I was a stable 63kg for years until I became full-blown hypothyroid and went on Levothyroxine, which is when I gained 12.5kg, two stone, in five to six months.
I was already eating well and had quite a healthy lifestyle, but it was switching thyroid medication from Levo to NDT, that corrected my thyroid hormone levels, and kick started my weight loss of that 2 stone.
Obviously having the optimal levels of a TSH below 2, a Free T3 in the top quarter of the range and a Free T4 mid-range or a bit higher, which ensures your metabolism is then working as correctly as possible, is important. Then low vitamin/nutrient levels need addressing, so supplementing things like Vitamin C, D, Iron, Selenium, Zinc can also help.
Once you have those in place, you should start to see some results, given that you are sticking to a healthy diet and moving enough. The average woman needs to consume 2000 net calories a day to maintain her weight, but this differs, depending on your age and height. For me, its around 1900 to maintain my weight, and 1500 to lose 1-2 pounds a week.
An app like My Fitness Pal is handy in helping you work out how many calories you should be consuming for weight loss. It also helps you track what you’ve eaten so you’re not over-eating.
With those basics, here are some more tips I have found to be helpful. Some are already well-known and some I’ve learnt myself.
- Water water water. Drink no less than 2 litres a day. You can flavour it with fresh fruit juice, e.g. half a lemon’s juice squeezed in, lime, strawberry, are all good ideas. When you go to reach for a tea or hot chocolate, go for hot water with lemon squeezed in. It’ll help satisfy your hot drink cravings, sweet craving and need to hydrate. Flavoured carbonated (fizzy) water is also very low-cal and a great alternative to cola, lemonade and other fizzy drinks and sodas. Keep a sports bottle of water on your desk at work or beside you at home, and in plain view, so you’re constantly reminded to sip.
- Herbal tea is your friend. Go decaf, too. Caffeine should be avoided as it places stress on your thyroid and adrenals and isn’t beneficial to your body. Herbal tea has no calories and after a few cups, if you aren’t keen at first, the taste becomes comforting. I have decaf herbal tea. It’s well known to promote weight loss and has lots of health benefits. I’ve replaced regular English breakfast tea with decaf herbal tea, and it’s one of the best and simplest changes I have made.
- Because I drink only the above, I don’t consume any calories through drinks, meaning I have more calories for food. Yay for food! Considering food is what keeps us from feeling hungry, we should save calories for it where possible.
- When you need something sweet or sugary, go for fruit. The possibilities are endless with the range and choice these days. Avoid sugar in the morning where possible, and base breakfast and brunch especially around protein. Oats, nuts, eggs, cheese and meats are good. They’ll keep you fuller for longer. If you feel a low blood sugar moment, always go for some protein. Reaching for the sugar, even though the name of low blood sugar may imply it’s what your body needs, is only going to make it worse! More info on that in this book .
- Walk where you can. Take the stairs instead of the lift. If you’re only going for a short drive, try to walk it instead. Hypothyroidism can leave you feeling demotivated and a lack of energy, but 5 minutes here and there can help lose weight and actually make you feel more energised. No need to over-do it, just take baby steps. Put music on when you’re making the dinner and have a wiggle. Dance as you clean. Boogie as you get ready in the morning. As well as burning a few extra calories, it’ll make you happier, too, I promise!
- Gentler exercises like yoga and pilates are good for those who suffer from the symptoms of hypothyroidism, as they can be taken at your own pace and aren’t too exhausting, but effective. Swimming can be good for muscles and joints, and walking is always an effective way to burn calories.
- Get lots of veg on your plate. Where you would usually have pie, for example, replace it with some chopped meat and veg. You get the meat still (protein is good) but replace the carb, salt, sugar and fat filled pastry and sauce with vegetables full of nutrients. Add some nuts if you need it, too. Peanuts and cashews are good for in evening meals. As with fruit, there’s plenty of choice nowadays. Go organic where you can to avoid nasty chemicals and toxins that may inhibit thyroid function. Just avoid goitrogenic fruits and veggies as they can affect your thyroid and metabolism, too.
- Avoid diet fads and cutting out whole food groups. Cutting out carbs, fat, sugar or going on juice diets may seem like an effective way to lose weight, but it’s not a long term solution. Can you honestly say that you’ll never eat cake again? Even at a birthday party? Can you honestly say that all you’re gong to eat is juiced fruit and veg for the rest of your life? So you’ll never eat out at a restaurant again? Exactly. It’s just not sustainable. Have everything in moderation, but focus on the good stuff. If you cut anything out, you’re more likely to relapse and gorge when you do. Apply things you can maintain long term, like the tips mentioned here. (Going gluten free, dairy free, paleo etc. for your health in terms of sensitivities and whatnot is obviously different!)
- Plan your food for the day at the beginning of the day and don’t deviate. Work out exactly what your calorie allowance allows you, and don’t think an extra bar of chocolate won’t harm, or another slice of bread. It will! It all adds up.
- Plan for a weight loss of 0.5-2 pounds a week, but don’t weigh yourself too much. Aim to weigh yourself once a week maximum, but every two weeks can be more effective. Always weigh yourself first thing in the morning, before any food and drink and after you’ve been toilet. This will give you the most accurate reading possible. I weigh myself every two Saturdays, before 9am and before any food or drink. Literally as soon as I get up. Because it’s two weekly, I see a bigger weight loss, usually 1-1.5kg, so I get a bigger boost from it.
- Save motivating quotes and photos to your phone and put them as a screensaver, print them off as posters for work and home and put them on your Facebook. Look at them on a daily basis. Every Monday, make it your mission to find a #MotivatingMonday pic. Set a reminder to do it and make sure you do it. It’ll give you a boost.
- Save the worst photos of yourself and look at them whenever you reach for something you shouldn’t. Put it on your fridge, on the doors of kitchen cupboards etc. Seeing a photo of yourself when you weren’t happy with your weight can reinforce why you wanted to lose weight in the first place.
- Ask those around you to be supportive. Ask anyone living with you not to buy snacks for the cupboard or eat naughty food around you. If friends invite you out for food, go to healthier places or ask them to help you pick out healthier choices from a menu. Support can be everything.
- Plan your food shop and don’t deviate from it. Plan every meal for the next however many days until your next shop, and don’t buy anything that isn’t an essential part of a planned meal. No snacks, no additions, nothing. If it’s not sat in the cupboard, you’re less likely to eat it! If you really must, only buy fruit or nuts as snacks, but be aware that fruit is high in sugar and nuts high in calories.
- Avoid alcohol where you can. It’s another toxin to the body and can affect thyroid fucntion, but who am I kidding? We all like to have a good time every now and then. Just don’t make it every week. In fact, once a month is by far often enough to consume alcohol. Alcohol can affect the metabolism and is also pretty calorific.
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I run a Facebook group, called Thyroid Family: Hypothyroidism Advice & Support Group. This group is for underactive thyroid/hypothyroidism patients only, and not medical professionals or anyone else. If you have any questions on living with hypothyroidism, or want some support, help or advice, please join us.
I also run a group for the spouses, partners and other halves of hypothyroid patients, called Hypothyroid Patients Other Halves – Support & Advice Group. This is for the other halves only and not patients.