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It's All Around Us - We Can't Escape

I mentioned to a friend the other day that I was still having problems losing the last of the weight I gained when I went on Lyrica, which led me to thinking about all the other common medications that also have weight gain as a side effect, most notably corticosteroids and anti-depressants, two of the most frequently prescribed classes of drugs today.


In a cursory look at the side effects of the most popular drugs, I came up with 14 anti-depressants that have weight gain as a side effect.  There are several anti-anxiety, -seizure, and -psychotic medications that list weight gain as a side effect, and most ironically, there are a few Type-2 Diabetes drugs that cause slow weight gain ("just lose weight", my ass).

In my random Googlings, I also found an abstract of a study documenting weight gain associated with medications (that also recommends that weight gain as a side effect of medication be included as a factor in future medication studies), and a study of anti-psychotics that showed steady weight gain as a factor in medication use.

Add to this the medical conditions that cause weight gain - PCOS, Cushing's, Hypothyroidism, Depression, injuries (especially back, hip, knee and ankle injuries), and (if you believe the current research) Type-2 Diabetes, where weight gain is now being looked at as a side effect, not a cause, of the condition (because of research into errors in insulin production that are echoed in PCOS, which has weight gain as a recognized side-effect), and I do not marvel at the fact that so many people are overweight, but that anyone at all has escaped some form of weight gain as they get older.

New research seems to be indicating that the High Fructose Corn Syrup that saturates our foods is also contributing to weight gain, as it stimulates appetite and depresses the signals that indicate fullness.  How's that for a kick in the pants?  Thanks, corn lobby.

We have so many indicators of the multi-layered issues that surround weight in our culture, and yet people are still frantically trying to reduce (hah) it to "eat less, exercise more" in all cases.  Quite apart from the fact that our cultural perception of an "acceptable" weight is severely underweight (by cultural standards, I, at a size 8 and weighing 140 pounds, am fat), the refusal to accept that people come in all sizes actually contributes to the problem, as people who were never meant to be a size 6 diet themselves into a wrecked metabolism and end up weighing more than when they started.

Yes, some people can lose weight by eating less and moving more (assuming they do not require any of the above listed medications, and do not suffer from a medical condition that prevents diet and exercise - good luck with that!), but I think it's very important to ask ourselves:  What weight are they trying to achieve?  Do we know what's a healthy size?  Do they?  Or is everyone allowing their cultural conditioning to override their natural size, just like we override our natural appetite to conform with an arbitrary cultural ideal?

In both cases, we run a high risk of negatively impacting our bodies, causing harm, not health.

I think until we can actually say "healthy and fit is more important than being a size 4", we cannot, in good conscience, berate people who don't fit into that narrow ideal.  I know people of all sizes, and I also know that the larger people I know are not gluttons; when I was binge eating (oh yes, I have a disordered eating past), I could out-eat any of them, and yet my top weight was 200lbs.  I ate enough to feed four people on a regular basis, didn't exercise, ate terrible foods on top of that (pizza, chips, candy), and still didn't go beyond a set point.

Why?  Well, it wasn't because I wasn't trying; at one point, I was really out of control.  But I think there's a range our bodies want to live in, just like there's a certain length at which our hair will cease to get longer (my ultimate length is butt-level - in ten years of growing, it got no longer than that).  Just like there are some people whose hair never stops growing (I used to know a woman who cut her hair when she started stepping on it), there are people who will never stop gaining weight, but they're rare.  Most people will reach a maximum, and stay there.  It seems reasonable that there's also a minimum set point, and it won't be the same for everyone.

I am 5'3".  The height-weight charts say my minimum weight for my height and frame should be 111lbs.  At 124lbs (the max for a small frame, which I am), I looked sick - and I only got that low because I was anxious, dealing with a bunch of bullshit, and on a painkiller that gave me constant nausea.  My "ideal" weight - i.e., the weight at which I feel most healthy - is 130-135lbs - the mid-range for a large-framed person of my height.  No-one looking at me at that weight would call me fat, yet at that weight, where I feel good and healthy, I am way too fat for Hollywood.

You may think that "Hollywood" is not the norm - and it isn't - but it's the "ideal" size that's fed to us every day in the media that surrounds us, and poisons our perception of "normal".  Until we acknowledge that not only is "ideal" actually an intensely personal thing (that should not be dictated by anything/anyone but the person living in that body), it really has nothing to do with size, we're fucked as a society, and we have no hope of getting past the fat hysteria that permeates our culture and allows the scapegoating and ill-treatment of people who fall outside rigid norms.

We don't expect everyone to be the same height, yet we respond with extreme negativity to any suggestion that we approach weight the same way.  It seems silly to me that a 5'9" woman would be expected to be a size 6, but it happens all the time, and people are shamed for not fitting into a narrow range of sizes.  And it's considered acceptable to police and shame fatties - hell, PETA just came out with a billboard that called overweight people whales.  Awesome!  That'll teach them!

I am now at a loss as to why people keep trotting out "eat less, exercise more" as if it's a) a universal solution to everything, and b) something no-one has ever heard before.  Fat people, thanks to the harassment they receive, are probably the most well-informed about diet and nutrition on the planet.  They're also really disciplined - it takes real dedication to lose hundreds of pounds over and over again, and not lose their sanity.  Most people simply aren't meant to be tiny - it's not healthy for them.

If we could only change people's attitudes from "thin is good" to "healthy is good" - oh, wait!  There''s already a group of people trying to do that very thing - the Health at Any/Every Size, and the Fat Acceptance movement.  HAAES focuses on two things - that healthy is not automatically associated with thinness, and that fat people do not deserve to be villified. Fat Acceptance says that Fat is not automatically bad, and loving yourself is healthy.

(FYI:  I edited that slightly for clarity.) 

Makes sense to me, so I support it.  Body shape is not nearly as important as the person who inhabits that body - their feelings, their dreams, their ideas, and their lives are as valuable and as meaningful as anyone else's.

One last mumble before I shut up - if the Lyrica had worked, I would have had to make a choice about whether I wanted to be fat and bald (yes, my hair started falling out, too) than in pain.  I'd like to think my priorities are straight enough that I'd have chosen pain-free, but the cultural conditioning we all go through is so strong, that I might have chosen thin over pain-free, because dealing with pain is easier than dealing with constant fat-hatred and discrimination. 

Tell me, how fucked up does that make society's expectations, and how fucked up does that make me?

This is one of the reasons why I support HAAES.  Because if I prioritize thinness over health, I lose.


( 52 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Aug. 20th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
I wish I could put you in a room with my father and let you annihilate his arguments. He still refuses to listen to me. When I was a child, about 12 I was fairly naturally underweight (not an eating disorder just small framed and constantly growing). I think about 70 pounds at the time and 10 pounds underweight for my age. My father told me I was fat. Sanity prevailed and I didn't believe him. But he won't listen to me... I've tried.
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
Your father is a tool of the media. Don't bother to try, it just wastes sanity points. :(
(no subject) - lilybeee - Aug. 20th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
I agree.

Two links:

Time Magazine on Excercise and weight loss:

A video by Dove showing all the manipulation that goes into creating "beauty" adds: (the big shocker seems to be the computer manipulation giving the woman a longer, thinner neck)

Aug. 20th, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
The most common photoshop of magazine covers? Whittling 2-3 inches off the model's waist, and adding an inch to their butt, to make the waist look as small as possible.

In other words, creating an impossible body. It's horrible.
(no subject) - czina - Aug. 20th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alphafemale1 - Aug. 20th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
I hear you. I'm still trying to loose the Paxil/Zoloft weight. And trying to loose weight at 56 is a real bitch.
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this.Society really screws us a double standard of body image vs what all the temptation of ads for bad food and portion sizes we are given in resturants.Of course it is never admitted that at least some of these *ideal* celeb bodies are achieved from drug use
The timing on my reading this is interesting as I had the Today show on and they were just discussing a billboard PETA just put out.basically a back shot of an overweight women with the slogan "Save the Whales eat less blubber go Vegan" Pretty cruel
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Shapely Prose (see links sidebar) has a good post on this subject.
(no subject) - chocolatepot - Aug. 21st, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
I had had a poor body image my whole life. Finally, in my late twenties, I went to the UK to do my MA where, because of sudden financial issues, I was too poor to eat enough. I ate properly - that is, I ate good food, I just didn't have enough to eat. After a year of going to bed with a growling stomach and losing enough weight in my butt that my tail bone stuck (not visibily) out so that sitting (especially in the bath tub) hurt, I resolved never to think I needed to lose weight again. By the time I came back to the US, my ribs stuck out so that even my cat didn't want to sleep on me. Being a little 'over weight' (whatever that is) and healthy/comfortable is a hell of a lot better than in pain because you have nothing between your skin and bones.
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Weight
I had the same problem during my undergrad. Not enough money (or time!) means less eating. At 5'4" I was 120 lbs when I graduated and anyone who sees my graduation pictures asks me if I was sick because I was so skinny. Like AL, I feel good around 135 - 140 which I believe makes me obese by the charts. Morons.
Re: Weight - wulfsdottir - Aug. 20th, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
New research seems to be indicating that the High Fructose Corn Syrup that saturates our foods is also contributing to weight gain, as it stimulates appetite and depresses the signals that indicate fullness.

But it's just as safe as sugar! The teevee told me so!

Aug. 20th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
I *hate* those ads with a grand, deep, abiding passion. Yes, the calorie content is the same, and the body treats it digestively like a sugar. The effect on the brain is off the charts, though, and it's unnaturally concentrated, making us crave more, and we find that fruits (some of the sweetest unadulterated foods out there) are not sweet enough. Crazy.

Regular (non-high fructose) corn syrup is closer to sugar, but still doesn't taste nearly as nice as cane sugar (or even beet sugar). Give me a fresh ear of corn any day, but I'm trying to get rid of the syrup.
(no subject) - mistressrhi - Aug. 20th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Aug. 20th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wulfsdottir - Aug. 20th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - janabard - Aug. 20th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - norayn - Aug. 20th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
"Fat people, thanks to the harassment they receive, are probably the most well-informed about diet and nutrition on the planet. They're also really disciplined - it takes real dedication to lose hundreds of pounds over and over again, and not lose their sanity."

God Bless You. I mean it. I'd give a dollar if just one of those mindless ijits who spouts "you just need to eat less" would live a month in my shoes.
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
No shit.

And thanks - Look, I lived fat, and I lost weight, but I never got a bikini perfect body, just less pain when I walked, and the ability to wear high heels without wanting to die after three minutes.

I think I'm where I'm meant to be (and not thinner, nor trying to be), because I don't have to think about what I eat - I eat when I'm hungry, and don't when I'm not. I eat ice cream if I want it. I eat fruit if I want it. But I still had to learn to love the shape I ended up with, because it didn't match the "after" shape in all the diet ads.

This is why I support HAAES.
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
One of the worse parts of the Hollywood endorsed "ideal image" for me is the progresively younger audience it's pushed on.

Aug. 20th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
Well, when women apparently peak at 18, ya gotta get 'em young right?

*chokes on own sarcasm*
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:14 pm (UTC)
I think part of the problem is that we really do go for a "one size fits all problems" solution to pretty much everything medical.
"Eat less, lose weight" works for some people.
"Move more, lose weight" works for others.
"Finally get off your *ss and get a divorce because you're depressed and miserable" was what worked for me... Starving myself for 10 years didn't take off any more than 5 pounds. Divorcing? I dropped 60 in three months. (So I always had a giggle over the ads for the cortisol suppressors to lose weight... Because taking a pill to screw with your body chemistry is so much more healthy than figuring out a way of changing your stressful situation...)

Nothing will ever work the same for everyone. We spend so much time espousing our differences and idividuality in 90% of the rest of our lives, and it's time we get a clue when it comes to our health as well.
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
It is frustrating as hell. I have had massive weight gain from the Lyrica, as well as retaining water and having to take Lasix for that...but it does help control the pain. I take a lot less tramadol and flexeral on the lyrica than I did before, although I still need them some days. Eat less, exercise more doesn't work. I average around 1200 calories a day and still gain weight. It is frustrating. I talked to a bunch of friends at Pennsic, and am trying Gluten-free to see if that makes a difference...seems gluten sensitivity can cause a lot of the same symptoms as Fibro, and at this point I am pretty much willing to try anything--needing to rent a scooter for Pennsic was the final straw, and I can't get anyone to shoot me like a lame horse. :/
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
Like minds
It's so strange... I was thinking somewhere along the same lines earlier this week. With how media saturates us with the "ideal" fiction.
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:00 pm (UTC)
I'm so grateful to you for making posts like this. I don't have much to add, other than I think you summed up the ideas of HAAES and Fat Acceptance really well.
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I am currently on a chemo med called Gleevec (for a type of GI cancer) that has made me gain and lose the same 10 pounds since I started it. The 10 pounds just appears, almost overnight (usually over about 2-3 days), then slowly goes away over a month, then comes back. When I told my oncologist, his response was "eat less". As if. It doesn't seem to matter if I eat 1500 calories a day or 10 brownies after dinner, the 10 pounds just keeps haunting me. And before I started the meds, I was losing weight because they had removed 1/3 of my stomach to get my tumor out. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to take the drugs if it means no more tumors, but geesh, "eat less"; what crap.

Thanks for providing a sensible voice on this issue.
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm sorry your doctor is pulling that nonsense on you. Chemo is the very last time anyone should be thinking about going on a diet, anyway - even if one wanted to! It adds stress on the body, which should be putting all its energy into healing at the moment.

It's the medication. 10 pounds, though annoying (don't I know it!) is not medically bad, and you might actually benefit from a little extra weight at this time, though the way you're describing it (sudden weight gain?), it sounds a lot more like swelling tissue and water retention than fat. If your hands and feet start to swell, or your stomach suddenly bloats, get to the emergency room, since bloating can be a dangerous symptom.

(I'm not a doctor, but I know my side effects, and yours doesn't sound like fat.)
(no subject) - tasuskind - Aug. 20th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Aug. 21st, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 20th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
About 10 years ago, I starved myself and obsessively exercised, lost about 60 pounds; dropped down from a size 20 to a size 8-10. Then I went into a new, high-stress job, ate more, but continued to exercise, although not at the previous intensity. Gained some weight, but not a lot. Then about five years ago, the job stresses and life stresses began to pile up; I was still bellydancing, but not at the same intensity per week, and I was eating far, far, more than was healthy for me. I was at weeklong conferences featuring rich food and even richer desserts, and hours every day at my desk. I'd eat a pint of ice cream at a time at home. Every Friday it was bagels and cream cheese and donuts at work, and I had always forgotten my lunch and couldn't get out of the office.

To be frank, I felt like crap.

I decided at the end of July it was time to do something about that, for my health. I joined a gym and I joined WeightWatchers, because even for the healthier foods, my portion sizes were out of control. I go to the gym every morning before work, and Saturdays when I can. The exercise feels good and helps destress me. I get half an hour to build up a sweat, and then I shower and put on nice clean clothes and go to work. The WW plan allows me to track what I am eating and how much of it. So far, I have lost 7 pounds, and probably have dropped another 2 or 3 this week. My husband is being very supportive.

I don't think I am going to be as thin as when I starved myself, but that's just fine with me. The weight was also actually starting to get in the way of my dance development; I want to lose enough to actually make it easier to dance, keep flexible, and keep healthy.

Now I am going to go have some fresh cherries. Yum.
Aug. 20th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
The research you found
I'm VERy interested in the information you found on weight gain, PCOS and type 2 diabetes. No matter how little I eat or how much I try to exercise; I am the way I am. I honestly believe that if I stapled my lips shut I'd still be the size I am. I know I'm not healthy, but "eat less" doesn't always work. There are some days when I wish I would move over to the "you need insulin" group of people; they're always thin. don't get me started on the looks and comments from people. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "being overweight just means you have no self-control; or the reason I can't have children is natural selection because the earth has a way to make sure that fat people don't have fat/defective children".
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
Re: The research you found
holy crap on the infertility crap. I'm PCOS too (can't say 'sufferer' because I'm also childfree, and I don't care that I am infertile) and usually get from doctors about "oh we'll try all these methods if you want to get pregnant" but never once have I gotten that line of BS, from anyone. And if I had, they'd have gotten their heads handed to them!

I just have insulin resistance, and did see a nutritionist once - I got the idea of eating RIGHT, not just healthy. I also found the Insulin Resistance Diet: http://tinyurl.com/l7h3s7 and it helps.
Re: The research you found - attack_laurel - Aug. 21st, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
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