What is the best exercise for Hashimoto?
I’m a Fitness Influencer with an Invisible Illness That Causes Me to Gain Weight
Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness opens up about how her hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease has impacted her life and career in fitness.
Faith Brar is a Maine-based freelance health and wellness writer and content creator whose work has appeared in a series of Meredith digital brands, including Shape. When she’s away from her keyboard, you can find her lifting weights, hiking mountains, binge-watching true crime shows, and spending quality time with her hubby and dog-child, Drake.
Updated on July 6, 2022
Most people who follow me on Instagram or have done one of my Love Sweat Fitness workouts probably think fitness and wellness have always been a part of my life. But the truth is, I’ve been suffering from an invisible illness for years that makes me struggle with my health and weight.
I was about 11 years old when I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t release enough of the T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) hormones. Usually, women are diagnosed with the condition are in their 60’s, unless it’s generic, but I didn’t have a family history.
Just getting that diagnosis was incredibly difficult, too. It took ages to figure out what was wrong with me. For months, I kept exhibiting symptoms that were very unusual for my age: My hair was falling out, I had extreme fatigue, my headaches were unbearable, and I was always constipated. Concerned, my parents started to take me to different doctors but everyone kept writing it off as a result of puberty. (
Learning to Live with Hypothyroidism
Finally, I found a doctor who put all the pieces together and was formally diagnosed and immediately prescribed medication to help control my symptoms. I was on that medication through my adolescent years, though the dosage changed often.
At that time, not a lot of people were diagnosed with hypothyroidism-let alone people my age-so none of the doctors could give me more homeopathic ways to deal with the illness. (For instance, nowadays, a doctor would tell you that foods rich in iodine, selenium, and zinc can help maintain proper thyroid function. On the other hand, soy and other foods that have goitrogens can do the opposite.) I wasn’t really doing anything to fix or change my lifestyle and was completely reliant on my meds to do all the work for me.
Through high school, eating poorly caused me to gain weight-and fast. Late-night fast food was my kryptonite and when I got to college, I was drinking and partying several days a week. I wasn’t conscious at all about what I was putting in my body.
By the time I was into my early 20’s, I wasn’t in a good place. I didn’t feel confident. I didn’t feel healthy. I had tried every fad diet under the sun and my weight just wouldn’t budge. I failed at all of them. Or, rather, they failed me. (
Because of my illness, I knew I was destined to be a little overweight and that losing weight wouldn’t to be easy for me. That was my crutch. But it had gotten to a point where I was so uncomfortable in my skin that I knew I had to do something.
Taking Control of My Symptoms
Post-college, after hitting rock bottom emotionally and physically, I took a step back and tried to figure out what wasn’t working for me. From years of yo-yo dieting, I knew that making abrupt, extreme changes to my lifestyle wasn’t helping my cause, so I decided (for the first time) to introduce small, positive changes to my diet instead. Rather than cutting out unhealthy foods, I started introducing better, healthier options.
I’ve always loved cooking, so I made an effort to get more creative and make healthy dishes taste better without compromising nutritional value. Within a few weeks, I noticed that I’d shed some pounds-but it was no longer about the numbers on the scale. I learned that food was fuel for my body and not only was it helping me feel better about myself, but it was helping my hypothyroidism symptoms too.
At that point, I started doing a lot more research into my illness and how diet could play a role in helping with energy levels in particular. Based on my own research, I learned that, similar to people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), gluten can be a source of inflammation for people with hypothyroidism. But I also knew that cutting out carbs wasn’t for me. So I cut out gluten from my diet while making sure I was getting a healthy balance of high-fiber, whole-grain carbs. I also learned that dairy can have the same inflammatory effect. but after eliminating it from my diet, I didn’t really notice a difference, so I eventually reintroduced it. Basically, it took a lot of trial and error on my own to figure out what worked best for my body and what made me feel good.
Within six months of making these changes, I lost a total of 45 pounds. More importantly, for the first time in my life, some of my hypothyroidism symptoms started to disappear: I used to get severe migraines once every two weeks, and now I haven’t had one in the last eight years. I also noticed an increase in my energy level: I went from always feeling tired and sluggish to feeling like I had more to give throughout the day.
Being Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease
Before, my hypothyroidism left me feeling so fatigued most days that any extra effort (read: exercise) felt like a serious chore. After transforming my diet, though, I committed to moving my body for just 10 minutes a day. It was manageable, and I figured if I could do that, I could eventually do more.
In fact, that’s what my fitness programs are based on today: The Love Sweat Fitness Daily 10 are free 10-minute workouts you can do anywhere. For people who don’t have time or struggle with energy, keeping it simple is the key. «Easy and manageable» is what transformed my life, so I hoped it could do the same for someone else. (
That’s not to say I’m entirely symptom-free: This whole last year was tough because my T3 and T4 levels were super low and out of whack. I ended up having to go on several different new medications and it was confirmed I have Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. While hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s are often considered the same thing, Hashimoto’s is usually the catalyst for what causes hypothyroidism to occur in the first place.
Luckily, the lifestyle changes I’ve made over the past eight years all help me deal with Hashimoto’s as well. However, it’s still taken me a year and a half to go from sleeping nine hours and still feeling incredibly exhausted to finally having the energy to do the things I love.
What My Journey Has Taught Me
Living with an invisible illness is anything but easy and will always have its ups and down. Being a fitness influencer and personal trainer is my life and passion, and balancing it all can be challenging when my health gets sidelined. But through the years, I’ve learned to really respect and understand my body. Healthy living and a consistent exercise routine are always going to be a part of my life, and luckily, those habits also help combat my underlying health conditions. Plus, fitness not only helps me feel my best and do my best as a trainer and motivator to the women who rely on me.
Even on days when it is really hard-when I feel like I literally might die on my couch-I force myself to get up and go for a brisk 15-minute walk or do a 10-minute workout. And ever time, I feel better for it. That’s all the motivation I need to continue taking care of my body and inspiring others to do the same.
At the end of the day, I hope my journey is a reminder that-Hashimoto’s or not-we all have to start somewhere and it’s always better to start small. Setting realistic, manageable goals will promise you success in the long run. So if you’re looking to take back control of your life as I did, that’s a good place to start.
What is the best exercise for Hashimoto?
Women with hypothyroidism often struggle with weight loss. That’s because your tiny thyroid gland has a huge responsibility: Thyroid hormones play an important role in regulating basal metabolism, thermogenesis and play an important role in various metabolic processes like lipid and glucose metabolism, food intake and fat oxidation.It regulates your metabolism, which means it converts your food into energy. If you have hypothyroidism, with less energy, you end up feeling sluggish, making you more prone to an inactive lifestyle and further adding to your weight-gain problems.
The resulting obesity can lead to health risks, such as heart disease and diabetes. Hence, trying exercise for hypothyroidism to shed those extra kilos is not only about fitting back into your old denims but also about keeping yourself healthy overall. With a condition like hypothyroidism, however, cutting calories alone may not solve the problem. Here’s where metabolism-boosting exercises come in.
How Muscle Mass Influences Metabolism
A healthy diet and hypothyroid medications prescribed by your doctor definitely help, but they may not be enough to help you shed the extra weight. While unhealthy calorie restriction could help you lose weight, it may also increase your risk of sarcopenia. This implies muscle loss and reduced muscle functioning.
Thus, what’s key is improving your metabolism in a healthy way that doesn’t compromise your physical functioning. A good way to do this is by building more muscle. Muscles burn more calories than fat tissue, even at a resting state. So increasing your muscle mass while losing body fat boosts your body’s metabolism, thus helping you lose weight.
Why Strength Training?
Strength-training exercises are an excellent way to gain muscle mass. Studies have shown that resistance training, along with dietary modification, helps you lose weight. Since strength training increases muscle mass and metabolic rate, you burn more calories. Strength-training exercises also prevent the muscle loss that accompanies calorie cutting, so you stay more fit as you fight the flab. The benefits don’t stop at your thyroid though; resistance training enhances heart health and helps control blood glucose levels.
How to Incorporate Exercise for Hypothyroidism
You don’t need a gym membership or fancy home gym equipment for strength-training exercises. You can always start with basic exercises, such as squats, lunges, leg raises and push-ups. Together, these exercises work all the major muscles in your body. And with just a pair of dumbbells, you can broaden your routine to include basic weight-lifting exercises, such as overhead press, bent-over row, chest press and bicep curls.
For a good metabolism-boosting training programme, alternate between moderate-intensity strength training and aerobic exercise on different days of the week. While doing these exercises though, do keep a few things in mind:
- Physical activity should always consider your overall health condition, including your age, heart condition, pregnancy and other factors. Do consult your doctor and a qualified personal trainer before you begin an exercise regimen.
- Ease your way into exercise. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an underactive thyroid can cause your heart rate to slow down. So, a sudden return to exercise can stress your heart. Once your medications kick in, start with moderate-intensity exercises rather than jumping in at full force.
- There is a fine line between just right and too much. Training too much or at too high an intensity can negate the benefits and do more harm than good. So, it’s better not to overdo it!
- Value quality over quantity in your workouts. Multitasking while exercising is a strict no-no. Stay focused, as diversions increase the risk of injury.
With a correct exercise plan, you can boost your metabolism and build strength for a more fulfilling life.
This content is meant for awareness and educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.
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