Thyroid Weight Loss and Diet Solutions

One of the most common struggles of people with thyroid disease is an inability to lose weight despite a healthy diet and exercise. If you can relate, you may feel like you are immune to the effects of even the most rigorous diet and exercise program. You might even find yourself gaining weight.

weight loss and thyroid disease

Verywell / Laura Porter

The Thyroid Link

The mechanism by which an underactive thyroid causes weight gain—or an inability to lose weight—isn't well understood, but several key factors are believed to be at play:​

  • Somewhat slower metabolism
  • Lowered energy, resulting in less movement and exercise
  • Changes to the way your body processes, stores, and burns off fat and glucose
  • Tendency to hold on to fluid in tissues

For some people, a thyroid condition is the reason for unsuccessful weight loss efforts. And according to researchers, even slight shifts in thyroid function are linked to weight gain.

If you have thyroid disease and are frustrated by your efforts to lose weight, take a look at some of the approaches that you may find helpful in overcoming these factors—and get on the right path to healthy eating and successful weight loss.

Optimal Hypothyroidism Treatment Is Vital

In some ways, no matter what diet or exercise approach you follow, you may find it difficult—or even impossible—to lose weight if you have undertreated hypothyroidism. Those who experience this and aren't yet diagnosed with thyroid disease may want to consider testing.

For some people with thyroid disease, it is not enough to get thyroid treatment that puts you into the "reference range." You may discover that you don't lose weight unless your thyroid hormone replacement treatment is optimized. So, as first step, partner with a knowledgeable practitioner and get optimal thyroid treatment.

Other Hormones Play a Key Role

Some people with thyroid disease experience other hormonal shifts that can get in the way of successful weight loss. For example:

  • Those who are struggling with diet should learn about the impact of the hormones leptin and ghrelin on weight loss.
  • Insulin resistance, also known as metabolic syndrome or prediabetes, is a factor that can affect your ability to lose weight.
  • Your adrenal health, and in particular your production of the hormone cortisol, can have an impact on weight loss efforts.

How Much and When You Eat Matters

How much, or how little, you eat and when you eat are important factors that can affect successful weight loss for people with thyroid disease. New studies show that changing your timing of eating and the length of breaks between meals may help enhance your metabolism and promote weight loss.

And while we all know that calories often need to be cut for successful weight loss, they can be reduced too much, slowing metabolism. Find out if you are eating enough calories to lose weight.

Required Basics

Whatever diet or exercise plan you are following, there are two basic requirements that you should incorporate into your weight loss plan:

  1. Get sufficient sleep. Studies show that this is one of the most important things you can do to help lose weight.
  2. Drink enough water. Sufficient water intake and hydration is linked to more successful weight loss efforts.

Foods and Supplements for Weight Loss

For anyone trying to lose weight, fiber may have some significant weight loss benefits. This is especially true for people with thyroid disease who may have somewhat slower digestion and more frequently experience constipation.

Some other foods and supplements that may help, but have not necessarily been extensively studied as far as an impact on thyroid dieters include:

Sabotaging Weight Loss

It's important to know about the role of goitrogens for thyroid patients trying to lose weight. Goitrogens are healthy, cruciferous vegetables, like spinach, kale, and broccoli. When overconsumed, however, especially raw, they have the ability to slow down the thyroid.

You can eat these vegetables in moderation, steamed or cooked, but overdoing it may work against your effort to lose weight.

You'll also want to learn more about the potential concerns of overdoing it with soy-based foods. Not only is soy a goitrogen, but soy can also block the body's absorption of thyroid hormone.


7 Essential Facts About Goitrogens and Diet

Movement, Exercise, and Workouts

Movement—whether it be sports, exercise, or other forms of physical activity—is an important part of any successful weight loss program and is particularly important for thyroid patients.

Start by learning how movement plays a role in boosting a slow metabolism. Movement can also help reduce fluid retention and bloating and make you feel more energetic. Not sure where to start? Check out this thyroid-friendly water workout.

Diet Drugs

There aren't really any truly effective prescription drugs for weight loss on the market at present. But the drugs that are available can pose some dangers for thyroid patients.

Saxenda (liraglutide) and Wegovy (semaglutide) are two similar weight loss drugs that may increase the risk of a rare type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). They are both contraindicated in those with a personal or family history of MTC or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).

Qsymia (phentermine-topiramate) is a stimulant that can raise your heart rate and blood pressure—two things that can also be caused by out-of-range thyroid dosing.

If you are tempted to try the drug Alli or Xenical (orlistat) you will also want to learn how it interacts with thyroid medication.

A Word From Verywell

If you feel like you have been doing everything right and are frustrated by the scale refusing to budge, it's time to troubleshoot your diet and weight loss program. Here are some resources to help:

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3 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.
  1. Sanyal D, Raychaudhuri M. Hypothyroidism and obesity: an intriguing linkIndian J Endocrinol Metab. 2016;20(4):554–7. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.183454

  2. Hoermann R, Midgley JEM, Larisch R, Dietrich JW. Recent Advances in Thyroid Hormone Regulation: Toward a New Paradigm for Optimal Diagnosis and TreatmentFront Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2017;8:364. doi:10.3389/fendo.2017.00364

  3. Bajaj JK, Salwan P, Salwan S. Various possible toxicants involved in thyroid dysfunction: a reviewJ Clin Diagn Res. 2016;10(1):FE01–FE3. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2016/15195.7092

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