In addition to my problems with mental illness, I’ve been fighting problems with having an unhealthy weight since at least age seventeen. I spent the first several years of my schizophrenia diagnosis trying to figure out the many aspects of my personal mental health problems. I was able to figure out that there were seasonal elements, certain situations and stressors that made the illness worse, people and places I needed to avoid as much as possible, and I learned coping skills that made the mental part of my health much more tolerable.
While I was covering the mental aspects of my health, I completely ignored my physical health. I gained a lot of weight during the first ten years of my diagnosis. One reason I neglected my physical health was I often lacked motivation to stay with an exercise program. I would do fine the first few days. When the inevitable aches and discomfort set in, I’d take a day or two off. I felt terrible for taking days off and would in time drop the program.
A second reason I gained weight was I fell into the trap of believing I couldn’t lose weight while on anti-psych medication. Many anti-psych medications have weight gain as one of their most prominent side effects. Noticing I was at a very unhealthy weight even as far back as early 2007, I went off my medications in an attempt to lose weight. Real bad idea. I had a relapse after being off medications for three months. Whatever weight I lost in that time off the medications was gained back and more.
Finally about the summer of 2013, I’m guessing, my general practitioner told me that I would have major health problems, including diabetes, heart issues, and probably even early death if I didn’t do a complete change of my eating habits and physical activity. That gave me an incentive to at least attempt to lose weight while on anti-psych medications. My options at that point were to either keep blaming the weight gain on my psych meds and wait for an inevitable disaster perhaps only a few years in the future, or I could get more active and accept responsibility for my physical health with the same dedication I took to getting my mental health managed. I guess my decision to lose weight came down to the persistent thought that my well managed mental health conditions would not matter if my physical health deteriorated.
My first efforts to lose weight were not entirely successful. Beginning to exercise wasn’t much of a problem as I had the idea of dealing with diabetes, heart disease, and a mental illness all at the same time to keep me walking at least four to five days per week. It was the adjusting my eating habits that was the major issue. I would lose weight some weeks. Other weeks I would not lose and often actually gain. This went on until about April 2014.
After several months of exercise and learning all I could find about good nutrition on a small budget, I reexamined everything I was doing. Every thing checked out just fine. I even changed some of my psych medications at my psych doctor’s recommendation. I finally decided to track everything I was eating for at least a few days. It took only one day to figure out exactly how much I was eating on an average day. That was an attention grabber. I figured out how much I was eating and how much I was burning off through physical activity. I could see that on even average days I was taking in more calories than I was burning off. I found out why I wasn’t losing weight as easily as I wanted. It wasn’t the psych medications causing it all alone. It was that I had no idea how much I was actually eating.
Once I figured this out, I committed to tracking everything I ate every day. I was able to do this though tools and trackers with a free account at wedmd.com. I just type in what I eat, how much of a food I eat, and how much exercise I do. I had to do this everyday for at least the first two to three months every day. Once I knew how much I was eating everyday as well as how much I was exercising everyday and was recording it, that is when the weight starting coming off. Since I started tracking everything I ate and all exercise I did I’ve lost over 45 pounds. I’ve been doing this tracking since the middle of April 2014, so I’ve been doing this for right at five months. I’m sure that for those who wish to have a diet and exercise tracking app for a SmartPhone or an iPod there are several good apps available that don’t cost anything.
Weight loss while on anti-psychcotic medications is possible. It can be done. Like anyone else trying to lose weight, it takes a lot of work, a lot of discipline, and it takes time. I suppose I have the thoughts of where I once was, where I’m at now, how much better I feel now than even six months ago, and where I can and want to be as motivators.