Antidepressants and steroids like prednisone often lead to weight gain. You may be able to help manage weight gain by getting the right amounts of certain nutrients, among other ways.

People living with issues like autoimmune diseases, from Crohn’s to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or mood disorders like depression have powerfully effective medications out there to help minimize or eliminate their symptoms so that they can live comfortably.

Yet some of the common drugs for these issues — like prednisone and other corticosteroids, and paroxetine (Paxil) and other antidepressants — have less-than-desirable side effects, including weight gain.

Read on to find the best ways to lose unwanted pounds brought on by medication you need.

Different classes of drugs have the potential to cause weight gain. These can include:

  • corticosteroids
  • antidepressants
  • mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs
  • other medications, including drugs for some autoimmune and chronic conditions


Steroids like prednisone may also have similar effects. Doctors may prescribe corticosteroids to treat a range of health conditions, including:

  • allergies
  • asthma
  • digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • multiple sclerosis exacerbations

Corticosteroids that cause weight gain include:

Drugs like corticosteroids alter the body’s electrolyte and water balances and metabolism. They can also decrease the rate at which the body flushes out sodium.

Many people taking steroids report increased fat in the abdomen, face, and neck. Even if you can control the steroid-driven weight gain, it’s possible to look heavier because of redistributed fat.


All 12 of the leading antidepressants make gaining weight more likely.

A 2018 study found people taking antidepressants are most at risk for weight gain two to three years into treatment.

Antidepressants associated with weight gain include:

Antidepressant-induced weight gain is often tied to an increased appetite, which can lead to increases in weight.

Mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs

Some mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs can cause minor or major weight gain. Medications in these classes associated with weight gain can include:

  • typical antipsychotics, including:
  • atypical antipsychotics, including
    • clozapine (Versacloz, FazaClo, Clozaril)
    • olanzapine (Zyprexa)
    • aripiprazole (Abilify, Aristada)
  • lithium, a mood stabilizer

Other medications

Some medications taken to help manage other chronic conditions, including autoimmune diseases, can also cause weight gain. These can include:

  • Some immunosuppressant medications, such as adalimumab (Humira)
  • anticonvulsant medications, including:
    • sodium valproate
    • carbamazepine (Tegretol XR, Carbatrol, Equetro)
    • gabapentin (Gralise, Horizant, Neuraptine)
    • pregabalin (Lyrica)

If you want to lose a few extra pounds that you’ve put on since taking a weight gain-inducing medication, you’re already on the right track.

Here are seven ways to help you take off — or prevent — unwanted pounds from medications.

Eating excess sodium can contribute to weight gain.

Monitoring your excess sodium can help prevent weight gain, especially if you’re taking steroids or antidepressants. To reduce levels, you may need to avoid:

  • processed foods
  • canned foods
  • fast foods

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily sodium intake of 2000 milligrams (mg).

Reading nutritional labels can help you understand what’s in your food.

To reduce weight or prevent weight gain, you can use the same strategies you’d use to control weight with or without the added effects of medication. This can include:

  • low calorie foods like fresh fruits and vegetables
  • fiber-rich and slow-to-digest complex carbohydrates
  • lots of water

People taking antidepressants may have an increased risk of hyponatremia, which is low sodium in the blood, especially when they first start taking it. If you’ve been newly prescribed an antidepressant, talk with a doctor if you experience symptoms of hyponatremia, including:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • lethargy
  • confusion
  • cramps
  • seizure

Eating a potassium-rich diet may help people looking to lose weight gained because of medication — potassium flushes out sodium. A potassium-rich diet is linked to other health benefits, such as:

  • reduced blood pressure
  • protection against stroke
  • osteoporosis prevention

Potassium-rich foods include:

  • bananas
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocados
  • coconut water
  • spinach
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • potatoes
  • beets

Managing your condition is a priority, so there may not yet be any options that cause little to no weight gain.

Still, ask your doctor if any alternative medications or treatments would maintain your health without the extra pounds.

For people on steroids, ask if going on the shortest, most effective dose is a possibility.

If you’re taking antidepressants, bupropion (Wellbutrin) may be less likely to cause weight gain.

Your appetite can increase while taking specific medications, which can cause you to eat more.

Instead of having three large meals daily, breaking up your food into smaller, more frequent meals can make you feel like you’re consuming more calories because you have little time between snacks to be hungry.

You may reduce feelings of hunger by eating six small meals a day versus three large ones.

You can add non-starchy vegetables, as they are low in calories. Experiment beyond cut-up carrots: try veggie soups and salads.

Staying active is important for overall health and weight loss or maintenance. Depending on your level of health or current symptoms, you may want to consult a doctor first.

The amount and type of physical activity a doctor may recommend can depend on your symptoms and health conditions. It may include:

  • light yoga
  • walking
  • swimming

If you’re unsure what type of physical activity is safe for you, a doctor can make recommendations.

Intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight, provided your care team recommends it.

There are several intermittent fasting methods that involve different windows of time where you eat and avoid eating. These can range from specific hours of the day to eating a reduced number of calories some days of the week.

A 2022 review of research notes that intermittent fasting can result in weight loss. But, it may not be safe or suitable for some people, so it is best to talk with a doctor before changing your eating plan.

A good night’s sleep helps support weight loss, especially if you’re taking steroids for any condition.

Steroids can contribute to insomnia or difficulty sleeping in some people.

Even if you’re not taking steroids, not getting enough sleep can make you feel hungrier throughout the day.

Here are 10 ideas for natural ways to sleep better.

How to lose weight when medications cause weight gain?

You may be able to lose weight from medications by following other strategies for weight gain, including eating smaller meals more often, avoiding processed foods, and getting regular physical activity.

Is my medication making me gain weight?

Some medications, including certain antidepressants, steroids, and antipsychotic medications, among others, can cause weight gain.

How do you reverse weight gain from antipsychotics?

You may be able to lose weight gained due to antipsychotic medications by increasing your physical activity, if possible, getting enough sleep, and managing the amount of nutrients like sodium and potassium that you consume.

Antidepressants and steroids like prednisone often lead to weight gain. You may be able to help manage weight gain by getting the right amounts of certain nutrients, among other ways.