The thyroid gland controls a person’s metabolism. Having an underactive thyroid can make losing weight a challenge. However, weight loss is possible with the right approach. In this article, I’ll share 10 effective ways to lose weight with hypothyroidism.
I’ll start by explaining how hypothyroidism affects weight. Then I’ll share weight-loss tips as well as when to see a medical provider.
Important note: See your healthcare provider if you are taking your thyroid medications, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and still gaining weight or can’t lose any weight.
How Does Hypothyroidism Affect Weight?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the throat. It is responsible for making hormones that control how the body uses energy.
These hormones affect every part of the body, and without enough of them, many functions slow down, including metabolism.
Studies show that metabolism can slow down as much as 50%. Decreased metabolism can lead to weight gain.
Tips for Losing Weight With Hypothyroidism
Here are 10 tips to help lose weight if you have hypothyroidism.
Eat a healthy diet
The following recommendations come from research examining what a healthy diet means for someone with hypothyroidism.
- Vegetables: Aim to eat a variety of vegetables several times a day.
- Fruits: Eat fruit at least once a day. Fruits contain many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Foods rich in calcium: Foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and small fish that contain edible bones support bone health. Eat these foods several times a day.
- Whole grains: Eat foods such as buckwheat, wholemeal wheat, and rye bread once a day.
- Nuts and seeds: These are a good source of selenium and zinc, both important elements for people with hypothyroidism. Enjoy nuts and seeds several times a week.
Additionally, limit or avoid the following:
- Sweets, sugar, honey (once a week or less)
- Sweetened beverages and energy drinks (once a week or less)
- Fast food (once a week or less)
- Soybean and millet (twice a month or less)
- Alcohol (once a month or less)
Get plenty of fiber
Fiber adds bulk to your diet, which can help you feel full faster. This is helpful for weight control.
However, if you are not used to fiber in your diet, slowly add more to prevent gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps.
Eat healthy fats
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help with hormone function and make you feel fuller, which can prevent overeating.
Sources of healthy fats include:
- Fatty fish (tuna, sardines, salmon, trout, herring)
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Olive oil
Limit processed foods
Processed foods contain high amounts of added sugars and oils that may increase weight gain.
Limiting these foods may support thyroid health and weight control.
Examples of highly processed foods include:
- Fast food
- Hot dogs
Get enough protein
Protein is the building block of muscle. However, certain types of proteins are better than others for people with hypothyroidism.
Low zinc levels are linked to hypothyroidism, and selenium may help your body make more thyroid hormones.
Avoid refined carbs
Refined carbohydrates are highly processed grains.
These foods have little to no nutritional value and often contain high amounts of added sugars.
They do not promote long-term health.
Refined carbs are found in:
- White bread, pasta, and rice
Regular exercise helps not only with weight control but also helps with some other hypothyroidism symptoms such as:
- Increasing energy levels
- Supporting better sleep
- Improving mood
- Increasing bone density
- Boosting metabolism
If your hormones are well-controlled, you can generally start any form of exercise and work to increase your strength and endurance.
If your hormones are not well-controlled, speak with your medical professional about a safe way to begin exercising.
High levels of stress increases the hormone cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol promote weight retention.
Learning to manage stress may help you control your weight.
Here are some helpful tips put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Take breaks from watching the news or hearing negative stories
- Take care of your body through nutrition, exercise, and adequate rest
- Make time to unwind by doing activities you enjoy
- Talk about your worries with people who you trust and who care about you
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Recognize when you need further help, such as seeing a counselor or psychologist
Monitor hormone levels regularly
Checking your hormones will help you and your healthcare provider monitor how well your thyroid is functioning. When you are first diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your medical provider may test your hormones more frequently to monitor how your treatment plan is working.
Once your thyroid hormones appear to be stable, your medical provider will likely test less often.
Is It Harder to Lose Weight With Hypothyroidism?
Your thyroid makes two hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones control how your organs use energy. When your thyroid isn’t making enough T4 and T3, your body’s functions slow down, decreasing your metabolism.
When your metabolism slows, you aren’t burning as many calories for energy. This can lead to weight gain. So yes, it is harder to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism; however, it is possible.
When to See a Medical Provider
Talk to your medical provider if you are taking your thyroid medications, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and still gaining weight or can’t lose any weight.
They may want to check your hormone levels to ensure you are in the target range.
How K Health Can Help
It’s just three easy steps:
- Answer a few simple questions.
- Meet your primary care provider.
- Get the care you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion. (2017).
Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism. (2016).
Coping with stress. (2021).
Evaluation of qualitative dietary protocol (Diet4Hashi) application in dietary counseling in Hashimoto thyroiditis: Study protocol of a randomized controlled trial. (2019).
Foods high in zinc. (2021).
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). (2021).
Stress and your health. (2021).