How to Lose Weight with Hashimotos Thyroid Disease- My Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle
Before I start this post I want to let you all know that this is in no way a sponsored post. All the things that I am about to share are things that I have done and the products that I used are because I wanted to use them, no one told me or paid me to use them. I just wanted to let you know that because in the blogging world, it’s hard to know what is real and what is a sponsored post. I just wanted to let you all know that this is 100% real :). Also I want to warn you that this is going to be a long post because it was a long journey and I have learned a lot along the way that I am hoping might help someone who has similar problems as me. These tips don’t just work for people with Hashimotos, anyone can use them 🙂
Alright you guys, this is a post that I have dreamed of writing for 3 years, ever since I started to gain weight because of my disease, Hashimotos. If you don’t know what Hashimotos is, it’s a disease of the thyroid. It’s an autoimmune disease that comes with hypothyroidism. I’m no doctor and don’t know everything about it, but I do know that it is not a fun disease. It has rocked my world these past 3.5 years, or even longer, that’s just when I was diagnosed. If you have Hashimotos I just want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I know how much it sucks. One thing about Hashimotos is that it effects everyone differently. My mom has it and really never had a lot of problems, she just took her medicine and that seem to do the trick for her. That was not the case for me. I have had lots of problems and when I finally felt like I had everything under control and my thyroid levels were balanced, something would flare up and I would feel like I had to start over again because I felt just as crappy as I did at the beginning. My main complaint about this thyroid disorder is that it took away my energy, my precious energy. I would describe my energy levels to people by comparing to how you feel when you’re pregnant, you know those first few months and then the last couple months, but the difference was that I didn’t have an end in sight, this was my new life. I could sleep 12 hours and still be tired, honestly I could sleep all day and still feel tired. It was miserable. And because I had ZERO energy, when I tried to work out, I spent the rest of the day sleeping because I was so tired from it. I then just stopped working out because my energy was so precious and I didn’t want to “waste” it on working out, I had a family to raise and run.
This went on for about two years and that’s when I gained about 40 pounds and just felt miserable, I felt miserable about myself and overall my body just felt awful. In September 2018, my youngest son went to kindergarten full day, so I decided that this school year was going to be the year of taking care of myself. I was going to get healthy and stay healthy. I was determined to do it this time around and that I wouldn’t let my disease take control and defeat me. I wasn’t going to give up this time. Trust me in those two years I tried lots and lots of things to lose weight and to feel good. The problem was that I let life take over and I gave up too easily, I didn’t get immediately results and so I got frustrated and gave up. I honestly thought that I would NEVER lose weight again. I will tell you right now that it was not easy, the pounds didn’t just fall off immediately. I didn’t all sudden start feeling good, it took a LOT of work and a LOT of time but eventually they did start to come off and I did start to feel better. I want to share you with you journey of getting healthy and how I have been able to lose 30+ pounds.
Just to see how far I have come, you have to see the dreaded before pictures….. I HATED pictures of myself. I always put a kid in front of me or just didn’t get in the picture. I got really good at just taking selfies with my kids and just having my face showing. Here a couple pictures of me that actually have all of me in them. Both were taken in July of 2018. I’m guessing that this is around when I was the biggest, I might have lost a couple pounds because I had started running in the summer. I weighed the same or even more than I did when I went into labor with my 5th kid…. it wasn’t pretty. I don’t know what my exact weight was because the year before this I went to the doctor and got weighed and I hated the number so much that I didn’t get on a scale again for 15 months, I even skipped a doctor’s appointment so I wouldn’t have to get weighed.
Like I said before, this is not going to be a short post. Weight loss and becoming healthy is not a quick thing, there is no quick fix answer. It takes time and hard work. I don’t want to say that I went on a diet because diets are temporary, I honestly changed my lifestyle. I wanted to do things and eat foods that I knew that I can see myself eating for years and years, not just for a few months so that I can lose weight. Trust me, I tried that and although I was able to lose some weight, it all came back the second I stopped that diet.
What I plan to do is kinda give a list of what I DID and DID NOT do and then I will break those things and explain them. I just want to remind people that this has worked for me but just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for you. You have to find what works for your body.
I started this weight loss journey in September, that’s when I started exercising more. In October is when I decided to give up sweets and then in December/January is when I really took my eating to the next level. With Hashimotos whenever you get a new prescription you have to get your blood drawn 3-4 months later to see how your body changes and honestly that is about when I started to feel different and started seeing results, about 3 months into my lifestyle change. I know that it sounds discouraging to not see results for 3 months, but that’s the thing about a disease and getting older, you have to be patient and it takes time.
Alright now it’s time for the list of what I DID and DID NOT do. And when I say “I DID”, I am still doing it, it is not in the past tense :).
• I DID NOT go on a special diet.
• I DID NOT do a low carb diet (that’s one of the first things people ask me).
• I DID NOT do Keto diet.
• I DID NOT go gluten free.
• I DID eat better, I ate lighter foods.
• I DID eat carbs and ate a lot of them, but I have learned the hard way that my body really needs carbs and if I don’t have them I get really light headed.
• I DID NOT eat sweets. I gave up sweets but not sugar altogether, just sweets like candy, cookies and things like that.
• I DID count my calories and used a calorie tracker (I used My Fitness Pal).
• I DID watch my macros, I did that through My Fitness Pal too.
• I DID NOT snack all day, I limited my snacks to one or two a day and they were always small.
• I DID read food labels.
• I DID measure out food servings.
• I DID NOT give up fast food or eating out.
• I DID stop eating after 9 pm.
• I DID drink lots of water, at least 8 cups a day but usually 10-12 cups a day.
• I DID NOT drink pop.
• I DID drink an electrolyte drink called Sustain (it’s from Melaleuca) to help with hydration and muscle cramping.
• I DID eat at least three servings of veggies a day.
• I DID eat 2 servings of fruit a day.
• I DID exercise regularly. I started with 3-5 times a week and moved up to 5-6 days a week.
• I DID NOT take any kind of special supplements.
• I DID take probiotics every day but there were over the counter.
• I DID take magnesium every day.
• I DID have bad days/weeks where I ate everything in sight.
• I DID NOT let those bad days/weeks get me down and ruin all my progress.
• I DID give myself cheat days but not more than one every month or two.
Now it’s time to drive a little deeper into what this list actually means and what I did. My eating didn’t really get good until January because I love food and I thought that I could just exercise more and be good. It’s amazing the difference I felt when I actually started to eat vegetables and drink water. Those two things were HUGE! Seriously, night and day difference. I might not always eat super great but I want to make sure that I always get my 8 cups of water and 3 servings of veggies in a day because when I don’t I can really feel a difference.
So let’s talk about food because that is what really helped me. Back in December I started a weight loss challenge with friends and that is what really made me make good choices. We got points for making good choices each day, like 3 points for drinking water, 6 points for eating veggies, and things like that. The weight loss challenge was less about losing weight and more about making good choices and rewarding yourself for doing those. I loved it because those choices became normal for me. That’s when I really pushed myself to make sure I got the veggies and water every day because I wanted the points. At the end of the challenge we calculated our points and the person with the highest points won (everyone had to put in $10 to join). I didn’t win that challenge but it was a huge turning point for me, it took my eating to another level and that’s when I finally started to lose the weight. I ended up losing over 10 pounds in the 8 week challenge!! This is the point system that we used.
• Drinking 8 cups of water a day= 3 points
• Stop eating after 9 pm = 3 points
• Eating 1 cup of veggies = 2 points
• Eating 2 cups of veggies = 2 points
• Eating 3 cups of veggies = 2 points
• Eating 1/2 cup of fruit = 2 points
• Eating 1 cup of fruit = 2 points
• Not eating sweets = 5 points
• Exercising 30 minutes = 5 points
• Exercising 45 minutes = 7 points
• Keeping food journal = 5 points
Every Monday we had a weigh in and for every pound you lost you got 1 point (if you like lost .5 pounds then you got .5 points). If you were at your lowest weight or maintained your lowest weight, you got 5 points in addition to the points per pound.
It really was a great way for me to track what I was doing everyday. I had a notebook that I wrote all of my points down and it was nice to see the good things that I was doing everyday and keeping track of my progress. The competitive side of me made sure that everyday I got as many points as I could, even if it meant that I opened up a can of green beans and had that as a snack (I did that a lot). This challenge really made me make good choices with my eating.
One of the first things I would do if you are starting this journey is to actually calculate how much you eat in the day. When I thought that I was “eating good” and “watching what I ate” I was still eating around 3000 calories a day, easily. It was eye opening when I actually saw how many calories I ate in a day. I never looked at the labels and looked at the calories of food, I would just take a handful here and a handful there.
Here is a typical eating day for me now. In My Fitness Pal I set that I wanted to lose about a pound a week and it gave me about 1450 calories a day. I usually work out and in those workouts I burn probably 400-500 calories. So as long as I worked out in the day, I usually could eat about 1800 calories which isn’t a ton but also wasn’t a tiny amount. This was a pretty normal day for me:
Breakfast- Cereal or hard boiled eggs. I like Honey Bunches of Oats and Honey Nut Cheerios. I only eat the white of the boiled eggs and eat about 3 of them. I usually have something else with the eggs, like chocolate milk. Breakfast is usually about 200-250 calories.
Workout- I go to the gym and do one or two 1 hour classes. I do a variety of classes, I do a fight class, a step class, a weight lifting class and pilates at my gym. I also run.
Lunch- Salad. If I don’t have a salad for lunch it really messes me up because my body craves salads now. If I don’t have a salad for lunch, I will usually have one for dinner. I buy the little pre made salads at Walmart or Winco. They are super yummy and are only 200-300 calories. They have a lot of variety too. In the winter time I had vegetable beef soup and that was only 200 calories and had lots of veggies. We go out to eat for lunch a lot and I usually get a salad from the restaurants that we go to. Wendy’s has some really yummy ones and the Southwest salad from McDonalds is good too.
Snacks- I try to just have one snack in the afternoon but some days are better than others. This is usually where I have my carbs because after working out my body just needs them for energy. My favorite light carbs are rice crackers (I get them from Costco). They are 130 calories for 16 crackers so I feel like it’s a decent snack but not too heavy. Sometimes I even have two servings. You can add cheese and other things to them too, they go with a lot of things. I usually have rice crackers daily.
Sweet snacks- I always seem to have a craving for something sweet in the afternoon (usually right after my kids get home from school) so I have something a little sweet. So I gave up sweets but I did not give up sugar completely. I just got rid of the things that I can’t control myself with. We all have our weaknesses, for me it’s chocolate. Candy and ice cream are really bad for me and I can’t control myself, so I just get rid of them altogether, because it’s honestly easier for me. I love sweets and I knew that I couldn’t keep up a diet that doesn’t have sweets forever, so I allowed myself to have sweets but those sweets weren’t my weakness. I found sweets that one serving was enough for me and that I didn’t crave more. In the winter I would have hot chocolate because one cup was enough. I also make up a smoothie with sugar free syrup, creamer and whip cream. I usually have it daily, but it’s only 75 calories so it’s okay to have it daily. I also love the Chobani Flips (S’mores is my favorite) but I have to be careful because I will eat 2-3 of them at a time, so I limit myself to one. I also love pretzels and recently added Nutella but with that I have to also be careful because I can’t control myself sometimes. So I make sure to measure out just one serving and limit myself to just one serving. If I have the Nutella and pretzels, then that will replace my other snack. And of course there is fruit, my favorite was two clementines because they were only 70 calories. These are basically the only sweets I allow myself right now because they are ones that I can control myself.
Dinner– Dinner is up in the air for the most part, it varies so much that it’s hard to say what I do. We eat a variety of things. What I usually do is try to have my calorie count to be where I still have about 1000 calories around dinner time. On not so good days, I’m around 750 calories left over for dinner. The biggest thing I try to do is make sure that I have enough calories to eat a decent dinner because it usually has the most calories. I try to have my last serving of veggies at dinner, I usually got out some corn or green beans because they were easy.
Water- I basically have a water bottle with my at all times and I just sip on it through the day. I bring it in the car with me and have it on my night stand. I take the Sustain drink after I do cardio, so I drink water as I am working out and then after I am done with the workout, I drink the Sustain. When I am dehydrated I can tell immediately, my body just feels off and I get light headed.
The biggest thing with eating is you just have to eat less than you burning. So if you burn 2000 calories a day, then you need to eat less than 2000 calories a day.
Sure there is a difference in calories, like a 200 calorie cheeseburger is not as good as a 200 calorie salad but the concept is pretty simple. A pound is 3500 calories, so in order to lose a pound you need to burn 3500 calories. Honestly this is how I lost my weight, I know exactly how many calories I am eating a day and I know how many roughly I am burning and I just try to make sure I am under that number. Very rarely do I have a day that I am burning less calories than I am eating. Besides me not eating candy and sweets I am allowing myself to eat basically everything else. If I have a craving for a Big Mac and fries (which I have had those), I am going to have a Big Mac and fries. But I make sure that I have enough calories for a Big Mac and fries, I might not eat as many snacks that day or I do another workout so I can have that meal. Now I allow myself to have that junk food BUT I don’t do it every week and I definitely don’t do it every day. It’s okay to have those cheat days or those days where you eat a lot, just DON’T DO THAT EVERY DAY! Once a week is okay but even once a week might not be great.
In January my husband started on this healthy lifestyle journey with me and he just changed up his eating habits and did this basic concept of making sure that you burn more calories than you eat and he has lost TWENTY POUNDS. He basically lost those 20 pounds in three months and he just watched what he ate and made sure that his calorie intake was good. He has a desk job and only works out 1-2 times a week when he can, so he really had to pay attention to what he was eating and making sure that he didn’t eat too much. Here is a before and after picture of the both of us :).
Phew, this is a LONG POST!! Before I switch gears to exercising and stuff I want to mention again that this journey is a long and hard journey but it is SO REWARDING!!! Just don’t give up. Be patient with yourself and your body. If you have a bad day then have a bad day. Start the next day fresh and try to be better. If your bad day turns into a bad week, it happens. Just don’t let if defeat you. You are stronger than you think you are!
Alright now it’s time to dive deeper into exercising. This part is actually the easier part for me. I could easily workout more just so I can eat more, like I said before I really like food. I do a variety of workouts and I actually think that it’s important to do strength and cardio because if you do the same thing over and over again your body won’t get stronger. I have an awesome gym that I go to. I don’t go and use machines or treadmills, I go and take the group fitness classes and I LOVE THEM!! Seriously, they are amazing. My gym has Mossa which is Group Power, Group Blast and Group Fight, etc. but I know a lot gyms have Les Mills classes (Body Pump, Body Combat, etc) and those are great too. The benefit of group fitness is that they come out with new songs and moves and so working out doesn’t get boring. I have been doing Group Fight for 5 years and I love going to it every week. I couldn’t say the same thing about going on a treadmill or an elliptical. For me it’s about the social interactions too. I love the people that I have gotten to know at the gym. And no I didn’t go to the gym with a friend or workout buddy, I went to the gym and made friends there. I go to the gym almost everyday and do an hour class (sometimes two). I do Group Fight, Group Power, Group Blast, Zumba and then also I do Pilates. Pilates was a game changer for me and has helped me a lot. I didn’t realize how weak my core was until I went to that class.
Another thing that I started this year was running races. In June of 2018 my family convinced me to do another half marathon. I had done three before that but stopped because of… well life and the whole Hashimotos thing and then I knew it would hurt my pride. I decided to do it because I needed some motivation to start running again. I was a competitive runner in high school, so I take running pretty seriously. I won’t just sign up for a race and then not train for it, I will train for it and train hard for it. I knew I needed something to really make me get out there and run. So I signed up for that half marathon and I honestly thought that if I trained hard for it then I was going to get a great time and that I would lose a ton a weight. Then reality set in. Here are a couple pictures from that race.
That half marathon was tough, it was a wake up call and I saw how far I had gone down. Running always came so easy to me and I could just go run. But I had gained weight, a lot of weight, and that makes it harder to run. I ran about 9.5 miles and then I was done, I had to walk. It was humiliating for me, I was supposed to be the runner of the family and I felt like a failure. But I was determined to get in shape and get my body and life back, so I didn’t let this race defeat me. It was a stepping stone, I signed up for another half marathon a month later and then I looked at other races to get me motivated to run.
I continued to run through the fall. My times were not great, I had a hard time improving my time. And then there was the whole lack of energy thing, I had to gradually teach my body to get used to the longer distances. At this time I wasn’t eating great so I wasn’t getting great results. I did the half marathon in October and then a 10k in December. When I started to get hydrated and started to eat better in December and January that is when I started seeing results in my body and in my running and exercising. I think I was depriving my body and not giving it the nutrients it needed to be healthy. I’m telling you the water and veggies were a game changer for me, I felt completely different once I started to eat more veggies and drank more water.
Now let’s fast forward to 2019- I was consistent in my exercising all through the fall, I worked out 3-5 times a week. In January I started added another day at the gym and another run a week (I was only running once a week) and then I did the whole eating better thing. It took me 5 months to learn that exercising and eating well go hand in hand. It took me 5 months to realize that eating good was just as important as working out. Once I figured that out, my body started to see results. It still took time and it wasn’t immediate but I finally started to go in the direction that I was working towards. In the end of February I did another half marathon and I was able to RUN THE WHOLE THING! That was a big deal for me because my energy levels still aren’t always high and to run continuously for 13.1 miles takes a toll on my body. But I did it and even got the goal time that I wanted. I also ran a couple more races in the winter/spring and my times continued to get better and I just felt stronger. Here is a picture of a 5k race that my whole family did together. I am much happier with how I look and felt at this race than at the first half marathon.
Fast forward to today, May 2019. You guys I feel amazing. I seriously never thought that I was going to be able to be where I am right now again. I didn’t think that my body would ever get to where it is today. I thought that me having a fit body again was a thing of the past, just another thing from my 20s I would never get back again or another thing that Hashimotos stole away from me. Sure I don’t weigh 120 pounds like I used to but it’s more than just a weight for me, it’s a feeling. And I feel good. That is a real smile on my face, not a forced one like in the before pictures.
I know that this picture is a crazy angle and kinda goofy, but I like this picture because when I look at it, I feel strong. One of my goals of this journey was to look fit. I wanted to look like someone who works out and is strong, not just someone who is thin.
This journey isn’t over for me. I am still going to do all the things that I did before because it’s part of my lifestyle now, it’s part of my every day life. Sure I don’t have to lose 30 pounds again, but I still want to improve and progress, so I will continue to exercise and eat good. I still have issues with my energy and I will always have issues with it, it comes with the disease. I still have to take a nap some days just to survive, but my energy levels are SO MUCH BETTER now because I am healthier.
I hope that if you are on this journey that this post has given you a little bit of hope because for years I did not have any hope and it was miserable. I hope that you can find what works for you and you can start to feel better, inside and out! Just remember to be patient with yourself and your body, things take time. Consistency is the key to being healthy, so do things that you know that you can do for a long time!
****Update October 2019****
My journey has still continued and things have changed quite a bit for me. I wanted to make sure that health and fitness is always part of my life, so I decided to become a group fitness instructor. I now teach Group Fight and love it! I have learned so much from this journey of getting healthier, now I want to help others too!
I have continued to do races and love doing it, they are getting easier for me… well at least I am getting faster and more in shape :). I just wanted to share this picture of my sisters and me, so you can see the difference a year can make!
And lastly I did something big, I completed my very first full marathon. This was a big deal for me because when you have a lack of energy, the thought of running 4 plus hours sounds miserable. But because I stayed on my journey with exercising and eating right, I was able to do it. I NEVER thought that I would be able to do a full marathon after I was diagnosed with Hashimotos but I did it. I wasn’t able to run the whole thing (I had to walk about 3 miles out of the 26) but I was able to do it. I want to do another one hopefully and actually run the whole thing. Here is a picture of me right before the finish line, you can see the determination and exhaustion in my face.
And here is me crossing the finish line, I couldn’t help but celebrate and yell as I finished.
Check out my other fitness posts: