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Originally published on 13th August 2016 Last updated on 6th April 2019
Note: Since overcoming my disordered eating and embracing a body positive approach, I want to just leave a statement that: weight is not the be all and end all. It doesn’t make you any less worthy of love, of happiness or anything else in life. Weight gain is a natural part of life – bodies change all the time – but I do appreciate that for many, the weight gain associated with hypothyroidism can be another frustrating reminder of how it affects your life and takes control from you. I now prefer to focus on feeling healthy inside, by having reduced thyroid symptoms and feeling healthy and happy, rather than focusing solely on weight.
Weight gain. It’s the first symptom many people who don’t have hypothyroidism, think of when they hear the term ‘thyroid problem’. For some patients, it can be one of the most upsetting symptoms and side effects of poor thyroid function.
Thyroid disease is often used as a joke or a scapegoat for weight gain. People throw it around, and as such, it’s not taken very seriously.
Many people think hypothyroidism is just an excuse for being overweight, but weight gain is a legitimate symptom of an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, along with many others.
How Did I Stabilise My Weight?
The key thing in improving how I felt physically but also stabilising my weight, was getting my thyroid levels optimal. By correcting your thyroid levels (to include TSH, Free T3, Free T4 and often Reverse T3 too), you tend to correct your sluggish metabolism. Why is this? Because the main purpose of thyroid hormones, produced by the thyroid gland, is to ensure the metabolism is running properly.
When we don’t have enough thyroid hormone, our metabolism doesn’t work properly. Therefore, people with an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism can have a slow metabolism, with symptoms associated with a slow metabolism, such as cold intolerance (from the lack of heat made) and extreme tiredness and weight gain (from the lack of calories burned to make energy). Therefore, when you correct thyroid hormone levels, normal metabolism should resume, including an evening out of weight.
Getting My Levels Optimal
Whilst T4-only meds may work for some people, they also don’t for a lot of others. Many doctors, endocrinologists etc. won’t acknowledge this, but the fact is, a lot of us have conversion issues and just don’t seem to get better on Synthroid or Levothyroxine. This is worth exploring if you’re on T4-only medication like Synthroid or Levothyroxine. You need a full thyroid panel testing to check if your thyroid medication is adequately treating you.
I also implemented other lifestyle changes too, though. NDT isn’t a magic pill or a diet pill. I also avoid junk food, and don’t cut calories but instead just focus on eating healthily and listening to what my body tells me makes it feel more sluggish or function more optimally.
I tend to base my meals and snacks around protein, which keeps me fuller for longer and balances my blood sugar. You can read more about blood sugar imbalances here. Basically, I made sure to have protein with every meal and snack, so meat and nuts in particular became staples, with some cheese, too.
I drink at least two litres of water a day to promote proper bodily functions and good hydration. Herbal and fruit teas are also my friend. Water can be flavoured too, with fresh fruit placed in it, or a squirt of lemon juice. Carbonated, flavoured water can also be a good substitute for fizzy drinks and sodas.
I’ve also been trying to improve my fitness, without overdoing it and making my adrenal fatigue (note: it is more accurately referred to as hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysfunction) worse. Each time you exercise, the adrenals pump out extra cortisol, and with mine already being high as it is, I could do without that! So I keep it to walking and basically do as much as my body will comfortably allow each day.
Do remember that dieting, overexercising and other unhealthy habits only tend to make you more hypothyroid and place more stress on the body, which can even impair weight loss or cause more weight gain. Instead of focusing on ‘looking healthy’ by reaching a certain weight or size, I encourage you to focus on ‘feeling healthy’ instead. For me, this has meant being able to walk further and for longer as the year has gone on, without getting tired. Going up the stairs in my house without being out of breath. Not having brain fog or poor mental health.
What are your experiences with this?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, which builds on this article in detail. Reclaim your thyroid healthy life.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.