How to Lose Weight While on Effexor XR

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Weight changes are often a side effect of antidepressants. (Image: ljubaphoto/E+/GettyImages)

If you or someone you love is experiencing depression, chances are your doctor has broached the idea of controlling the condition with medication. While this can be a very helpful treatment, it’s important to familiarize yourself with any prescription drugs and their potential side effects.

In the case of Effexor XR, an antidepressant, weight change is one of the anticipated side effects. According to an FDA clinical trial, 7 percent of people with depression who were treated with the medication experienced a weight loss of 5 percent or more.

That can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight that you gained prior to starting the medication. Or if you do find yourself gaining weight while on the medication, there are several things you can do to stop the pounds from creeping on.

What Is Effexor XR?

Effexor XR, a time-release capsule, and Effexor, its nontime-release tablet counterpart, have been produced since the late 1990s by Pfizer Inc. to treat the symptoms of depression and several forms of anxiety.

The generic form is called venlafaxine. The prescription medication works with serotonin and norepinephrine, chemicals produced in the brain. The pharmaceutical community calls it a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.

Effexor Side Effects

According to Pfizer, there are several common side effects that may occur when taking Effexor XR. They include:

  • Unusual dreams
  • Sexual problems
  • Loss of appetite, constipation, dry mouth, nausea or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tremor or shaking
  • Dizziness or blurred vision
  • Increased heart rate or feeling anxious
  • Headache
  • Sweating

If you’re taking this medication and experience any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to speak to your physician about them.

Weight Changes and Effexor XR

Sixty to 80 percent of users of any antidepressant enjoy an improved outlook on life. That alone can affect your appetite. Plus, the brain chemicals with which antidepressants are designed to interact have a bearing on the amount of weight you might gain.

However, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) like Effexor XR causes less weight gain in the long term than other antidepressants, such as citalopram (also known as Celexa) or mirtazapine (Remeron). And because Effexor XR works with your natural serotonin, it can actually cause weight loss in some people.

Seratonin, a chemical that’s found in the brain, activates neurons that curb your appetite. In addition, it also blocks other neurons that may cause you to feel hungry. This dual effect may be one of the reasons for weight loss while on Effexor XR. In addition, any positive effects the drug has on your overall outlook or mood may help you to become more active and lose any pre-existing excess weight.

Young healthy girl on home scales
Both weight loss and weight gain are possible while taking antidepressants. (Image: stockvisual/E+/GettyImages)

Tips for Healthy Weight Loss

Even while on Effexor XR, maintaining a healthy weight is an achievable goal. Try these helpful tips to assist you in properly managing your weight.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

One of the most important factors in losing weight is healthy eating. The Mayo Clinic recommends that your diet include a variety of different food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy items and lean proteins.

In addition, foods that are high in saturated fats, sodium or cholesterol should be avoided. Resisting the urge to buy unhealthy foods at the grocery store will help you abstain from them later on when you are hungry.

2. Be Active Every Day

Incorporating exercise into your daily life can also help you burn excess calories and keep your weight in check. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-level cardiovascular exercise each week. This can include walking, stationary biking or using an elliptical.

The ACSM also recommends strengthening each major muscle group two to three times per week using weights or resistance machines. Varying the type and intensity of your workouts prevents your body from adapting to the exercise and increases its effectiveness.

What’s more, there’s evidence to suggest that regular exercise may also help stave off the symptoms of depression. That’s because higher-intensity exercise may cause your body to release chemicals called endorphins, which help enhance your overall mood. In addition, sustained exercise over time may improve your brain function and outlook by helping your brain’s nerve cells grow and make new connections.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep

Getting the appropriate amount of sleep each night helps your body recover from the previous day and can assist you in losing weight. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.

Stimulants like caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea and energy drinks, should be avoided because they can interfere with your ability to rest. In addition, it’s a good idea to put down electronic devices like phones or tablets before bedtime: They can disturb the body’s circadian rhythm.

4. Talk to Your Doctor

One of the best allies you have in losing weight while on an antidepressant is your physician. While you may feel nervous or uncomfortable about discussing this topic, your doctor can help to determine if other conditions may be impacting your weight fluctuations.

Thyroid issues, hormonal imbalances or vitamin and mineral deficiencies could be to blame. In addition, your physician may be able to modify your medication’s dose or refer you to someone who specializes in mental health disorders like depression.

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