More than one in 10 Americans (and one in 8 women) will develop a thyroid disorder in their life. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism causes weight gain.
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition caused by an underactive thyroid, a gland in your neck that secretes necessary hormones. (Hyper-thyroidism means an over-active thyroid.)
Weight gain is often one of the first signs that the endocrine system is experiencing issues.
It can be challenging to get rid of that extra weight, especially when other symptoms of hypothyroidism seem to create a vicious circle.
Can you lose weight when you have hypothyroidism? Yes, you can lose weight with hypothyroidism through changes in diet, eating patterns, stress, and exercise. We’re here to show you how.
As many as 60% of people with thyroid disease don’t know they have one. If you gain weight with no explanation, consider asking a healthcare professional about hypothyroidism.
If you’re interested in working one-on-one with the PrimeHealth team, schedule your consultation using this link.
How to Lose Weight If You Have Hypothyroidism
A diagnosis of hypothyroidism can feel overwhelming at first, and treatment can feel like a mountain to climb.
You may have thyroid issues caused by Hashimoto’s disease or even secondary hypothyroidism. Secondary hypothyroidism is caused by a failure of the pituitary gland.
But don’t fret! If you have trouble with increasing body weight, we can take you through simple guidelines on how to lose weight with hypothyroidism.
There are natural treatments for hypothyroidism weight loss without jumping onto medication.
Just remember to treat these changes as a new lifestyle, not just a quick thyroid diet for weight loss. We want your changes to be sustainable. Here are the best tips, from stress reduction to eating habits, for hypothyroidism and weight loss.
Step 1: Eliminate Sugar
How can I lose weight fast with hypothyroidism? One simple way to lose weight fast with hypothyroidism is to cut out sugar.
Sugar is your enemy. Not only is sugar consumption linked to the epidemic of obesity sweeping the country, but sugar is also an inflammatory agent. This one ingredient is linked to so many different wellness issues.
Avoid sugar at all costs in your hypothyroidism diet plan for weight loss.
Additionally, simple carbohydrates break down into sugar, or glucose. That’s why sweet, bread-based treats and empty carbs like chips and cookies aren’t on your new meal plan.
Just eliminating sugar isn’t the only answer — below, we detail what foods you should eat.
Step 2: Follow A Diet for Hypothyroidism
Being hypothyroid doesn’t mean avoiding all your favorite foods. After cutting out sugar and going low-carb, you probably want to know what is on and off the table– literally.
We’ve made a list of foods to eat and avoid, but the bottom line is that foods that feed inflammation need to be removed from your meals. Clearing up inflammation through diet can help your thyroid function properly.
Foods to Eat
At PrimeHealth, we recommend following the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet to those diagnosed with hypothyroidism (especially when autoimmunity is a trigger) for between 1-6 months.
AIP is one type of Hashimoto’s diet to lose weight. In straightforward terms, AIP is like the Whole30 diet with a few additional restrictions.
Eating this way has two main advantages:
- The AIP diet is designed to eliminate inflammatory foods that can trigger the root causes of hypothyroidism (called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).
- The AIP diet incorporates all anti-inflammatory healthy foods that encourage weight loss.
Following an Autoimmune Paleo diet is also incredibly useful for identifying foods that specifically trigger your hypothyroidism symptoms.
While the AIP diet allows small amounts of honey, maple syrup, and fruits, the most prevalent foods in this hypothyroidism diet are proteins and vegetables.
Here are your new favorite foods for losing weight with hypothyroidism:
- Lean proteins:
- Seafood (especially fish, rich in healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids)
- Non-dairy fermented foods:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Non-nightshade veggies
- Cruciferous vegetables (like kale and brussels sprouts)
- Sulfur-rich veggies (like garlic and onions)
- Herbs like rosemary and turmeric
- Collagen and bone broth
- Green tea
- Arrowroot starch
- Small amounts of honey, maple syrup, fruits, and monk fruit
Foods To Avoid
Is it possible to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism? Yes, it is possible to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism, but only if you’re willing to change up your diet.
Avoid inflammatory foods for weight loss when you have an underactive thyroid, contributing to weight gain. Keep your balanced diet gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free.
Essentially, any potential food allergens are forbidden in a hypothyroidism diet. You may be surprised by some of the ones listed below.
If you have hypothyroidism and can’t lose weight, eliminate these foods from your diet:
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruits
- Beans/legumes (because of the potential allergen lectin)
- All nightshade vegetables:
- Vegetable oils, like canola oil
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- Refined sugar
- Alternative sweeteners:
- Processed foods
Cutting out these inflammatory foods will promote healthy weight loss and may even lessen the severity of your hypothyroidism.
Step 3: Use Time-Restricted Eating
To stabilize your weight (or lose more), you may want to try time-restricted eating (also called intermittent fasting or IMF).
Here are the basics:
- To practice time-restricted eating, choose a specified time window in your day during which you’ll eat.
- The end of this window should be no fewer than 2 hours before bedtime, which will protect you from blood sugar spikes while sleeping.
- There should be at least 12 hours between the last bite of food one day and your first bite the next day.
- Extending your fasting window to 14 or even 16 hours may even be more beneficial when trying to lose weight.
As it turns out, time-restricted eating is a well-researched option for weight loss. In studies involving both animal and human subjects, fasting in this way may help you lose weight and even enjoy better metabolic fitness.
Keep in mind that if you suffer from hypoglycemia or diabetes and cannot increase your fasting window safely, you should talk to your doctor before starting this kind of eating plan.
Step 4: Use Stress Relief Techniques
Stress is a leading contributor to an underactive thyroid. Relieving stress can lead to a normal balance in your hormone levels. If your thyroid is normalized, your metabolism will speed up again.
And outside of hypothyroidism, stress has been linked to obesity in general. This is primarily due to exposure to excessive amounts of cortisol over time.
Here are some practical ways to relieve stress:
- Sleep. A full 8 hours of high-quality sleep is essential for stress relief.
- Turn off technology before bed. Cutting out blue light exposure an hour before bedtime can improve your sleep quality. You can do this by using software that blocks blue light, like f.lux and iristech.
- Use blue light blocking glasses. We also encourage everyone to use blue-light blocking glasses after sunset if using any electronic devices, which helps to reduce cortisol production. Use code PRIMEHEALTH for 10% off of our favorite blue light blocking glasses at Ra Optics.
- Meditate. Practicing meditation is another way to alleviate your stress and decrease excessive cortisol production.
- Go outside. Spending time outdoors, especially in primarily green locations, can lower your stress and cortisol levels.
Reducing your stress levels is one of the best ways to lose weight with hypothyroidism without medication.
Step 5: Exercise Almost Every Day
We recommend regular exercise for thyroid patients to lose weight. Exercise is a fantastic natural treatment for hypothyroidism, helping to:
- Relieve depression
- Increase energy
- Boost self-esteem
- Reduce joint pain
- Increase muscle mass
- Improve insulin resistance
- Lose unwanted weight
- Maintain that healthy weight
Physical therapists and endocrinologists alike would probably suggest low-impact cardio exercise, especially to start out. Consult with a doctor before engaging in higher intensity strength training.
Aim to exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
How much weight should you lose with hypothyroidism? Determine your healthy weight by starting with a normal BMI range for your height. Every person is different, so talk to your doctor about exactly how much weight you should try to lose.
Step 6: Get The Right Nutrients and Supplements
Here are the best natural dietary supplements to lessen the severity of your hypothyroidism, promote healthy metabolism, and promote hypothyroidism-related weight loss.
- Iodine is essential to healthy thyroid function. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of goiters, a thyroid disorder. Iodine is important in preventing autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s, that lead to hypothyroidism. Recent research reveals iodine’s weight loss potential in thyroid patients.
- Gut healing herbs and probiotics help remove inflammatory microbes and promote “good” bacteria, essential to gut health. Gut health is closely linked to your immune system, which is closely related to your thyroid health. Improved thyroid function means better metabolism. Improving your gut health is also linked to weight loss. Join our online course, Prime Gut Health, to heal & optimize your gut today.
- Selenium is found in fish and muscle meats. As a supplement, researchers found that selenium improved biomarkers of hypothyroidism. Selenium also improves mood, which can relieve stress. Both stress relief and improved thyroid function speed up your metabolism.
- Glutathione is the most abundant antioxidant in the human body. In supplement form, glutathione fights oxidative stress that leads to inflammation. 2018 research reveals that glutathione promotes weight loss in certain obese individuals.
- Curcumin, the primary component in turmeric, fights inflammation and promotes heart health. Animal studies show that curcumin also regulates body fat.
Consult a healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant with hypothyroidism. Your nutritional needs may be different during this time.
At PrimeHealth, your dietary and supplement plan is always personalized to your needs and personal labs from blood tests.
For medical-grade, 3rd party tested supplements see our online store.
Why Hypothyroidism Can Lead to Weight Gain
It’s hard to lose weight with hypothyroidism because when your thyroid gland is underactive, your metabolism slows down.
A slow metabolism often means weight gain and can also lead to slower progress when losing weight.
But it’s more than just your metabolism (metabolic rate) slowing — several factors lead to weight gain during hypothyroidism.
An underactive thyroid doesn’t secrete enough T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) hormones. T3 and T4 regulate metabolic processes at the cellular level, and limited T3/T4 production slows your overall metabolism.
Metabolism is how fast your cells turn nutrients into energy. The slower the process, the fewer calories you burn at rest and during activity. With a slow metabolism, more stored calories turn to fat tissue.
Weight gain can be a vicious cycle. Once you have put on weight due to slow metabolism, it can be more difficult to:
- Exercise the proper amount — 2 ½ hours per week, for most people
- Get motivated to work out or adhere to a diet
- Move around as much as you used to during the day (also called “accidental exercise”)
Hypothyroidism leads to fatigue. Fatigue is one of the primary symptoms of an underactive thyroid, as your cells need thyroid hormones to make energy.
Fatigue leads to less physical activity, which can lead to weight gain.
Everyone experiences some fatigue, but hypothyroidism causes chronic fatigue. Treating your thyroid condition, getting enough high-quality sleep, and eating well can decrease fatigue and make your weight loss goals come true.
Weak, Achy, or Stiff Muscles and Joints
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weak and aching muscles, joint pain and stiffness, and potentially even carpal tunnel syndrome. This can make it feel even harder to exercise.
Ask anyone with chronic joint pain: Staying active is a massive struggle.
Although over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can relieve pain, they come with all sorts of side effects. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to reduce hypothyroidism-related joint and muscle swelling so you can get moving again.
Thyroid hormone replacement, thyroid medication (like levothyroxine, though it can also cause side effects), or anti-inflammatory supplements (like curcumin) can treat the root causes of joint and muscle swelling.
When your joints and muscles feel good, physical activity and a healthier weight are easier to achieve.
Another symptom of hypothyroidism is depression. Depression causes a lack of motivation to do anything, including exercise. This lack of exercise can lead to weight gain.
Many experts link hypothyroidism and depression by citing similar symptoms. Others claim hypothyroidism directly causes depression.
Most interestingly, if hypothyroidism is misdiagnosed as a mood disorder, the lithium medication that’s often prescribed can make thyroid problems worse. Effective diagnosis should include measuring thyroid hormone levels, as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.
Isolation fuels depression, as does the indoors. If you find yourself in a depressive state, try spending time with loved ones and enjoying the outdoors.
The AIP diet may also help improve your mood.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when attempting to lose weight with hypothyroidism.
Not only does hypothyroidism directly cause weight gain, but the other symptoms contribute to bodyweight outside the normal range.
However, there’s hope with these natural tips to change your eating habits, relieve stress, exercise regularly, and use natural supplements.
Here at PrimeHealth, we have years of experience with hypothyroidism and weight loss. We focus on each patient as an individual and take the time you need to lose your unwanted weight from hypothyroidism.
At PrimeHealth in Denver, Colorado, we focus on disease prevention, from group medical visits to personalized healthcare. We’d love to offer you a free phone consultation; schedule your conversation today!
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