If you’ve been reading my website here since I’ve been posting every day starting back in May you’ll know I’ve been locked in a titanic struggle of wills with my weight, largely because of the weight-gain side-effects of some of the psychiatric medication I have to take for my bipolar disorder. I’ve written about this quite a bit especially in my memoir posts (scroll back to May-June-July). One of the drugs I take is Nortriptyline, part of the tricyclic antidepressant family of drugs (so named because the key molecule is three hexagons in shape), which, while very effective at keeping me in good emotional shape, comes with two nasty side-effects: weight-gain and increased appetite.
I was first put on Nortriptyline last November, and my weight started climbing immediately. I have been steadily losing weight since December 2012, and managed to get it down from 165.5 to 114.5 at the time I started Nortriptyline. By mid-May this year, with my weight seemingly out of control, and me feeling wretched, the news coming out every day not helping, and me engaged in all kinds of bad emotional eating, and generally speaking Off the Program, my weight returned to 127.1 kg. So that was quite a gain from 114.
I always thought the worst thing in the world would be to see my weight come back. It was so hard to lose, I couldn’t imagine having to lose it all again. I might be able to do it once, but twice? And here was a quarter of it back again in seemingly no time at all. I was panicking. It was, I told myself, the medication. I told my doctor to find another way. I didn’t care what it took. At the time I was eating a lot of emotional chocolate and junk food, but the problem, in my mind, was the medication. I lost faith in it. I wasn’t thinking about the chocolate.
The day my weight hit 127.1 was awful. I felt disappointed with myself, like I’d failed myself. I’d always been so proud of my weight-loss results, that it had gone so well, and had such excellent effects. I didn’t have to buy clothes in Kingsize Menswear anymore. I didn’t have to feel humiliated over the slightest thing. I didn’t have to feel guilty about the physical space I occupied. It was marvellous. But then it wasn’t so marvellous. It was coming back and it felt as if I couldn’t stop it, because of this drug.
Funny thing, though. When I lost all that weight before, I was taking a tricyclic antidepressant then, too. I was taking Clomipramine. It was in the same family, and had the same diabolical weight-gain and appetite-increasing effects. But I still managed to lose the 51 kilograms. When I was in hospital last year and told people I had done this, they were all gobsmacked that I had lost any weight at all while on a tricyclic, because of that reputation, let alone so much. So it was possible. You just have to really work at it.
The day I hit 127.1, I asked myself what I could do, if I were to really try. If I were serious. I sensed my doctor was too pleased with the improvement in my mood and stability to want to mess with the Nortriptyline, so that meant finding other ways. I was still eating quite a bit of chocolate, so I started cutting that back. And started cutting back food generally. I first tried the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet, but found the “feeding” days led to weight gain, so tried just staying on fasting days all the time, every day–and that worked. The weight started to shift.
It’s brutally hard. I fast most of each day. I get about one decent meal a day, and some treats, and that’s it. Works out to about 3000-4000 kilojoules. I’m almost always hungry, but you can live with that. My doctor also has me on a drug called Topamax, partly because it’s a mood-stabiliser, and works against anxiety, but it has an unusual weight-loss side-effect.
I’ve been on this “low-food” program since around the middle of May. Every day. While I’ve also been writing every day (writing a lot every day), and getting plenty of exercise, and learning the Korean language, and reading books. I have terrific clarity of thought such as I have never known. I feel as if I’ve gone up a level.
As of this morning my weight was 115.5 kilograms. My Personal Least from last year, 114.3, is in sight. And from there to my original goal of 100 kg now seems achievable. As long as I can keep doing what I’m doing. I’m not sure I can, because the “low-food” thing is very hard. But it’s so close, so very close. I hope I can hang in there just a bit longer. It’s taken three months to go from 127.1 to 115.5, so that’s 12 kg. One hundred kilos by Christmas? Possible? This is the first time I’ve even formulated the thought. It’s a bit scary. Maintaining this program for such a length of time represents a stern challenge. But I’ve been on the overall program since just after Christmas 2012. It would be the fifth anniversary of the project. That thought gives me pause. I’d like to try that. Wish me luck. Fifteen kilos of ugly fat would make a great Christmas tree ornament! 😉