Hypothyroid and Weight Issues–how to tackle it
The following article was written by Hashimoto’s thyroid patient Pam, aka “nonstickpam”. Her mother had Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy and died at the young age of 49, and autoimmune diseases were common on her mother’s side. Around 2000, Pam was diagnosed with Graves (hyperthyroid) but later realized she had the autoimmune Hashimotos. Weight gain was a side effect of her thyroid journey, so after she found natural desiccated thyroid, she decided to attack the weight issue by adopting a low-carb lifestyle. She has helped many thyroid patients in their quest to lose and maintain better weights.
How do we as hypothyroid people lose weight?
That’s the question I get asked a lot. As I study nutrition and connect the dots to hypothyroid disease, I wonder why I lost weight even before I was replaced with thyroid hormone? And why some seem unable to lose at all?
When I started my weight loss experiment, I weighed over 277 pounds. I also have autoimmune diseases besides having Hashimoto’s. I have something called ‘Hyper IgE’ which is basically being allergic to what I breath in…and Sjogrens…and Celiac. I know female hormones get in the way and especially in women, as we are ever-changing with our hormonal status.
So I’ve asked other patients over and over ‘”what do you eat?” And I’ve compiled a resource of answers from an embarrassingly large compilation, and culled out all the “losers”. So with those patients who did lose and maintained the loss, whether they are optimal on thyroid meds or not, I found out what they are doing.
First, most of the people have lowered their carb intake–stopped the incoming sugar as well as most anything white. Surprisingly, the majority are eating about 40 to 50 net grams carb a day (ages: 35 to 75).
I see some success with those on Weight Watchers, too, but they don’t look as small as lowcarbers at a higher weight. Just my observation, please don’t take offense.
The following are common sentences I see over and over in answers to my question, and which we can all use to find successful weight loss:
- I don’t eat wheat, or flour, or sugar anymore. At all. Not even a taste on a fingertip.
- I don’t overeat at one sitting…and I’m less tempted to do so if I don’t eat anything white.
- When I’m stressed and I want to eat anything and everything, I have a rule with myself…I say “Self, ya need to go and do something not centered around food for a half hour…and if you still feel you need to have something sweet or a food off the plan, take another 15 minutes to figure out which lowcarb/no sugar/no flour horrible thing you’re gonna eat!
- I get on the scale, and I’m so hard-core fattie that if I lose a pound, I want the instant reward of eating something off plan arghhhh!! So…I make myself (or my DH, or DS or DD) hide the scale and I only bring it out once a week or so. I also plan ahead for the ‘Wow, I’m great…gimme chocolate cake’ feeling of losing weight. I have a bowl of sugar free jello and whipped real heavy cream ready”
- I pick out a box of tea I’ve never tried before and I sample it until it’s gone…every time I have time to chill out, I drink a cup.
- I keep a list of what I eat from day to day–everyday–and I don’t lie about what I eat. Every week, I go look through it all again to see if I can make improvements.
- I try and encourage myself when I have been SO good with food but haven’t lost a thing. I really tell myself: “Myself, you haven’t gained at ALL and you’re eating healthy! You’re not even hungry most the time…and that’s wonderful. So…holding the line another week…not gaining…you ROCK!”
When I first started taking thyroid, it didn’t have a weightloss effect on me at all. It DID have a lessening-the-water-weight/bloat effect though. And I don’t do things like ‘meat fasts’ and fasting or diet pills. I actually kept my daily diet the same for the first six months of my weightloss (yes I was bored, but I was losing and didn’t want to get creative and find myself back to square one, creatively). And it made my joints hurt less, my hair was nice and shiny, my eyebrows grew back, and at the time, TOM was less evil every month.
Back in the ‘ol’ days, some docs would give thyroid as a weight loss tool. But then we found out it doesn’t work that way unless you give yourself far too much thyroid, and that has a chance of leading to a heart attack or other nasty outcomes. So…just like losing weight, getting optimized on thyroid hormone is a slow process. What is just right for one patient, may not be for the next. Thyroid replacement is as varied and ‘YMMV’ as people themselves are.
I think the biggest weightloss eye opener I had about hypothyroid women losing weight…is eating ENOUGH to lose weight, as well as not trying to base YOUR WOE (Way-of-Eating) on someone else’s menu. And everyone asks ‘what did you eat to lose?’ I recently gave my ‘menu and ‘ideas’ I used to others. Several have been VERY successful. Although lowcarb books (thank you Dr. Atkins, thank you Dr. Eades’…and thank you Gary Taubes!) tell you ‘what to eat,’ most don’t tell you the little tricks. We know from Dr. Atkins that even one spoonful of sugar, or high carb, and you’re going to have to begin allll over again. But how many KNOW that if they are on blood pressure meds, they’d better be prepared to keep in close touch with their physician? How about the fact that magnesium can make or break a lowcarber (because of constipation if the fat isn’t HIGH enough)?
When it comes to weight loss, clearly NON hypothyroid people sometimes don’t get it as to why we’re so danged fatigued, or why we want to eat to counter our hypothyroid-given depression, or why we can’t just “do it” and be happy. LOL How many of us have said “I didn’t lose anything” and the non hypo person says ‘eat less‘. That’s not always the answer for us. When you are taking something that’s making your cortisol high, or your adrenals aren’t doing what they should, not eating enough can throw more stress on them, and on the body.
We can’t MAKE someone post their menu, or be accountable to us, but posting and being accountable to ourselves might spring from this. So many foods and other OTC meds/etc. can interfere with our weight loss progress too. Perhaps some will catch the offending med/food/interaction.
I know that my last 34 pounds was just slow coming off, and everyone would tell me to eat less!! Only eat eggs! Only eat meat!’ Well, that just backfired on me. It didn’t work for me. And I had folks telling me do cardio….hours of cardio’ I can’t…my lungs are cranky! So, I had someone tell me lifting weights can also help, and it’s not strenuous unless you want it to be (thanks Ileen and Cindy!). And lifting weights DID work! Who, when hypothyroid, not up to par yet, wants to do cardio for hours? Minutes? Heck, seconds….ha ha…NO ONE!!!
In summary, I and others like me lost the weight by eating low carb, and finding the kind of activity that worked for us. For me, that is weight lifting.
Let’s all help each other! I know some stuff about thyroid. And I’m betting that even newbies to hypothyroid can help the rest of us with menu, recipes, and all kinds of great ideas!
**If you are a hypothyroid patient, and have achieved both weight loss and maintenance for several months (the latter is required), send your story to Janie via the Contact Me page, and we’ll get it up on STTM with a link to it from here.