Before I tell you about the most recent medication change, I want to let you know about My Pyramid Tracker at http://www.mypyramidtracker.gov, a website of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. My Pyramid refers to the new and improved USDA food pyramid (http://www.mypyramid.gov) which, by the way, recommends only five and a half ounces of meat or beans a day, which is just a little over a quarter of a pound. The pyramid tracker website is one I highly recommend, however, especially if you are interested in losing weight or in keeping track of what you eat and how much you exercise. In fact, it is a website worth looking at even if you are only curious about how many calories you expend in everyday activities. You can use it every day or once a week or on any schedule you choose, and all you need to do is follow the easy instructions at the end of any given day to see how you did, though it helps if you jot down what you eat during the day, so you don’t forget entirely. Every time you log in, the site keeps track, so you can see stats later on about how you are trending.
My Pyramid and the Pyramid Tracker are great sites for general nutrition info, calorie calculation and the general calculation of energy expenditure in your daily life. You can compare what you expend to your daily calorie requirements. That is, by counting such activities of daily life as dish-washing and childcare and yard-work as forms of exercise the site will tell you how many calories you expended on them. It also calculates your BMI — body mass index — your ideal weight, and how to achieve it as well.
If you happen to be interested solely in finding out how many calories are in a given food, however, the Nutrient Data Lab website is great. It has a large number of brand name foods as well as fresh and raw foods as well: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/index.html
Should you be on medication that causes weight gain, or makes it difficult to lose what weight you formerly put on, check out those sites (above). They could make a big difference, or at least be a helpful tool in your efforts to keep your weight under control. But two things nonetheless are very important:
Please, do not beat yourself up if you cannot lose weight.
Remember that will power is a matter of chemistry, not bad character.
In fact, in FACT, it is your meds and the chemical changes that they produce in your brain that has caused you to gain weight. It is NOT your schizophrenia and it is NOT your fault. Do not believe whatever they say about research “proving” a close link between your diabetes and your having schizophrenia. That is utter B.S. Diabetes is on the rise everywhere in the country and its increase is directly related to obesity: one gets obese because one eats more calories than one expends. Being more than a little overweight is known to be a huge factor in Diabetes, type II (insulin insensitivity).
Now it is true that you might have been or become overweight without the meds, but I assure you that certain meds all but guarantee it. When researchers have the gall to say that somehow obesity is directly or in some sense causally related to schizophrenia, or that diabetes is genetically connected to schizophrenia, that is a load of hogwash, and I suspect those researchers are on the take from certain well-known drug manufacturers. I’ll bet that for many of you who were once thin before you took medication, whether it was the older drugs or the newer atypicals, it was only when you started taking antipsychotics (and some antidepressants as well) that you began to gain weight, sometimes massive amounts. But “they” want to tell you that it has “nothing to do with the meds” no, it is YOU, it is your illness, not the Zyprexa or the Seroquel or the Risperdal that caused the weight gain, or for that matter, not the Thorazine or the Mellaril or the Prolixin. We know better. They also want to tell us that if we die 25 years earlier than our peers, that is our mental illness speaking or our own fault (somehow) and not their iatrogenic — that is to say, medically-caused, doctor-caused — drug-related obesity, diabetes and heart disease. I won’t even mention the generally dismissive attitude of many doctors towards the physical complaints of anyone with a major psychiatric diagnosis, it is no minor problem.
So, what to do? Well, there is not much you can do at this time, if you have found a med that works well for you and are able and willing to tolerate the weight gain and potential side effects from it. In some ways I admire those who will make this trade-off, though I worry that they will lose their new found lives early because of it, in which case is it really worth it? But I know that for some people it indeed is, and I would never question their choices. For me, I am lucky enough to have responded to at least one less-weight problematic drug besides the miracle drug/drug from hell Zyprexa, which is the combo: Abilify/Geodon. The Geodon by itself seemed to me virtually worthless, at least it seemed to do almost nothing for me in terms of improving my cognition or creativity. The Abilify vastly increased my cognition and such, but at the expense of extreme irritability and rage. However, the serendipitous co-administration of the two solved the problems of each so that now I can feel creative and cognitively less impaired (I still cannot read, alas) and yet I am not at all irritable or enraged. Added to that is the fact that my appetite is under control again. While I have not yet started to lose weight, which is already at a decent level, according to most people (just not me) I no longer find myself raiding the fridge constantly or exhibiting uncontrollable food-seeking behavior all day, hungry or no. It feels much better not to feel yanked around by the nose by a med that never let me feel in control of myself…
But what happened to the Saphris? Well, two things: one, I simply could not sleep, and that is a weird thing for someone with narcolepsy to complain of! It was great to be awake all day, but I was awake all night as well. I would but up except for an hour or two for days on end, and it was exhausting. But worse, according to my psyche, was the fact that I ate less than 700 calories a day, walked 8 miles a week, — keeping track via mypyramidtracker.gov and the nutrient data lab — and yet after 2.5 weeks, I didn’t lose a single pound. This was so terribly depressing that I had to change it, had to go back to the Geodon and Abilify on which I got to the weight I was truly comfortable at a couple of years ago…Now, though, I have to try hard, and i will, because I am determined to get there. My father is always saying, Appetite comes in eating. Well, he is absolutely correct. But the opposite is also true, because the less I eat, the less I want, and the more I forget to eat, the more I, well, forget to eat…As far as I am concerned that is fine with me.
I think that is all that I have energy for today, because I want to continue to read Karen Sorensen’s site and blog, which I haven’t seen for a long while. Her art is so creative. It might be called, as my professionally trained artist friend said, Outsider Art, but nevertheless she has such an imagination that I feel stunned. I simply cannot let myself go and “let it all hang out” as we used to say in the “old days.” I don’t know how to do it, not graphically. Not pictorially. I am so hung up on getting my pictures and portraits perfect that I cannot relax and let my mind run free. I can do so in poetry, let things happen, and to hell with what my inner self is “really” saying, Let the shrinks figure it out! But in a painting or collage, I have to be in control, I don’t know why. Perhaps because I am so new at it…?
Thanks Karen. I love your gallery, where I can “flip through” your art works and see them en masse.
I also have to visit Kate Kiernan’s Ying and Yang blog as her writing is as good as her art, which is saying a great deal. I am not sure which I like better, though I don’t really need to choose, as her writing is very different from her paintings. Kate is also a terrific songwriter/singer as well. On her blog you can sample all three. She is truly one of the most talented people I know.
You can find both Karen’s and Kate’s websites on my sidebar.