One of the most common complaints of people with thyroid disease is an inability to lose weight, despite a healthy diet and exercise. As a thyroid patient, you may feel like you are immune to the effects of even the most rigorous diet and exercise program, and some of you may even find yourself gaining weight, seemingly defying physics.
The Thyroid Link
The mechanism by which an underactive thyroid causes weight gain—or an inability to lose weight—isn’t well understood, but it has to do in part with several key factors:
- 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
- The tendency to hold on to fluid in tissues
For some people, a thyroid condition is a reason for unsuccessful weight loss efforts. And we now know that, according to researchers, even slight shifts in thyroid function are linked to weight gain.
If you are a thyroid patient 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 undiagnosed and untreated, or undertreated, hypothyroidism.
For some thyroid patients, it’s 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, first step, partner with a knowledgeable practitioner and get optimal thyroid treatment.
Other Hormones Play a Key Role
Some thyroid patients experience other hormonal shifts that can get in the way of successful weight loss. For example:
- Thyroid patients 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 pre-diabetes, 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 both important factors that can affect successful weight loss for thyroid dieters. 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 cut too much and slow metabolism to such a degree that a weight loss effort is sabotaged. Find out if you are eating enough calories to lose weight.
Whatever diet or exercise plan you are following, there are two basic requirements that you should incorporate into your weight loss plan:
- Get sufficient sleep. Studies show that this is one of the most important things you can do to help lose weight.
- 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—especially thyroid patients who may have somewhat slower digestion—who more frequently experiences constipation, fiber may have some significant weight loss benefits. In particular, incorporating more high-fiber foods into the diet may be part of a successful weight loss approach.
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 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.
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.
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. If you are tempted to try the drug Alli/Xenical—the generic name is 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: