Ladies, if you suffer with Hashimoto’s then you already know the struggles day in and day out of this autoimmune condition.
You step on the scale and watch the numbers go up even though you’re working out five days a week.
Clumps of hair fall out in the shower.
Exhaustion is an understatement. The more accurate reality is barely being able to get out of bed no matter how much you sleep.
Your brain fog is so bad you forget the end of your sentence.
I get it, I’ve been there too. I suffered with Hashimoto’s for years after having my Baby Elvis. And the hardest part wasn’t the physical symptoms.
It was not being present for my new family, my new baby, and I watched the strain this placed on the people around me that mattered the most.
And everyone tells you, look, you’re a new mom, fatigue is normal and the baby weight is hard to melt off. A year and a half postpartum I felt like a sinking ship.
I was a shadow of myself.
Heal your body on the inside and outside
I sought out help through conventional medicine. My primary care, endocrinologist, and the gastroenterologist couldn’t give any clear answers. An endoscopy, which is basically a camera shoved down your throat under sedation found inflammation, and the solution of acid blockers brought no relief to the chronic sprint to the bathroom. My TSH was within normal range.
I found conventional medicine didn’t want to dive deeper, run all the necessary blood work, and look for a root cause to my symptoms. Time for Plan B.
I sought out help from three different functional medicine doctors with no relief. I finally found one who checked my thyroid antibody levels which were off the charts. I had Hashimoto’s. We created a game plan to figure out the root cause and treat the symptoms. The excess load of 2 parasites, heavy metal toxicity, food intolerances, mold toxicity and a poor detoxifying liver all needed to be addressed.
A new diet, supplement protocols, remediating for mold and rounds of detoxing the heavy metals for nine months had me feeling 50% better but I was still lacking the energy I had before Baby Elvis. The scale wasn’t going up, thank the heavens, but it wasn’t going down either.
Something needed to change in how I was moving my body and working out.
I Get It, You’re Exhausted
I tried the recommendations of my doctors which included go for a 20 minute walk, do yoga, pilates, or low impact exercise. But this would make my muscles ache more and my joints feel more loose and unstable.
I tried my old routines of running 20 minutes or going to the boutique 45 minute HIIT classes only to be so exhausted I couldn’t get out of bed for a couple days.
I tried to go hard to lose the weight but I’d burn myself out, getting sick every couple months.
On my Hashimoto’s journey, I realized I needed to train smarter, not necessarily harder. I needed to train the muscle to help stabilize my loose joints and boost my metabolism.
I know the thought of exercising to all the Hashimoto women out there seems counterproductive when you can barely get out of bed in the morning. But the truth is, exercise will give you more energy and help you lose weight, in the long run….if you do it right.
I’m not talking about running marathons or even a 5k, but strength training makes a world of difference in how your body feels.
Everyone, including the doctors, tell you eat less, workout more. They’ll say daily cardio is the best way to lose the weight. But this kind of bad advice will tip you into a “Hashi flare up.”
The secret is to not overexert yourself while walking a fine line. No more than 20 minutes of strength training at first and keep it to a minimum of 2 times a week.
Where Do I Find My Energy?
This is THE missing link that no one is talking about, not even the medical doctors. Its strength training. I know because I had to do it for my own body and have worked with thousands of women to get their lives back and feel like themselves again.
Everyone is telling you to do “low impact” activities like yoga, pilates, and barre, and eat less, workout more.
But what we know struggling with Hashimoto’s is this:
- building muscle is hard
- recovery takes a long time
- muscles ache with barely any activity
- joints feel loose and unstable
So those body weight “low impact” exercise are not going to help the struggle, they will only perpetuate it.
I know for myself and all the Hashimoto women I’ve seen in my clinic in NYC and through my online program Thyroid Strong, their body craves a massage and yoga to “stretch out.” But what their body NEEDS is strength and stability. All the women I have taken off of yoga and given a strength program feel 1000x’s better in a short period of time.
I slowly work them up to 20-30 minutes of weight training and slowly work them up to 2-3 times a week.
With Hashimoto’s a little goes a long way here.
The result is a stronger body that recovers quicker and the most important part, the weight will come off and your energy will soar. From carrying groceries to lifting your toddler, the exercises will help you to be able to function well physically in your day to day life.
There are 3 moves (or exercises) that will help you create a foundation for a stronger body, and a more confident self.
1. 6-Month Supine
The face up exercise involves starting on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Knees are wider than the hips and feet are touching. Your back is flat on the floor and the breath is expanding 360 degrees in your belly. From this position, you can consider the following variations:
- Holding here and breathing for 10-15 breaths.
- Dead Bug: Alternating toe touches to touch the floor without allowing the back to arch.
- Dying Bug: Pushing your hands into a wall and alternating toe touches to touch the floor without allowing the back to arch. Make sure to keep the core braced.
2. Forearm Plank
Start on your forearms, hands in fists, with your feet hip width apart and extended your legs straight behind you. If it helps, you can clasp your hands together.
- Focus on breathing down and wide into your belly and bracing your core on the exhale.
- Keep a straight line from your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles without a sage in your low back.
- Press out through your heels to engage the front of your legs, your quads.
- Make sure not to hyperextend your knees. Take a look in a mirror from the side to check those knees.
- Hold this position for 5 breaths. Over time work up to 10-15 breaths.
- If you struggle to do the plank at first, begin by placing your knees on the ground instead of your feet until you build up enough back strength to straighten your legs.
A deadlift is a hip hinge move great for picking up your kiddos or a suitcase to protect the back and strengthen the core. You know when the experts talk about “use good form” or “use your legs not your back” this is what they are referring to. We always start upweight to get the form dialed in then add weight to get all the muscles kicking in and stabilizing.
- Feet shoulder width apart and toes turned out to 11 and 1 o’clock.
- Sit your hips back as if you were touching your butt to a wall behind you.
- Shins are almost vertical, knees bent, but not so much that your knees go over your toes.
- Take a 360 breath into your belly and brace.
- Stand up with your legs straight (but not hyper-extending your knees) and squeeze your butt cheeks like you are cracking a walnut.
- Now do the same move with a kettlebell between your feet, the handle of the bell lined up with your shoe laces. Grab the bell with both hands and picture like you are breaking hee bell in half like you are breaking a corn in half. Stand up with the bell and do the same butt squeeze.
- Bonus Pro tip: As you stand up, squeeze your heels together without moving your feet. We call this foot dialing. This foot squeeze will help kick in the butt squeeze even more and down the road will help you lift more weight.
These muscle-building exercises will stimulate muscle protein synthesis, will kickstart your metabolism, and will help your body to regulate your hormones. These foundation forming moves are the basis of a stronger, less fatigued body.
Form is Everything
It’s important to pay special attention to your form while working out. Although short and sweet, you can really hurt yourself without adequate form. Here are some examples of issues in form that can result in an injury:
- Hyperextending your knees or elbows.
- Swayback, which is the opposite of slouching. Here, your back is leaning too far back causing your spine to curve inwards which results in anterior pelvic tilt which leads to a weak core.
- Chin jutting, or pushing your chin forward when doing a strenuous movement can lead to neck pain or injury.
The bottom line is, Hashimoto’s can be debilitating especially during a flare-up and the last thing your fatigued body or brain wants to think about is exercise form. But the stronger your body, the better it will function and the more energy you will have. Like with anything else, it’s the first few weeks that are the most difficult. After a while, you’ll be looking forward to your workouts. Day by day you’ll feel stronger and more confident.
Check out the full Thyroid Strong program to get you back on track. A 10 video course is my exclusive training guide for women struggling with Hashimoto’s and the hypermobile joints related to having an auto-immune condition. Thyroid Strong was developed out of my own struggle with Hashimoto’s and has helped thousands of women lose weight and get their energy back. And I know it can help you too!
In Good Health,
Dr Emily Kiberd