For those of us living with a thyroid disorder, keeping the weight off can be a frustrating endeavor. If you have Hashimoto’s, it’s even more of a roller coaster ride with your weight fluctuating up and down ceaselessly. Here are some proven ways to lose weight and get back into shape.
- eliminate sugar
- eliminate grains
- reduce stress
- start a paleo or paleo-like diet
- get a good night’s sleep
- exercise too hard
- eat processed food
- eat soy
- stress about food
- give up
This may be a bold and pretty shocking statement to make. But, many of us don’t realize how pervasive sugar is in our American diet. And did you know that sugar is 4X times as addictive as cocaine?
It’s no wonder we have a hard time kicking sugar out of our diets, especially when it’s found in everything from taco seasoning, to tomato sauce to those “healthy” snacks. When it comes to your body, sugar is a major instigator of weight gain. It can lead to insulin and leptin resistance, both of which have a hand in keeping weight on.
In brief, when insulin resistance occurs the glucose (sugar) in your body can get stored as fat. This makes it hard for your body to burn fat as fuel for energy. It’s busy burning the sugar in your body but not the pesky fat sitting around your waist.
Leptin signals whether you should be hungry or not, need to eat to produce more fat or if it’s time to maintain and repair the body. It helps regulate hunger signals, tells the body whether to store fat or if it’s time to burn some.
When you eat a diet high in sugar, grains and processed foods, all that sugar gets metabolized in your fat cells making it hard for you to lose weight. Eliminating sugar from your diet is the best way to supercharge weight loss and it will improve your overall health.
Who doesn’t love a donut, some crusty French bread, a piping plate of pasta or eating warm cookies from the oven? I know I do. In fact, my last meal on this planet will be a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy, this I know for sure. However, eating grains (especially glutinous grains like wheat, rye and barley) affects your waistline.
You may know where this is going – your body converts grains to sugar as well. Sugar! Argh.
When you’re struggling with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease, eating grains inflame your system, putting unnecessary strain on your digestion as well as fanning the flames of an endless cycle of weight gain.
When we’re stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol enters the bloodstream, it sets off a cycle that releases glucose from your tissues. This, in turn, signals your body to store fat – so not cool!
What this means is that when you’re chronically stressed, you’re releasing a steady stream of cortisol into the system. When cortisol is released in the system, it makes your body think it needs to protect itself so it directs the body to store fat in your abdomen (good lord!) and around your organs. And what complicates this even more is that when cortisol signals the body to release glucose, your insulin levels will begin to rise. This neverending cycle can lead to insulin resistance and that leads to more weight gain.
Be very conscious of your stress levels. When you feel them creeping up, take 10 deep breaths, a quick walk outside or a 5-minute break from your desk. Breathe, decompress and de-stress to support weight loss.
When it comes to successfully losing weight with thyroid or autoimmune disease, the Paleo Diet is the best place to start. The Paleo Diet is inspired by the diets of traditional hunter-gatherers. It is a nutrition system where you eat whole foods like meat, vegetables and fruits and abstain from grains and processed foods. The Paleo diet is effective at helping a person balance blood sugar and reverse insulin and leptin resistance. It’s also quite delicious and easy to do.
Paleo diets can be taken to the extreme however. What works best for general weight loss and overall health are meals consisting of 75% – 80% vegetables (a mixture of cooked, raw and fermented), 10-15% protein, 10% high quality fats (from olives, avocados, coconut oil or olive oil) and a small portion of nuts/seeds or even rice. This is a Paleo-like diet and it’s very similar to a Mediterranean diet minus the grains.
Want to lose weight? You need to make sure you’re catching those Zzzz’s. Sleep is a crucial part of a functioning metabolism. When we are sleep deprived, it not only throws off our metabolic system, it makes us hungrier the next day. Studies have shown that when you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll overeat the next day and are likely to choose a bunch of carbs. Not good for that belly, so get some shut-eye!
For a lot of people, when they are overweight and committed to getting fit, they jump into exercise with zeal and try to push themselves to the max. They’ve tried everything but can’t seem to lose weight so they try out all those high-impact exercise programs that help everyone else lose weight – like cross-training, running, aerobics, dancing, high intensity anything.
If you have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s and you get into high-impact exercise, you’ll initially feel great. With every bead of sweat, your endorphins kick in, your mood elevates and you begin to feel like yourself again. But then you’ll crash – you’ll fail to lose weight, you’ll find yourself battling fatigue, irritability and colds and flus. You may actually gain weight. This seems completely counterintuitive especially since many of us are even happy if we can drag our little bums out to exercise on those high fatigue days but exercising too much can not only keep you from healing, it can make your situation worse.
While it is important to exercise daily when you have thyroid or autoimmune disease, it is important to keep it to low-impact activities. You’ll still get the benefit of exercising but with more weight loss.
Our bodies are designed to metabolize food found in nature. When you eat processed food that is loaded with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, chemicals or GMOs (genetically modified organisms), your body doesn’t know what to do with this stuff. It doesn’t recognize processed food as food so has no idea how to process it.
One of the biggest ways processed foods contributes to weight gain is because many of them consist of high-fructose syrup. The body can’t break this down properly and it gets stored as fat.
Soy contains phytoestrogens and eating it can not only disrupt your thyroid further, it can mess up your hormones. When your hormones are not balanced properly, many systems come into play which can affect your metabolism for continued weight gain.
It seems like there are a lot of “no no’s” when it comes to eating for weight loss and that can be stressful. But in fact, there are a load of “Yes” foods. Yes to meat. Yes to vegetables. Yes to fruits. Yes to healthy fats. There are plenty of delicious foods you can eat to feel full, satiated and satisfied if you’re following a Paleo or Paleo-like diet. In fact, you’re likely to be less hungry and have less cravings when you’re following this type of diet because your body will be getting the nourishment it needs.
If you worry about every little thing you eat, you’ll end up making yourself crazy and stressed which will lead to the release of cortisol (which we know from above is not good for weight loss). If you stick to the rule of eating nourishing, whole foods at least 80% of the time, you can enjoy treats in moderation while still shedding pounds.
When you’re suffering from thyroid disease, it is really easy to get overwhelmed and just throw up your hands. But, if you look at eating in a way that supports your body so you can not only heal but also lose weight, your mission will become lighter and more fun. Stick with the Paleo diet for 2 weeks and you’ll see what a great decision you’ve made for yourself and your health.
Making a few tweaks to your diet and lifestyle can have a huge impact on balancing your weight. Try to incorporate just one of these tips every week over the next month. You’ll see the weight melting off and your mood and energy improved in no time.