The Best Diet for Hypothyroidism
Total Thyroidectomy and the Difficulties of Weight Loss
This is all about how keto and your thyroid can work together to help you lose weight. I want to tell you about my thyroid and how keto helped with my weight loss. After I had my thyroid gland removed due to Graves’ Disease, I gained some weight. I had been struggling for a few years to maintain my healthy weight and size. I also suffered from all the thyroid disease symptoms you’ve probably heard of.
It was a daily struggle sometimes but every so often I would feel OK. I also had problems with the preferred prescription medication in the UK, levothyroxine. Occasionally, my levels would be good and I felt OK. Never great, just OK. But it was always short-lived.
As my weight crept slowly up, my dosage would need to be changed again. And all the symptoms came back in a perpetual cycle. I was at my wit’s end. Until I found keto and understood how it could help me both with weight loss and other symptoms after my total thyroidectomy.
Every Diet Under the Sun
At one point my mental health took a real beating. I simply gave up trying to lose weight. No diet had worked previously. And I truly had tried everything. WW, SW, cabbage soup, juicing, HCG diet, the grapefruit diet, the South Beach diet, I even gave Atkins a go and I still struggled.
Even simple calorie counting wasn’t making any significant changes to my weight, or health.
I knew that after my surgery I hadn’t changed any of my eating habits. But since I didn’t have any weight issues before, it didn’t occur to me that I would need to make any changes! It certainly was never mentioned or brought up pre-surgery. Take this pill, cured for life.
Keto and your Thyroid – gaining Weight
I was never overweight. Lucky woman! But it is true – weight was never something I had to think about. I was naturally active and on my feet all the time, and I could eat what I liked without a care in the world.
When I gained the excess weight after my thyroid surgery, I finally went to my GP and said “I don’t know why I am gaining weight!”
My doctor told me to join Slimming World. I almost laughed at that. I had been on it, tried it. Cutting calories did not work for me. You can call it points or syns (Sins?! Seriously, how to create a bad relationship with food). All those programmes boil down to calorie restriction and low-fat foods. I knew that wasn’t working for me and there had to be a reason. Yet my doctor made me feel like I was making this stuff up! If that sounds familiar to you, then please read on!
Thyroid and Weight Loss
I let myself believe that if I wasn’t losing weight then I must be doing something wrong or cheating somehow. That’s how my doctor made me feel. But I wasn’t. The fact is I ate a very “healthy diet” with plenty of fruit and veg, and treats just now and again. I didn’t overindulge, and I was pretty active until my health prevented that. I added sugar to my tea and coffee but I had always done this. It was never an issue before.
No Dietary Changes – Gaining Weight?
So it wasn’t something new or something that I had increased after my surgery. But I suddenly suffered from a significant and relatively fast weight gain. Plus a big increase in clothes size that I just could not seem to shift no matter what I did.
I had tried “everything”. We’ve all been there at some point, “tried everything, nothing works”. I knew my thyroid surgery must be connected to my weight gain, I just couldn’t explain why it was happening. The fact I had my thyroid gland surgically removed caused me to gain weight (those of you with thyroid issues will know exactly what I mean). And trying to control calories and restrict my food intake seemed to make it worse, not better!
How to Lose Weight After a Thyroidectomy
I started to do some research into my thyroid and the issues we face because I felt my doctor didn’t believe me when I said I was doing all these things but still gaining weight. He said my bloods were fine! How many of you have been there? “Your bloods are fine”. So this is all in your head. Nonsense! I decided I had to find out what was going on. And figure out why someone could cut the calories, eat all the “right” foods, even exercise more, and still continue to pile on weight.
Like I said earlier, I was one of those lucky women who were able to eat what I wanted (2 sugars in my coffee too) without a care in the world. And even while pregnant with my, now beautiful grown-up, daughter, I never gained weight. I was an even size 8 to 10 from my teenage years right up until I was 30 when my thyroid problems started.
Grave Disease and the Keto Diet
It was several years before my endo suggested “curing me once and for all” of Graves’ Disease and removing my thyroid gland. I went ahead with the surgery. But that brought with it a whole host of new issues that were supposed to be managed by medication alone. By the time I was 39 I was up several clothes sizes and struggling mentally and physically.
I yo-yo dieted trying all sorts of fad diets and quick-fix weight loss plans. Over the course of a couple of years, I sometimes lost a few pounds here and there. But I would always put it back on and twice as much again. I was in despair. Where was I going wrong? I thought I was doing everything right. And as I said, my doctor didn’t believe I was sticking to a calorie-reduced diet, even when presented with a food diary.
Thyroid and Keto for Weight Loss
At the ripe old age of 40, it was a bit of a shock to look in the mirror and see just how much my body had changed. I was a size 18/20 now. And it really got me down and feeling awful about myself. I knew I would struggle to lose this weight and the mental challenge was as hard as the physical one.
I already felt like I had been struggling for years, but this was the pinnacle moment when I said enough is enough. There has to be a solution to this. I can’t go on dieting and restricting my food intake so much, all the time. I eat the “right foods”. So why am I a bloody size 20?!
Underactive Thyroid and Ketosis
One rainy afternoon, I was getting my hair done in the salon. I was chatting with a friend at the time, who happened to mention the keto diet. She was going on holiday soon and wanted to lose some weight quickly. Me, little miss know-it-all who has done every diet out there, gives her a lecture about losing weight too quickly and how unhealthy it was! The irony! Me telling someone else how to lose weight in a healthy way. Yet there I was, physically exhausted, aching joints due to the pressure of my own body weight, and feeling the most unhappy I have probably felt with myself in my entire life.
I had seen this keto thing pop up online from time to time, but it wasn’t generally that well known, at least not in the mainstream media. Low carb was the in thing. Oh yes, been there for years. Low carbs, low sugar. As well as trying the juice diet, the 5:2 diet, the detox diet, the shakes, the pills, the powders, and the cabbage soup, again! And there I was, clinically obese and desperately unhappy. So, at the time I figured keto doesn’t sound too healthy, just like all the other fad diets out there.
Curiosity Killed The Fat
But I went ahead and googled “keto”. And I was pleasantly surprised. My online research turned to books as well. Lots of books. The one that really blew my mind was The Obesity Code, written by Dr Jason Fung. An actual medical professional too! It really is a book I recommend even now, after all the other books I’ve read.
I had heard the name Keto and had seen a few posts and articles on social media. But I had always scrolled past them, thinking it was just another fad diet. I could not have been more wrong about keto, and I wish I had discovered the ketogenic diet years ago! The biggest surprise for me is that keto was not a new fad diet. But it was a century-old way of eating developed by doctors and scientists back in the 1920s! It was initially developed to control seizures in epileptic children. And that told me one thing. It must be good for your brain! That’s when I started researching ketones.
No Thyroid and Keto
And it was quite similar to how our ancestors ate – just good, whole, real food. Reducing and cutting out modern refined carbohydrates that our bodies don’t actually need to function. And instead eating more natural food sources like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, some dairy, and plenty of nutrient-dense, vitamin-filled vegetables. Yes! Vegetables are a big part. And I thought it was all just bacon and eggs.
Low-carb vegetables are a staple part of the keto diet. So think about things that grow above the ground, and focus on those first. Leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, peppers, and so on. There is also lower carb veg that grows underground too, you just need to know which to avoid (potatoes etc) and know which are OK to have in moderation.
And no sugar. I very quickly learned through my research and reading that sugar is in fact the major cause of obesity in the western world. And NOT the saturated fat in your diet. So if you are a fan of chicken thighs and pork belly, you needn’t give these up for leaner cuts of meat! Not if you don’t want to. What a revelation! Or revolution?
All those years of reducing my dietary fat and cutting down on my calories were actually what was causing my body to hold on to the weight and continue storing more and more body fat!
So my research continued. I wanted to know more than just what foods to eat and what not to eat. I wanted to understand the science behind it – how does this work?
Why Calorie-Controlled Diets are Bad for Thyroid Problems
Once I understood that by lowering my calories, I was also messing up my thyroid levels which in turn slowed down my metabolism. I realised that cutting calories and eating low-fat food was not the answer for me.
Why is keto good for you?
Because keto is NOT necessarily calorie restricted it would do the opposite of all those low-fat calorie-controlled diets. Instead of causing more damage, it could help to heal my metabolism and help my thyroid levels be more stable.
Thyroid Weight Gain How to Lose it
I had a bit of a light bulb moment after reading The Obesity Code by Dr Jason Fung. When I realised that fat gain and fat loss are all connected to your insulin (a hormone that tells your body to store fat). So by following a keto diet, I could control my insulin levels. And therefore stop my body from storing more and more fat. Instead, I could start to use fat to create ketones, to create the energy my body needs. And in the process, use up my body fat as well as the fat I was consuming.
Food For Thought
When I first started, I was a little bit lost. I understood what I wasn’t allowed to eat anymore. That was fine. After a few weeks of fighting against my cravings, I found it easy to ignore the bread and pasta that my family were still enjoying. I had other goodies on my plate that I was loving again! Foods that I thought I shouldn’t be eating like some cream or cheese. And fatty cuts of meat, bacon, and avocados!
Do Not Go Overboard With Dietary Fats
It is NOT a license to eat as much fat as you like. You must have a good healthy balance on your plate as well. I always advocate prioritising your protein, before anything else. So I base my meals around the protein source, then some fats if needed, and then some veg.
As I said earlier, I had gone from my usual size 8 to 10, up to a size 18/20. Low calorie, traditional healthy foods, exercise, and even Atkins did not work. I was lucky if a few pounds dropped off. It always went back on (thank you thyroid problems, or in my case, no thyroid).
The Thyroid Keto Cure for Weight Loss
Now, with keto, I’m back to a size 10!
(Update to this blog – August 2022 “I went off keto and low carb eating for around 8 months in 2021/2022 after moving to Spain – And yes, I re-gained some weight, around 25lbs. I am currently now losing it again because I am back to keto and low-carb eating!”)
Weight Loss and Thyroid Disease
I have had a 5 stone weight loss on the scales in under 10 months. I kept my carbs low, so that is below 20g net carbs per day. But I knew I could go up to 50g net carbs because of my thyroid if I needed to. I eat enough dietary fats to satisfy my appetite and keep me fuelled and full of energy, without overdoing it. I also make sure I consume a good palm-sized amount of protein with every meal.
Using an app called MyFitnessPal to track my food helped me at first. I used the free version which does everything I needed to follow my new keto diet. But I got a bit fed up with that after a few weeks so I just started to use it to keep an eye on my carbs.
Counting Carbs on Keto
Now that I have been eating this way for a while I know my portion sizes. So I just watch my carbs and prepare my meals guided by my appetite. And that has settled down too! I rarely get that “I’m starving” feeling anymore.
I’m now more aware of when I’m actually hungry and I do eat regularly. I sleep really well these days too. And I have more energy and no more thyroid brain fog!
Learning about keto, helped me understand how my body processes food and showed me that I didn’t need to starve myself or go without just to lose a few pounds. I adjusted my thyroid medication (under a doctor’s supervision) as I lost weight because your thyroid meds dosage tends to go hand in hand with your weight. My doctor was also happy with my progress and when I told him that I had been following a keto diet, he was actually really supportive!
The Future of Keto
I know that keto and low-carb diets are currently being recommended by the NHS in the UK these days. People with both Type 1, but particularly Type 2 Diabetes are managing their conditions with low carb or keto diets. I believe this is also rolling out across the USA in certain states as well. I have read numerous accounts of people who have successfully reversed Type 2 Diabetes and are managing to keep it at bay with a low-carb or keto lifestyle. No medications are required after that. Amazing!
A really good friend of mine reversed her T2D and lost over 300lbs with keto alone.
And, I find it also slightly disturbing that this key piece of medical knowledge was denied and kept under wraps for decades! And people wonder why I don’t trust doctors. It’s not their fault, they have strict guidelines set out that they MUST obey. It is the people who set out these guidelines who have denied millions of people a healthy life by giving out the wrong nutritional advice. On purpose – But I will talk about that more in a future blog.
I think keto and low carb are the best things for so many people with health conditions that can contribute to excessive weight gain.
Life Goes On
As long as you get your bloods checked regularly and speak to your GP, keto could really help you with weight loss with thyroid disease.
Or life after a thyroidectomy like it did with me.
If I can change what’s on my plate and develop new, permanent eating habits, anyone can!