Three years ago, I weighed 270 pounds and I was miserable. Now down to 155, I get terrified when I see fat people because I know I could go back to that weight if I’m not careful.
Medicine for psychiatric conditions makes weight control very difficult. It’s another one of those things about mental illness that’s not fair. On Seroquel, my first antipsychotic, I never felt full. Ever. I’d go to the school cafeteria and go back for seconds, thirds, dessert, and, of course, second dessert. My stomach would hurt badly, and I still didn’t feel full. It was like being hungry all the time for two years. Eventually, I leveled out on the Seroquel and could feel full again, but by then I’d put on a lot of weight. As a student at the time, exercise was not part of my routine. I was mostly in survival mode, just trying to keep my head above water.
Over the next few years, I continued to slowly and steadily put on weight. I wasn’t overeating the way I had been before, but I was making a lot of poor choices about what I ate and how much, and I wasn’t physically active. Finally, in 2014, my mom sat across the table from me, watching me eat dessert, and said: “If you’re not careful, you’ll be over three hundred pounds soon.” That struck terror into my heart. I’d gone too far, and I had to find a way to reel myself back in.
I started going on walks with my mom. At first, ten minutes was all I could do. My back would ache and I’d have to sit down for a few minutes halfway through the walk to let the tension release. I had to build up slowly to the hour I walk every day now. I started small, but diet and exercise are cumulative: it all adds up. Every small choice goes into the larger picture of your body and well-being.
I’m down over a hundred pounds now, and it’s still difficult to lose weight because of the heavy doses of antipsychotics I take, but I can do it. If you’re on psychiatric medications and overweight, I want you to know that it’s possible to get thinner and healthier, so don’t be afraid to try. You can do hard things. You’re probably on this site right now because of the hard things with which you are forced to live. Sometimes we don’t try because we’re afraid we’ll fail. The worst that can happen is you don’t lose any weight. Pretty low risk. Go for a ten-minute walk. Leave sugar out of your coffee. Switch to skim milk. Small choices add up, and I am so happy with the body I have now, especially now that I’ve experienced being fat. It’s a relief to not be afraid of looking in the mirror. I highly recommend putting some work into your body and health. You’ll be showing yourself more love by taking care of yourself with respect and compassion. You deserve to be loved and cared for, especially by yourself. You really can do hard things. I believe in you.
By Emily Harrington, The Goldfish Painter