Nutrition Articles

Eating with Hypothyroidism

Manage Symptoms with Diet and Exercise

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Hypothyroidism, the chronic condition of an under-active thyroid, affects millions of Americans. It's most commonly caused by chronic autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease, and can result in a variety of symptoms, including: weight gain (caused by a reduction in metabolism), water retention, depression, muscle pain, increased cholesterol, fatigue, mental "fog" and more. Not only does hypothyroidism typically result in weight gain, but its symptoms and complexities make losing weight even more difficult.

Individuals with autoimmune thyroiditis have a harder time losing weight after their hormone levels are normalized. Experts aren't sure why this is the case, but there are several theories including a change in the metabolic “set point”, insulin resistance, and changes in brain chemistry.

Managing symptoms will help you feel your best when living with hypothyroidism. In conjunction with the treatment plan outlined by your doctor, a healthy diet and regular exercise can also help.

You CAN lose weight with hypothyroidism, but:
  • You may not lose weight at the same rate you did before.
  • You may not lose weight at the same rate as someone else.
  • You may not get back to the size you were.
Be realistic about your goals and objectives and realize that being a certain weight or size is not always the best goal when living with hypothyroidism. Having more energy and reducing feelings of fatigue and depression are usually more important to your quality of life.

When you are setting your goals, keep these things in mind:
  • Make lifestyle changes. Hypothyroidism will be with you for the rest of your life, so healthy eating, exercising and taking care of yourself must be priorities. Your SparkPeople plan will start you in the right direction, but you have to be committed to a new way of life.
     
  • Make time for healthy eating and regular exercise. Commit to prepare food, exercise and take care of you. Put yourself on your to-do list each day.
     
  • Be optimistic and acknowledge the positive changes you have made—no matter how small. Journal about the highs and lows of the journey as an outlet for frustration and as a way to look back at your progress when the going gets tough.
     
  • Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes small steps to get from where you are to where you want to be. The Aesop fable of the tortoise and the hare is a good illustration and reference. You can win the race if you stay focused and take slow, steady steps to get there. Do the best you can. Take a step further each day, pick yourself up when you stumble, and keep your eyes on the goal.
     
  • Few worthwhile outcomes are easy or quick. Be wary of the latest fad in weight loss or ploys for people with hypothyroidism. You have the tools for effective, long-term weight loss here at SparkPeople, so stay the course and leave the too-good-to-be-true trends on the shelf.
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About The Author

Tanya Jolliffe Tanya Jolliffe
Tanya earned a bachelor's degree in dietetics and nutrition and has more than 20 years of experience in nutrition counseling and education. She is a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. See all of Tanya's articles.

Member Comments

  • OMG - this article has facts that I have not heard. 2 1/2 years ago I was treated for hyperthyroid and was allergic to the medicine. I was then told I did not have hyperthyroid (even though I experienced every syptom of a thryroid storm) but had an iodine overdose. While on the medicine, I put on 30 lbs in 5 weeks and had severe pain in lower extremity. I am very slowly taking off the weight, but it is the residual pain and fatigue that often prevent the physical activity I need. This article says that after numbers reaching normal levels - you still can have these issues. I am sure my new doctor thinks I am crazy when I ask her to check by thyroid numbers - which are normal. I have printed this article to share wih her. - 7/14/2014 12:30:59 PM
  • JODIKELLUM
    I had a Near-total thyroidectomy 10 years ago. For a long time the wieght I had lost due to my hyperthyroid condition stayed off, but now it is coming back, not all yet but a lot of it. I am finding it very difficult to lose the weight, but determined to do so! - 6/29/2014 2:20:57 PM
  • Thanks for the reminders!! I have had hypothyroidism for 21 years, and even though I live with it everyday, it's easy to forget all the thyroid does for us. For others posting and reading comments, there are hypothyroid groups on here, and i have learned ALOT from them! Things like SOY and RAW SPINACH can affect how your medicine is absorbed and works.

    Again, thanks for the article!! - 11/19/2013 10:04:40 AM
  • NELMSC
    I appreciate your focus on diet and emphasizing how important it is. I initially received a focus on medication with very little diet help. So thank you for this information. http://www.dietth
    yroid.com/die
    t-hypothyroid
    ism.html - 10/20/2013 4:56:45 PM
  • i continue to struggle with fatigue and muscle aches. the article included lots of info i didn't know. especially about tea ;-( makes me sad, but explains many things. thanks SparkPeople - 9/24/2012 9:40:44 PM
  • DONTGOAWAYMAD
    Good info. Fortunately, my hypothyroidism is fairly minor, and I feel better taking the Synthroid my Dr. prescribed me--I will get re-tested in November. - 9/12/2012 4:19:56 PM
  • thank you for this great article. please write more articles about this , millions of people will be so grateful (myself included). I have been suffering fro hypo for many years, always the same results from the tests, - 8/3/2012 9:29:22 AM
  • thank you for this great article. please write more articles about this , millions of people will be so grateful (myself included). I have been suffering fro hypo for many years, always the same results from the tests, - 8/3/2012 9:10:05 AM
  • I just came across this article. Like others, I am finding it hard to shed the pounds despite tracking and working our regularly. It is absolutely discouraging when your dr keeps having the same talk about the weight and you are doing your best, but no results. The weight seems to come off in waves. I seem to be able to drop 5-6 lbs, then I will gain 2 lbs back overnight despite the same diet and sctivity level. I tried cutting out the diet drinks and I seemed to lose it faster. I never attributed it to the caffeine though. The carb stuff makes total sense and I suspected that too. Sometimes you just need a little encouragement. I feel like my dr thinks that I am lacking effort. - 7/13/2012 12:52:58 PM
  • No wonder I can't lose any weight. Doc says the synthroid is keeping me in the middle of the range and the weight should be melting off. These last few months since I started taking the meds have been the worst of my life. I have never been so tired - it's like the tiredness when you are 9 months pg or are fighting the flu. Finally going to see an endochronologist to get to the bottom of it. - 4/17/2012 9:31:52 PM
  • Great article. Just to give people hope--I met my goal. 57 pounds. Yes, it takes longer (three years) and strategies like the one in this article. I am 55 years old, post-menopausal, and had almost give up. But there was a spark left that I blew into a flame. - 4/17/2012 5:48:14 PM
  • Finally! After trying to explain to the endocrinologist, family doctor and a nutritionist that my weight loss and exercise efforts seem to result in almost opposite of intended results this article validates my suspicions. The advice to lower the carbohydrate range is helpful; I had suspected that might be something to try, but it's good to get confirmation. Realizing that any change should be a sustainable lifestyle change it is a bit sobering to realize that I'll need to be so careful with my eating and exercise habits for the rest of my life but that is a blessing in the long run. - 1/15/2012 5:49:25 PM
  • I have been Hypo for 20 years, thyroid just stopped working in my early 20's. First Make sure you are on the right dosage of medication. I was on Synroid 75 for years and was fine. Then in my late 30's I started feeling extremely fatigued again plus had started having severe IBS symptoms. When I went to get my levels check I kept being told I was normal (I was at 3.8) . Finally, I went to a different doctor and went up to the next dosage level 88. Every symptom I was having went away. Lots of Doctors are still using the old scale for checking your levels. I am now at 1.3 and feel fine.

    Also you will gain weight easily and lose it S-L-O-W-L-Y. But you can lose. Stay away from sugar and process food. Also work on building muscle. I seem to have more success with doing more activities that increase my muscle mass and flexibilty rather than aerobic activity. - 1/12/2012 12:55:12 PM
  • Thanks for the informative and encouraging article. Looking forward to learning more about this condition. - 12/8/2011 3:20:35 PM
  • At least now I have a clue why I haven't been loosing any weight even though I have tried. Maybe now I can approach the subject with my doctor knowing that there is a root cause as to why I haven't lost any weight. It took years before they figured out that I had a problem with my throid but 3 days after starting the medicine he prescribed Ifelt so much better, now to get the excess weight off! - 12/7/2011 10:42:28 PM