10 Surprising Tips That Help Thyroid Patients Lose Weight

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Losing weight can be a frustrating process for many people with an underactive thyroid. Whether you have hypothyroidism, or no thyroid after surgery or radioactive iodine (RAI), there's no question that for many of us, the thyroid affects metabolism, and makes weight loss an uphill battle. Here are 10 surprising tips that can help you finally tackle your weight loss frustrations and get on track.

1. Make Sure Your Thyroid Treatment Is Optimized

In terms of weight loss, relief of symptoms, and overall good health, for many thyroid patients, it's not enough for your doctor to diagnose hypothyroidism, and hand you a prescription. More than standard treatment, you may need optimal treatment, to ensure that your cells are getting the oxygen and energy they need to allow your metabolism to do its job.

What is an optimal treatment? A number of physicians have shared their thoughts on optimal hypothyroidism treatment, but here's a quick summary:

  • Typically, TSH is less than 2.0
  • The Free T3 is in the top half of the reference range, or even the top 25th percentile of the reference range
  • The Free T4 is in the top half of the reference range (unless you're on a T4/T3 medication, in which case it can sometimes be lower)

If your numbers aren't matching up, it's time to have a conversation with your practitioner about optimal hypothyroidism treatment. And if your doctor is only interested in getting you to the "normal" range, then it's time for a new doctor.

2. Sleep

One of the most important things that you can do is get enough sleep. If you want to lose weight, experts state women who sleep 5 hours or less per night generally weigh more than women who sleep 7 hours per night. In fact, women who slept 5 hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain (an increase of 33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to become obese over the course of a 16-year study, compared to those who slept 7 hours a night.

So if weight loss is a challenge, get at least 7 hours a night.

3. Consider Going Gluten-Free

There is a link between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, and the development of autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Some patients have reported significant weight loss when they shifted to a gluten-free diet.

To get started, you don't have to commit to a lifetime of gluten-free eating. Try eating gluten-free for three months, and if you notice less bloating, more energy, and you lose some weight, this is a good sign that eliminating gluten is a helpful weight loss approach for you.

4. Try Different Ways of Eating

There is no one "best thyroid diet." So if you've tried a commercial weight loss program, and it doesn't work, try a different one. If you tried low-carb, and that doesn't work, try a Paleo approach. If you haven't tried eliminating sugar, or dairy, give that a try.

Some thyroid patients have lost weight on low-carb, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, and a variety of other types of programs and plans. The key is to try different approaches, and when you find something that's working, stick with it.

5. Boost Your Metabolism

While hypothyroidism can slow the thyroid, proper treatment should help restore metabolism to a more normal level. That said, some patients still notice a slower-than-usual metabolism, even with optimal treatment.

The solution? Boost your metabolism! Exercise — especially movement that builds muscle, as well as sufficient hydration, and eating food that has a high thermic effect can all help boost the metabolism.

6. Check Fasting Glucose

It's important to make sure your fasting glucose (blood sugar) is not elevated. Fasting levels above 90 may be a sign of insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, which can make weight loss even more difficult. For very high levels, your doctor may prescribe a type 2 diabetes drug like metformin. But for borderline levels, reducing the sugar and carbohydrates in your diet, and following a healthy carbohydrate controlled diet — like Dr. Ron Rosedale's "Rosedale Diet Plan" — can lower blood sugar, and help with weight loss.

7. Read and Learn

If you want a detailed understanding of the thyroid, metabolism, effect on weight, and diet tips and guidelines, you may want to read my book Thyroid Diet Revolution. I also recommend Dr. Sara Gottfried's book The Hormone Reset Diet.

8. Change WHEN You Eat

Some studies have shown that thyroid patients may not have weight loss success when they follow the "mini-meal"/grazing all day approach to eating. Instead, limiting eating to two or three meals per day, with no snacks, and no food after 8 p.m., may help stimulate fat-burning and help regulate hunger hormones.

Another approach that may be effective is intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. Learn more about intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating approaches.

9. Watch Thyroid-Unfriendly Foods

If you're trying to lose weight, you need to be careful not to overdo raw goitrogens (cruciferous vegetables like spinach, kale, cabbage, etc., that can slow your thyroid down.) You also want to be careful about too much soy, which can block thyroid absorption, and also slow the thyroid down.

10. Water and Fiber

It's especially important for thyroid patients to make sure you are drinking enough water. Hydration helps metabolism, and also helps you get rid of toxins that get in the way of weight loss.

It's also crucial that you make sure your diet includes enough fiber. Here is a list of high-fiber foods. (But remember that the goitrogens need to be cooked or steamed so they don't slow down your thyroid!)

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