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