Yes, friends, it’s time to address the elephant in the room and say it out loud: I’ve gotten fat.
I’ve tried to hide it for so long, refusing to even mention it on this blog. But I feel like I’m pretending, constantly, by not even trying to address it.
It’s so difficult when I’m in the business of putting photos of myself out there, online, for all eyes to see – and weekly, monthly, my weight has been creeping…well soaring, really…upwards. It’s affected not only my ability to wear 90% of what was in my closet – but also taken a huge chunk out of my self esteem and confidence.
And we’re not talking something insignificant like 5 pounds, either.
We are talking a weight gain of 20 POUNDS in a year and a half. (Read on for the why.)
(This is what I do – like every day I look in the mirror, haha.)
TWENTY POUNDS. In 18 months. 15 of which came on since November of last year. And no, I’m not pregnant. I’ve only been this weight once before in my entire life (during an extremely unhealthy time).
Yes, indeed…it’s terribly hard to stomach (haha, pun not intended) because none of it was intentional. (Is weight gain ever…?)
The real reason behind it…was my huge, deep, dark secret that I’ve been so scared to share for the longest time.
So here it is:
I have hypothyroidism. So I guess that means, in short, I’m “sick.”
(Granted, I’m comparing photos from about 4 years apart, with the Before from when I was super-healthy, at my lowest body fat percentage ever, doing P90X 6 days a week and the fittest I’d ever been in my life. Technically I was hovering around 124 lbs. when I was “officially” diagnosed in May of 2010. 123-127 lbs. is my body’s normal set-point, and late Summer/Fall ’09 was the only time I’d ever dipped below that with the help of a rigorous diet and exercise. Since I still have the same dress I wanted to wear it for comparison’s sake.)
I was diagnosed as “borderline hypothyroid” three years ago. I wasn’t having any symptoms – except for a slightly enlarged thyroid gland found by a doctor filling in for my regular PCP at a routine checkup. I felt totally fine otherwise…but because my mother has been hypothyroid for 3+ decades…my PCP told me that she was going to put me on medication “as a preventative measure.” In retrospect I kick myself for going along with it because I felt totally fine otherwise…I was put on a low dose of Synthroid (Levothyroxine) and told to keep eating healthy and exercising.
What is a thyroid? You may wonder. Here’s a lovely photo of where this butterfly-shaped gland resides in your body.
Thyroid image source
5-6 months later my hair started falling out. I began to be tired: exhausted for no reason, sleeping more. I finally switched to an endocrinologist, hoping that she would be able to help me manage this better. And I would go off my exercise and healthy eating routine for a month or so, then climb back on the bandwagon and work out/eat right for a good 5-6 weeks. Then off again. And gradually I began a slow slide into where I am now. I began to need naps in the morning after getting up. And in the afternoon. I was taking the Synthroid religiously, but it wasn’t doing any good. I was gaining more and more weight, exhausted and unhappy. I would get blood tests done ($74 out of pocket each time, thank you very much useless health insurance) every 3 months to see if the meds were working…and my tests would show up normal…then another 2-3 months down the line the tests would show that I was becoming more hypothyroid so the Dr. would up the dosage of the Synthroid. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Then in winter of this past year I experienced extreme stress through the place I was working at and an impossible project with a more impossible deadline. The insane amount of stress (I was having panic attacks and throwing up in the middle of the night!) must have really messed my thyroid up even worse than it already was…or maybe triggered a full, all-out attack courtesy of my body’s over-functioning immune system.
January-February of this year I also thought to try out a vegan diet to help rid myself of toxins…
VERY BAD IDEA. The 30-Day challenge I was doing had me eating soy, raw kale, raw broccoli, and peanut-based foods 3x per day every day. All of these foods can totally mess up your thyroid if you already have a condition like this – and I couldn’t figure out why, when I was eating so healthy, I was so tired all the time. Plus I gained 5 pounds while being vegan and following the diet religiously!! Even after going off the diet and back to my normal eating patterns (some meat, high protein, low carbs, eating vegetarian a couple days a week) didn’t help.
March saw me practically live on the sofa. I would take Lil Tot to school and then come home and lie down. I wasn’t interested in anything: family, blogging, DIY, NOTHING. It sounds like depression but it really wasn’t anything like the depressions that I’ve experienced before. It was just apathy. I didn’t care about anything and didn’t want to do anything. I was sleeping 11+ hours per day. And the weight piled on (likely also thanks to the severely lowered metabolism that hypothyroidism gives you…the gift that keeps on giving).
In April I signed myself up for 3x per week exercise Bootcamp: an hour each day of high-rep intense exercise: like 80 jumping jacks, 50 burpees, 50 plank slaloms, 240 jumpropes, 50 step-ups…there would be 25-30 moves in an hour, with huge numbers for each move. I had barely exercised the month before, but forced myself to do it all…and came home after each workout, only to lie on the couch the rest of the day because I was so exhausted. I gained another 7 pounds that month, and ended up giving myself tendonitis in both ankles due to over-exercising. The end of April saw me first at the podiatrist for the tendonitis, then back at the endocrinologist’s, crying that the thyroid meds were RIDICULOUS because they WERE NOT WORKING. AT ALL.
So then the Dr. added in Liothyronine to the meds I was already taking (though she lowered the dose of the Med. #1). Now I am taking pills FOUR TIMES PER DAY, every day. It’s crazy! I have a gigantic handful of pills/vitamins to gulp down every morning (mostly for the hair loss, which has finally resolved itself and about 70% grown back…but I dare not stop taking them!), a pill to take for the thyroid 2 hours after eating mid-morning, another pill to take for the thyroid 2 hours after eating mid-afternoon, and another pill to take for the thyroid in the evening before bed. And heaven forbid I forget to take one or the next day I feel the effects of it. It also means a very regimented eating schedule, because if I’m not careful and my meals get spaced too close together, I can’t take the thyroid meds, and have to remember to wait 30+ minutes before eating or else the medication I just took will be rendered useless. (And I got stopped by a drug-sniffing dog at the airport on my recent trip to Japan, since I had about 1 month of 8 daily pills in my possession = 240 pills!! I think the officer thought I was trying to sneak a mini-pharmacy into foreign territory, LOL.)
But finally, a full 3 years after getting diagnosed, the combination of medication seems to be okay for my body. Not 100% perfect – not like “Wow, I feel just how I did 3 years ago before I got sick!” But better than being on just Synthroid did. And maybe I’m feeling around 85% like how I used to. But I still have the bad days now though – days when I’m sleepy or overly-apathetic or so unmotivated and exhausted just thinking about anything. Days when I can’t even remember what I wrote on my 2-item grocery list. Days when I sleep 10+ hours and couldn’t care less. I’m sure it comes through on this blog, even though I’ve tried to keep it under wraps for so long.
There’s a lot of information about thyroid issues out there online now (thank goodness)…Stop the Thyroid Madness was one site that clued me in to why I was feeling so horrible on just one type of medication. WebMD has a list of symptoms of hypothyroidism, and I’m very interested in how Top Chef’s Andrea Beaman claims to have healed her thyroid with food. Hypo (and hyper-) thyroidism are both very complex since they’re endocrine-related, and the conventional wisdom is that once you’re on medication for an auto-immune disorder like this, you have to be on the medication FOR LIFE. Like FOR EVER and ever and ever. That just in and of itself is depressing to me.
So why share all this on my blog? Why even mention it at all?
The weight gain wasn’t entirely the fault of my thyroid issues. Loafing around, being more sedentary, sleeping more, not exercising, and not paying attention to eating healthy certainly contributed to the weight gain. Saying I’m sick…and so I got fat is passing the buck. I’m very much responsible as well, to be totally honest.
Finally I feel like it’s time to just step up and announce all this, because I’m tired of hiding it (and hiding the obvious). My thyroid doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. I’ve gained weight. So there. So what?
I’m now seeing a Naturopath, and first things first, we’re coming up with a better regimen for supplements so that I’m not taking 7 pills in the morning. I got a full blood panel done, to see if anything else is going on as well (like gluten intolerance, adrenal fatigue, etc). And once we figure all that out…then we may figure out a better diet for me. And try to switch up the thyroid medication, to see if that helps at all. 1 pill a day vs. 3? That sounds a LOT better to me.
I also was thinking that other people out there may be going through the same thing. And maybe, now that I’m navigating all of this and still acclimating, I might find a silver lining…like how to help other people who are in the same situation.
Are you, or is anyone you know, experiencing anything similar regarding thyroid issues? How did they manage?
Thanks for listening!
Edit 9/6: Some readers told me that this post was cut off at the bottom when they tried to read it yesterday, and comments were closed. I’m so sorry for the technical issues – they’re now fixed and the rest of the post should be visible.
I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been going through this 🙁 It takes a lot of guts to tell your story, and for some reason the blog seemed to cut off abruptly, but I hope you’re able to reach a solution and feel better!
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Thanks Erin, that is so kind of you to write that. I fixed the display issues – half the post was stuck in a draft revision instead of published – so now the rest is visible. Thank you for your kind words!
HI Carly,Your blog post seem to just end abruptly! I can’t seem to be able to load it up properly.
Hi Dominika! Thanks for letting me know. Blog post is fixed now 🙂
My mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in her mid-thirties and had to drink the radioactive koolaid and have her thyroid removed and a friend recently had to do the same thing. I’m very worried that this may be a condition that runs in my family. Thank you for sharing!
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Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for your comment. Unfortunately, thyroid issues do seem to run in families – I’ve been scared for 30 years that I would get the same thing as my mom, and I did!! But in my case, I was under prolonged stress over not having a job and being employed how I wanted to be, and that seems to have triggered my thyroid issues, which also got much, much worse from acute stress. Doctors say that living a healthy, active lifestyle – and especially avoiding triggers, like stress – may help, and I wish the best for your mom, you, and your future health!
So sorry to hear what you’re dealing with. Hope you feel better soon. You look too thin in the first pic. 🙂
Thank you, Samantha, I appreciate your kind words!
So sorry to hear how much trouble you’ve had getting your thyroid sorted. I have Hashimotos and subsequently developed psoriatic arthritis (another autoimmune disease). It feels like such an uphill battle sometimes, but it can get better. I seem to be fine on T4 alone, but maybe not based on the sources you talked about. I know weight gain seems like an insurmountable battle, but if you can get it sorted it will resolve. I’m proof in the pudding (or not if you want to stay slim :)). Good luck, I hope you find your answers.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jillian. I’m so glad you found something that works for you – hey, if it’s working, don’t mess with it, right? For me, T4 seemed to work marginally for a year or so, but I never felt like how I was before, I was still have hypothyroid symptoms (though manageable), but then after I got stressed out and added too many goitrogenic foods to my diet the T4 stopped working completely. Adding T3 in made such a difference! I’m trying my best to work on getting healthy, exercising and eating right now, so that if I’m not losing weight after a month or so then we know it’s attributable to my thryoid issues. It seems physically impossible to stay the same size working out this much and eating this clean…but we’ll see!! 🙂 Thanks so much, you’ve given me hope!!
While all of this sounds miserable, I must say that you look more healthy in your “AFTER” photo than you do in your “BEFORE” photo, to me. Plus, it sounds like you’re doing what’s best for yourself. If you’re self-conscious about your looks, just remember the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind.
Thank you, anon, for your kind words. I’m doing much better now thanks to my Naturopath and this new medication regimen I’m on…I just haven’t had a chance to post about it yet. Thanks for that quote too – it definitely helps keep things in perspective! 😉
I have hypothyroidism too, it sucks doesn’t it. I was only 16 when I was diagnosed and I too was very unhappy, I stopped going to school and became really depressed during my exams, great timing huh. Now 18 and I’m still not on the right dosage and I’m overweight and short, I look like an oompaloompa! Haha. It’s nice to read someone else’s experience of having it though so thanks for sharing.
and p.s thanks for the websites!
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No problem! Hope they help 🙂
Oh, Jasmine, I’m so sorry to hear that! Oompa Loompa, you poor thing!! It must have been so hard for you, coming down with it so young. Plus it’s so tough to get the dosage exactly right; our bodies are always changing so what works at one time may not work at another. I hope with time your doctor/s will be able to figure out what helps you. For me, it was maintaining a fairly consistent schedule, working out in the mornings, staying away as much as possible from refined sugar, and having that adrenal support I mentioned. Plus taking a thyroid med that had all the hormones I was missing in it. I hope things get better for you!! 🙂
The AIP Protocol (Auto-immmune Paleo Approach) diet can be very helpful for people with Hashimoto’s. There are several testimonials of people being healed on the Paleo Mom web site and in her books. A neighbor of mine had been sick for thirty years with Hashimoto’s until he discovered the AIP Protocol. He also now takes a small amount of Naturethroid thyroid medication as his thyroid was so damaged after years of eating the wrong foods that stimulated an auto-immune attack on his thyroid. And yes, genetics can be to blame, but stress makes it ALL worse!
Thanks, MimiLee, for your comment! I’ll definitely look into that – it’s still a learning process for me to figure out what works with my body and doesn’t, and I’ve at least found what DOESN’T: too much raw kale, broccoli, and tofu combined with taking a synthetic thyroid hormone! Trial and error, I suppose. I appreciate your time and input!