How to Lose Weight on Lithium

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Weight gain is a problematic side effect for many patients who take Lithium. Unfortunately, it is unclear as to why this is. One theory is that Lithium alters the endocrine system, which results in a lowered metabolic rate. This causes the body to burn fewer calories than when it is at a normal level. Another theory is that Lithium works to raise serotonin levels in the brain, which increases appetite. Approximately 75% of people who take Lithium will experience side effects. To understand that weight gain is a possibility and to make a plan of action ahead of time is the best way to maintain a healthy weight while taking Lithium.

Discuss concerns about weight gain with the prescribing doctor. Lithium tends to cause weight gain at higher doses. Work with the doctor to take the lowest dose possible. Learn his experience with the drug and whether or not weight gain has been common among patients he has treated.

Add colorful fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein to daily meals. At the same time, reduce simple carbohydrates and sugar. It’s still important to consume carbohydrates for the fiber and grains; make sure they are whole wheat carbohydrates.

Start recording the food and calories consumed each day. This may seem daunting at first, but it’s a great way to see trends and where excess calories may be cut. There are several methods to recording calories. Some prefer a simple pen and notebook approach. There you list the food, amount eaten and calories consumed. A user-friendly website for this is Spark People. There are tools to set calorie goals, input daily food intake and record exercise for the day. The calorie information is included in their database.

Get out there and start moving. Not only is exercise a key component in health and weight loss, it is also a natural mood booster. A combination of cardio exercise and weight training is beneficial for losing and maintaining weight. A beginning exercise plan might encompass cardio exercise, such as walking or running 3 to 4 days per week for 45 minutes at a time. Full-body weight training should be done 1 to 2 days per week at a minimum. Make a plan and keep a consistent schedule for best results.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consume a minimum of eight glasses of water per day. This will reduce bloating and curb hunger.
  • It's important to understand that in order to keep weight off or shed weight while taking Lithium, major lifestyle changes will need to be made in terms of diet and exercise. This can be difficult at first. Once new habits are formed, however, it will be easier and you will gain momentum.
  • Do not discontinue use of Lithium or alter the dose without a doctor's approval.

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