How to Lose Weight While Living with Hypothyroidism (part 2)
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
In this article I am going to outline 3 simple ways to rev up your metabolism if you have hypothyroidism. However, if you haven’t read my first article on the 1 key step to start your weight loss journey, please read it here.
Over the years, I have done extensive research, worked with patients and experimented with many dietary changes and supplemnents myself to find solutions to optimizing weight.
If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it is not unlikely that you have struggled to lose weight. As the thyroid hormones are responsible for the metabolism, it makes sense that the metabolism slows down as these hormones are naturally lower in the body when the thyroid becomes under-active.
If you have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease (the very common autoimmune thyroid disease) weight loss can even become more frustrating and complicated! As I mention in almost every blog post- if you are unsure if your form of hypothyroidism is autoimmune- get tested! The more information you have regarding your thyroid, the better. The knowledge can help you and your practitioners make more informed decisions to encourage your optimal health.
So let’s dive in. Many of the patients I have worked with over the years have reduced their calories and carbohydrates (sometimes significantly) in order to lose weight. But, if you have hypothyroidism, it is important to not drastically reduce your calories and carbs or it can backfire!
In the coming weeks I will be releasing a comprehensive diet guide for optimizing weight and feeling great while living with hypothyroid. So stay tuned!
In the meantime, this article outlines 3 key steps to follow to maximize metabolism.
Step 1: Reduce (some) Carbohydrates and Eat Sufficient Calories
Studies show that when calories and carbohydrates are reduced too severely, it decreases T3 levels in the body. T3 levels are responsible for metabolism! Plus, if you are currently taking T4-only medication (ie. Synthroid or Eltroxin) your body needs to make T3 on its own. Therefore it is very important you provide your body with the proper nutrients and calories to encourage this conversion and keep your metabolism going.
However, by even moderately reducing carbohydrates in the diet, many people notice a reduction in weight.
Carbohydrate foods include grains, root vegetables, baked goods: breads, pastas, rice, potatoes, fruits, cookies, cakes, crackers, quiona, teff, amaranth, barely, corn, sorghum, most packaged foods etc.
There are some foods that contain a combination of carbs, proteins and fats such as nuts and beans.
The average person that consumes a 1600cal/day diet consumes around 200g of carbohydrates per day. I have seen good results with patients with their lower carbohydrate consumption to 100-150g per day (assuming a 1600cal/day diet), however reducing carbohydrates under 80g does seem to slow their weight loss process. Remember everyone requires a different amount of daily calories depending on height, weight and exercise activity. Working with a Health Care Professional can help you identify a baseline approximate level that is right for you. From there, smart phone apps can be used to track carbohydrate consumption. These apps are easy to use and offer a good starting point to ensure you are not taking in too much or too little carbs.
I want to be clear however that I truly don’t believe in counting calories on a daily basis or obsessing about carbohydrate consumption. General guidelines can be helpful in knowing approximately how many carbohydrates you are consuming on a daily basis. For many people tracking consumption just for 1 week can help create awareness and get them on the right track.
Step 2: Have Your Food Sensitivities Tested
Food sensitivities, although often confused with food allergies, are very different. Although both food allergies and sensitivities cause an inflammatory response in the body, allergies can develop into life threatening reactions, while sensitivities typically do not become life threatening. Food sensitivities more difficult to identify as the reactions are often not as severe or immediate. However food sensitivities are still pro-inflammatory. By increasing inflammation in our body via the food we eat, it becomes harder to lose weight. Eliminating food sensitivities in the diet has been shown in research to reduce weight and improve body composition- as well as reduce inflammatory markers in the blood!
Food sensitivity testing is done by a blood draw and can be ordered by a Naturopathic Doctor or Integrative Medical Doctor.
It is important to note that everyone has their own unique food sensitivities. Additionally, if you do know you are positive for thyroid antibodies, it is likely you have a sensitivity to wheat and probably dairy. Make sure to read my article on gluten and the thyroid here.
#3 Exercise for Enjoyment, and don’t burn yourself out!
Life is meant to be enjoyed, and so should exercise! Countless numbers of my patients have reported over the years that they are slogging it out in the gym, or running 5km multiple times a week and not seeing any results. They feel frustrated, exhausted and often end up giving up on their fitness routine. Individuals with hypothyroidism frequently have an over or under-reactive response to stress due to hormonal changes in the adrenal glands (more on this at a later date). The important point here is that if someone with hypothyroidism puts themselves through too much stress for too long, it can slow their metabolism down. When we run long distances or push it really hard at the gym for long periods of time, our bodies still sees this as stress. Exercise is such an important element to health and well-being, but it must be enjoyed for long term success.
Choose an activity that you enjoy and gives you energy but doesn’t burn you out! Some of my favorites are walking, yoga and weight lifting at the gym (but never for more than 40 minutes at a time). Don’t be surprised if at first it doesn’t feel like you are “doing enough”. If you are moving your body, it is still exercise. And remember- weight loss requires so much more than exercise, movement is just one piece of the puzzle.
What are your favorite ways to exercise? I would love to hear from you- please leave your comments below.