Why I Stopped trying to Lose Weight with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism
Summer is on the way, and all of the social pressures to start trying to lose weight are right on schedule. Magazines with scantily clad celebrities claiming they have 5 secrets to lose weight, commercials for low fat fruity yogurt that will help you squeeze into a bikini, workout info graphics and “fitpiration” on Pinterest… we all see it and we all feel pressure. Some more than others, and I know that those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism like myself fit into the “more than others category”. However, after seven years of having Hashimoto’s during what arguably is the most body conscious years of a woman’s life, I’ve thrown in the towel and have altogether stopped trying to lose weight with Hashimoto’s.
I was 17 when I was first diagnosed with the autoimmune thyroid disease that often results in weight gain. I was under as much pressure as any other girl to look thin, and I felt like I was out of control of my weight. Though my weight gain was never more than 20 lbs at the most, I struggled and I tried over and over again to shed the unwanted weight.
When I Tried To Lose Weight
In college, I became addicted to calorie counting to try and normalize my weight. I would plan everything that I was going to eat one day in advance to make sure everything added up, and follow according to plan. Anything that had a label was welcome in my diet, including M&M’s, Reeses’s (the seasonal one’s were my vice… oh pumpkins…) and whatever restaurant food I could look up in my little calorie counter of choice was fair game. Though I understood the need to be gluten free with my diagnosis, and even spent my first two years of college as a Dietetics major, I paid no mind to food quality and felt repulsed by many real foods. I was only focused on calories and getting away with as much as could all while trying to avoid my frequent hanger episodes.
Along with calorie counting, I also became obsessed with how many calories I was burning, and how much I was exercising. I was a regular elliptical goer, cardio kick boxer, you name it. I would spend entire days on the treadmill, in the gym, and doing random workouts that I found on some exercise TV channel. While trying to obsessively log my calories one day, I remember once asking my dad if the 7 minute warm up during a 30 minute belly dancing TV workout also counted towards my calorie burn… as if my dad was an expert in calories expended doing TV workout video belly dancing warm ups.
An undernourished, over exercised me fueled by coffee, gluten free bagels and the hopes and dreams of a flat stomach. Circa 2009. I would sleep constantly, and would experience regular Hashimoto’s flares. (Also, dat phone.)
I joined three different CrossFit gyms in total, went through more calorie counters than I can remember, and cried many tears over feeling out of control of my weight… because no matter how hard I tried, I would still gain unexplained weight with my thyroid problems.
My Breaking Point…
I experiences a lot of days of reckoning over the last several years. I’ve felt over it, I’ve been exhausted, and I’ve spent way too much time and money on trying to get better all while failing time and time again.
After years of avoiding the reality of it, I had come to the conclusion that everything I was doing to try and make myself lose weight was only making me sicker. Trying to “be healthy” for the sake of losing weight and looking a certain way was never going to actually make me healthy. I had to accept that if I was going to manage my Hashimoto’s, I had to stop the obsession and the extreme attempts to lose weight.
That realization did not come over night, and it’s still a tough pill to swallow at times. However, it was necessary to heal… to stop feeling tired… to stop feeling miserable… and to be okay with my body regardless of its size.
Why I Stopped Trying to Lose Weight
1. I use food to heal.
I finally began to look beyond the calories, the macros, and the commercials telling me that x food would make me skinny, and began using food to heal. My old diet consisted of fake butter, egg whites, too much sugar, and tons of processed carbs. I basically never ate a real food nutrient dense diet before I came to my breaking point, but it’s made all the difference.
Today, I eat a diet of local vegetables, fruits in moderation, local, pastured meats, good quality fats and starches. I don’t eat low carb, I don’t avoid fat, and I couldn’t even tell you how many calories I eat.
I use the nutrients in real food like bone broth, greens, sardines, sauerkraut and even liver to give my body the real food nutrition that it needs to function properly. Our cells need proper nutrients to heal and for our bodies to thrive.
If I kept restricting food and counting calories, I wouldn’t be giving my body what it intuitively needs to heal.
2. Intense exercise was making my thyroid worse.
I used to love the adrenaline rush that a cycle class gave me. That was before I cut it out and realized how much better I felt without that adrenaline and cortisol spike on a regular basis. Tearing my body down with high intensity exercise was spiking my cortisol, which unbeknownst to me was throwing off the delicate balance of my hormones even further.
A year ago, CrossFit would exhaust me to the point of wanting to pass out. Though CrossFit is known as a supportive environment which it totally is, it wasn’t doing me any good to have someone pushing me to go harder and harder when I just physically couldn’t. The overly intense exercise was throwing off my thyroid even more.
Today, I enjoy a routine of lots of walking, light weight lifting, and yoga. I’ve quit the expectation of how much I’m going to workout in a week, and only push myself as far as I can reasonably go.
3. It’s too stressful in general which also made my thyroid worse.
Trying to lose weight is stressful mentally, emotionally, and physically. Stress is often one of the missing pieces in reversing autoimmune disease and can’t be measured by a blood test.
My constant attempts to lose weight were stressful in every sense of the word which was also just making me more exhausted, and throwing off my thyroid hormone even more.
4. I don’t really have weight to lose after reversing my Hashimoto’s in general.
I’d be lying if I told you that I still had 20 lbs to lose after adopting a real food diet and smart exercise. Actually treating my body right and not putting it through the constant stress of forcing it to try to be smaller have allowed me to reverse my Hashimoto’s and reduce my antibodies. As a result, I don’t really have tons of extra weight to lose anymore.
It’s certainly not to say that Elite Model Management is signing me anytime soon, but it’s amazing that when I stopped trying is when my weight became stable
5. Accepting my body, and loving myself take priority over trying to lose weight.
“Self-love” seemed like a fairy tale to me. Something that sounds nice but isn’t actually achievable or as great as it sounds. However, loving myself regardless of my size has been vital to my healing journey and has quickly taken priority over hating my body. With all of the stress that our bodies are always under, the last thing we need to to hate it.
Accepting myself regardless of how many calories I consume is a day has been exactly what I’ve needed all along.
What happened when I Stopped Trying to Lose Weight
So, I stopped trying to lose weight about a year ago. Judging by what society tells us about weight loss, you would think that I would have just gone completely off the deep end and would have blown up 5 dress sizes. However, that’s not the case…
- I’ve reduced my symptoms immensely
- I no longer have serious fatigue
- I don’t get hangry anymore
- I reduced my Hasihmoto’s antibodies by 60% and am within normal range, which essentially means I’ve reversed it
- My weight normalized.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… none of this happens over night. It takes time to be okay with not working out like a fiend and not counting your calories. It’s okay if it takes time. At the end of the day, the journey is worth it, and the freedom in letting go of constantly trying to lose weight is liberating.
Thank you so much for writing this! I am suffering from chronic fatigue and have experienced great weight gain as a result … I pray that I can adopt this lifestyle as well and be at peace with my health and my body too 🙂
Thank you so much, Sam! I know how hard it can be, and I pray for peace and health for you as well! I wrote another post more specifically about dealing with weight gain if you haven’t seen it- unboundwellness.com/weight-gain-hashimotos/ . Hope it helps and thanks for reaching out <3
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My weight increased 20 lbs before being diagnosed with Hashimotos hypothyroidism. I eat healthy 95% of the time but do treat myself now and again, although it’s not sweet things but savoury. I’ve managed to not gain more than the original 20lbs fairly easily but I know a cheat day can make an extra 2 lbs but this is gone the next day
This is me. My battle started when I went fanatic with crossfit, after years of MMA training. Now I can barely get through a class and I keep gaining weight. I think I need to stop fighting it and just accept it. I trained so hard and it’s hard giving it up. But it’s clearly doing more damage.
I know how that is! It was hard to give up crossfit, but it did my body a world of good to opt for some more gentle exercise for a while.
Thank you for this! I’m currently a theater major in college and it’s been super hard for me. I know that part of my career involves me being in shape and looking good so this entire process has been hard for me. This really helped me grasp what is going on with my body.
Thank you for sharing your story. I have hashimoto’s and it is out of control! I have gained 40 lbs. over this past year and my hormones are all unstable. I am post-menopausal and basically a hot mess. This is the most I have ever weighed and I just cannot get the doctors to figure out my thyroid dosage and/or issues! So frustrating, like hitting a brick wall!!
I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto a few months ago. For the last 3 years I’ve been gaining weight, working out, counting calories, eating salads and feeling like I got hit by a truck 2 hours into my day. I cried when I read what you wrote. No one told me there was a reason why I have felt like crap for years. Why no matter how hard I push myself I can’t loose the weight. Why I am so wore out after being awake for a few hours. I work 12 hour days 5 days a week and can’t move off the couch Saturdays. Because of that I pushed myself harder at work, at home, and at the gym. I thought this was a me thing. I wasn’t trying hard enough. Thank you for writing this, you opened my eyes.
Sending so much love, Carrie. Praying for an amazing doctor for you to help you reach the healing you need!
Carrie, it is like you just described my last 3 years! I was crying to my doctor who told me to “eat very little” as her advice! I gained about 40lbs and I was a trainer as well as certified Insanity instructor. I workout 6 days a week and I started working out more but nothing helps. I am exhausted all the time. I finally got in with an Endo who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s about a week ago. I broke down in her office. I have not lost any weight and I struggle just to do 20 minutes a day of workouts. I need naps. I am so tired. I need help. I need the weight to go down, it is too much and unhealthy. I feel it. I feel horrible.
Michelle, This article helped me so much. I need to keep reading more. I am just so worn out and I was in the best shape of my life just 3 years ago. It is affecting my relationships with my boyfriend and my kids. He eats whatever he wants and loses weight. He doesn’t understand this. I am unhappy and I hide at home. I had to give up training outside the home out of embarrassment.
I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have found you! After diagnosing myself with adrenal fatigue and hypothyroid symptoms three years ago, and then just treating myself all this time, I finally got some lab-work done last week and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (my antibodies were at 70 – still not sure where that ranks me). For two days I was on cloud nine: it’s “official” that I’m not crazy! And the 30lbs I’ve packed on recently *isn’t* because I didn’t track my macros closely enough, or work out hard enough (Lord knows I tried to!); the constant weight gain *isn’t* just because I’m lazy or middle-aged (I’m 43y). But now the euphoria is wearing off, and I need to start learning. I knew enough to ask my doc for Armour Thyroid, at least to start, but I know there’s so much more … And your article about not weighing and measuring every morsel, not tracking every calorie burned, but just being kind to yourself, simply eating well and listening to your body made the tears well up and I could hear every cell in my poor, battered body crying, “Yes!” So again, thank you! <3 I am so blessed to have found you so early in my journey. I look forward to continuing to follow and learn more from you. 🙂
I’m so happy that it resonated with you, Catherine!! Sending tons of love!
Thank you I feel like a weight has been lifted to hear your symptoms were the same as mine. I didnt understand why I felt exhausted or depressed put it down to weight gain, I just got through the working day and sat all evening I even gave up on having a personal life. The doctor told me my goiter was fine even though countless times I complained tablets or vitamins got lodged in my throat it feels tight and finally depression hit. Another doc noticed my swollen neck and referred me to Thyroid specialist, after a CT scan I had trouble breathing, another breathless episode it will pass I thought. I got emergency app thinking anti biotics will be given or more inhalers even though im not asthmatic. My CT results were in, nad news I was marked up as critical. I was rushed to hospital as my trachea was restricted to 4mm by the goiter, I had just joined the gym too and due my induction hoping this would help but would have been fatal to exercise. Goiter and part thyroidectomy was performed, now a new journey begins for me.
So sorry to hear what you’ve gone through. Sending love, Nicola!!
I have been struggling with weight gain for 12 yrs now, it’s has been like a yoyo. I have fluctuated with different sizes in clothes. I am now the biggest I have ever been at a size12, I was always an 8. I exercise more, eat healthy but still can’t lose weight, instead I keep gaining and now my anxiety and depression are starting to kick in…so upsetting. I am giving up at this point. I am currently 175 whereas I used to be between 120-140 and no matter what I do I can’t shake those extra pounds. HELP ME!!
So sorry to hear what you’re going through Shana! If you’re not working one on one with a nutritionist, I would for sure bring this up to them as they can give you the most customized support. There can be a lot of different factors going on so it’s hard for me to assess it in this forum. Sending love!
you just verbalised the ideas, I myself have arrived at learning to live with hashimoto’s. you are absolutely right it’s crucially important to make peace with your body, its condition and diet.
I needed to hear this so bad today. I was literally googling “I’ve tried everything, now what?” The hardest part for me is giving up running. I love long distance running, always have. It doesn’t feel like work and it’s mentally great for me. But I am exhausted after, meaning my adrenals were stretched too far. I have a hard time imagining trading in running on the pavement to doing yoga but I guess that’s where I’m at. Letting go is the hardest part.
It is so hard to make these kinds of sacrifices. I’m so sorry. Giving your body what it needs to heal will allow you the freedom to do the things you want in the future!