Published July 23 2011
Updated September 07 2012
For many people with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, “thyroid weight gain” is a common problem they have to deal with. This is more common with people who have hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, although some people with a hyperthyroid condition are affected by weight gain as well. In either case, while thyroid weight gain isn’t easy to overcome, losing weight usually isn’t as difficult as most people think it is.
The problem is that most people with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition who are trying to lose weight resort solely to minimizing calories and exercise. Without question it is important to minimize calories and exercise regularly, but doing this alone is usually not sufficient to lose weight. So what I’m going to do here is discuss what most people who are experiencing weight gain can do in order to lose weight…and keep it off.
Thyroid Weight Gain Solution #1: Don’t focus too much on reducing calories. Although you obviously don’t want to consume too many calories, if you eat mostly whole foods, and at the same time minimize the amount of refined foods and sugars you consume, then you shouldn’t gain excess weight due to the foods you eat. Once again, restricting calories will also help, but most people who gain weight due to the foods they eat aren’t eating healthy foods. They may think they’re eating healthy, and SOME of the foods they eat might indeed be healthy, but most people also eat a lot of foods which aren’t considered to be healthy, and therefore lead to weight gain.
For example, many people think that pasta is healthy. And while whole wheat pasta is definitely healthier than white pasta, whole wheat pasta still is a processed food. I’m not suggesting that you don’t eat whole wheat pasta at all, but if you eat this a few times each week, like many people do, and don’t watch your portion size, then you probably will gain weight.
Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions avoid gluten. This of course is usually a good thing, but just keep in mind that just because something is gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. The same concept applies to organic foods. For example, you can purchase organic, gluten free cookies, and while it might be okay to eat such a food on an occasional basis, if this is part of your regular diet then it will only make losing weight more difficult. So once again, I’m not suggesting that you need to eat a perfect diet, but if you eat a diet consisting of 80% to 90% whole foods then it will be much easier to lose weight and to keep the weight off.
Thyroid Weight Gain Solution #2: Exercise regularly. Yes, exercising regularly is important for anyone looking to lose weight. But this doesn’t mean you need to engage in 30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily. Ideally you want to engage in at least 30 minutes of mild to moderate cardiovascular exercise three to five times each week. If you aren’t currently on an exercise program then you will want to go about this slowly, perhaps starting with a five minute workout, and then slowly building your endurance. Those with a hyperthyroid condition need to be careful when exercising if they have a high resting pulse rate.
In addition to participating in cardiovascular exercise, doing some light weight lifting can also be beneficial. This can not only help with weight loss, but along with eating a healthy diet can also help with your bone density and can potentially prevent osteoporosis from developing. So I would try to engage in at least 15 to 20 minutes of light weight lifting three or four times each week.
If you have a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition and don’t have the energy to exercise for 30 minutes, then you obviously will need to do what you can, and focus on other areas of your health. So for example, if you can find the energy to do five to ten minutes of light walking each day, and at the same time eat better, get sufficient sleep, and do other things to help restore your thyroid health, then over time you will gain more energy to allow you to increase the amount of time you exercise.
Thyroid Weight Gain Solution #3: Correct Any Existing Hormone Imbalance. This is one of the main reasons why people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have difficulty losing weight. Many people with these conditions are in a state of estrogen dominance and/or insulin resistance. Either one of these conditions will make it extremely difficult for someone to lose weight.
I have spoken about these issues numerous times, as most endocrinologists and other types of medical doctors don’t do anything to determine if someone has a hormone imbalance. Both insulin resistance and estrogen dominance are very common conditions, and in my opinion it’s crazy that most doctors don’t do anything to detect these conditions. The good news is that these hormone imbalances are usually relatively easy to correct once detected, although it does take time to accomplish this.
So if you are experiencing “thyroid weight gain”, and if counting calories and exercising regularly isn’t working, then you will want to pay attention to what I have discussed here in this article. With regards to diet, I realize that some weight loss companies claim you can eat anything you want as long as you restrict calories. But while this might work for some people, for most people this isn’t a long-term solution. The best long-term solution for maintaining proper weight is to eat mostly whole foods, minimize the processed foods you consume, and to exercise regularly.
Taking this approach will also help a great deal with the hormone imbalance issue. Eating healthy most of the time and exercising regularly will greatly minimize the risk of developing insulin resistance, and will also help to prevent estrogen dominance from developing. If you already have either one of these conditions (or both), then in addition to eating healthier you might need to go through a detoxification program. This isn’t always necessary, but for many people with estrogen dominance or insulin resistance it can help in a big way. This is especially true for those who have a buildup of hormones in their tissues from taking bioidentical hormones such as estrogen or progesterone. Either way, correcting such a hormone balance will help a great deal with your weight loss efforts.
In summary, overcoming “thyroid weight gain” can be a challenge, but as the title of this article suggests, it is easier to accomplish than most people think. Obviously it takes time to lose the weight, but many people with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition who try to lose weight become frustrated and give up. But by following the advice I have given there is an excellent chance you will shed the unwanted pounds…and keep them off for good.