Weird Science

Just a roundup today of general thoughts on fat.

Over at BFD, there was a post on portion control, and a new study that’s been released, linking BMI and the concept of fullness. This is interesting. I’ve always had issues with feeling full, even as a child, when my fatness began. I’m interested in knowing why this is, and why it is now that I am on a medication to simultaneously treat my incessant migraines and stabilize my moods, I am able to feel a sense of satiety after eating normal-size portions. In short, I am not fucking hungry all the time. It’s a goddamned miracle.

I am still fat, however. The medication I am on is Topamax, which has been heralded as a wunderkind drug for all sorts of reasons (and that’s not the only article out there on this subject). It’s great for the epilepsy! It’s great for the crazies! It’s great for the migraines! And OMG! It makes people lose weight! This is a landmark medication for folks who have been subjected to years of anticonvulsants like Depakote and antipsychotics like Seroquel, whose average weight gains are some 37 pounds, according to a psychiatrist I once spoke with personally. That’s AVERAGE WEIGHT GAIN. The price of insanity and/or a permanent case of the shakes is fatness, unfortunately. Welcome to the co-morbidity of dual stigma: medically or mentally disabled, and hefty to boot. What a life.

But back to Topamax. Psychiatrists began prescribing this medication to patients who were feeling the effect of the weight they had gained as a result of the other drugs they were taking to control whatever mental health issue they had. This drug will make you lose weight! The shrinks proclaimed. The studies say so! The drug even went on to be used in trials among people with Type 2 Diabetes, although the study showed maybe using a drug whose actual only approved use was for epilepsy wasn’t such a hot idea. Brain drugs probably shouldn’t be used on the brains of people without brain issues.

I am on Seroquel. I gained at least 20 pounds, if not more, at the advent of that medication. I was fat before Seroquel, and fatter after it. I started taking Topamax to assist with migraines and to help me resist smoking. I lost a bit of weight on the Topamax, now that I have a “normal appetite,” and feel full after regular portion sizes, and don’t want to eat all the time. And yet, I am still fat.

Here’s my concern with the BFD comments, and the new “science” on the amygdala. I take Topamax for uses that have clinical support behind them. It has side effects, however, that are very attractive because of a societal pressure about what is desirable, and this pressure led science to perform studies on the human brain about what makes people fat. This medication is an anticonvulsant. This is a medication which prevents seizures. All medications that prevent seizures come with a warning about not taking them if you do not have a seizure disorder in the event that you may cause a seizure disorder to occur. I don’t know. That seems pretty fucking serious to me. I was willing to take that risk, because I am neurologically fucked up already. The brain chemistry and structure that is occurring within my head is abnormal as it is, due to the migraines and bipolar disorder. Something had to be done.

Furthermore, the side effects of this medication are not just the ones that are as Glamorous as Getting Thin. First, I am not Thin. I am just Less Fat. Secondly, I endure perpetual akathisia, which is a constant motor agitation. I endured 6 months of constant paraesthesia, which pops up intermittently. That is the wonderful sensation of mice running underneath your skin, especially in your legs, at night, when you are trying to sleep. I have lost a lot of hair. I have lost short term memory. So, let’s recap. I am still fat, can’t remember shit, restless, feel like creatures occupy my body, and potentially balding. And this is what modern science wants to subject people to in the pursuit of thinness. Um, no thanks.

It worries me that in our pursuit to fit in, to put our bodies into a uniform mold that is neither to fat nor too thin, we are now subjecting people, in the name of science, to something that could be irreversibly harmful. It feels rather Mengele-esque. Is the false fear of disease, which everyone — not just fat people — will face in the process of aging, really that powerful?

And now a new study is having people swallow balloons? Like drug mules? Are we really this desperate? Why not concentrate on actually curing diseases that are real and are killing people this very minute? Maybe because of this kind of hatred, where fat people should just go to concentration camps.




  1. Autonym said,

    February 26, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve been enjoying your blog alot – I’m also living with some of the same things you are (bipolar, figuring out life after real estate), and I just realized we are geographically close.

    I’m so glad I stopped taking Topamax! I’m glad it’s working for you in spite of it’s drawbacks. But reading about your parathesia reminded me of why I was so relieved to have stopped taking it. My lips even got numb after awhile, it was creepy. It was so bad with my memory too, I nearly dropped out of school last semester. I know my meds nurse put me on it because she has issues with my being fat. It worked on my irritability and helped my concentration at first, which was so awesome. For a few weeks.

    Sorry to be negative, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience – you know how it is, I think, to have your experiences reflected by strangers – it feels good to know I wasn’t the only one with those side effects.

    When I started Topamax I decided to lose some weight too – I ended up becoming creepily obsessive about food, and the meds completely killed my appetite. I really really really hope that people don’t take this as a weight loss drug. It should be used where it helps, not to solve the “problem” of fat.

    I’m back on the FA and Self-Acceptance wagon now. Thank bog.

  2. thoughtracer said,

    February 27, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    The topamax totally kills my appetite. I think I drive N nuts because when we talk about dinner, I always, always say: I don’t know what I want. And that’s true. I have no fucking clue what I want to eat, ever, anymore. And when I do get an actual craving for food, this is how it goes. I get obsessed with the same food, and then that’s all I want. Like, right now, all I want is this coconut fried tofu stuff that’s dipped in horseradish mustard honey stuff. Sounds gross, but it’s totally delish. Or I could eat Indian food every day. My food preferences have become totally boring and WORSE since I have been on topamax because I rarely experience any significant hunger, and when I do get hungry, I never know what I want to eat.

    What I am noticing now that I have been on this drug for a few years and I am dating someone who has a memory as good as mine — or as good as mine used to be (I am shocked at how quick I am to forget things these days)– is that topamax has totally shot my in-person, real-time debating skills. I can’t come up with shit as quickly as I used to. I get befuddled. I feel fuzzy. Like, N will be all logical and stuff, and I just want to, and sometimes do, burst into tears because I know the thoughts and points and reasons are all back there but I can’t access them because the medication has totally taken away the “Oh yeah, well what about this? Or this? Or this?” part of my ability. It’s like constantly being stoned, without feeling stoned. It totally fucking SUCKS!

    But all the medications do that. I mean, what are my choices? Go off of them and be insane, quite frankly, or feel like an ass in every debate with every person I meet and have some personal arrogance inside of me that says: well, la di da, you can win your conversational debate, I’m still working full time and making a 3.8 in grad school despite the fact that I’m taking enough pills to sedate a horse. Let’s see how well you’d do with all of that.

    That probably makes me sound like a big three-year-old asshat, but sometimes it’s all I have to get through.

  3. Autonym said,

    February 27, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Hee. Right now I’m fighting with my meds nurse for more prozac because hypomania hasn’t really been my problem for the past 25 years, depression has, and I’m so fucking depressed I can’t stand it. But she said she was afraid of me getting TOO HAPPY. And I haven’t talked to her about that comment yet, but I get to soon.

    Unfortunately Topamax just didnt work for me. I keep waiting for the drug that will, and so far have found the side effects worse than the benefits. And still I perservere. Not crazy 75% of the time would be good. I was doing great in school until the Topamax, it fucked up my GPA because of the memory thing.

    Do what works, keep seeking, that’s all we can do.

    Not knowing what to eat is the strangest thing. Happens to me when I’m really down like I am now. I have “forgotten” to eat until the late afternoon for a few days in a row. Thats how you know I’m depressed.

    Also, that tofu sounds tasty. I really want fried something for dinner.

  4. thoughtracer said,

    March 1, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Fried tofu is amazing. Seriously.

    I saw my new shrink a few days ago, and I am miffed. This sounds totally dumb, but she downgraded my dx to BP2. So I pulled out the DZM-IV-TR, like the huge one, and no, I am sorry, I have BP1. Whatever. I just worry that something will happen and they won’t take me seriously. But I hope nothing happens in the first place.

    This winter has been especially bad for depression. I had to up my zoloft for the first time in 6 years. How did you handle the time change last year? You know, because it was so early? It’s going to be really early from now on — it happens next weekend. I am a bit worried, but trying not to get myself worked up. It was rough last year, but I had like a bazillion stressors going on.

    Wow. Enough sickness talk for one post. What do you do with yourself, other than occupy your time with taking meds?

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