Eating Foods To Help Prevent Antidepressant Weight Gain


In an ideal world, when individuals suffer from depression, they would be treated with both medication and therapy. Typically, medication is prescribed by psychiatrists or psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapy is provided by psychologists, social workers, or other mental health service providers.

The combination of meds and therapy is utilized for good reason: the outcomes are better both in the short and long term. In an extensive meta-analysis of 52 studies treating over 3,600 individuals with depression or anxiety, the findings were overwhelmingly in support of combining drugs and psychotherapy. According to the review, both therapy and medication contribute equally to the positive outcome for the patient and are independent of the other.

Unfortunately, not all mental health treatment consists of this combined method in practice today. Furthermore, the pandemic is likely making it even more challenging for patients to get the care they need. We are hopeful, with the approval of the vaccine, that the mental healthcare system will go back to its pre-pandemic state, allowing for more access to timely and effective treatment for patients.

Weight Gain On Antidepressants

However, even when patients can receive the combination of psychotherapy and medication, they still may struggle with dealing with some of the side effects of the medication, such as weight gain, a known side effect of treatment with antidepressants. Such physical changes can begin as early as a few weeks into treatment.

In a multi-year survey of roughly 300,000 individuals, conducted by Gafoor and Associates, they found significantly more weight gain among individuals treated with antidepressants than those who were not on these medications. Additionally, the weight continued to be gained for up to eight years after starting the medication. The survey authors shared their concern over the relationship between antidepressant use and obesity.

Unfortunately, some of these side effects, such as weight gain, can cause patients to stop treatment prematurely or decide not to use the drugs in the future, should the issue present itself again. For individuals who haven’t had an issue with weight prior to getting on antidepressants, the side effects can come as a very unpleasant surprise. It can be hard to explain to friends and family members who are unfamiliar with medication-related weight gain and embarrassing for the patient.

Dietary Considerations To Prevent Antidepressant Weight Gain

Perhaps a consultation with a dietitian should be included as part of the patient’s treatment. At the very least, patients should be educated about the possibility of medication-related weight gain and asked to notice any changes in snack cravings, most notably high-carb snacks, as well as difficulty feeling full after meals. Such appetite changes may be indicative that antidepressants are affecting the ability of serotonin to modulate satiety. 

The History Of The Serotonin Power Diet

Many years ago, we worked with clients experiencing this problem, when we established a weight-loss clinic at a Harvard-associated psychiatric hospital. Our clients at McLean Hospital and from the community at large experienced medication-related weight gain from psychotropic drugs. All of our clients struggled with controlling their snacking and some would even consume two full meals in a row due to a lack of feeling full. At the time, we couldn’t provide them with diet drugs to boost serotonin in the brain, but we did offer them a natural, non-drug alternative. We asked our clients to eat small carb snacks before lunch and dinner since carb consumption increased serotonin synthesis and activity. If they felt satiated prior to meals, they would naturally consume less. These carb snacks were combined with counseling, exercise, and a calorie-controlled meal plan. Interestingly, many of our clients had never experienced difficulties with their weight prior to taking medication and found that the carb snacks really helped them manage their cravings.

The Serotonin Power Diet Really Works

This led to the creation of the Serotonin Power Diet, which has helped tens of thousands of individuals struggling with antidepressant-related weight gain and emotional overeating successfully manage their cravings and lose pounds or maintain their weight. If you are struggling to deal with a constant desire to eat, we recommend eating a small carb snack, (low-fat popcorn, an English muffin, some pretzels) with at least 25 grams of carbs, at most 4 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fat, one hour before lunch. Give yourself at least thirty minutes before noticing how you feel. Research has shown that you should feel more satiated and better able to monitor and control your own consumption at your next meal.

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