I am beautifully bipolar and overweight and I love myself. It is easy to hate – to hate the jiggle of your belly, the fact that you would never imagine a gap in your thighs. Hate is easy. Love is a lot more complicated. The world feeds us this bullshit that you are not worthy of love and respect if you are “thick” or a “big girl” or, gasp, “fat.” I used to be part of the machine that creates this poison in my twenties. I worked in the fashion departments of magazines. I worked on seasons of New York Fashion Week. I styled some shoots in Austin. I helped make people like the current me feel bad about themselves and I am sad about that.
But if you live with bipolar disorder chances you are overweight or obese. It is okay. You are in the majority with me. When we are depressed we do not really have an amazing amount of energy to make it to the gym. We are lucky to have the energy to shower. For some of us, depression makes us crave food. When you are eating more but not moving more, the pounds slide on. I wish I could tell you the secret to exercise motivation, but I have am at a loss. I have not one, but two, gym memberships and I still do not go.
75% of people living with bipolar disorder are overweight or obese. Not a very hopeful number to overcome. But it is possible. Diet and exercise help but there are other factors which make it hard. Many medications we take pack on the pounds. In the beginning I was prescribed a medication on which I gained twenty pounds in a month. (I got off of it).
Like people with many psychiatric illnesses, we have a lot of a stress hormone called cortisol which can slow down our metabolism. While we are talking about weight, let’s talk about something called “metabolic syndrome.” About 25 – 30% of people living with bipolar disorder have metabolic syndrome. There are a few key factors to having it: high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels, obesity, low levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and a resistance to insulin. So why this increased risk? Many of us use atypical antipsychotic medication to manage the manic phases we go through.
Basically, the treatment for our bipolar disorder could be the cause of these comorbid conditions. Round and round we go.
If you notice you are putting on weight when your lifestyle has not changed, it may be a good time to talk to your psychiatrist about making some changes. For me it was a choice, take my medications and keep my figure or succumb to it and gain weight. I obviously chose the latter.
I can’t force you to love yourself or take care of yourself or make you listen to any of my words, but I would love it if you did. There is no one else in the world like you. You can be big or small, it is what you do that matters.