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Help! I'm a Thyroid Patient Who Can't Lose Weight!

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Updated January 31, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Help! I'm a Thyroid Patient Who Can't Lose Weight!

Losing weight can be a frustrating challenge for people with an underactive thyroid.

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I regularly receive emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts/messages from thyroid patients who have the same frustrating concern:

I'm a thyroid patient on thyroid hormone replacement medication, and my doctor says I'm fine, but I just can not lose weight. What can I do?
It can be difficult -- or seem downright impossible at times -- to lose weight when you're hypothyroid. But it is possible. Here are some important first steps to take.

1. Optimize Your Thyroid Treatment

Some thyroid patients -- and practitioners -- believe that if a thyroid patient has gained weight, or can't lose weight, simply getting on thyroid medication will be the solution. Unfortunately, this seems to be less common that patients who, despite being treated, continue to gain weight despite eating well and exercising, or who can't lose weight no matter what diet or exercise approach they try.

Many practitioners believe that for thyroid patients who want to lose weight, the first step is to optimize -- not just normalize -- your thyroid treatment. What is considered "optimal?" Not only are TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 levels considered important, but Reverse T3, ferritin, leptin, and other issues come into play in terms of optimal thyroid treatment. Take a look at what some of the nation's top integrative thyroid experts have to say about optimal hypothyroidism treatment. Frequently, T3 and natural thyroid drugs are part of the treatment approach.

2. Treat Hormone Resistance Issues

Some practitioners believe that hormone resistance problems -- including leptin resistance, insulin resistance, and thyroid resistance -- contribute to the difficult some thyroid patients face in losing weight.

This means, having fasting glucose, leptin, and Reverse T3 tested, evaluated, and potentially treated.

3. Increase Your Metabolism

Because hypothyroidism lowers metabolism, one of the most important things you can do is to focus on is diet, foods, and exercise that can help raise your metabolism.

4. Change Your Diet

Making changes to your diet can be essential to successful weight loss. This can include avoiding overconsumption of goitrogenic foods and vegetables (watch out for those raw juice diets!), going gluten/wheat-free, and limiting simple carbohydrates and sugar.

5. Get Enough Sleep

A crucial factor for weight loss is getting enough sleep. One study showed that women who slept 5 hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain (an increase of 33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study, compared to those who slept 7 hours a night. Some practitioners have even said it's better to skip a morning workout and use the time to sleep!

6. Try Supplements

There are hundreds of diet and weight loss supplements on the market, and very few of them are proven to be effective. But some may be of help to you in lowering appetite, lowering blood sugar, burning fat, or raising metabolism. One in particular that has some research behind it is conjugated linoleic acid. (Be careful, however, about supplements that are loaded with iodine.)

7. Get the Right Kind of Exercise

Many practitioners recommend regular exercise for thyroid patients who want to lose weight, but not excessive exercise -- the kind that leaves you exhausted or recuperating for days. My exercise of choice is T-Tapp, but other patients have found walking, Pilates, and other forms of exercise effective. The challenge is of course actually doing the exercise! Here are 17 tips from thyroid patients on how to keep moving.

8. Keep Learning!

Keep learning about the link between thyroid disease, weight gain, diet, and hormones.

To help, sign up for my Thyroid Diet Email Ecourse-- Four Weeks to Weight Loss, and visit my Thyroid Diet and Weight Loss Information Center.

You can also read these informative articles here at the site:

I also explain optimal thyroid treatment, hormone resistance, and dietary changes -- and look at dozens of possible supplements -- in my book Thyroid Diet Revolution.
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