables.......all the UK supermarkets sell fairly good value chopped and prepped frozen veg that can form the basis for a lot of meals, in particular they can form the basis of the vegetable soups people recommend etc.

Have houmous with chopped fresh vegetables to dip. You can get any number of easy to dip things in all the supermarkets. In particular I like sugar snap peas - a bag of those and a small tub of houmous and you're set for most of the day in terms of work munchies.

As for the carbs try to stick with high protein ones such as certain rice varieties and quinoa.

Note how none of this actually requires much of any kind of cooking - you can buy both houmous and dipping veg ready made, you can buy other veg like peppers, carrots, celery and wash and cut them up to dip in next to no time. You can prepare vegetable soups with frozen veg and vegetable stock in 10 minutes. Boiling rice or quinoa and adding some (frozen) veg takes only marginally longer than boiling the filled pasta things.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:39 AM on August 12, 2011

Instead of ice cream (or in addition to ice cream) - can you try blended up frozen ripe bananas? I find it is a good replacement.

Also - I know you said you drink smoothies - but what is in them? If it is fruit juice alone, that isn't going to keep you full. I do a smoothie for lunch many days after my work out and it has sunflower seed butter (I'm allergic to nuts, you could do almond/peanut), spinach, and protein powder usually plus some fruit. Sometimes some chia seeds help too. In fact, chia fresca might be helpful for you.
posted by quodlibet at 5:40 AM on August 12, 2011

Oh - just saw you don't have a blender. Um, maybe get one? Smoothies are great meal replacements if you put the right stuff in.
posted by quodlibet at 5:41 AM on August 12, 2011

quodlibet - I can't eat banana at all. Yes, it's annoying, because they're very good for you and everything. It's been a pain trying to find banana-free smoothies, I can tell you. I don't know what chia seeds are.

I can't get a blender right now as I share a house and there is no space for it to go anywhere. Which is annoying as many nice-looking recipes involve use of a food processor.
posted by mippy at 5:48 AM on August 12, 2011

One last thing: nuts are perfect little packets of fat that will make you feel full (and almonds and walnuts are actually really good for you), but don't seem to make dieters fat, in reasonable quantities.
posted by availablelight at 5:53 AM on August 12, 2011

Oh - I obv did a poor job reading your original question. Frozen bananas taste a little different, and you can add some nut/seed butter and or cacao (chocolate) powder but ok - no worries.

For my blender, I'm in a tiny apartment and it lives in a closet during the day and I have to unplug the microwave (only plug in the damn kitchen) to use it).

Chia seeds are from a plant. They are more common in Mexico. I order mine online. They can be ground up and put on things or used whole. They are great for Omega 3s - and in general known for a good dose of protein, fat and fiber. You can bake them in things as well - I put them in protein muffins. Chia fresca is a drink - combine Chia seeds (8 tbsp), Sugar (4 tbsp), Warm water (3 c), and lime juice (2 limes) – then refrigerate (stir a few times while cooling). It keeps you filled for a longer time than a regular glass of water. Alot of runners use chia seeds this way.
posted by quodlibet at 5:57 AM on August 12, 2011

Aldi/Lidl are your friend when it comes to cheap veg and the quality is really decent. I would nth the recommendation of soups and personally, I find peanut butter sandwiches very filling.
posted by coffee_monster at 6:07 AM on August 12, 2011

Just to clarify, are these the effects you want from the medication? They seem like rather severe side-effects that you should mention to your doctor ASAP.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:23 AM on August 12, 2011

Sys Rq - not in the slightest! But they are known, well-documented side effects (the stuff is valproic acid).
posted by mippy at 6:36 AM on August 12, 2011

Sorry, I meant valproate semisodium. Both have the same brand name here which is confusing.
posted by mippy at 6:37 AM on August 12, 2011

Air-popped popcorn.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:44 AM on August 12, 2011

I can't get a blender right now as I share a house and there is no space for it to go anywhere.

So don't get a blender, get a hand blender. They can go in a drawer and work perfectly well for making soup for example as long as the veg is already nice and soft.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:56 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had this problem with meds, too. Two different drugs had two different kinds of hunger though. With one drug, last spring, my hunger was enormous and way more intense than usual. However, when I ate, I also felt full and satisfied more quickly. While it was distressing at first to feel so ravenously hungry so often, after about a month I figured out that I just had to eat smaller portions more often and everything was fine. So eating more frequent, smaller portions of what you normally eat might be something you could try. Over the course of a year of eating this way, I actually ended up losing weight. I don't know why exactly, but theorize that grazing all day added up to fewer calories than feeling half starved and then having a huge meal.

This spring, however, I took a new drug for a while that made me feel hungry all the time and almost never feel full. It also made me sleep 16-18 hours a day. I put on 15 pounds in 6 weeks, weight which is still there and pisses me off. Obviously, I don't have any solution for you there, but I ended up going off the drug and finding a new one (actually going back to the old one).

Anyway, quick small meals or snacks include:
• raw nuts (I have a handful of raw almonds and/or walnuts most days mid-morning)
• edamame (I keep packaged frozen portions in the freezer at work, then pop them in the microwave, might not be an option for you)
• a small piece of cheese and a big piece of fruit (I find fruit alone delicious but not filling; the fat in the cheese satiates while the fibre in the fruit bulks it up; I like to fill a big plate with sliced fruit, some nuts and cheese and then sort of eat it all morning)
• get a more bulky bread (something dense and whole grainy will fill you up more) and have some nut butter on your toast
• boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pre-cooked and kept in the fridge to toss on salads or just eat as a snack worked for me, too; it's even cheaper to roast a chicken on Sunday then break it down and eat it over the course of the week if you like both light and dark meat; here you can even buy packaged pre-cooked chicken breast, though it's got additives and so probably more calories and salt than homemade.
• Lara bars!
• and this might sound obvious, but just try to have a smaller piece of chocolate or cake; I'm not one for denial at all, and wouldn't dream of walking past a piece of birthday cake, but sometimes a sliver is all you need. I tell myself I can always go back for seconds if it's not enough--it almost always is--because if I take a big piece I will finish it even if I feel stuffed (who can throw away cake?)
• I also like one piece of really good dark chocolate mid-afternoon--I find one square of a Lindt bar is enough to halt the craving for sweets, dark chocolate covered almonds are also good.

I'd stay away from juice, which is just a lot of sugar and calories for not a big nutritional pay-off, and smoothies, because it doesn't sound like you are making your own (right?), and the store bought ones are usually really high in calories.
posted by looli at 7:01 AM on August 12, 2011

Seconding the drop some carbs and up the fat and protein approach. Since deciding to drop bread and pasta my lunches tend to consist of a cooked cold meat, salad, cottage cheese, olives, feta. Just as quick to stuff in a lunch box each morning from the fridge as it is to make a sandwich.

When replacing muesli for breakfast I started out making smoothies with a hand blender using yoghurt, frozen blueberries, soy milk and peanut butter. Yummy but I got bored of that process and now just whack the blueberries in a bowl, microwave defrost them and cover them in yoghurt and a spoonful of peanut butter. My dentist threatened to send me to a gum specialist after my nut epiphany so if you do go down the nut route be scrupulous with the cleaning. I changed my routine to clean my teeth after breakfast and any nutty snacks and managed to improve things alot at the last checkup.

Perhaps swop the baked/roast/mashed potato for baked/roast/mashed sweet potato. All that potato-ness but much lower on the glycemic index. Mashed sweet potato keeps really well in the fridge to add to your lunch box - it goes really well alongside feta, cottage cheese and beetroot (and makes for a most excellent coloured lunch). Cold roasted sweet potato is also ok if you can cope with it being a bit soggy.

For dinners where my other half still wants his pasta I have the sauce and meat over salad and a vegetable. My spag bol = broccoli bol . On lazy takeout nights we order a meat or veg side dish in place of rice or noodles and soon realised we were buying rice and noodles just because thats whats expected, not because we particularly enjoyed rice or noodles.

If going the higher fat/protein and less carbs route then you can feel guilt free about bacon and eggs at the weekends, hurrah!
posted by Ness at 7:30 AM on August 12, 2011

The side effects that you state are listed as severe side effects, Slowing down of metabolism can be very bad. I suggest youl look into anothermedication. I had to have my thyroidremoved and if my metabolism drops my endocrinologist takes that very seriously.

PS It also says if you get the side effects that you are describing GO RIGHT TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM.

You should be seeing your doctor right away NOT posting how to deal with it.
posted by majortom1981 at 7:54 AM on August 12, 2011

majortom - they aren't severe side effects. They happen in up to 10% of users, and many many people taking the same drug have seen just the same thing as it is very common with this family of meds. I have discussed this with my psychiatrist as I have used the same medication in the past. I've experienced the same effect with some hormonal contraceptives as well. There is not 'another medication', unfortunately.
posted by mippy at 8:00 AM on August 12, 2011

I've recently decided to get my diet in check and have cut out most simple carbs in favour of more complex carbs - largely in the form of brown rice, and wholegrain pasta and bread.

In my experience, they keep you feeling full for longer. And apparently, they release energy more steadily, but I'm by no means a nutritional expert and don't really understand the mechanism behind it.

Anyway, it's something to consider - especially if your diet is carb-heavy to begin with.
posted by Ted Maul at 8:45 AM on August 12, 2011

I had a (rather drunk) doctor in my living room two nights ago yelling about just this. His take on the 'fats control hunger' thing was that they definitely do, but that it's wise to use the right fats in small amounts. He suggested staying completely away from anything highly refined or high in polyunsaturated fats ("Poison!").

On the practical front, his suggestion was small amounts of high quality extra virgin olive oil as a dressing on salads and vegetables, and cooking with small amounts of virgin coconut oil. There was some really complicated reasoning to do with that second choice that I didn't fully get - it seemed to come down to weighing the health benefits of hunger control and low levels of oxidisation/rancidity against the possible cons of a saturated fat.

I'd also nth the idea of filling up with veges (steam them in the microwave if your cooking time/space/inclination is limited) and complex low GI carbs. Most whole grains freeze well, so in a shared house you can cook a big batch of (eg) brown rice at a time, freeze it, and reheat in the microwave.
posted by Ahab at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2011

Volumetrics has some good tips about foods that are bulky but low-cal. Some of the recipes are so good I use them even though I don't need to. The whole aim of the idea is to make you feel full without loading you up with calories. Give it a look.

Also, use grains such as quinoa, millet, farro etc instead of pasta. By the way, farro is a bloody miracle. It's not especially low-cal but it's good for you and it is really filling. You don't need much. Oh, and it's also very tasty. Pan-roast it for a couple of minutes before you add stock to cook it through and mmm-mm, that's tastier and more toothsome than pasta. Toss it with something tasty and righteous and you have a satisfying meal that will leave you feeling full.

You like toast and cheese? Hell, who doesn't? But...carbs and fat. Try crispbreads like Ryvita with low-fat cheese, melted. Melting low-fat cheese makes it taste better. It really does.

Exercise. Yeah, I know, it sucks. But exercise doesn't just burn calories, it actually suppresses the appetite for a while. So, try to exercise before that time of day when you get the worst of your cravings. I realise this may not be practical, but if it is... try it.

As for sweets... try to resist. Try to save them for treats. Occasional treats. I'm lucky: I don't really have a sweet tooth. I can see it must be tough for people who do. Oh, and good luck!
posted by Decani at 11:39 AM on August 12, 2011

- air-popped popcorn! Not popcorn in a microwave bag.
- simple salad with farro, nuts, veggies of choice. Yogurt/lemon/olive oil/tahini dressing
- quinoa with cottage cheese and tomatoes
- celery!
- roasted chickpeas
- roasted broccoli
- lentils! hot lentils, cold salad lentils, lentils in soup
- big crunchy salads with lots of different veggies - sprouts, feta, nuts, garbanzo beans. Make a list of 10 salads you want to try (from, or 101cooking, or just google for salad recipes)

The key will be minimizing carbs and upping protein. Experiment with different methods of preparation: veggies in soups, raw veggies, steamed veggies, braised greens, roasted veggies, veggies in quiche, etc. Each method makes the vegetable taste very different, so you can have some variety.

You need some protein at breakfast too. Try the Kashi GoLean cereal if you have it. If not, whatever other protein you like. I recently commented here with savory oatmeal / farro / quinoa dishes - it's in my recent comments if you want to take a look.
posted by barnone at 12:29 PM on August 12, 2011

Low sugar vegetables (avoid carrots and most onions - surprisingly sugary) and go nuts on fatty meat protein to the point of satiety. Avoid empty filler like breads and pastas.
posted by carlh at 5:31 PM on August 12, 2011

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