If you want to lose a few extra pounds that you’ve put on since taking a weight gain-inducing medication, you’re already on the right track. Armed with that knowledge that gaining weight is a potential side effect, you can make more conscious choices when it comes to meals and exercise.
1. Make Conscious Choices About Sodium
Avoiding too much sodium in your diet is smart for anyone looking to eat healthier. But patients on steroids or antidepressants might want to consider paying extra close attention. That means avoiding processed foods, canned foods, and fast foods, since they’re often packed with sodium. “Eight percent of our sodium intake comes from these foods,” says Alanna Cabrero, MS, a registered dietician at NYU Langone Health’s IBD Center. “The general population in the U.S. has 3,300 to 3,500 mg of sodium per day, when it should fall more around 2,300 mg. Reduce these foods that have naturally a ton of sodium.”
2. Increase Potassium In Your Diet
Eating a potassium-rich diet is great for people who are looking to lose weight gained because of medication — potassium flushes out sodium. And a potassium-rich diet is linked to other health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, protection against stroke, and osteoporosis prevention. Potassium-rich foods include: bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, coconut water, spinach, black beans, edamame, potatoes, beets.
3. Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Your appetite can increase while taking specific medications, so you may be tempted to eat more. Instead of having three massive meals throughout the day, breaking up your food into smaller, more frequent meals can make you feel like you’re consuming more calories because you have little time between snacks to be hungry. Cabrero suggests you try to integrate nonstarchy veggies, or what she calls “volume-rich foods,” into your diet. “They’re nutritious and don’t have a lot of calories,” says Cabrero. Experiment beyond cut-up carrots: try veggie soups and salads.
4. Stay Active
Staying active is important for overall health as well as weight loss or maintenance. Depending on your level of health or current symptoms, you may want to consult your doctor first. “Depending on what other symptoms are going on, physical activity is something to be sure to do,” says Cabrero. “You might not be as active as you were before, but light yoga, walking, or something along those lines helps to keep you mobilized and improves overall health.”
5. Try Intermittent Fasting
For people who have come off medication, intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight, provided it’s recommended by your doctors. “I usually suggest a gut rest. This is a 12-hour window when you don’t eat, which should start about 2 to 3 hours before bed,” says Cabrero. “A lot of times after dinner we end up snacking on foods that are not nutritious, nor are even related to hunger.”
6. Ask Your Doctor About Your Options
Managing your condition is a priority, so there may not yet be any options that cause little to no weight gain. Still, ask your doctor if there are any alternative medications or treatments that would maintain your health without the extra pounds. For people on steroids, ask if going on the shortest, most effective dose is a possibility. If you’re taking antidepressants, bupropion (Wellbutrin) may be less likely to cause weight gain.