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Body Positivity / Lifestyle / Mental Health / My Personal Experiences

Why I Don’t Focus on Weight as a Thyroid Advocate

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TW: Dieting, Disordered Eating, Weight.

Rachel Walking on The Beach

In the thyroid health world, you can’t go anywhere without someone trying to sell you something for weight loss. 

Whether it’s a product such as a supplement, a coaching programme or workout regimen, they’re hard to avoid but equally, easy to find.

Weight gain is often one of the first symptoms people think about when they hear the term ‘thyroid disease’ or ‘underactive thyroid’ and it’s easy to see why, since the thyroid gland’s main job is to regulate our metabolism. Therefore, weight fluctuations are common among thyroid patients.

However, I really avoid focusing on weight loss as a thyroid patient advocate. 

Why?

It’s Not Helpful When Recovering From Symptoms

When I was newly diagnosed with my thyroid condition and focusing on losing the ‘thyroid weight’ I had gained, by restricting calories and overexercising, sure, I lost the weight but I also made myself more ill physically.

Rachel Thyroid Flare Up

The thyroid fatigue and brain fog weren’t going away as I just wasn’t eating enough, and forcing the exercise my body wasn’t handling well was worsening my thyroid hormone levels. I was constantly anxious about food, my blood sugar was all over the place and I frequently had heart palpitations.

To put it simply: I was making my physical health even worse, and I had developed an eating disorder too.

Before not too long, I didn’t just have a thyroid condition anymore, I had also developed adrenal dysfunction, sex hormone imbalances and my gut health was also poor.

Why? Because I wasn’t eating real, nutrient dense food or enough of it. And the overexercising stressed out my endocrine system.

Smaller Does Not Necessarily Equal ‘Healthier’

Even when I was a lot smaller than I am now, thanks to this disordered eating behaviour and focus entirely on my weight (and what a lot of people often perceive as ‘healthy’ I.e. slimmer) I was gradually becoming more and more sick. This ‘healthy’ exterior didn’t reflect how I felt on the inside.

I didn’t realise until I stopped counting calories, weighing myself twice a week and forcing the exercise, that all of this was stopping me from actually healing and recovering from thyroid fatigue, brain fog, constipation, acne, period issues, sleep issues and more.

Therefore, part of my journey back to good health with hypothyroidism and Hashimotos’s (and finally being in control of my health again) has had to involve getting help for my disordered eating. It has involved stepping away from the scales, measuring tapes, calorie counting and obsessing over my weight.

And instead, I had to move towards understanding nutrition and exercise and how I can use it in the way my body appreciates.

I took Nutrition courses and gained qualifications and began eating nutritiously, stopping the dieting that was only worsening my health and making me more Hypothyroid. I stopped limiting my food and ate good food in abundance.

I changed my exercise regimen so that it worked for me and gave me more energy instead of less. I found exercise that I enjoy doing instead of just doing certain types of exercise to ‘burn more calories’.

Related article: What Is the Best Exercise for Thyroid Patients?

And what happened? I got my energy, a clear head (no more brain fog), mental health and life back. My Hashimoto’s went in to remission and my life was no longer ruled by my thyroid condition.

And this story is the same for many others out there.

Focus on Feeling Healthy

Rachel wearing a rainbow dress

It’s why I always say we should focus on feeling healthy, not this idea of what society says healthy ‘looks’ like.

I used to be a lot smaller than I am now, but only due to obsessive dieting and not eating well and as a result I was a lot less healthy. I had a lot of cystic acne, tired eyes and dull skin. I had limited energy and so many thyroid symptoms even though I’d dropped stones in weight. I had made myself sicker with this unhealthy weight obsession.

I’m in a larger body these days but I’m the healthiest I have been in years, as I eat a balanced, nutrient dense diet and exercise every day in a healthy way. And my thyroid condition is under control and no longer bothering me.

So please don’t just focus on how your body looks. Focus on how your body feels and treat it right. I don’t support diets, I support healthy lifestyles. We shouldn’t be focusing on a scale over lifestyle.

That is why I don’t focus on weight loss as a thyroid patient advocate. I focus on actually being and feeling healthy instead and I wholeheartedly believe that this should take priority over a number on a scale.

Have you had a similar experience? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Read more on this topic here.

See also:

Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate Book Girl Holding

The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tiredwhich builds on this article and equips you with everything you need to know in order to reclaim your life from thyroid symptoms.

About Author

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 and influential 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".

3 Comments

  • Sophie
    August 28, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    I totally get this and is a good stance to take especially if disordered eating is a problem, and we all know (or should know) that weight doesn’t equal worth.

    However I do find this problematic for my own individual experience whereby one of the main symptoms since taking levothyroxine (and my levels are “in range”) has been weight gain. I am now significantly overweight, and by significantly I mean to the point where I am classed as obese and there are health risks which come with that. For example both of my parents (one of which has hashimotos and underactive thyroid too) are both type 2 diabetic. I also have heart problems and it gives me anxiety to be obese and know that I am at a higher risk for complications of other health conditions as a result.

    Weight does affect health, especially being significantly overweight, and this is my particular conundrum with it, as it’s a vicious cycle of anxiety about health, then health causing anxiety, and so on. I’m not finding that the GP is being very useful either – they’ve put me on levothyroxine and left me to it, and when I complained about weight gain they tried to put me on Sertraline for “depression”! Shocking.

    Anyway I think this is a great post and I’m definitely feeling better for not dieting anymore, and I hope one day I will be able to come back here and post a success story like yours.

    All the best

    Reply
  • Lois Goldberg
    August 10, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    I enjoy reading your comments that are posted on Facebook. I would appreciate that you keep each post longer on the screen. There are times that I am reading and the screen changes before I am done.

    Reply
    • Rachel Hill
      August 15, 2021 at 9:02 am

      Hi Lois, I’m not sure what you mean. There isn’t a timer and it shouldn’t change unless you click on something else.

      Reply

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