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The Weight Gain Roller Coaster

By: Ivory Smith

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and had a big meal only to feel hungry 2 hours later? Do you eat that 4th meal of the day at 3:00 am at night standing in the kitchen? Have you watched your clothes get tight and hope that it is because the dryer that has shrunk them? Well I have definitely experienced all of these. We know that bipolar meds play a factor in weight gain but not enough research has been done to show how.

I have always had a "little meat on my bones”, of which I took pride of. Right now I am 4’11 with 181 lbs. to carry. It is thought that the Depakote that was started this May in combination with the Latuda caused the increase in my appetite. I don’t crave sweets, junk foods, or even my cherry Coke Zero that I used to love. However, the amount and frequency of eating is increased. The desire and love of the taste of food has increased. Sometimes the highlight of the day is what I am going to eat for lunch or dinner. One day I spent 20 minutes in hospital cafeteria trying to figure out what I wanted. I wanted a little of everything from the chicken wing bar to the salad bar to the country cooking station. However I was already having issues with the weight yo-yo effect from previous antipsychotics.

Some of the things I have to overcome when weight begins to increase due to medicines are going to the gym and thinking that others are judging me on my weight gain. When I talk to my gym buddies from class I want to hide my body. Also, when a person is gaining weight like that a person can sometimes be ashamed of showing themselves to friends or family that they have not seen in a long time. The horror of watching my nursing uniforms and church dresses getting tight is rough.

Feelings about weight gain and self-image can be a trigger to more depressive symptoms. Inside I feel helpless and at the mercy of a medication that has been helping me with mania and mixed states. But I know that feeling what it is like to not have agitation constantly is a great relief as is not being at the grocery store trying to discuss my philosophical views to strangers in the checkout line during an episode. 

I have been through several weight loss programs. After all of these programs I have gained the weight back after little success losing a substantial amount of weight to begin with. I have spent thousands of dollars on other weight loss programs that produced deprivation and starvation. I also took an appetite suppressant that caused me to go to into a mixed state. I am now seeing a health coach for a more personalized holistic way of clean eating and whole foods. I am encouraged to eat plenty of whole foods and sprouted grains.

There is much for me to understand about nutrition, medications, and weight. As an informed consumer I have been reading a lot about gut healing and how it influences factors in our health long term. I have also learned about how processed foods cause many health problems. Shopping on the periphery of the grocery lines are fresh and frozen foods. In the middle are processed foods full of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats and oils. I watch YouTube videos on weekly food prep which sometimes help me avoid the hospital cafeteria. I learned what I call high carb switch outs. For example, instead of white rice or potatoes you can use mashed cauliflower as a substitute.

I still push myself to my favorite gym classes in spite of feeling self-conscious. I shared with others how I felt about myself when I go to the gym. I would call myself bad names for the feelings of hunger I experienced 1 hour after I had eaten. When I feel hungry two hours later I have started to become mindful by not judging the cravings as bad or good. Also, I know I am not going to stop the Depakote because for me it has been proven to be effective in managing my bipolar disorder. I realize I must accept reality as it is. A new wardrobe is expensive so I choose the almost new: Goodwill and consignment shops in my home town. I discuss openly to my psychiatrist and therapist about my feeling of weight gain. I encourage others to do the same. 

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