How to Lose Weight with Hypothyroidism [Diet, Lifestyle, Stress Management]

June 26, 2022

One of the most common thyroid-related questions I receive revolves around how to lose weight with hypothyroidism. And that makes sense because hypothyroidism is known to cause weight gain.

But why? How does your thyroid impact your weight? And, specifically, why is it so hard to lose weight with hypothyroidism? What can you do about it?

I’m answering all these questions and more, so keep reading to learn what you can do about thyroid weight gain so you can start feeling like yourself again!


What is Hypothyroidism?

First, let’s revisit what hypothyroidism is. As you may recall, your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck and plays an important role in helping your body to maintain your skin, bones, nails, metabolism, and more.

Your thyroid adapts to your body’s demands and usually steps in to help when other hormones in your body aren’t working to their full capacity.

Thyroid disease occurs when there is an imbalance in thyroid hormones. And this imbalance may happen due to autoimmune disease, genetic causes, viruses, toxins, or nutritional deficiencies.

Depending on how the thyroid imbalance manifests, it will either become underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism).

It’s estimated that about 20 million Americans have thyroid disease, and hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism. [1]

In the U.S. about 4.6 percent of those aged 12 years and older have hypothyroidism, with women and seniors at greatest risk. [2]

 

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism has several different causes and risk factors. Here are a few:

  • Previous thyroid issues such as a goiter or nodules
  • Stress
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Radiation treatment to the thyroid, neck, or chest (including radioactive iodine)
  • Family history of thyroid disease
  • Pregnancy within the past six months
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Perimenopause
  • Estrogen hormone therapy or estrogen-dominant conditions
  • Some medications
  • Poor gut flora
  • Poor nutrition
  • And more!

 

Why Does Hypothyroidism Make You Gain Weight?

While hypothyroidism has a myriad of symptoms and consequences, ranging from fatigue to brain fog to digestive troubles, one of the biggest complaints of those with the condition is weight gain.

In fact, one of the most common questions I get as a physician is how to lose weight with hypothyroidism.

But why does hypothyroidism cause weight gain? And how much weight gain are we talking about?

Research has shown that even small variations in your serum TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) can decrease your resting basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning it reduces the amount of calories you burn while at rest.

Accordingly, hypothyroidism is known to decrease your metabolic rate, resulting in weight gain of typically five to 10 pounds! [3]

 

How to lose weight with hypothyroidism - Dr. Pingel

 

What You Can Do: How to Lose Weight with Hypothyroidism

Fortunately, massive weight gain isn’t super common with hypothyroidism. But anyone who’s ever tried to “diet” can attest to the fact that losing that last five to 10 pounds can sometimes be the trickiest part of weight loss.

If you’re wondering how to lose weight with hypothyroidism, the key is to focus on what caused your hypothyroidism in the first place.

Some of the most common causes include a nutritional deficiency, high amounts of stress, and lack of sleep.

So, when you’re looking for answers on how to lose weight with hypothyroidism, begin with addressing these areas first.

1. Switch to a hypothyroidism diet.

To adjust your diet when you have hypothyroidism, focus on eating nutrient-rich plant-based foods.

First, plant-based foods are whole foods that are naturally lower in calories than processed foods, meaning they support healthy weight management.

In fact, studies have shown that people who eat a whole-food, plant-based diet that’s rich in nutrients tend to have a lower BMI (body mass index).

In addition, adopting a plant-based diet has been shown to help with obesity management and be effective for weight loss. [4]

But that’s not all. Plant-based foods are also designed to give you the nutrients you need to support your thyroid function.

Specifically, your thyroid requires iodine, selenium, and zinc to function properly, so you’ll want to focus on eating foods rich in these nutrients.

To get started, check out my article on switching to a plant-based diet.

2. Support your body’s stress response.

Your thyroid function is directly impacted by the stress your body is under. And when your body doesn’t know how to properly manage that stress, your thyroid tries to compensate.

As a result, it’s best to support your body’s stress response so that it doesn’t call upon your thyroid to adapt as much.

So, how do you properly support your body’s stress response? You focus on doing things that boost your adrenal health. In addition to eating a nutrient-rich diet, you’ll want to prioritize the mind-body connection by doing things you enjoy, journaling, practicing gratitude, and taking adrenal-supporting herbs and supplements.

3. Get plenty of sleep.

While the connection isn’t fully understood and requires more research, thyroid disorders are often linked to sleep disorders such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea. [5]

Likewise, lack of sleep has been shown to trigger a chemical reaction in the body that spurs appetite and cravings for junk food. [6]

Accordingly, getting plenty of sleep each night can go a long way in in your search for how to lose weight with hypothyroidism.

So, where do you get started? Check out my top five home remedies for sleep as well as my own personal bedtime routine for a good night’s sleep.


Keep in mind that these tips will get you started, but you may find that you need additional help as you find answers for what works for you in your search for how to lose weight with hypothyroidism.

If that’s the case, consider scheduling a consultation with me, where I can look at your individual situation and help you best determine how to lose weight with hypothyroidism. Remember, everyone’s situation is different, so sometimes a personalized approach is exactly what you need to achieve the success you’re looking for.

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