I never thought I’d wonder how to lose weight with hypothyroidism.
But there I was. Sitting on my bed in my pajamas and fuzzy socks, cuddled up and shivering, I’d just ended the phone call with my doctor.
My TSH levels were 13.4. The normal range for TSH levels is 0.35-5.5. Needless to say, I had a health problem. The news didn’t come as a surprise—all the signs were there.
I’d been losing hair for months. My energy was low all the time. I cried on the phone to my boyfriend at least once per week.
How was I going to solve my problem?
The doctor prescribed me medication for my thyroid over the phone. I didn’t even have to visit his office. Part of that alarmed me… how eager the doctor was to start me on medication. He didn’t even explain my other options to me. The only option in his medical mind was to pop a pill.
I knew I had other options. My husband (then boyfriend), Rob, had prodded me to supplement my diet with iodine for months. Rob knew all about my problems. And I kept denying them… waiting for them to disappear.
I had a choice: either take the medication or supplement with the nutrients themselves. I weighed my options and decided to opt for supplementation—the holistic approach.
I bought Lugol’s Iodine Solution off Amazon that morning. I quickly completed my morning routine so I could leave home early. I was going to buy Brazil nuts from my local grocery store.
Losing weight with hypothyroidism is possible
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in December 2013. Since then I’ve been able to lose 30 pounds. Though it might not seem like much, at the time I was on the higher end of a healthy weight at 160 pounds. I’m 5 feet, 8 inches tall.
The transformation has been life-changing. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I’m relieved my hair isn’t falling out and I don’t feel cold all the time. I have the energy to live my life. I’m exponentially happier.
And now I have control over my life.
Getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism was uncomfortable. It made me feel as if I didn’t have control over my weight or my hormones. As if I didn’t have control over myself anymore.
It would’ve been simple to forget my healthy weight loss goals. I could’ve used the diagnosis as a reason (i.e., excuse) to give up on losing weight. But I didn’t.
In fact, I was inspired. The diagnosis empowered me to take control of my body, my weight, and my life.
I lost weight after I was diagnosed. Learn how to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism by following the tips and tricks I learned.
1. Eat foods with low caloric density
When I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I was trying to eat a raw food diet. I enjoyed lots of fruits and vegetables, but also ate loads of nuts, seeds, and oil.
There’s nothing wrong with nuts and seeds. As you can see in my dietary guidelines, I recommend a serving of nuts or seeds per day.
Yet I was eating more than a serving of nuts or seeds per day. I was eating several.
In addition to the nuts and seeds, I added a lot of oil to my meals. Oil has a reputation for being healthy, especially olive oil and coconut oil. But in reality, oils are empty calories.
The nuts, seeds, and oil prevented me from losing weight when I was eating buckets of fruits and vegetables. In fact, I even gained weight during my raw food period.
My first piece of advice is this: eat foods with low caloric density.
What’s caloric density? It’s the concentration of calories in your food. Foods with low caloric density spread out the calories over a large volume.
Consider a salad. A giant bowl of salad might have only 200 calories. A salad is a textbook example of a dish with low caloric density.
Now picture a tablespoon of olive oil. In that tablespoon of olive oil, there are 120 calories. Oils are foods that have high caloric density.
Foods with low caloric density fill you up without stuffing you with calories. Weight loss isn’t as simple as calories-in-calories-out, but eating fewer calories always helps.
2. Eat foods that digest slowly
I recommend eating foods with low caloric densities. That still leaves you with many foods to choose from. Should you eat beans or grains? Fruit or vegetables?
I’d normally recommend eating whatever you enjoy most. But hypothyroidism changes the circumstances.
When you want to lose weight with hypothyroidism, it’s best to eat foods that digest slowly. This means eating starches instead of sugar and foods that are slightly higher in protein.
Starch and sugar are two types of carbohydrates. I suggest eating starch over sugar because starch digests slower than sugar. The body has to work harder when digesting starch.
Regardless of the type of carbohydrate, your body breaks them down into glucose.
Sugars are simple carbohydrates, so they need less time and effort to break down. Starches are complex carbohydrates. They first need to be transformed into simple carbs, which then need to be converted into glucose.
All in all, complex carbs keep your stomach working for longer. The food takes longer to digest, which takes you longer to feel hungry.
This is the same reason I suggest to eat foods that are slightly higher in protein. Protein digests slower than carbohydrates.
A stomach that works longer keeps your warm. I’ll talk about why keeping yourself warm is essential later.
Let’s put these abstract ideas into real foods. This advice translates into eating legumes (chickpeas, beans, peas, lentils, etc.) and colorful vegetables (carrots, spinach, beets, etc.). These foods have low caloric density and have more protein than fruits and grains.
Here’s what a day might look like for you:
- Breakfast: Black bean, banana and a cocoa smoothie (don’t knock it before you try it!)
- Lunch: Hummus, beet and spinach sandwich on whole grain bread with a side salad
- Dinner: Mixed bean chili with sweet potato
3. Drink plenty of water or tea
Drinking enough water is essential if you want to be healthy. It’s even more important when you want to lose weight.
I wish I’d known the importance of water when I first tried to lose weight. Often, you believe you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty. Then you eat when you don’t need to. This results in eating too many calories.
Eating too many calories slows or stops your weight loss. It could even cause you to gain weight.
Keeping yourself hydrated prevents you from eating when you’re thirsty.
4. Keep yourself warm
The last two tips both play into keeping yourself warm.
I remember how cold I was when I wasn’t managing my hypothyroidism. I wore long-sleeved shirts all the time. I kept my hat and scarf on when I was inside. I used three blankets on my bed to keep me warm at night. I even bought a space heater to my room.
I ate a lot during this period. At the time, I didn’t realize I wasn’t eating because I was hungry. I was eating because I was cold. My body was using food to heat itself up.
To lose weight with hypothyroidism, you need to keep yourself warm. Eating foods that digest slowly keep your metabolism humming. And drink liquids that are room temperature or warm rather than cold.
Since warm water isn’t particularly appealing, I recommend warm lemon water or tea. Pick one and lug around a thermos of your favorite liquid wherever you go. It keeps you hydrated and warm.
5. Increase your physical activity
Working out might be the last thing you want to do with hypothyroidism. You’re exhausted, freezing and depressed. How could you ever motivate yourself to work out?
Though motivation can be a challenge, working out is worth it for three reasons.
- It’ll keep you warm
- It’ll burn extra calories
- It’ll boost your mood
It’s obvious that working out warms you up when you’re doing it. Your muscles work, you become hot, you sweat. You expect your body temperature to increase when you work out.
The warmth you feel when you work out isn’t the only way exercising keeps you warm. Having more muscle burns more calories while you’re not active.
The way working out keeps you warmly relates to the extra calories. To keep warm, you must burn calories. You don’t only burn calories when you’re moving. You burn more calories when you’re at rest if you increase your muscle mass.
The third reason to work out is that it’ll make you happy. Exercise releases pleasure hormones in your brain. You’ll feel happy afterward, even though you might not want to work out initially.
It’s not just the short-term hormones that will lift your mood. The positive feelings will stick around when you notice how exercise boosts your weight loss and body image. Though you won’t look different after one workout, you’ll see and feel a difference after a month. I did.