Hypothyroidism is a condition that can make it difficult to lose weight. That’s because it affects your metabolism. This is why many people with low thyroid function gain weight even if they exercise and eat right.
The good news is, while it takes more work (and some adjustments here and there), you can lose weight even with hypothyroidism. More importantly, shedding extra pounds along with lifestyle changes can help improve your thyroid function naturally.
In other articles, we’ve covered the many ways you can safely lose weight.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at how weight loss is different for anyone with thyroid issues.
And, how you can get past all that to see results.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where you have an underactive thyroid. This means your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones.
Your thyroid is a small organ at the lower part of your neck. It plays a prominent role in regulating your body’s metabolism, or how your body uses energy.
Hypothyroidism means your body has low levels of thyroid hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). This causes its regular functions to slow down.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 5% of all American over the age of 12 have hypothyroidism. Women are also ten times more likely to experience a thyroid imbalance compared to men.
What are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Because hypothyroidism has many signs and symptoms, it can be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes, it can be misdiagnosed as something else.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms vary on the severity of the hormone deficiency. These symptoms also tend to develop over the years slowly.
So, you may not notice the these symptoms until they become bothersome.
Two of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism is weight gain and fatigue. Both of which can be caused by being less active, getting older or stress. This is why people don’t give it much attention until later on.
As time passes, the symptoms become more noticeable. They include the following.
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Muscle weakness
- Poor memory
- Slowing heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Heavier and irregular menstrual periods
- Joint swelling, pain, and stiffness
- Muscle aches and pains
- Face Puffiness
- Being sensitive to cold
- Dry skin
- Hoarse voice
Should you experience any of these symptoms and they don’t seem like going away, it’s important to get diagnosed by your doctor. Simple blood tests to check your TSH levels will show if your thyroid is producing enough hormones. Additionally, your doctor may also way to check your T3 and T4 hormone levels.
Once it’s diagnosed, your doctor will prescribe a treatment that helps improve your thyroid issues. This will help you lose weight. And, will allow your symptoms to go away slowly.
How to Lose Weight with Hypothyroidism
1. Check Your TSH Levels and Get Diagnosed
If you suspect you have hypothyroidism or experience the symptoms above, the first thing you should do is visit your doctor.
The first test they’ll ask you to do is a TSH, which measures your thyroid hormone levels.
Normal TSH levels fall between 0.4 to 4.0 mU/L. A consistent TSH above 4.0 means you likely have hypothyroidism. Also, your physician will probably ask you to have your T3, T4 levels checked as well.
If you prefer figures, here’s one that quickly tells you what your thyroid lab test results mean.
Because hypothyroidism develops over the years, a rising TSH level as time passes may be an early sign.
In any case, it’s always good to ask your doctor about your specific levels.
If you’re on the high side of the TSH range and have difficulty losing weight, improving your TSH may make weight loss easier.
2. Get Your T3 Levels in Order
Thyroid medication needs to be optimized. It isn’t an exact science because our bodies absorb drugs differently. Some people are slow absorbers while others are weak absorbers. Many factors, including your metabolism, affect how much of the dosage your body absorbs.
So, taking thyroid medication may not immediately help you lose weight. It may need to be optimized. This can take time for many patients. Your doctor will help you figure out what TSH levels work best with you. Often it also means comparing or combining treatments for T3 levels.
3. Exercise to Boost Your Metabolism
An underactive thyroid slows down your body’s metabolism processes. To help counter that, doing things that boost metabolism helps.
Also, your slow metabolism means you’ll need to cut down on calories to lose weight.
After a certain point, it won’t be practical, or healthy to cut too many calories.
Exercise is there to help you burn those extra calories. Better yet, it boosts your metabolism.
When it comes to selecting which types of exercises give you the best results, go with either,
- interval training
- resistance training
- steady state cardio
- or combination of 2 of them
These are the three best types of workouts to boost metabolism according to the Women’s Health Magazine.
Cardio is very effective in reducing belly fat. Meanwhile lifting weights helps build muscle. This enables you to shed more pounds.
As a basic rule of thumb, a pound of muscle burns six calories a day at rest. Comparatively, fat burns just two calories per day at rest.
4. Clean Up Your Diet
Research indicates that high insulin levels and insulin spikes can damage your thyroid gland. This is why it is essential to cut back on added sugar if you have thyroid issues.
Added sugars from sodas, pastries and even your coffee turn into glucose that goes into your bloodstream. For your body to use glucose for energy, your pancreas will release insulin.
So, the more sugar you consume, the most insulin needed to “pull out” the glucose from your blood.
In addition to sugar, carbs can also cause your insulin levels to spike. This is especially true for refined carbs like white rice, pasta, and bread. Unrefined carbs like grains do a much better job as they digest slowly causing less of a spike in glucose in insulin.
In place of carbs and added sugars, try increasing protein and non-starchy vegetables instead. Protein helps you feel full. More importantly, it is the building block of muscle which burns more calories per day compared to fat.
5. Make Sure to Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential to good health. It helps your body recover from the wear and tear of daily life. Just as importantly, not getting enough sleep has been shown to slow down metabolism. It is also linked to weight gain.
Research shows that women who get only 5 hours of sleep nightly are more likely to gain weight. It found that sleep deprivation increases your risk by almost 33%. Additionally, you’re 15% more likely to become obese compared to those who get 7 hours of sleep per night.
6. Be Proactive
As with any condition, you are your best advocate. Make sure to find a doctor that is well-suited for your needs. Different doctors offer various treatments for hypothyroidism.
Some of these treatments may work for you; others may not.
So, it’s essential to monitor your own progress and make your own decisions. If things aren’t working, try something different.
It’s your life; you need to take control of it.