Weight Loss With Hypothyroidism: You’re Doing it Wrong

Weight Loss With Hypothyroidism: You’re Doing it Wrong

Does having hypothyroidism mean that you have to accept being overweight forever?

Not at all. 

The reality is that you can have a thyroid problem AND have a normal weight. 

But getting to that point means that you’ll have to go against the grain and against standard advice. 

This is because the standard recommendations of ‘eat less and exercise more’ often have a reverse effect on thyroid patients. 

Instead of helping you lose weight, these treatments can actually make your thyroid WORSE which means it will be more difficult for you to lose weight down the road. 

If that advice doesn’t work then what will?

That’s exactly what we are going to talk about but first one quick disclaimer: 

The information on weight loss that I’m about to discuss applies to ANYONE with low thyroid function including hypothyroidismHashimoto’sthose without a thyroid, and those with radioactive iodine ablation

With that in mind, let’s talk about the right way to lose weight with hypothyroidism starting right now: 

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Step #1. Start with a fresh set of thyroid lab tests. 

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This step is #1 for a reason: if you don’t get a set of labs in the beginning you’ll have no way to see if what you are doing is working!

Getting labs will also give you a lot of information about the current status of your thyroid. 

Believe it or not, a lot of hypothyroid patients are undertreated and have no idea that this is the case. 

As you will soon find out, the status of your thyroid, called thyroid function, is incredibly important for your ability to lose weight. 

In addition, it makes a lot of sense to get an idea of how well your thyroid is working BEFORE you start making any changes. 

Starting with a fresh set of labs can also give your helpful information on aspects of thyroid function often ignored by doctors like your cellular sensitivity and your ability to activate thyroid T4 into T3

When it comes to lab testing, the standard TSH is not going to cut it either. 

At a minimum, you will want to get the following lab tests: 

These lab tests will serve as your baseline results that you can keep an eye on as you lose weight and improve your thyroid. 

Step #2. Focus on thyroid function and thyroid medication.  

This is probably the MOST important step on this entire list. 

That’s because if you do not pay attention to thyroid function, there’s a very high chance you’re not going to lose any significant amount of weight. 

This is because your thyroid is one of the primary regulators of your metabolism (1). 

Imagine trying to lose weight with a 20% decrease in your metabolism that could be easily fixed by adjusting your thyroid medication upward. 

Do you think it’s easier to eat 20% less or exercise 20% more? Or just adjust your thyroid medication to make up the difference

Obviously, adjusting your thyroid medication is FAR easier and FAR more effective. 

Getting your thyroid lab tests first can help you understand how well your thyroid is currently functioning and whether or not you need to make any changes. 

When it comes to thyroid medications and weight loss, some are better than others. 

The two least effective thyroid medications for weight loss are levothyroxine and Synthroid. 

The two most effective thyroid medications for weight loss are cytomel and liothyronine

Even though this is the case, your individual case may vary and it’s more important to figure out what your body needs than to randomly take different medications. 

And the way to figure this out is by getting your labs tested as we discussed in step #1. 

But do realize that your thyroid medication and dose matter when it comes to your ability to lose weight. 

We know this from studies that show that patients who switch thyroid medications see weight loss that occurs without any other changes (2). 

Step #3. Eat for your thyroid!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but as a thyroid patient, you are just going to have to be more strict about your diet compared to the average person. 

This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to indulge or enjoy life, but instead of having a diet that is 80% healthy and 20% fun, you’ll need to do something more like 90% healthy and 10% fun. 

Eating for your thyroid also means that you’ll need to avoid certain types of foods and eat more of other types of foods. 

This has to do with the impact that certain foods have on your thyroid which may ultimately make your weight loss efforts less effective. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind: 

Food quality: The goal here is to consume as many fresh, whole foods as possible. 

It should go without saying but you should avoid fast foods and heavily processed foods.

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Food quantity: Cutting your calories is a very bad idea for thyroid patients because it can lead to decreased thyroid conversion (3). 

Focus on eating until you are full instead of counting your calories. 

Protein intake: There is a strong connection between muscle mass and thyroid function so protein intake is very important. 

Aim to get at least 60 grams of animal protein daily or 100 grams of plant-based protein from whole foods daily to ensure your muscles have what they need for maintenance and growth. 

Carbohydrate intake: Both high carbohydrate diets and low carbohydrate diets can be harmful to thyroid patients so your carb intake should be somewhere in the middle (4). 

Don’t be afraid of healthy sources of carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. 

Nutrient intake: For thyroid function, you’ll want to eat foods that are rich in zinc, selenium, magnesium, and iodine. 

I have other videos and articles which discuss these foods in more detail but you can also just use Google to find them. 

The best way to approach your diet is to take all of these factors into account and find what works for you personally and what is sustainable long-term.

Want a simple done-for-you diet that you can follow for your thyroid? Then check out my Perfect Thyroid Diet.

Step #4. Improve your gut health. 

Your gut is a major activator of T4 thyroid hormone. 

It’s also the site where thyroid medication and other nutrients from food and supplements get absorbed. 

Thyroid patients frequently have issues with their gut due to the impact thyroid dysfunction has on gut motility (5). 

Treating your gut can do a lot for your thyroid just like treating your thyroid can do a lot for your gut. 

The key is not one over the other but both at the same time. 

Do not listen to anyone who says you can fix your thyroid by solely focusing on your gut. It’s just not true. 

Yes, it will help, but more will be required. 

If you don’t know where to start then using a combination of probiotics and prebiotics is usually very helpful. 

Step #5. Manage your stress. 

Based on my experience, stress is probably the single biggest trigger of thyroid disease out there. 

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me that their thyroid condition started immediately after an incredibly stressful life event. 

But you don’t need a big stressor to cause thyroid problems or make your thyroid worse. 

Small everyday stressors can add up as well. 

And because of the connection between cortisol and your thyroid, your body will be less resilient to stress. 

Practicing stress reduction techniques like yoga (6) or meditation can do a lot for your thyroid and your ability to lose weight. 

My personal favorite way to manage stress is with the use of adrenal adaptogens. 

I take Rhodiola just about every day for this reason. 

Step #6. Exercise regularly and stay consistent!

You simply won’t be able to reach your target weight without at least some exercise. 

I know it’s hard to exercise if you have a thyroid problem so you don’t have to go crazy here but you do need to do something. 

That something should bring your heart rate to about 50-70% of your maximal heart rate (7) and keep it there for at least 20 minutes. 

This simple act is enough to increase your thyroid function, improve your thyroid lab tests, AND help you burn more calories in the process. 

It also puts a gentle stimulus on your muscles which promotes muscle growth and better metabolism long-term. 

Be careful not to overtrain, though, as that can make your thyroid condition worse as well

Your Next Steps

There’s a lot that you can do by yourself but remember that each person has a different degree of thyroid dysfunction. 

What does this mean for you?

It means that for some people losing weight will be easier than for others. 

It means that some people are going to require more aggressive treatments than others.

It means that some people will be able to get away with making minimal changes to their diet and other thyroid patients will need to be strict all of the time. 

This variance among thyroid patients and their needed treatments can be confusing but it doesn’t have to be. 

If you’re looking to see an example of how other thyroid patients have lost weight then I’d recommend checking out these case studies: 

This will give you an idea of what types of hormones, medications, diets, supplements, and more can help you get to your desired weight. 

Now I want to hear from you: 

Do you have hypothyroidism and are you struggling to lose weight?

Do you feel that your issues are primarily related to your thyroid or to some other condition?

Have you tried all of the steps listed above? Have they worked for you? Why or why not?

Leave your questions or comments below! 

Scientific References

#1. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500006/

#2. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23539727/

#3. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6195261/

#4. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9165850/

#5. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353203/

#6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8240110/

#7. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16380698/

why you aren't losing weight with hypothyroidism

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About Dr. Westin Childs

Hey! I'm Westin Childs D.O. (former Osteopathic Physician). I don't practice medicine anymore and instead specialize in helping people like YOU who have thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, and weight loss resistance. I love to write and share what I've learned over the years. I also happen to formulate the best supplements on the market (well, at least in my opinion!) and I'm proud to say that over 80,000+ people have used them over the last 7 years. You can read more about my own personal health journey and why I am so passionate about what I do.

P.S. Here are 4 ways you can get more help right now:

#1. Get my free thyroid downloads, resources, and PDFs here.

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#4. Follow me on Youtube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram for up-to-date thyroid tips, tricks, videos, and more.

20 thoughts on “Weight Loss With Hypothyroidism: You’re Doing it Wrong”

  1. I have hypothyroidism, hypopituitarism, and empty sella syndrome. I take Armour Thyroid and Hydrocortisone every day for these conditions. How can I lose the 10 pounds I have gained as a result?

    Reply
  2. I can eat no carbs (carnivore) and if there’s no IFing, I don’t lose ANYthing. It’s incredibly expensive so I can never do it long but there it is. I’ve lost 55# doing keto *with IF* (and EF). IF is the gamechanger for older women who are so loss-resistant.
    I even took cytomel for months. Nothing. The dr wouldn’t give me enough (10mg). I’ve taken metformin (500 2xd) for a yr. Lost zero.

    Reply
    • Hi Helene,

      Do you mean intermittent fasting is expensive or going carnivore is? Fasting is definitely the preferred method of calorie restriction for thyroid patients, but it’s a very cheap treatment.

      Reply
  3. I had thyroid cancer in 2021 with a total thyroidectomy. Papillary cancer in both sides. They successfully removed the cancer but during the procedure they paralyzed my vocal cord. I am struggling with my energy, metabolism, weight gain, and over all exhaustion.
    I was an extremely active woman who was in good shape. Now I struggle to get through my day. Doctor says my numbers are good and he can’t do anything for my symptoms.
    I just want to feel human again. My mind tells me that I can do it, then my body says “mam you best sit down for a minute “. It’s so frustrating!
    I eat pretty darn healthy, almost everything is whole foods. I ranch so excellent beef and I have a big garden. I stay away from sugar, bread, pasta, rice and processed food.

    Reply
    • Hi Kim,

      Once your thyroid has been removed you are essentially at the mercy of how optimized your thyroid medication is. The “good” numbers that your doctor thinks you have and the “optimal” numbers that you need in order feel better are two completely different things.

      Reply
      • I had thyroid cancer in 2010 with a total thyroidectomy. They successfully removed the cancer but during the procedure they paralyzed my vocal cord. I am struggling with my energy, metabolism, weight gain, and over all exhaustion. I’m on 112 mcg of Levo. I rarely ever eat processed foods or sugar. Never cake, cookies, pies, candy, etc. I eat lots of vegetables, sea food, and chicken. For years, I’ve consistently consumed 1,200 calories or less per day. And still, I’m gaining more and more weight every day. Please help! Barbara

        Reply
  4. Any advice for someone with Empty Sella syndrome ( Pituitary problem) – Normal T3 and T4 but super low TSH . Just keep gaining and can’t lose 1 pound

    Reply
  5. I struggle to lose any weight – just thinking about food and I’ll put weight on. My labs are optimal, I take 10mcgs T3, 150 mcgs synthroid. Lift weights and some cardio 3-4 X week. Was very calorie restricted but have been increasing this – now at about 1400 a day, 20-30gms protein X3. Gluten and dairy free. 30-40 kgs over weight. Any suggestions, please. I do have a merina in situ.
    Thanks Sue

    Reply
  6. As a woman in my early 50’s, the most effective weight management tool I’ve added to my repertoire as a thyroid patient is weight training, even without much cardio. Lifting weights and redeveloping some muscle mass lost in my 40’s has helped with weight loss and significant toning. I use both hand weights and machines at the gym (going for my maximum ability) 2-3 times per week. The best part is weightlifting gives results but doesn’t leave me feeling drained in the same way that cardio does.

    Reply
    • Hi Crate,

      Resistance training is definitely a must for women with thyroid problems, especially as they age. Not only does it improve bone strength, it also supports thyroid function because muscle mass is a thyroid-responsive tissue. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the better your thyroid will function.

      Reply
  7. Hi Dr Childs,
    I ended up taking more of my thyroid medication than I was supposed to. I lost 10 lb without doing anything else. My doctor then lowered my dosage and now I’m beginning to gain the weight back. What would you suggest I take for my case?

    Mariam

    Reply

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