Weight Loss

Avoid Zoloft weight gain: Advice from a Registered Dietitian

December 19, 2023

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Reading Time: 
reading time
disordered eatingdisordered eating

Key Points

  • Zoloft is a common and effective antidepressant.
  • Side effects of SSRIs like Zoloft include weight gain—a concern for many people.
  • Monitor your food intake, practice portion control, play with your food, reset your gut health, and more to control weight gain on Zoloft.
  • Personalized advice from a Registered Dietitian can help you prevent weight gain on Zoloft. 

Zoloft (sertraline) and other antidepressants can breathe new life into millions who battle depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. 

However, there are side effects to these drugs, and some people experience weight gain on Zoloft and other such medications.

If you’re always hungry on Zoloft, know that it is possible to control your appetite and avoid weight gain on antidepressants.

Does Zoloft make you gain weight?

Zoloft is a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). These meds are used to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and other mood disorders.

However, there may be side effects to manage. For example, a study found that people on sertraline and other SSRIs were more likely to gain weight for up to six years after taking the meds.

Expert Registered Dietitian Rita Faycurry RD says, “Zoloft can be an effective antidepressant, but many of my clients worry about weight gain as a side effect. I tell them that weight gain is complex. Zoloft may be a direct culprit for some people, but others might have different reasons for putting on extra pounds. What works best is managing each person’s weight based on their needs and goals.”

How to control weight gain on Zoloft

1. Track and analyze your food habits

Remember that weight gain on Zoloft can be a short-term effect that goes away in a few months. So, it’s important to track your weight and habits for over two months after getting on the antidepressant.

Make sure to note any changes in your mood and lifestyle. For example:

  • If your mood improves on Zoloft, are you socializing more often? Many social gatherings often revolve around meals, which may lead you to eat more.
  • Does Zoloft make you feel less anxious? If so, do you reach for comfort foods when you’re relaxed?
  • Has your alcohol intake changed? If so, how?

2. Balance your plate

Rita Faycurry RD advises, “Try following a diet rich in whole vegetables, whole fruit, and whole grains in the right proportions— ideally, half your plate is filled with whole veggies, proteins can take up a quarter, and whole grains can be the remainder.”

Here are some other tips to manage your portion sizes and maintain balance:

  • Eat veggies rich in fiber like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, peppers, artichokes, cauliflower, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
  • Try eating on smaller plates.
  • Consider smaller portions in your first round. You can always go back for seconds.
  • Try meal-prepping your veggies, proteins, and carbs ahead of time to help you stick to your plan.

Figuring out the right diet for you can be overwhelming. You do not have to do it all alone. With Fay, you can get expert guidance from a Registered Dietitian near you, covered by your insurance.

3. Introduce novelty to your meals

The Japanese word “Kuchisabishii” literally means ‘eating because your mouth is lonely.’ However, the term really refers to eating when bored.

To fight ‘boredom eating,’ try adding new foods instead of eliminating fun foods from your life.

Ideas to add interest to your meals include:

  • Try having a savory breakfast some days of the week— for example, cook your oats in low-sodium broth and add veggies, nuts, seeds, and seasoning to keep your taste buds interested. You could also eat sauteed spinach with your eggs in the morning.
  • Experiment with new fruits and vegetables, and make simple salad dressings and sauces as part of your meal prep.
  • You can still enjoy pizza; consider loading up on veggie toppings. If you’re a pepperoni pizza purist (say that three times!), don’t mess with perfection. Instead, try eating a cup of fiber-rich salad or a cup of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes before you dig into the main meal.
  • Creativity thrives with constraint. So, try Meatless Mondays, Fish Fridays, cheese-less weekdays, or (added) sugar-free Saturdays. Have fun with it.

Here are some recipes to get you started:

Roasted Garlic and Herb Salmon

Mushroom and Thyme Quinoa Risotto

Lentil and Roasted Vegetables Salad

Sweet Potato and Kale Breakfast Hash

4. Improve your gut health

SSRIs like Zoloft work by altering serotonin, the chemical in the body that controls our mood. Over 90% of your serotonin is made in your gut, so the use of antidepressants can affect your gut health.

Here are some ways to improve your gut health over time:

  • Add more fermented foods to your diet. Examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt.
  • Fix digestive issues; consult a Registered Dietitian if you suffer from chronic digestive problems like constipation or heartburn, bloating, acidity, sugar cravings even after eating, and more.
  • Incorporate anti-inflammatory ingredients into your meals, like ginger, berries, extra virgin olive oil, green tea, turmeric, and dark chocolate.

Note: you do not have to go dairy-free or gluten-free unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to these foods.

5. Use the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of causes.

So, if you’re gaining weight on Zoloft, you may not need an overhaul of your entire diet. This type of intense change can be hard to sustain in the long term.

Rita Faycurry RD notes, “Start with the 2-3 things that impact your weight the most. For example, there may be ten different reasons for your weight gain, but portion control and adding more fiber to your diet may have the biggest impact.”

She elaborates, “Another person may have to cut back on sodium, add potassium-rich foods, and start exercising to deal with their biggest offender—bloat. It’s also possible that some may not respond well to Zoloft and may need to see their healthcare provider for a different antidepressant.”

6. Exercise

There’s no way around it; the science is in. Exercise may not be directly responsible for weight loss, but it offers many benefits for our health, including boosting our metabolism.

Regular exercise also helps our lymphatic system (our bodies’ sewage system) flush toxins, and clean up bad cholesterol from our blood.

If you suffer from autoimmune conditions, fatigue, or just can’t seem to get motivated to exercise, try small steps. Consider bed yoga, morning stretches, or even seated, non-impact workouts to get started. If you spend a lot of time sitting, try calf raises at your desk.

This way, you could work your way up to a brisk walk every day.

7. Stay hydrated

Consider drinking more water throughout the day and avoiding (or limiting) your alcohol intake. If you’re used to having soda, sugary drinks, or dessert with your meals, try having them as occasional treats instead of daily fare.

8. Control hunger cravings

If you find yourself fighting hunger pangs or sugar cravings even after you eat a nutritious meal, there may be emotional and environmental reasons why you crave certain foods. Try using these Registered Dietitian-approved tips to stop food cravings.

The bottomline

Weight gain is highly personal, and there may be many reasons why you gain weight.

If you are worried about managing your weight on Zoloft, consider personalized guidance from an expert Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Fay can help you find a Registered Dietitian near you, covered by your insurance.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.


Fay Nutrition has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Does your insurance cover nutrition counseling?
When you see a dietitian through Fay, your insurance is likely to cover the cost. Enter your insurance details to get pricing.
Check my benefits
Anthem svg logo
Blue Cross Blue Shield Logo
United Healthcare logo
Aetna svg logo
Cigna svg logo
Humana logo
Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Chandana Balasubramanian is an experienced healthcare executive who writes on the intersection of healthcare and technology. She is the President of Global Insight Advisory Network and has a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.