Hypothyroidism? How to control weight

Having an underactive thyroid may work against you when you are trying to control weight. Some quite frustrating symptoms of hypothyroidism are lethargy, excess sleepiness, low metabolism, easy weight increase, constipation, irritability, vague muscle aches and stiffness, joint pains, depression etc, all of these are setbacks while you are trying to exercise or diet and only make your life difficult to deal with.

The symptoms develop over a period of time and may vary according to severity of hormone deficiency.

If you are experiencing an unexplained weight increase then get your thyroid checked, especially if you are an adolescent, middle aged or postpartum woman. Once you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the first step is getting hormone replacement therapy for hypothyroidism.

Losing weight
Weight gain depends on the severity. Some of the weight gain in hypothyroidism is accumulation of salt and water. Once medication, exercise and diet are started you can expect a weight loss up to 10% of your initial weight or whatever weight you had gained due to an underactive thyroid.

This is one situation where exercise bags a lion’s share of responsibility and success in weight management than diet. In my experience, people who put in at least one hour of exercise daily find good results than those who only follow a restricted diet plan. Without exercise one may not lose any weight at all. This is because, your metabolism is further reduced with caloric restriction. Exercise boosts metabolism and an aggressive exercise session can even maintain the upped metabolic rate for the next 24 hrs. Therefore, join a gym and do resistance and aerobic type exercises. Apart from causing weight loss, exercise also helps relieve constipation, mental depression and muscle aches and joint pains.

What not to eat
1. Some foods like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peaches, peanuts, pine nuts, millet, cassava, mustard greens that may interfere with thyroid function may be restricted.
2. Soy products may be eaten about 4 hours away from taking the medication. So also avoid eating high fibre foods, iron and calcium tablets soon after taking the medication as they may reduce the absorption of the hormone.
3. Avoid refined flour that may aggravate constipation.
4. Reduce oil in cooking and avoid fried foods strictly since hypothyroidism may cause increased cholesterol levels. Choose healthier oils. Avoid ghee, butter, cream, and curries, desserts made with these.

What to eat
1. Give priority to eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants – mangoes, oranges, guavas, red grapes, pomegranate, papaya, pumpkin, green banana, tomatoes, carrots, squash, capsicum.
2. Eat foods high in B vitamins and iron – whole grain and enriched cereals, legumes, fat free milk and yoghurt, lean meat, green leafy vegetables.
3. Drink a lot of water when you are on high fibre foods so that it eases bowel movement. Avoid sugar in beverages.
4. Choose fat free or low fat milk, yoghurt and cheese, paneer to add calcium to your diet. Choose lean meat. Good protein intake will help weight loss and correct anaemia.

If the cause for hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency, then use iodized salt in cooking foods.

Do not drastically reduce calories as this will dip the body’s metabolism and conserve energy thus preventing weight loss. Go on a moderately controlled diet somewhere between 1500 to 1800kcal per day and burn more body fat with increased physical activity. You may lose your weight slower than someone who has no thyroid problems, so be patient in looking for results. Be prepared for a long term plan for dieting and exercising. Start on diet and exercise together for best results.

Parvathy R Krishnan

The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. She is presently a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Parvathy blogs at http://premadiet.blogspot.in/

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