Will going off of Paxil help me lose the weight I gained while on Paxil?
October 13, 2007 6:50 PM   Subscribe

I gained a lot of weight after going on birth control pills & antidepressants. Will going off these make it easier to lose this weight?

In college, the year I went on birth control pills was the year I gained 50 lbs. That was several years ago. Two years ago, I went on antidepressants. First I was on Effexor, then Paxil. Right now I am on both Paxil & Wellbutrin. The first year I was on antidepressants, I gained 70 lbs. In a single year. The second year, I worked my ass off and lost about 15 lbs, which I keep yo-yoing with, despite my best efforts to keep it off and keep losing. Note that I have never had trouble losing weight before OR keeping it off with minimal effort. My efforts have been far more than minimal with crappy results.

Three months ago, I went off of birth control pills & am now using non-hormonal birth control methods. So far, I am still struggling.

My question is - assuming that the weight gain was a side effect of the antidepressants, will going off the antidepressants make it easier to lose the weight I've put on?

I'm really interested in personal anecdotes.

I know you are not my doctor/pharmacist/etc & that my mileage will vary.
posted by dumbledore69 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I gained about 30 lbs on oral BC. I lost about 20 when I went off it, without really doing much else. YMMV, of course.
posted by Brittanie at 6:53 PM on October 13, 2007

I can't speak for the birth control side of it, but I gained 80 pounds in the span of a year or so when I started Paxil. After getting off pills altogether, eating a very clean diet, and working out a few times a week, I lost all that weight in about seven months. It's been my experience so far that as long as I engage in regular exercise and eat well, my depressive symptoms are much much easier to deal with on their own. However, I was stupid and quit taking Paxil cold turkey, which resulted in the most horrifying withdrawal symptoms I have ever experienced in my life. I'm talking incapacitating, electric jolts to the brain, praying for death sort of withdrawal here. Do not quit taking this drug without working with your doctor to figure out how to wean off it gradually. I can't stress this enough. I'm sure it's not like that for everyone, but I wouldn't suggest risking it to find out.
posted by makonan at 7:18 PM on October 13, 2007

Before you decide to give up on antidepressents you might ask your MD about alternatives. Your side effect tolerance (and efficacy!) will vary drug-to-drug, but there are several other antidepressents which are not associated with weight gain. Fluoxetine (Prozac) and bupropion (Wellbutrin) are both associated with weight loss (controversial/mild for bupropion). Physicians know about weight gain as a side effect; it's one of the leading reasons for non-compliance. The drug cabinet has options in it for just this reason.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:34 PM on October 13, 2007

I gained a lot on antideps. I lost it after going off them (vigorous exercise probably didn't hurt).
posted by shownomercy at 7:45 PM on October 13, 2007

there are plenty of different anti-depressants with different side effect profiles. consider switching. AFAIK weight gain is more likely to be a side effect of the pill than anti-depressants, so it suprises me you put on that much weight (that's a lot isn't it? we use metric here). could be unrelated, i guess, but i'd go with your hunch here if i was you.

anyway, a lot of people experience side effects with antidepressants, and if your weight is becoming a problem, then talk to your doctor about trying a different one.

other than that, i suggest you watch your diet and exercise levels - they both affect mood pretty significantly, and exercise is really good for elevating mood.

good luck!
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 7:51 PM on October 13, 2007

I cant speak to the anti-depressants, but when I stopped taking the pill, I almost instantly (ok, it took about a month), and with out any change in diet/activity, dropped the 20lbs it had put on. YMMV

Good luck!
posted by sandra_s at 7:58 PM on October 13, 2007

It's more likely to be the antidepressants, but these things affect everyone differently. I tried three different hormonal birth control methods in the last several years and lost weight while on them all.

If you need the antidepressants, you need them. It may be better for your overall mental health to stay on some medication in spite of the weight gain.

But seconding looking for another medicine. Ask for the ones they don't prescribe to anorexics. And then watch your diet, exercise more, keep a food diary ( fitday.com or sparkpeople.com are easy to use).

I know you say you never had issues with losing or keeping weight off before, but maybe your metabolism slowed in the meantime and you just can't eat the same way anymore (and it requires much more work and closer self-monitoring). That often happens when women hit their mid-late 20s.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:02 PM on October 13, 2007

I gained about 65 lbs after going on Paxil. My doc lowered my dosage of it about 2 years ago and then switched me over to Effexor about a year ago. One of the reasons for the switch from Paxil was my concern over the weight gain. I managed to lose about 5 lbs. after the dosage got lowered. And since I've been on the Effexor, I've lost about 15 more lbs. without changing much else (diet, exercise, etc.).

I'm sure that if I weren't quite so lazy about exercising and would start eating a little better, I could get rid of the other 30 I'd like to lose. (I was a little underweight back in the day, so I'd rather not lose all the weight I gained.)

Talk to your doctor. There are so many alternatives out there. I'm sure you can find one that works better for you.

I second makonan's advice, though: don't go cold turkey off the antidepressants. Even just to lower my dosage, my doc weaned me off the higher stuff for two weeks. Your system needs time to adjust or it'll mess with you but good.
posted by aine42 at 9:31 PM on October 13, 2007

As far as you not having much luck so far after going off BC pills, my experience with any sort of hormonal birth control is that it takes much longer than you would think to cycle out of our system, and even long for your body to regain its natural state of regulation. Give it time. I agree with makonan about weaning yourself off Paxil. I've never been on it myself, but have known more than one person who experienced exactly what makonan described when withdrawing from it...and as for Wellbutrin, I thought weight gain was specifically one of the side effects. Maybe this would be the first of the two to target, and see what happens.
posted by SixteenTons at 9:33 PM on October 13, 2007

oh gosh, i hope a doctor chimes in here. i have the exact same question!

here's my own situation, at least for commiseration purposes:

i have been on birth control pills and effexor xr for the past 8 years. i was extremely obese as a teenager when i started taking them, and was already in the process of losing weight at the time, so i have no idea if one or both of these drugs somehow slowed weight loss. ultimately i lost about 80 pounds, but since then i have been absolutely incapable of losing any more. if i gain a bit of weight, i am able to lose it until i get to my current weight, but never an ounce more. the problem is that i am still about 50 pounds overweight, but no amount of diet and exercise will shave it off.

is it the drugs? if i stop taking them, will i get depressed, crampy and pregnant?
posted by timory at 10:16 PM on October 13, 2007

I'm currently on Effexor XR and generic Xanax XR. I also started generic Estropipate and generic Spironolactone two months ago, and my weight went up noticeably. Unfortunately, quiting any of these four is not an option for me, so I've had to look to alternatives.

I found that adjusting my diet to more include more slower digesting foods (more proteins and slower digesting good carbs) seems to help. I confirmed with my doc (internal medicine) that the Estrogen is the biggest cause for my weight gain. Now I'm making sure that I eat 5 smaller meals a day, at the same times every day (breakfast is now my "largest" meal and dinner is my "smallest"). I also have to make sure I exercise moderately too. I took off about half of my recent weight gain, but I seem to have plateaued for now.

FWIW, when I was just on the Effexor/Xanax alone, I used to drink a large cup of coffee in the morning with a 20oz Sobe chaser... I had no trouble keeping the weight off, but I was more hyper than a hummingbee.

Good luck to you.
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 10:32 PM on October 13, 2007

I put on a stone in six months while on Paxil. Now I am off them, my weight is going down slowly but steadily without changing my diet or exercise. So that's an anecdote which suggests you'll lose the weight when you stop them.
posted by penguinliz at 5:05 AM on October 14, 2007

I gained 30 lbs. on Paxil in a year, and got off it because it wouldn't let me have an orgasm. When I talked to the dr. about that and the weight gain, she said that it would take about a year to get back to normal weight, but that other antidepressants such as Zoloft had the opposite effect: weight loss and ability to orgasm. I think Zoloft is typically prescribed for the people who show more depressive symptoms and Paxil for those who feel anxiety/panic attacks, so I'm not sure if switching to another antidepressant would do the trick. She did say I could switch to Wellbutrin and get my orgasms back, but didn't think it would help with the weight problem.

A combination of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) plus as-needed loratadine might be better for you, if anxiety or panic attacks are the problem. I know it has worked for a number of sufferers, and I was reading an article just yesterday about how people are more and more using CBT as an alternative to anti-depressants because of these very side effects.

For me to lose the weight, I bought a stair climber (used) and worked my way up to 800-1000 cals per day, 5 days a week, and cut out caffeine and alcohol. It still took me 11 months to lose 28 of the 30 lbs.

Even on just birth control and being in my 30's, I have to really watch it. If I gain 5 lbs. it often takes 3-4 months to lose it, even with 2 hour trips to the gym 4-5 days per week. It's just hell on the body getting older, no?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:21 AM on October 14, 2007

I have no knowledge of what effects antidepressants or birth control will have on weight gain/loss, but I posted a rather long comment on Unicorn on the cob's question from Sunday where I describe carbohydrate metabolisim.

The gist is essenitally higher insulin levels cause the body to store more fat. That's why low-carbohydrate diets work when losing weight. Carbs breakdown to glucose in the blood, which then requires insulin to transport to cells for use as fuel. Insulin suppresses the hormones and process that breakdown body fat for use as fuel.

I'm pretty sure the pill affects hormones, so that may alter your body's ability to meabolise carbs (though I'm guessing at this cause/effect link). If antidepressants also affect hormones, I would guess the same behavior. Cutting out all carbs from your diet doesn't have any detrimental affect nutritionally, as they do not help the body produce any of it's essential nutrients. After you lose whatever weight you want, you can then work carbs back in to figure out at what level your body safely metabolizes them without weight gain.
posted by herda05 at 4:43 PM on October 15, 2007

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