How to Lose Weight When You're Hypothyroid

Mary Shomon | Aug 21, 2017

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When you are hypothyroid, losing weight — or slowing unexpected weight gain — can be a challenge. Here are some important tips on how to lose weight with an underactive thyroid.

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Optimize your thyroid treatment

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If you are hypothyroid and being treated with a prescription thyroid hormone replacement drug, you may still find it difficult or impossible to lose weight if your thyroid hormone replacement is not optimal. Generally, this means a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) less than 2.5, and free T4 and free T3 in the upper half of the reference range. Get tested and explore dosage changes, added T3, or natural desiccated thyroid to achieve optimal treatment.

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Boost your metabolism with food

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Even after treatment, hypothyroidism can slow your metabolism. One way to increase your metabolism is to replace sugar and simple carbohydrates (such as low-fiber bread, pasta, desserts) with high-fiber, low-calorie foods that require more energy to digest. Some high-fiber, lower-calorie foods include:

  • Beans and legumes, such as cooked peas, black beans
  • Vegetables such as raw carrots, turnip greens, artichokes, okra, and squash
  • Fruits, such as berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries), pears, and apples
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Add more fiber

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In addition to burning more calories to digest, fiber has many other benefits for thyroid patients who want to lose weight:

  • A diet high in fiber is associated with a reduced risk of insulin resistance.
  • Fiber is a key ingredient to combating constipation, a common problem in people with hypothyroidism.
  • Fiber makes you feel fuller, which can help reduce your caloric intake.

Experts recommend you aim for 25 or more grams of fiber per day from foods and supplements.

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Increase your metabolism with muscle

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Since hypothyroidism can lower your metabolism — the level and speed at which your body burns calories — one way to raise metabolism is to incorporate more physical activity, movement, and exercise into your daily life. For exercise, keep in mind that muscle burns more calories than fat, so focus on muscle-building activity like lifting weights, Pilates, or workouts that use your own body weight, such as T-Tapp or yoga.

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Burn more calories

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While what and how much you eat is important, it’s also important to burn more calories. Incorporating regular exercise such as brisk walking, running, cycling, and other aerobic activity into your daily life is the best way to increase the number of calories you burn each daily.

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Control your blood sugar

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Chronically elevated blood sugar increases your risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Have your practitioner regularly check your hemoglobin A1C (HA1C) and fasting glucose levels, and if they are elevated, consider a low-sugar (low-glycemic), carbohydrate-controlled diet, like the Rosedale Diet. If more help is needed, oral or injectable type 2 diabetes medications may also make you more sensitive to insulin.

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Encourage fat-burning

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A thyroid condition can affect your body’s sensitivity to leptin. Leptin is the hormone that helps your body know when to store fat, versus burn fat. Leptin resistance makes you more effective at storing fat, and less effective at burning it. You can reduce leptin resistance by eliminating snacks, eating two or three meals daily, avoiding food after 8 p.m., and allowing 10 to 12 hours between your last meal of the day and breakfast.

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Reduce inflammation

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Inflammation — common in thyroid patients — is associated with weight gain, and difficulty losing weight. Eliminate inflammatory foods like sugar, processed foods, and allergens, and incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods, like fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

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Drink enough water

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Dehydration is a factor that contributes to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Make sure that you get a sufficient intake of water each day. How much do you need? One gauge is the color of your urine: it should be very pale yellow, not deep yellow or concentrated. Some experts suggest that you drink from one-half to one ounce of water for every pound of your target body weight. Keep in mind that water in soups and other drinks counts toward your daily total.

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Get enough sleep

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Numerous studies, including a major study conducted by Harvard, found that women who sleep 5 hours or less per night — compared to 7 hours — have a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese and a 30 percent higher risk of gaining significant amounts of weight. Aim for 7 hours or more per night to help with your weight loss effort.