The number of people, particularly women, who are suffering with hypothyroidism, is astonishing. Thyroid.org reports that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, with women being five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid problems. One of the most common symptoms of a thyroid disorder is weight gain or the inability to lose weight. And as women who are always concerned about our physical appearance, this symptom is particularly frustrating and can feel hopeless.
After having a thyroidectomy in 2006, I was diagnosed hypothyroid and have medicated daily since 2008. I know the pain and struggle that comes with thyroid disease and want to share information about how I believe I have become successful in staying as fit.
Step One: Get properly diagnosed and medicated.
This is absolutely the most vital step you can take for your health and your ability to lose weight or maintain where you are currently. I am on my ninth doctor and have finally found a winner.
After getting medicated but continuing to have prevalent symptoms, I continued to switch doctors until I found one that would listen to me and subscribed to the notion that my symptoms outweigh lab ranges.
While it is important to get regular blood work done, and of course these numbers are vital, my doctor isn’t concerned if my TSH is lower than the standard, as long as I feel well and have no symptoms of being hyperthyroid. My doctor recognizes that having my T3 and T4 levels in a higher range is optimal for my quality of life. She doesn’t dismiss my complaints and tell me that I’m “normal” because my numbers are barely in the normal range. She also looks at the overall picture, and counsels me nutritionally as well as testing other vital levels like my B and D vitamins and looks for adrenal imbalances. After going through so many doctors to get to this one, I understand that it can be a daunting task to find someone who will treat you correctly. You must be determined and not give up until you have found that person. I found my doctor based on a recommendation from the Facebook group Stop The Thyroid Madness. It’s been a long and arduous journey but 100% worth it.
Step Two: Eat the right way.
Even if you are properly medicated, the source of your problem could be the consumption of the right foods, or lack thereof. My doctor recommends a gluten free diet for her thyroid patients. I was already eating a mostly gluten free diet prior to becoming hypo and continue to do so. If you are eating a genuinely healthy diet, then you should already be gluten free. Your diet should be rich in proteins, which don’t have gluten. Your diet should be rich in vegetables, which don’t have gluten. And your diet should be rich in complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and oatmeal, which also don’t have gluten. If you are eating the incorrect foods, like muffins and potato chips, then not only are you eating gluten, but you’re eating foods that serve no nutritional purpose to your body and are calorically high. It’s perfectly acceptable to have treat meals, but if you want to be in shape, particularly if you’re hypothyroid and subsequently have a slowed metabolism, then you must make the right food choices.
Step Three: Steer clear of certain foods.
Like many points concerning hypothyroidism and its treatment, there is debate in the medical community about foods that should or should not be avoided due to containing goitrogens, which are naturally occurring chemicals in foods that slow down the thyroid. I’ve decided to be safe and eliminate the foods that some believe can be detrimental to thyroid health. These foods include broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and spinach. Soy is thought to interfere with your body’s ability to make thyroid hormones and should also be avoided.
I had a doctor tell me once that soy probably does cause thyroid problems, but if you already have those problems, then there should be no harm. That logic made zero sense to me. I want to do everything I can to help my body’s own production of hormones, not hinder it. I might have some of these foods from time to time, but I do not include them in a regular part of my diet. I’ve had some doctors tell me it is ok and others not. Better safe than sorry.
Step Four: Get moving. And pick up some weights.
With thyroid disease, you need to do everything possible to get your metabolism going. A super effective way to do that is to exercise. Cardiovascular exercise and weight training will provide the boost your body needs. Most people believe that doing cardio, like running, is the best way to lose weight, but that is actually false. It is a helpful component; however lifting weights will increase your muscle composition, thereby boosting your metabolic rate more so than spending the day on a bike. Many women are worried about becoming too muscular or bulky, but it’s highly unlikely that could ever happen. The weight you would have to lift to put on mass is super heavy and low rep, maxing out at about five repetitions. The type of weight you should be lifting for toning your body and creating curves, will be enough weight so that it’s difficult for you and you can accomplish fifteen or so repetitions. Also, you must eat to grow. If you’re taking in the appropriate amount of calories for fat loss, your body will not have the calories to put on mass. Step away from the pink weights ladies. The only way to change the shape of your body is to lift and lift hard.
Step Five: Stop stressing and be patient.
Once you’re properly medicated and eating the appropriate foods in the fitting amounts, your body will start to respond. You have to be patient. It’s not going to happen overnight or as quickly as it did when you were 21 and certainly not now that your hypothyroid. Stressing about it will raise your cortisol levels, which adversely affects your thyroid and will inhibit your ability to lose weight. Don’t look in the mirror and beat yourself up.
Know that you are on a journey and making the right decisions and it will happen for you. Come up with strategies to keep your stress down, such as yoga and meditation. A happy mind will lead to a happy body.
It has not been easy. It is something that is an on going process and in which I put time and effort into every single day. And maybe your goal isn’t to have a six-pack, but to lose a few pounds. Every person and every body is different. But these guidelines have worked for me, and I feel confident that if you follow them, you too will find success and achieve the physique of your desire.