How can you increase weight loss if calorie control and exercise are problematic for hypothyroidism?

I read somewhere - I think it was on this site, GPs will usually advise people to eat less calories and exercise more in order to lose weight but for people who have hypothyroidism this is not the solution. I am curious to know what is effective and why this is not an effective plan. I eat low carb, low FODMAPS and gluten free but still struggle to lose half a pound! I know weight loss has been discussed before but I am intrigued by this aspect and regardless of what I read don't understand it. This weekend I put on 3 lbs in one day despite walking miles and eating reasonably. I am not diagnosed with hypothyroidism but having a blood test this week and think I do have some symptoms.

26 Replies

  • This link may help you understand:-

  • Thanks for this Shaws - very interesting but what is the solution? Does anybody know?

  • And this one - scroll up and down for diet, exercise etc - still no solution though.

    Moggie x

  • Honestly I have got to the stage that if one more person says that I need to 'eat less and exercise more' I shall punch them - hard!! It does not nor never has worked there are so many other factors to take into account!

  • When I told my friend, who is able to lose weight really quickly, that it was so difficult for me to lose weight she was so cynical and said she could not believe I was the only person who could not lose weight. One of the doctors at the surgery said it was 'just one of those things some people find it difficult to lose weight.' Sometimes I feel pretty miserable as I can't eat what I want and often get hungry. When I hear and see the 'Obesity Campaign' in full swing I feel even more fed up. I used to be 8 1/2 stone and was able to wear what I wanted. Although I have always had to watch my weight it used to be much easier and I saw results. I have said before I eat no bread, cakes, biscuits, pasta, sweets, chocolate etc as I am gluten intolerant and also intolerant to various other stuff. Dietitian made me so mad as she did not understand and could not look outside the box. I wanted to discover why I was not losing weight but she said many people who come to her say the same thing - they don't eat much and can't lose weight ie I am kidding myself about how much I eat! I didn't go back. Even reading the links people have sent I still don't know that I fully understand why it is not shifting given what I don't eat and the exercise I do. Demoralising!

  • I went to see a dietician, she gave me a diet sheet and in a horrified voice I said' How do you expect me to eat all that? I would be as sick as a lighthouse cat!!!'

  • Crikey .... how odd to give such a lot to eat - what was her rationale for this I wonder? There is a school of thought that suggests I am not eating enough calories to lose weight but that doesn't work for me. I have always had to lose weight/maintain weight on fewer calories.

  • It was just a standard diet sheet. I eat very little and can go for several days because I forget to eat!!

  • Hi urbangirl

    Sorry to hear your plight. Are you sure that you are on the right dosage of meds. I am only asking you this because I lost a stone within 1 year on 125mcg Levo and feel great for it. I know what you mean about diets and dieting they are always changing the goal posts so they get really confusing. I think you should find an activity that you find fun or you will never stick to it long enough to show the results you crave. Rosemary Conley classes are great for a starter, not just a weigh in but a workout too, so good value for money. Look on the Web to get the gist and find a class near you. You may find the Gym boring, I do. Most people like music and I have to work out to music to get that feel good factor and the urge to go again. So find some classes near you, maybe dancing, join a cycling club, weights are great for toning muscle,( try Les Mills classes to music, see Web Page) whatever burns your boat. Remember protein is also very important in a diet as it builds muscle, the more healthy muscle we have the more calories we burn without putting so much effort in. If you eat a lot of carbs you have to burn them or they just sit on the hips or the middle.

    Good Luck and don't give up on yourself.

  • Thanks for this Lucindajethol - I am not on any medication and have not even been diagnosed with any thyroid condition yet and quite frankly after my session at the surgery today probably never will be! The surgery are far more concerned with testing me for raised glucose and cholesterol than for thyroid. After I get the results on Monday I may have to get some private testing done! I am being tested for TSH.

    I do exercise every day mostly swimming - usually try to swim a mile but depends on how my joints are, but I cycle and do a bit of urban walking. It is very difficult for me to do some exercises because I keep getting tendonitis in my shoulders, or bursitis in my hips, and my lower back hurts. I now have tennis elbow. So I can't really do some of the exercises in dance classes etc much as I would like to - I do go to Pilates though which is so good for my aches and pains.

    Diets are really difficult because I cannot eat gluten or gluten free products and other foods that contain additives eg hard cheese and bacon and I can't eat eggs (can eat them in things like meringues in small doses). So I mostly have meat, fish, vegetables and salad. Everything is made from scratch. Sometimes I don't bother eating as I get bored with the menus I have and run out of ideas of what to eat! Yet I still struggle to lose weight. Doctor says it is just one of those things!

  • Your diet sounds pretty good to me. You must never go missing meals though, because quite frankly your body will work against you, because it will think it is being starved and will hold onto any fat you may have FACT! Same thing if you are on a diet and stick to say 1400 cals for more than 2 weeks you will plateau out and the weight lost in the beginning will stay at that. So then you get fedup because you can,t lose anymore. At this point you up your cal intake just a little which will get your body burning fat again. All this goes back to when we were cave dwellers, as when there was not much food and they were pretty starving, their body would naturally hold onto the fat it already had in order to stay alive and keep warm. So you can blame that on our ancestors.

    Funny you should mention tennis elbow (very painful) as that is one of the symptoms I developed amongst other aches and pains before I got diagnosed as underacttive thyroid. The tennis elbow manifested itself when all my aches and pains came to a head and I went to the doctors again, a good doctor this time who sent me for bloods tested me for about 8 things and came up with thyroid readings through the roof. Are they checking you for diabetes, just wondered with you saying about the glucose levels and cholesterol. Both conditions would make you hold onto weight around the middle that you don,t want. I also had cholesterol levels higher than I would wish for but they have come down after this treatment.

  • I had a blood test yesterday and had two tests for glucose, random glucose and also HbA1c (which is a test usually used for diabetics) random cholesterol, anaemia and thyroid, TSH. Last year I was diagnosed as glucose impaired (borderline results) and have raised cholesterol - that's why I am on a low carb diet to reduce these levels. But the point is I want to find out why I have raised levels yet the doctors focus is on the glucose and cholesterol not investigating thyroid. Results on Monday and if TSH is normal will get some private testing done.

  • This is an excerpt re studies into the reason for weight gain when hypo:-

    The three studies I mention above were published in 2005,[3] 2007,[4] and 2008.[2] They were published in the long-gone wake of a 2000 report from the journal Thyroid.[5] In that study, which has largely been ignored by the endocrinology specialty, researchers compared the treatment of hypothyroid patients to that of thyroid cancer patients. They found that hypothyroid patients on T4 replacement doses (dosages of thyroxine that keep the TSH within range) gained weight. In contrast, thyroid cancer patients didn’t take replacement doses of T4; instead, they took doses of T4 high enough to suppress their TSH levels. And they didn’t gain weight. The researchers concluded that T4 replacement was in fact the cause of the hypothyroid patients’ weight gain: “The excessive weight gain in patients becoming hypothyroid after destructive therapy for Graves’ disease suggests that restoration of serum TSH to the reference range by T4 alone may constitute inadequate hormone replacement.”


    Hopefully the news will also enlighten some of the clinicians who mistakenly assure patients that an in-range TSH level means it is impossible that weight gain is related to too little regulation by thyroid hormone. If clinicians will heed the research findings and correct this common mistake in clinical care, they will better serve those patients whose weight gain is associated with TSH levels that have risen within the reference range.

  • It is complicated for me to understand some of the studies but I think I understand it! If it is taken on board by clinicians that will be helpful. But will this make a difference in relation to diagnosis? I ask this in relation to the fact that my doctors seem more keen to attribute my problems to diabetes probably because I am overweight. I have stressed to them I do not overeat and exercise and do not understand the weight gain and difficulty losing weight. What comes first? Besides I am borderline dodgy for cholesterol and glucose.

  • In the 'old days' before blood tests people were diagnosed according to clinical symptoms alone. Nowadays, it is the TSH alone regardless of symptoms. A higher cholesterol is one, unexplained weight gain is another but due to the Guidelines by the BTA that only when TSH reaches 10 (barbaric) will meds be prescribed. Some doctors, thankfully, will listen and take note of patients clinical symptoms and prescribe around 5. For your information:-

  • Thank you Shaws - my TSH result 16 months ago was 2.24 which was considered normal by the doctor. I await the results on Monday.

  • I can only speak for myself on this matter, but I lost 1 stone once I got diagnosed with underactive thyroid and prescribed Levo. To me that was magic, as I could never shift the weight before, although I worked out regularly. In fact I thought the extra weight I carried (12stone before) was not doing any of my joints any good plus the aches and pains common symptons over underactive Thyroid which I now know about. Funny but I never for once considered Thyroid as being the main cause of it all. Throughout my life I had always been able to maintain a healthy weight but this weight just crept up on me from no where and I just put it down to my desk job and getting older. To prevent weight gain maybe its all to do with getting the correct dose of Levo and not being afraid of exercising even though your joints may be sore afterwards. In my case the soreness soon wears off. My doctor has never said that I can do any more damage with exercise so I will continue as long as I can. Maybe I am just one of the lucky ones. Looking forward to losing another stone then I will be happy.

  • I feel bombarded with advice in relation to the fact that I definitely have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, possible diabetes and possible thyroid problems. I have been told to lose weight to lower cholesterol and reduce glucose - difficult to do given I have done this since I was in my 20s! I am completely lost sometimes.

  • Exercising to tolerence is good but over-exercising if hypo is not recommended and Vitamin E is particularly good for thyroid gland:-

  • Crikey ... interesting as this is what I mean about being overwhelmed by contradictory advice - lose weight for high glucose and cholesterol but for thyroid this is different. Why is over-exercise not recommended? And, of course what constitutes over-exercise? My GP did say that I ought to slow down because of my age. She thinks I do loads - I on the other hand don't think I do enough..

  • To throw another spanner in the works and sorry to bombard you but what comes first - diabetes or hypothyroidism?

    Link below re diabetes.

    You don't give your history in your profile and I see from the above you are not yet on thyroid meds. If you are indeed hypo our metabolism reduces and weight gain increases, as does cholesterol. We feel quite unwell and don't have energy enough to exercise. If we are on optimum medication our metabolism increases, cholesterol drops as does excess weight but we have to be on the right amount of medication. That's the theory and it works for quite a few people.

    If we we are healthy and well, it still takes willpower to lose weight and sometimes it's slow to come off, so if we have hypo it's doubly difficult until on optimum medication (optimum means a dose that makes us feel normal health).

    I must admit that it's impossible to take all info in at once. Sometimes, too, it can be too much. Most of us have had to search and find out the hard way but thanks to this forum the members who have similar problems are very helpful. It is a slow process and it's not an overnight cure but you can get there in the end as long as you take one step at a time.


  • It is an absolute godsend to have forums like this and to have so many helpful people give you the information they have collected over the years. I cannot tell you how helpful GFGs has been for gluten intolerance. I really appreciate all the advice no matter how complicated it is. I am just beginning to understand coeliac and NCGS after 16 months and now starting to understand thyroid! It takes a while to sink in.

    Yep - what comes first diabetes or thyroid? Exactly my point for the medics - screen for thyroid first please then look at the diabetes. But as I said the diabetes is clearly the priority for my practice.

    Not sure if I do feel ill - I get achey, tired and lethargic - can't get it together sort of feeling but this was far worse before I stopped eating gluten (16/12) as I had fibromyalgia as well. It went very soon after I went GF. However, I am still tender in some places but I could not walk without aching then. I swim++ and often smother my aching joints in pain relief gel before I go, but I can pace myself accordingly in the water. Sometimes swimming is all I do for the whole day as I can't get anything else together and get behind with work. I just think I am being lazy. So I don't know if it psychological or physiological. I have noticed I don't like getting up very much these days! Back to being a teenager!

  • Hi Urbangirl

    Before being diagnosed with Underactive Thyroid, like you I was aching all over, in all my joints and using Voltarol rub for the pain, also putting weight on which I could not lose, although I was still managing to exercise 3 times a week. Funny thing, but I was the one who mentioned diabetes to the doctor but got poo pooed and he did not test me either. Took another visit to the doctors same surgery differant doctor, brandishing a list of all the symptoms my body was going through just incase I forgot anything. Finally that was when I got the tests I required done,and within a week the surgery called me back to make another doctors appointment, the rest is history. I really hope you get your health issues sorted out soon, as I can honestly say it has changed my life for the better. I knew there was something wrong with my health then, and I know you feel the same about yours now. I was right and I am sure you will be too.

    Good Luck

  • Thanks for the encouraging words Lucindajethol - means a lot especially when you begin to not trust your doctor. Were you diagnosed as having diabetes? I have spent the weekend with my friends who are medics and we got talking about my medical probs. I shouldn't have bothered really! Even though endocrinology is not their speciality I got some scientific advice.

    When I started having problems with gluten I knew there was something wrong too. For me I cannot understand the constant joint pain that is associated with tendonitis/bursitis etc. As soon as one problem gets better I develop a new condition or the old one comes back eg rotator cuff improves then I

    get hip bursitis, that improves then I get tennis elbow! Medics suggest it is because I am getting old but this has been going on for years!

  • Hi Urbangirl

    No I was not diagnosed diabetic thank god. I have an underactive thyroid thats enough for now, but I did experience all the aches and pains you describe now. So much better now on correct dose of Levo, though I will not lie and say I never get the odd niggles now and again. I do know how you feel right now, as it is so worrying all these aches and pains and tenderness, but you just tend to put symptoms down to getting older, well I did anyway. Glad I stuck to my guns and got things rolling ie blood tests. Funny you say about having tennis elbow so did I, but I realise it was my Thyroid now that was causing all these problems, as I have never had elbow pains since starting meds. You will get there in the end. Let us know on the Forum how you get on after your tests. Good Luck

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