close up of measuring tape wrapped around a hand

close up of measuring tape wrapped around a hand

Losing Weight With Hypothyroidism

Maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but if you’ve been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it’s even more of a struggle.

Because the thyroid regulates your metabolism, thyroid malfunction and weight gain go hand-in-hand. Many of the other side effects associated with hypothyroidism (exhaustion, depression, brain fog), make it that much harder to exercise and plan healthy meals, which leads to MORE weight gain, which leads to even WORSE thyroid function! It can be an awful, debilitating cycle, and very difficult to break.

BUT the good news is that there have been multiple studies showing that lifestyle changes, supplements, and the foods you eat can dramatically optimize thyroid function and reduce thyroid antibodies. Reducing thyroid antibodies translates to a healthy, functioning thyroid, which translates to a healthy weight!

First, let’s talk about what hypothyroidism has to do with weight gain.

Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain

Hypothyroidism is an underproduction of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. T3 in particular is the hormone that regulates your body’s metabolic rate, or the number of calories you need, moment by moment, to keep all your body’s processes functioning optimally throughout your day. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a chronic autoimmune disorder where you have lower than normal levels of thyroid hormones (including T3), caused by the body chronically attacking the thyroid gland. A thyroid gland under attack is not able to properly make enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs, putting you in a hypothyroid state. When in a hypothyroid state, your body is not able to accurately regulate your metabolism, leading to weight gain.

Thyroid Testing

So in order to lose weight when you have Hypothyroidism, you’ll need to make sure that your thyroid hormone levels are all within an optimal range. If you’ve already been taking thyroid medication and are still not losing weight and not feeling like yourself, that may mean your thyroid levels are technically within “normal” ranges, but still aren’t where they need to be.

Here’s a rundown of the tests you’ll want to request, and what the OPTIMAL ranges should be. The following tests are necessary to evaluate proper thyroid function (make sure your doctor runs ALL of these!):

  • TSH
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Reverse T3
  • TPO antibodies
  • Antithyroglobulin antibodies
  • Full Iron Panel : ferritin, serum iron, total iron binding capacity
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D

If your doctor is unwilling to run these tests, I recommend scheduling a one-on-one consultation with me so that I can order these lab tests for you and we can create an action plan together.

Here is a list of optimal result ranges used by many integrative physicians:

  • TSH : between 1.0-2.0
  • Free T4 : top half of the reference range
  • Free T3 : top half or top 25th percentile of the reference range
  • Reverse T3 : low end of normal range
  • TPO antibodies : within reference range
  • Antithyroglobulin antibodies : within reference range
  • Ferritin : between 45-85
  • Vitamin B12 : near the top end of the reference range, around 800-900
  • Vitamin D : at least 50 or above

If your levels aren’t where they should be, talk to your doctor about adjusting your thyroid meds! Getting your meds correctly balanced is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight with Hypothyroidism, but it’s only the first step.

Improve your Diet & Reduce Inflammation

The best way to optimize thyroid health is to eat in a way that supports your thyroid. The thyroid gland needs specific vitamins and minerals to properly do its job, and the most important is iodine. Additionally, selenium protects the thyroid when you’re under stress, and zinc, iron, and copper are vital to proper thyroid function. You can start by eating sea veggies three times a week and add wild caught seafood, Brazil nuts, grass-fed red meat, sunflower seeds, sardines, and blackstrap molasses to your diet on a regular basis.

It’s also just as important to avoid inflammatory and thyroid-disrupting foods as it is to load up on thyroid-enhancing ones. Inflammation is a huge culprit when it comes to thyroid malfunction, so eliminating inflammatory foods is crucial. Be sure to steer clear of soy, gluten, and dairy, as well as any vegetables in the brassica family including Brussel’s sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage that are uncooked—cooking deactivates the negative component so cooked varieties of these veggies are fine to eat!

Here’s a handy list of everything you’ll want to eliminate from your diet in order to reduce inflammation:

  • all dairy products
  • gluten
  • soy
  • alcohol
  • sugar
  • coffee
  • conventional, non-organic meat and farm-raised fish
  • non-organic fruits & vegetables
  • refined carbohydrates (bread products, pasta, cereal, granola, baked goods, etc.)

… and here’s how to stock your kitchen for optimal thyroid health:

  • Iodine: Sea vegetables including kelp, nori, kombu, dulse, arame, wakame, hijiki and seafood like haddock, clams, salmon, shrimp, oysters, and sardines.
  • Selenium: mushrooms, beef, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, organ meats, and halibut.
  • Zinc: Beef, turkey, lamb, fresh oysters, sardines, walnuts, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, split peas, ginger root, maple syrup.
  • Copper: Crabmeat, oysters, lobster, beef, nuts, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, shiitake mushrooms, tomato paste, dark chocolate.
  • Iron: Organ meats, oysters, clams, spinach, lentils, white beans, pumpkin seeds, blackstrap molasses.

The most important thing to remember: you’re NOT dieting!

Think of these changes to the foods you eat as a way to nourish your body, giving you fuel to make it through each day with an abundance of energy. You shouldn’t ever feel deprived or “hangry,” and you should NOT count calories. For those of you who are serial dieters, this reframing may feel indulgent, and you might worry that you’ll gain instead, but I promise: giving your body what it needs will give you the result you want!

Supplements for A Healthy Thyroid

Prior to supplementing your diet, I recommend discussing thyroid medication interactions with your GP, however, all of these supplements have a long history in my practice of supporting thyroid health and helping my clients maintain a healthy body weight:

  • Thyroid Synergy contains selenium, which has been shown to diminish thyroid antibody levels, while supporting enzymes involved in thyroid function. It also contains zinc, along with vitamins E and A, which all function together in producing thyroid hormones, and L-Tyrosine, which is used in the synthesis of thyroid hormone.
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids decrease inflammation and support a balanced immune system.
  • Iodine is essential to making thyroid hormone. It’s important to be cautious when supplementing iodine because too much can be problematic and may adversely affect autoimmune conditions. (If you are taking two Prenatal Pro Packets per day, you will be getting a sufficient amount of iodine to support fertility, pregnancy and thyroid health).

  • Vitamins E, C & A are powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and support your immune system.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated hypothyroidism. A recent study found that vitamin D levels were significantly lower in people with hypothyroidism.
  • Lifestyle Changes

    There are two major lifestyle factors that negatively affect thyroid health (and in turn, cause weight gain—lack of sleep and stress.

    Sleep is always crucial for good health, and this is even more true when you are suffering from an underactive thyroid. Here are some tips that can help ensure you get a full night of restful, restorative sleep:

    • Cool it down—no more than 68 degrees.
    • Completely black out your room—no LED lights from the TV, alarm clocks, fire alarms, etc., no night-lights, and no electronics or gadgets of any kind (charge that cell or tablet in another room!)
    • Speaking of gadgets—no scrolling before bedtime, for AT LEAST an hour.
    • Try to align the light in your home with natural light—if you can’t turn the lights off when the sun goes down, then dim the lights, and use bulbs with an orange or golden hue rather than blue. This mimics the natural light of the setting sun.
    • Shoot for 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but listen to your body, If you need more and can get more, do so.

    Everyone tells you to avoid stress, and I know that can be easier said than done. The most important thing you can do is listen to your body, and take time to pamper yourself as often as you can. Long hot baths, gratitude journaling, massage, and time spent with supportive family and friends or your partner are all good ways to de-stress. Even if you only have ten minutes a day, practice slow, measured breathing and meditation. This is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your thyroid health.

    Move Your Body

    One of the most challenging things about staying healthy when you have low thyroid function is the fatigue and depression that can go along with it. This is why it’s especially important to choose a form of exercise that you LOVE, and look forward to as a special time to treat yourself daily. Take a long, slow walk outside in a beautiful setting. Try restorative yoga, a leisurely bike ride, or dance to your favorite music for an hour. Whatever it is, make sure that it’s something you can look forward to doing EVERY DAY for 60 minutes. Moving your body in a way that you enjoy is not only important for weight loss, but also reduces stress (see above!), and is an excellent remedy for fatigue and depression.

    Reduce Toxins

    Research has shown that an increasingly large number of certain chemicals, plastics, and other toxins disrupt the endocrine system and immune function. We’re talking processed/packaged food and beverages, soaps, cleansers, cosmetics, paint, exhaust, etc.
    This stuff is everywhere, so unfortunately you won’t be able to eliminate your exposure altogether, but there are still plenty of changes you can make to reduce your exposure to toxins as much as possible:

    • Switch to stainless steel or glass storage containers for your food and beverages. (including your tea-kettle, water bottle, etc). Drink lots of filtered water to help flush your system regularly. Make sure you have a good water filter—I love the Berkey Countertop Filter
    • Avoid canned food completely, and packaged food whenever possible.
    • Buy organic fruits and vegetables from a local organic farm whenever possible.
    • Buy the highest quality animal products you can afford, from a local organic farm if possible (if the animals ate it, you’re eating it too).
    • Switch to soaps, shampoos, and cleansers that don’t contain phthalates, parabens, or sodium lauryl sulfate.
    • Don’t use antibacterial soap (It’s been proven ineffective anyway).
    • Whenever possible, avoid areas where you might be exposed to any chemical fumes, like auto-repair shops, hair and/or nail salons, freshly painted rooms, etc.
    • This should go without saying, but if you are currently a smoker, ABSOLUTELY quit smoking (including vaping, cigars, etc.), and avoid second-hand smoke as well.

    In a nutshell

    1. Although hypothyroidism makes it extra challenging, it IS possible to maintain a healthy weight naturally.
    2. Regular testing, adjusting medication if needed, taking the right supplements, and nourishing your body are the best ways to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism.
    3. Permanent changes in your diet and lifestyle will help you maintain a healthy weight long-term.

    Let’s Talk!

    I want to hear from you—leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation!

    Have you struggled with weight gain as a result of low thyroid function and/or elevated thyroid antibodies?

    Have you tried any natural remedies or supplements in order to lose weight? What has worked for you?

    Spread some thyroid lovin’! I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).

    Need more hormone help? Let’s Meet!

    Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how your thyroid health? Schedule a consultation with me!

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