Avoiding & Coping With Migraine Medication-Related Weight Gain

Unfortunately for those of us with frequent and/or particularly intense migraine attacks, many medications used for migraine prevention involve the side effect of weight gain. Not every single person who takes a particular medication is going to experience any or all possible side effects. But if you do find you're struggling with weight gain while on a medication that is helpful for migraine prevention or want to take a proactive approach, here are some tips.

  • Examine whether the problematic medication is actually reducing the frequency and/or intensity of your attacks by keeping a migraine diary. If it's not really doing any good, there might not be any reason to stay on it. Let your doctor know potential for weight gain is an important factor to you in selecting the next medication to try.
  • Get serious about calorie counting. For so long the trend was all about low fat. Then it was all about low carb. The reality is that simply counting calories is the most important thing you can do to know what you're putting in your body. From there it's all about eating a healthy balance of the nutrients your body needs to function properly within the right calorie count. Drastically limiting fat or carbs is not necessary if it doesn't work for your preferences or lifestyle.
  • There are some great free websites and smart phone apps that make it incredibly easy to record what you eat and get a clear picture of what you take into your body each day. I have used Spark People and really like it. My Fitness Pal is popular, too.
  • Eat slowly and deliberately. Experts say it can take your body 20 minutes to recognize that your stomach is full and satisfied.
  • Practice portion control.
  • Set regular meal times.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Sit down at the table to eat and avoid eating in front of the TV or computer or standing up.
  • Pay attention to lifestyle factors like exercise. Is it really the medication causing the problem or have you changed your exercise habits? For many of us exercise is a migraine trigger, but if you're able to exercise, pairing it with calorie counting is a very effective weight loss or maintenance strategy.
  • Get a pedometer to count your steps each day. Even if you can't do vigorous exercise increasing the number of steps you take can help.
  • Instead of obsessing about the scale, pay attention to how your clothes fit and your measurements. Sometimes these can be a more accurate estimation of how you're doing than just weighing yourself.

And above all else please remember: Never, ever, ever stop a medication cold turkey or on your own. This can be incredibly dangerous. Check with your doctor and work together to establish a plan for safely tapering off the medication.

What has helped you deal with medication-related weight gain? Please share your experiences, questions and thoughts in the comments section!

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