The Link Between Bipolar and Weight Gain


Bipolar Weight Gain

Weight GainI’m overweight. I don’t say it lightly, but I am always honest about it. In the nearly three years since my bipolar diagnosis, I’ve put on about 15 kilos/33 pounds.

First we introduced lithium into my regimen. I gained some weight. Then we added lamotrigine, and I gained some more. Last year came quetiapine, and even more weight gain (but on the upside, I finally sleep, every night).

I don’t know about everyone else, but aside from hair loss, or maybe those rare fatal rashes, I can deal with just about any side effect from my medication as long as it’s NOT weight gain.

It’s not just the meds, either. Bipolar episodes can cause my weight to fluctuate by quite a bit. I’m the opposite of a lot of bipolar people in that I eat more when I’m depressed and am far too busy to be bothered with food when I’m manic, but either way, these drastic changes in mood have major effects on my body.

That all feels pretty unfair, but I’m not going to just chalk it all up to evil medication and illness, throw my hands in the air, and surrender to something I feel I can’t control. Giving up would be so easy, but I’m just one of those people who refuses to be a victim.

I’m still fighting every day, but the fight is made much harder by medication that makes it difficult for me to feel full, or that revs up my appetite while slowing down my metabolism. Fortunately there are still plenty of things I can do to keep my weight in check and keep myself feeling as fit and healthy as possible.

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Baby Steps

One of the fundamental changes I’ve made during my battle against weight gain is to walk every day. I got a step counter, set a daily goal, and found small ways to move more. Here in the Netherlands, bikes are the main mode of transportation. There are bike paths everywhere you could ever want to go, and often you can go from one city to another by bike without ever having to cross an actual road.

Biking is certainly healthier than driving or taking the bus, but since I’ve been biking everywhere for years and it comes easily, I decided to step it up a notch (pun intended) by walking more. I still bike long distances, but now I walk the shorter ones. Taking the kids to school in the morning or picking them up in the afternoon takes 2 minutes by bike, but 5 on foot, so I walk it every single time now.

A round-trip from home to school and back at a brisk pace nets me about 2,000 steps towards my daily goal, six more minutes of daylight, and 10 minutes of moderate exercise in place of 4 minutes of leisurely cycling.

Next page: baby steps continued and watching what you eat. 

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