How to Lose Weight with Hypothyroidism

Diet and Exercise Tips for an Underactive Thyroid

Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) slows down your metabolism, making weight loss challenging. It can also cause symptoms like weakness and fatigue, which can impact your ability to exercise and prepare healthful meals.

Strategies for how to lose weight with hypothyroidism include eating non-processed foods, exercising, and reviewing your medications. Weight loss can help you regain energy and improve your overall quality of life.

This article provides diet and weight loss tips to help you manage your weight when you have an underactive thyroid.

how to lose weight with thyroid disease
Verywell / Emily Roberts

How Hypothyroidism Affects Weight

When you have mild hypothyroidism, even before your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) is high enough to warrant treatment, your metabolism can slow down significantly, causing you to burn fewer calories each day.

Hypothyroidism can also make you tired, achy, and less likely to exercise, making it even more challenging to manage your weight. On top of this, when you're tired, you're more likely to crave high-sugar foods for energy.

A buildup of salt and water can also contribute to weight gain associated with an underactive thyroid.

If you have symptoms of thyroid disease, see your healthcare provider immediately and get informed about the diagnosis and treatment process.

Increase Your Fiber Intake

Eating more fiber-rich foods like beans, whole grains, and berries can have a number of health benefits for someone with hypothyroidism. These include:

  • Makes you feel fuller, faster. Because it takes longer to digest fiber, you need to eat less high-fiber foods in order to feel full. This can help you lose weight over the long term.
  • Helps prevent constipation. Hypothyroidism slows down digestion, which can cause chronic constipation. Increasing your fiber intake can help keep your bowel movements regular.
  • Helps lower cholesterol. People with hypothyroidism can have elevated cholesterol levels. A diet high in fiber can help combat this.
  • Helps control blood sugar. Because it takes longer to digest high -iber foods, the sugar in those foods takes longer to reach your bloodstream. This can help keep your blood sugar in control.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Plant-based foods are an important part of any diet, but eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be especially helpful for someone with hypothyroidism.

Vegetables are low in calories, so eating more of them can help you feel full without contributing to weight gain.

Moreover, studies have found that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal products can help protect against cellular damage in people with hypothyroidism.

Choose High-Quality Proteins

Diets low in protein can inhibit thyroid function. This can contribute to an underactive thyroid. Making sure you get enough protein can help combat hypothyroidism.

Protein can also help increase your metabolism and reduce hunger. This means good quality protein can help you burn calories and reduce the desire to overeat.

Eat Healthy Fats

It's important to avoid unhealthy sources of fat like deep fried foods and processed oils, but healthy fats can be an important part of a hypothyroidism diet. Some healthy sources of fat include:

  • Cold water fish like salmon and tuna
  • Seeds like flax and chia
  • Nuts such as Brazil nuts and walnuts

Like fiber and protein, healthy fats can help you feel fuller for longer. They may also help control the hormones that make you feel hungry.

These foods also contain important nutrients. Brazil nuts, in particular, are high in selenium, which is essential for healthy thyroid function.

Focus on Whole Grains and Limit Simple Carbs

Brown rice, wheat bread, popcorn, and other whole grains provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are vital for optimal health. Whole grains take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates like white rice and white bread, so they keep you fuller for longer.

Simple carbohydrates contribute many calories to your diet yet offer few nutrients. Be sure to consume them in moderation.

Add Aerobic Exercise

Though it is not a substitute for medication, being physically active can support healthy thyroid function, help you manage your weight, and boost your overall health.

Exercising can also help raise your metabolism, increasing the calories you burn daily. Studies suggest moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise can suppress your appetite by balancing appetite-regulating hormones.

To reap the health benefits of exercise, aim for moderate-intensity aerobic activity 30 minutes a day, five days a week. (You could also do 45 to 60 minutes a day, three days a week.) Aim to perform muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.

If you have not exercised in a long time, consider starting with 10-minute walks twice a week. Over time, you can increase your pace and duration.

Besides brisk walking, moderate-intensity aerobic exercises include water aerobics, cycling, tennis, raking the yard, and mowing the lawn.

Examples of muscle-strengthening exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands, body-weight exercises (push-ups, squats, etc.), and heavy yard work, like shoveling or digging.

Drink Water

Dehydration can make you feel exhausted, tired, and achy. Drinking enough water keeps your metabolism working efficiently. It can also help reduce your appetite, eliminate water retention and bloating, and improve elimination and digestion.

Although there is no official recommendation for how much plain water we should drink each day, the total amount of water recommended for healthy adults is 11.5 cups for women and 15.5 cups for men.

Around 20% of the fluid we take in comes from the foods we eat. Therefore, women would need around 9 cups of water or other fluids daily and men around 13 cups to meet daily fluid requirements.

Get Enough Sleep

One of the most important things you can do to boost weight loss is get enough sleep. Numerous studies link sleep deprivation to a slowed metabolism and obesity. Not getting enough sleep may make you more vulnerable to developing heart disease or diabetes.

It is a good idea to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, especially if weight loss is a challenge.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

If you're being treated for hypothyroidism and you're still struggling with your weight, talk to your healthcare provider. You may need further testing or a change in medication.

Time For a Medication Change?

Some medications healthcare providers prescribe for thyroid-related symptoms or other conditions can cause weight gain. The following medications are associated with weight gain:

If you're taking any of these medications and you're gaining weight, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Never stop taking a medication without your healthcare provider's input.

Additional Testing

Research shows that hormone resistance problems—including leptin resistance and insulin resistance—may contribute to the difficulties many thyroid patients face in losing weight

And since both hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism are associated with insulin resistance, you should consider having your fasting glucose and insulin levels tested, evaluated, and treated.

Fasting glucose above 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) may be a sign of insulin resistance and prediabetes, which can make weight loss even more difficult.

For borderline levels, limiting added sugars, practicing mindful eating, and reducing your intake of foods high in refined carbohydrates, such as pastries, French, fries, and potato chips, can lower your blood sugar and help with weight loss.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe a type 2 diabetes drug like Glucophage (metformin) for chronically elevated levels.

Thyroid Disease Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is it hard to lose weight with hypothyroidism?

    Hypothyroidism can slow your metabolism and cause fatigue so you don’t burn calories efficiently and are less able or motivated to exercise. Water retention and chronic constipation can also contribute to weight gain.

  • Can B12 supplements help someone with hypothyroidism lose weight?

    There's an association between hypothyroidism and B12 deficiency, and there's a connection between low levels of B12 and obesity. However, it's not clear whether this deficiency causes weight gain. It hasn't been shown that B12 supplements will help you lose weight either.

15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. The American Thyroid Association. Thyroid and weight.

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  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?

  9. MedlinePlus. Exercise and activity for weight loss.

  10. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Water and healthier drinking habits.

  11. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How much water do you need?

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  13. Iwen KA, Schröder E, Brabant G. Thyroid hormones and the metabolic syndrome. Eur Thyroid J. 2013;2(2):83-92. doi:10.1159/000351249

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Additional Reading
  • Braverman L, Cooper D. Werner & Ingbar's The Thyroid: A Fundamental and Clinical Text. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins/Wolters Kluwer; 2012.

  • Garber J, Cobin RH, Gharib H, et al. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocrine Practice. 2012 Nov-Dec;18(6):988–1028. doi:10.4158/EP12280.GL.

  • Iwen KA, Schröder E, Brabant G. Thyroid Hormones and the Metabolic Syndrome. European Thyroid Journal. 2013;2(2):83–92. doi:10.1159/000351249.

  • Knutson KL. Does Inadequate Sleep Play a Role in Vulnerability to Obesity? American Journal of Human Biology. 2012;24(3):361–371. doi:10.1002/ajhb.22219.

  • Laurberg P, Knudsen N, Andersen S, Carlé A, Pedersen IB, Karmisholt J. Thyroid Function and Obesity. European Thyroid Journal. 2012;1(3):159–167. doi:10.1159/000342994.

  • Schneider DF, Nookala R, Jaraczewski TJ, Chen H, Solorzano CC, Sippel RS. Thyroidectomy as Primary Treatment Optimizes BMI in Patients With Hyperthyroidism. Annals of Surgical Oncology. 2014;21(7):2303–2309. doi:10.1245/s10434-014-3542-8.

By Lindsey DeSoto, RD, LD
Lindsey Desoto is a registered dietitian with experience working with clients to improve their diet for health-related reasons. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives.

Originally written by Mary Shomon
Mary Shomon
Mary Shomon is a writer and hormonal health and thyroid advocate. She is the author of "The Thyroid Diet Revolution."
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