Raina Kranz-Kaplan, C.P.T., Contributor
The Weight Loss Journey With Thyroid Disease
It’s been 4 years since my diagnosis of Hypothyroid/Hashimoto’s and about 3 years since I wrote my first article about exercise intolerance. Much has changed since then, so I decided to get it all down in writing to share with all of you.
This is a personal story, my personal experience and please understand that this disease takes on many different paths for each person and what works for one person may not work for another. I am hoping my story will bring some clarification for anyone looking for a direction.
Physical activity is a challenge for most people in general, but for me it has been a way of life since I was 19 years old. I started to notice changes in my strength, endurance and even desire to exercise in my mid 30’s. Around this time I started to have fluctuations in my weight for no apparent reason. By the time I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism in 2012, I had put on 20 lbs. The desire to train became a daily chore, I barely broke a sweat and my heart rate would not get above 125 bpm.
Once I was diagnosed and started medication, my hopes of losing the weight and getting my drive back to exercise regularly was a pipe dream. I soon discovered that this was going to be struggle and possibly for the long haul. Don’t get me wrong I have had it much easier than most of the people in the thyroid community. My personal challenge was the vision of myself of what I used to be able to do and what I was able to do now. For others with this disease, daily moving was hard enough let alone considering a workout.
In my earlier writings, I discussed the scientific reasoning as to why exercise with thyroid disease is challenging and why some people have harder times getting back into it than others… and how even many cannot even start an exercise program. I am not going to get in all the mumbo-jumbo this time. What I would like to share is a view from several perspectives.
The Athlete – Weight Loss Stage
These thyroid patients have been very hard on themselves. They have been fit and in most cases very fit. Their activity level consists of many hours of training weekly, eating incredibly clean and resting accordingly. Gaining weight and losing energy just is not something that happens to them and when it does it is debilitating. Mind, body and soul is destroyed. Their outlook once being diagnosed is one of promise and goals – and disappointment can lead to drastic measures to get back to where they once were. The good news is… these are the group of people who may actually be able to make a full recovery to performance if healing is done appropriately. The reason is that they had built up a level of stability at the cellular level where the reversal of damage to the mitochondria is minimal. The key here is time, patience, stamina and not over doing it or doing anything drastic that might be dangerous.
The Fitness Guru – Weight Loss Stage
This is an interesting group of people. These are your educators, personal trainers, yoga instructors, P. E. teachers and Gymnastics instructors. They have real education under their belt. They may also fit into the Athlete category or somewhere in between. I believe this is more where I fit in. Since, I most likely had hashimotos since my mid 30’s, training competitively never suited me. I enjoyed motivating others and helping other learn the safe way to get fit and heathy. These thyroid patients, tend to take a pragmatic, scientific approach to exercising with thyroid disease. They have a need to understand the how and why’s to figure out the path that works. The fitness guru will find the answer and be patient with every step. They will carefully document what works and what doesn’t.
The Fitness Enthusiast
I love this group of people. They are adventurists and love variety. They will try anything that looks fun and will make them break a sweat. They follow the latest trends and have lots of energy. These are the individuals that have the hardest time adjusting to thyroid disease and exercise emotionally. They are also the ones that tend to try every diet and may have had issues with weight gain and weight loss. Consistency may be difficult for them. Yoyo dieting is common and periods of no exercise is also common. Typically this group wants fast results and they want them now. Thyroid disease and losing weight will be very frustrating for this group, as weight loss will be first on their list to tackle. Acceptance of a new normal is not something easily accepted by the fitness enthusiast.
This is the group of thyroid patients that have a mixed set of results with losing weight and exercise. In most cases, since they have never really eaten healthy or exercised can have the best chance of losing weight with thyroid disease, but the hardest time with exercise. These individuals may actually have the most mitochondria damage and moving may be very painful for them. On the subject of losing weight, their lack of movement and eating habits may benefit them. Most thyroid patients learn early on that changing their diet is going to become a very important part in the healing process. Since, eating healthy is something very new to them… it is like a shock to their bodies. The weight loss may come easier to this group because this is something drastic and new to their bodies and the weight may just come off more easily than for those who have been eating cleaner most of their lives. If they can somehow find the way to gradually start walking a couple times per week… this too can enhance the weight loss. The muscular pain may be the only issue for this group.
Optimal thyroid levels are so important in having the ability to move. Healing our bodies to a level where movement becomes more pleasurable takes patience and time. We have to re- learn what intensities we are able to push ourselves at without having any negative repercussions. Most of all we cannot expect this to result in weight loss, especially not at first.
I have been at this for 4 years now. This is nothing in compared to so many of you. I have done everything right and I have yet to see the 20lbs I gained come off on the scale. My thyroid levels are optimal, I am on t4 and t3 medications and sleep 7-9 hours a night. I am not over or under eating and my balance of micro-nutrients is complemented for my activity level. Not over or under supplementing for my disease and not over stimulating my system – preventing adrenal fatigue. I am training 4-5x per week 30 minutes to 90 minutes and I base what I do that day on exactly how I feel. Making the adjustments in activity, intensity and duration so that on a not so energetic day – I do not overdo it. I am not crashing and I am able to fully recover in 12 – 24 hours depending on the intensity.
As of late, I am noticing an increase in lean body mass and my hopes is that I am finally in a stable place of consistency where the body fat will slowly come off. This is what I have learned in this process and I hope the take away for all of you – will be a reflection of what your path may be.
It has taken me 3 ½ years to find a Doctor that will treat me the way I need to be treated. My TSH needs to be below 1.0 as this keeps my cholesterol in good range. I finally started Cytomel in December in 2015 and I realized that the effects of adding the T3 is not immediate as many would think. I have only really started to feel consistently stable with energy after almost 4 months on the combination of T4/T3. This stability has most recently enabled me to be more consistent with training as well as intensity of training. Before now, I have been inconsistent with how many days I was able to exercise. Consistency is key in getting results.
The new normal is at the forefront now for me. I have a doctor willing to help me keep my thyroid levels where I need them – the added T3 is working in my body and my lifestyle of eating healthy, sleeping and exercise is just starting to feel normal again. I believe I am in a place that real change can actually happen.
The lesson for me with this journey – has been listening to my body. Understanding what needed to be addressed first, next and so on in order to get to a place where the focus may now actually be weight loss.
Weight Loss For All Thyroid Patients
So for the Athletes, Fitness Guru’s, Fitness Enthusiast and the novice…. Weight loss and training the way you once did…needs to be placed toward the end of the path as a goal to be attained. If you put this front and center you will have a very hard time healing and an even harder time understanding why.
About the Author
Raina Kranz, C.P.T. attended and is certified from the American College of Sports Medicine. She studied Kinesiology/Biomechanics. Living in Hollywood, Florida she is a full time personal trainer and coach. Find her at her website, Personal Fitness Training Florida and wonderful online Facebook Group, Thyroid Healing Journey. Click to schedule an appointment or to learn more about Raina’s Customized Thyroid Exercise Training Program at Thyroid Trainer.