The 7 Keys to Losing Weight with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
See, with Hashimoto’s, our bodies work differently. And if we try to lose weight using the same general tactics used by everyone else, we’re bound to be disappointed by the results.
I’m here to tell you there is a way and it is possible. If you’re frustrated by crushing fatigue, stubborn weight gain, and impossible or ineffective diet programs (even if you manage to stick with them), I get it. I’ve been there. It feels like a never-ending cycle: exercise to try and lose weight, feel exhausted, drop the program. Try a diet, experience a Hashi flare-up, drop it. Try to lose weight and feel too tired and defeated to bother working out or finding an effective diet. Give up. Sometimes it can feel like it’s easier to just accept the way things are and deal with it. Or maybe the pain is unbearable and you know there’s got to be another way.
You just need to understand how to work with your body so you can get back your strong, healthy, and vibrant you.
Weight loss is the result of a proper diet and exercise plan. This fact is nothing new. What’s different, though, is how you go about doing this when you have Hashimoto’s. Your diet and exercise plans must take into account what your body needs, what it’s sensitive to, and how you can properly nourish and replenish it so your results are long-term.
Read on to learn the 7 keys to losing weight with Hashimoto’s in a sustainable and healthy way. Not only will you drop the pounds, but you’ll feel better and likely reduce many other Hashimoto’s symptoms as well. Finally!
1.) Watch What You Eat
What you put into your body has a massive impact on your weight. Not only can it directly contribute to weight gain, but it can also cause other symptoms like fatigue which makes it even harder to do anything about said weight gain (like work out).
For my Hashimoto’s patients and myself, an AIP protocol, gluten-free, and low histamine diet has worked wonders to decrease our Hashimoto’s symptoms – including weight gain. I’ll briefly explain these three components of the diet and why they work, but I strongly recommend you dive deeper into them and experiment with how they make you feel. Take gradual steps when adjusting your diet; usually, if the change is drastic, people struggle to keep up with it. By making gradual, intentional adjustments, you’ll be able to identify which foods make you feel good and which don’t.
The AIP Protocol
The AIP (autoimmune paleo) protocol has shown to be beneficial for many people with autoimmune disorders or even severe digestive problems. It has also been shown to reduce antibodies and inflammation in the gut while increasing gut health, hormone regulation, and energy (hello, gym motivation!). It works by considering four key factors: nutrient density, gut health, hormone regulation, and immune system regulation.
When you have an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s, your immune system attacks your body and gives rise to the symptoms we know so well. The AIP protocol aims to regulate the immune system by feeding the body only good, nourishing, non-inflammatory foods, and leaving out foods working against it.
This protocol calls for the elimination of things like processed sugars, grains, and dairy, which can work against your weight loss efforts and irritate the gut, making your symptoms worse. To complete the protocol, you will eliminate foods on a schedule then gradually reintroduce them back into your diet, assessing changes in your body along the way.
So, what foods are part of the AIP protocol? Although the protocol is considered “restrictive” by some, there are still tons of options. Here’s a brief list:
- Meat (preferably grass-fed)
- Vegetables, excluding nightshades
- Sweet potatoes
- Fruit in small quantities
- Coconut milk
- Avocado, olive, and coconut oil
- Fresh non-seed herbs (basil, mint, and oregano, for example)
- Bone broth
- Grass-fed gelatin and arrowroot starch
The AIP protocol also calls for certain lifestyle changes impacting the immune system, like a sufficient amount of sleep, proper stress management, and physical activity.
If you look at the list of what’s allowed in the AIP protocol, you’ll notice there are some very nutritional foods missing. The reason for this is because the AIP protocol doesn’t just consider a food’s nutritional benefit; it assesses whether the foods trigger inflammation as well. This is why nutritionally dense foods omitted from the AIP list likely have detrimental compounds.
Studies have shown a correlation between Hashimoto’s disease and gluten sensitivity and a link between gluten intolerance and autoimmune disorders in general. Many people who omit gluten and dairy products from their diet boast a remission of Hashimoto’s symptoms, if not total remission.
So why, exactly, must gluten be one of the first things to go with Hashimoto’s?
Gluten’s molecular structure closely resembles thyroid tissue. Your body’s immune system triggers an attack on the thyroid gland with gluten sensitivity because it senses foods with gluten as a foreign invader. And if you’re regularly eating gluten, your body never catches a break. This constant battle keeps your immune system on high-alert, thus making your body prone to autoimmunity and food sensitivities.
Get screened for gluten intolerance. If you discover you are intolerant to gluten, cut it out completely. Even little bites or “cheats” can trigger an immune response and destroy thyroid tissue, which totally isn’t worth it at the end of the day.
Low Histamine Diet
Histamine is a chemical in the immune system released during hypersensitivity or inflammatory reactions to protect the body. Your cells and even the bacteria and yeast in your digestive tract make histamine. It’s also found in some foods. Healthy gut cells produce DAO, or diamine oxidase, an enzyme whose function is to break down histamine in the small intestine. However, if you don’t produce a sufficient amount of DAO, the histamine levels in the digestive tract cannot be kept at optimal levels.
This, ultimately, leads to histamine intolerance.
But what does this have to do with Hashimoto’s? Those of us with Hashimoto’s are more likely to have histamine intolerance. This may be because of histamine intolerance and Hashimoto’s share some of the same root causes, including gluten sensitivity, leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and Immunoglobulin (IgE) allergies.
Try eliminating histamine-rich foods to see how you feel so you can continue your weight loss journey fueled by the best foods for your unique body.
2.) Protein is Queen
Getting enough optimal protein is key for losing weight with Hashimoto’s. Protein is used by the body to build and repair tissues, and it’s also used to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. With Hashimoto’s, we already struggle with having sufficient and high-quality muscle mass. If additionally, we don’t get enough protein, we’re setting ourselves up for an uphill battle.
If weight loss is your goal, a high-protein diet also makes you feel fuller longer. It replaces carbohydrates, fats, and sugar – which work against your fat loss goals – and reduces your hunger hormones while boosting satiety hormones. In short, when you increase your high-quality protein intake, you reduce hunger and caloric intake. And paired with the AIP protocol, the only calories you consume are nutritious and non-inflammatory ones. Win-win!
Protein is fuel for your muscle and the more muscle you have, the faster you burn calories – even in a resting state. So, shoot for a minimum of 30 grams of high-quality protein per meal and watch your body look, feel, and perform at its finest!
3.) Consider Calories
When you’re trying to lose weight, there’s no getting around it: Calories matter. This is a fact whether you have Hashimoto’s or not. The trick is to burn more calories than you consume, which can be tricky if you’re eating empty calories. “Empty” calories don’t nourish you or keep you satiated for long. With the AIP protocol, calories are from nutrient-dense foods, so you can control your calorie intake without feeling starved and your body still gets everything it needs to thrive.
Make sure the foods you consume are worth the calories. Skip thoughtless snacks, between-meal grazing, and keep desserts and sweets out of your pantry or work desk if they’re just too tempting.
Meal prepping or planning ahead can be very helpful when trying to control your calorie intake. Assess your list of permitted foods and plan your week, ensuring each meal is balanced and varied. Then, pick a night out of the week to prepare your meals – you can even start with a big soup or broth for a few day’s lunch. And be sure to consider some snack options in case you get hungry in-between meals.
By ensuring you have the right foods in the right quantities at-hand when you need them, you’ll curb excess calorie consumption and make it easier for you to follow a designated diet.
Some food items are easily prepared and stored in order to control your calorie intake (and follow the above diet protocol!). They include:
- Roasted chicken with low starch vegetables
- Turkey apple sausage patties
- Vegetable soup
- Salad topped with steak strips (olive oil and vinegar dressing on the side)
Proper planning is essential to avoid unhealthy food choices and frantic pantry hunting when you’re already starving (the story never ends well). There are also lots of resources online for recipes following the AIP protocol. Try them out!
4.) Exercise Efficiently
With Hashimoto’s, it’s all about how you exercise. The thing is, we can suffer from hypermobility, tissue laxity, and decreased muscle mass, which means certain types of exercises can actually do more harm than good for our bodies. We need strong, stable muscles and we want to lose weight; however, if we aren’t careful certain types of exercises (and over-exercising) will deplete our valuable thyroid hormones.
The magic is in weight training. Specifically, heavy weight with low repetitions. Proper rest and recovery are also essential in order to give our bodies the chance to repair muscle tissue and recalibrate its thyroid hormone turnover.
Unlike repetitive motion exercises – like cycling or running – weight training doesn’t demand high levels of cortisol from the body, depleting thyroid hormones. It also creates more muscle mass, which supports thyroid hormone production, overall strength, and helps with sustainable, long-term weight loss. You’ll also notice an increase in energy, a boosted immune system, and less pain and inflammation in the body.
The secret to weight loss is muscle, especially for those of us with Hashimoto’s. Muscle uses excess glucose first, then fat once your glucose storage is all used up, even while you’re resting. It also houses thyroid hormone receptors in the body.
5.) Hit the Weights
You may have heard the secret to weight loss is cardio, cardio, cardio. But if you have Hashimoto’s and you’ve tested out this theory, you may have left wondering why you felt so fatigued, inflamed, and flat-out miserable for hours (if not days) afterward.
This is because long cardio sessions deplete your already-low levels of thyroid hormones and lean out your valuable stores of muscle mass. What I’ve found is to beat Hashimoto’s and get to the ideal weight you need to preserve and build your muscle mass, not engage in activities to compromise it.
If you enjoy a sport with repetitive motions, like running, cycling, or swimming, you don’t need to cut it out entirely. Begin by incorporating a weight lifting regimen and try moving towards a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) program to make you break a sweat. And listen to your body; a little soreness after a workout is normal and a sign of progress, but if your weekend bike ride has you sprawled on the couch for days afterward, it’s likely your body signaling a needed change.
6.) Manage your Thyroid Medication
It’s imperative to your weight loss goals – and really any of your health goals – to properly manage your thyroid medication. There’s no shame in taking medication; just make sure your doctor is ordering the necessary bloodwork to monitor your progress.
7.) Address Environmental Factors
Did you know some environmental factors can cause your body to mimic Hashimoto’s symptoms? Take mold, for example. Mold actually mimics estrogen in the body and can cause estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency. This, in turn, impacts your hormones (along with a whole host of other things in the body) and adds stress to your adrenal glands. Like dominoes, the stress on your adrenal glands spikes your cortisol levels, which finally knocks out your thyroid hormones. Phew, what a mess.
If your goal is to lose weight with Hashimoto’s, examine and address any environmental factors contributing to your weight gain and other Hashimoto’s symptoms in the first place. If you don’t consider your environment, even if you’re doing everything right for your Hashimoto’s, your environment may be the real issue.
You’ve got to get right to the source.
A few other environmental triggers of Hashimoto’s to watch out for include:
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Bisphenol-A (BPA)
- Irradiation (accidental or medical)
- Certain Synthetic Pesticides like DDT
- Insufficient Sun Exposure
Achieving Weight Loss Success with Hashimoto’s
Weight gain is a frustrating symptom of Hashimoto’s. And it doesn’t help when its paired with fatigue and sluggishness, too. With Hashimoto’s, everything you do (or don’t do) impacts everything else. The journey to lose weight with Hashimoto’s isn’t just about losing weight. It’s about improving all of your symptoms so your body can function optimally, thus responding with your desired results – like improved energy, weight loss, and decreased fatigue and pain.
I encourage you to embark on your own journey towards health and wellness with Hashimoto’s. It is possible, and it’s absolutely necessary if you want to lose weight in a sustainable way. The path to health with Hashimoto’s is a challenging one, but with support, guidance, and real-talk with real mentors on the same journey, you’ll reach your goals and live the life you want. You deserve it!
If you’re interested in learning more about exercising with Hashimoto’s, download my free How to Beat Fatigue and Exercise with Hashimoto’s guide.
In Good Health,
Dr. Emily Kiberd