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Last week, I woke up very anxious. This is a bit out of the ordinary as of the past three years, but I do have plenty of experience with it. I knew what was happening and made the decision to cancel my session with my personal trainer for the day. In doing so, I told him something that, it turns out, I should have mentioned during our first session.
Three years ago, after many more years of working through generalized anxiety disorder, I decided (along with a doctor) that it was finally time for me to try to control my anxiety with medication. It was not an easy decision—I had heard there were certain medications that would require you to constantly up your dosage as you adjust to the medication—but after hearing about SSRIs and learning more, I decided to try it at a low dosage. I have been taking my anxiety medication ever since with much success and virtually no side effects. Again, this is all being overseen by a doctor, and though I do on occasion still have minor panic attacks (mostly when traveling overseas as my body adjusts or during high-stress work situations), it has changed my life for the better.
On that day last week, knowing I was dealing with low-grade symptoms of anxiety and working to avoid a panic attack, I decided to cancel my session and was honest and upfront with my trainer about why. I have expressed to him in the past that I am working to lower my body fat percentage—not my weight, as I don’t focus on the number on the scale—to get it into a healthy range. I ran a marathon in 2013 (right around the time I started taking my medication) and after the race, I was burnt out and took a break from running. During that time, my body fat percentage increased exponentially. It turns out, though inactivity did play a role, that my medication may have, as well.
My trainer thanked me for telling him and mentioned that managing weight can be difficult when on SSRIs. I thought back to the struggle I have had getting my body fat percentage down—once I gained about 35 pounds and my percentage went up it has held steadily for about a year—and I realized that the increase happened shortly after I began taking my medication. It all started to make sense.
I am learning there are things you can do to manage your weight while on SSRIs—right now I am researching the Seratonin Power Diet which can boost serotonin levels at certain periods throughout the day (it doesn’t involve removing certain types of food from your life)—and am working with my trainer to use exercise to further manage my anxiety. As I said, I am focusing on my body fat percentage versus my clothing size or number on the scale, as that is the number that is most important to get into a healthy range for my age and height. Now, thanks to my trainer, I know that it is going to be a bit more difficult for me—not impossible—and can change my course of action as needed.
Telling my trainer that I am on anxiety medication never crossed my mind in the beginning, but it turns out, letting your coach or trainer know these details about your medical background can actually benefit how you train and approach your fitness routine.