#61 Underactive Thyroids & How To Lose Weight
The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast
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In Episode 61 of The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, Natalie Douglas and Kate Callaghan discuss options for women with an underactive Thyroid and weight loss, and how to lose weight with an underactive Thyroid.
- Nat’s (not so) secret childhood fantasy
- Losing weight with an Underactive Thyroid
- Low carb and weight loss in hypothyroidism
- Reversing metabolic damage
- Visualisations and mindset to heal
- The greatest food combo ever
Hey guys, welcome to the very first installation of Chat with Nat. So, I just made that name up but that’s what I’m going to call it. Let’s roll with that.
So the goal of these little mini casts or mini-podcast is just to give you guys bite-sized bits of information that you’re asking about on Instagram, either through direct messages or comments. I’m going to create a theme for them each week.
So this week, we are talking about thyroid and weight loss and I’m going to address all the questions that have come to me about that specific topic but in the future, the focus of it is going to be answering any little bits of like grouped questions around thyroid health, gut health, hormonal health, and also adrenal health, because those are my particular areas of clinical practice experience and focus. And that’s how it’s going to work.
I’m also going to share with you guys something that perhaps you don’t know about me so that we can get to know each other better, or you can get to know me better rather. And also, I’m going to share with you something non-nutrition related that I’m exploring or feel like you guys could benefit from, and then I’m going to share with you a recommendation. And I’m going to keep that broad so that I don’t feel like I have to follow any particular rule and whatever comes out of my mouth is cool.
So I’m hoping these things go well but to be completely honest with you, I have no idea. I am just rolling with this and if you guys like them, great, I’ll keep doing them. If you don’t, then we’ll just stick with the regular podcast. So, just so you know, the regular podcast will not be going away, Kate and I will still be talking about whatever you guys want us to talk about in a longer, in longer episodes. These are trying to just create mini-bite sized bits of information. If you don’t care about getting to know me better, or you don’t care about my recommendations or non-nutrition related stuff, just skip through. That’s cool.
So let’s start with something that you don’t know about me. So, I mean, I’m pretty transparent. So, I’ve probably shared a lot of too much information on the podcast already but if you’re new, then maybe these will be things you don’t know. So, I’m just going to start from the beginning. So, when I was younger, as in like a six-year-old, maybe, I actually wanted to be a boy. So, I used to get my mom to and my family to call me Bradley. Don’t ask, I don’t know, Bradley, whenever we were out in public and I would not come unless they called me Bradley. I also had, like, I think it was called like a step cut or a crew cut or something. It was like super short hair and I used to wear my brother’s clothes and like a T-shirt that said “bad boy” with my hat backwards like and a Mighty Ducks cap.
Anyway, I did grow out of that but apparently, I also asked for a penis for Christmas. Which I never got by the way that was I feel like my mom drew the line somewhere and that was where it was drawn. So, I grew out of it but that’s a little bit of information you don’t know about me. So, I was very much a tomboy, very much into like sport, I was pretty good if I don’t mind saying so myself. I was pretty good at a lot of like, ball sports like soccer, netball, tee-ball, softball, that kind of stuff, all those sports. Yeah, that’s my a little bit of you get to know Natalie from the beginning. So, I will bring you more of that next week.
Now we’re going to jump into the topic of the week, which is thyroid and weight loss because so many of you guys have questions around this, which I appreciate because it is such a common struggle to have when you’ve got an underactive thyroid. There is more often are not issues with weight loss and it seems that the old you know, eat less move more does not work, obviously, and it’s a real source of feeling disheartened and feeling frustrated and feeling like you’re, you’re against your body and your body’s letting you down.
I want to get you guys to understand this better but the way I’m going to present it is just giving you, I’m going to read out the question that was written in, and then I’m going to give you an answer to it. And hopefully, it covers most of your questions, but if it doesn’t, please keep sending me questions and I will cover this topic again, we’ll do a part two. So, the question that was written into me was, what can I do if I have an underactive thyroid and I am trying to lose weight?
So, pretty forward broad question and I would approach this in a bit of a step by step fashion. So, the first thing I would be doing is to test your thyroid hormone levels properly, to see where things are at and if you have no idea what test your thyroid properly means, then go on to my Instagram account and there is a post on that specifically in terms of what should your thyroid labs look like when you’re looking at them from an optimal perspective. So, you can use that as a reference point in terms of what to get tested and what it should look like. If you’re like, this is too much, someone just look at it for me, then you can always book in a one-on-one consultation and we can go through that properly for you and I can, you know, give you the feedback directly.
The next thing I would do is if you’re on medication already, so you say you’ve got an underactive thyroid, you’re taking thyroxine or T-4 on your medication, then I would consider whether that is the most optimal medication for you. So, I find in practice, a lot of people tend to do a bit better off compounded T-4 and T-3 medication or natural desiccated thyroid extract. So you probably need to speak to an integrative doctor to get that prescribed but that’s another thing that I would consider.
The next thing I would step down to is, let’s say that all your labs are in range and you’re feeling stable on your medication and still, nothing is shifting. So, in that situation, there can be a few things that are going on. So, the first thing that can happen is that the thyroid hormone isn’t getting into the cell due to high-stress levels or inflammation and this means you need to find out why. So, common reasons as to why that is occurring. Our gut infections or imbalances, our low-grade viral infections, high stress or quote-unquote, adrenal issues, lack of sleep, or dysregulated blood sugar. So that’s one scenario.
The other thing is that you know, perhaps none of those things are going on for you, then none of them are an issue or they were an issue and you now healed them and you’re still struggling to lose weight. The next place I’d look is having a closer examination or exactly how much you’re eating. So, for some people, they actually aren’t eating enough food, and they may have metabolic damage, and their body is just adapting and adapting as they drop the intake lower and lower, and therefore making it hard to create a calorie or energy deficit, which is the thing that does induce weight loss. For these people, I encouraged them to do a reverse diet to heal their metabolism, then once that happens, there is room to create a deficit in energy intake, which will induce weight loss and you can do this using different strategies.
So, a reverse diet is when you slowly over time increase your, the amount of food that you’re eating, and this allows your metabolism to adjust as the increased energy intake comes in as opposed to going from eating like 1200 calories to, you know, 1800 calories, if you do that hundred percent your metabolism doesn’t have enough time to adapt, and you will put on body weight but if you start at 1200, and then, you know, you gradually increased by like 50 to 100 calories each week and allow your body time to adjust, then you get to a point where you are now, you now have a metabolism that is firing, that feels safe, that is burning through more energy and more calories in a day.
The reason why I like this is that it allows you to get more micronutrients in, and that is also going to help your thyroid and your whole body, function a lot better because it has more resources on board. It also means that when you do quote-unquote diet or start to actively attempt weight loss, you’re not having to do it on, you know, ridiculously low intakes that do compromise micronutrient intake, and also compromise your health. You’re able to do it in a sustainable, healthy, flexible way, then if you are to start at 1200 and then because your metabolic rate is so low from having such a little intake, you’re having to keep dropping it and dropping, it’s not realistic, it’s not sustainable, it causes a lot of social anxiety, because it’s hard to eat out when you’re hardly eating anything, and it also is very stressful and can affect your mood and your hormones quite negatively. So, yeah, I like reverse dieting.
The other strategy that I quite like is using diet breaks, which is where you will eat in an energy deficit for a while, but then you refeed yourself for, you know, anywhere from three to seven days, and you eat much larger amounts of food at your maintenance calories and it allows your body to feel a bit safer, your metabolism to be a little bit more restored, and it mitigates a lot of that metabolic damage that can be done when you just continue to restrict and restrict and restrict and restrict. So that kind of like that, that’s kind of the two strategies that I often use when someone you know, is undereating and struggling to lose weight.
Now, on the flip side, the other situation is that, you know, perhaps some people are legitimately eating more than they need to and this is where again, tracking your intake for a few days, using an app like MyFitnessPal can be helpful just to gauge where you’re at. So, I find a lot of, a lot of people do tend to like pick it food. So you might be like, and I’m speaking from my experience, you might be like standing in the kitchen and just like dip your spoon in the peanut butter jar, or the nut butter jar or, you know, the coconut yogurt or something like that while you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch or dinner, and that all does add up over time and I think because it’s kind of not plated, you don’t register it as I ate that. It’s kind of like oh, yeah, I was just like thinking about my lunch but that doesn’t count because it wasn’t on a plate but it tends to kind of add up.
So just bringing, it’s not about being neurotic like, it’s just about bringing awareness to, to what you are consuming, especially when you are you’re feeling like you’re doing all of the right things, and you’re not sure where it’s going wrong, it’s just inflammation. So, I guess on that as well, I have to say that I see the first scenario more than the second scenario. And I also think it’s important to say that for long-term successful weight loss, it is important to keep your metabolic health in mind and not just continue to jump on drastic measures of massive restriction. Which is why I do think it’s worth putting your energy and your effort into building your metabolism up and your calories up if you are sitting in that camp where you’ve been chronically undereating.
I believe that the majority of people do not need to track their intake. And that, you know, for some people, it’s you know, like there is more to life than worrying about tracking your food all the time but I also have been where people are at when they’re doing everything they can and nothing’s shifting and it’s and it is a healthy goal and it’s something that you want from a place of self-love not I need to be, I need to lose weight to be you know, accepted, loved, you know, proud of myself, any of that stuff. When it is coming from a genuine place of self-love, and not fear or inadequacy, then I am on board helping you do that and helping you reach your goals. And yeah, I think like when you’re struggling to see weight loss and actively trying to achieve it and the usual strategies of just kind of changing the quality of your food don’t work.
This is when having actual data is helpful in my experience. So you can choose to see it as obsessive if you wish. And if that’s the attitude you have towards it, then you probably will stress yourself out and it won’t be a net benefit to you, or on the flip side, you can see it which I do in a lot of people as just collecting information to help formulate a more targeted plan for a period of time. So, that’s the kind of key here. It’s not about, you have to track your food forever. And, you know, you can never not do that. It’s just, it’s just a strategy and it’s not for everyone. So know that it’s an option but it’s not for everyone and there are other things that you can try first, before going down that path. I kind of use it as an option when the other options have been exhausted, and then just kind of working on hormonal balancing and, you know, working on your story, nutrient deficiencies, and working on gut health, and decreasing inflammation, and changing the quality of your food.
When you’ve done all that stuff and you feel like you know, the things still aren’t shifting? That’s when I’ll be like, okay, like, let’s, let’s kind of bring a microscope further in on this and just see what exactly is happening and where we can make the tweaks. So that is my two cents on that. The next question was came through quite a lot, was does going low carb help with weight loss in hypothyroidism?
This one’s difficult to answer because no, like, I don’t recommend going low carb if you have a thyroid issue, and I don’t necessarily see that strategy work. It’ll in the people that it works for, it’s because they’ve created an energy deficit because perhaps they were eating a lot of carbohydrates and eating quite a lot and then when they switch to lower carb and higher fat, it’s more satiating, and then therefore tend to start eating less overall and that induces weight loss, or if they have some kind of insulin resistance alongside the thyroid issues, and then they ate low carb and high fat or higher protein, then that can actually improve their insulin sensitivity, which can also help with weight loss but I see it fail in the long term.
So, I see a reduction in thyroid function when people do low carb diets for a long time, particularly women. So, and that’s reflected in the research as well. Yeah, would I recommend it? Definitely not as a blanket thing, if you had, you know, insulin resistance, yes, I’d probably use it for a period of time but I don’t believe that it’s the strategy that is going to fix everything. So, hopefully, that clears that up for you guys.
And then next question is, I’ve heard dieting or restricting energy intake actually causes low thyroid function, is that true? Like, yes, more or less. So to be more specific, we do often see a decrease in thyroid hormone levels in response to energy restriction, which means a decrease in your basal metabolic rate. Now, the reason that is, is your body just wants to survive. It doesn’t care about your #BikiniBod. It simply wants to love you and protect you from danger, and lack of food is a dangerous situation. And I mean, I totally feel that.
You should actually see me when my husband tries to take my food. It’s not great. I feel like I am. Like, I’m Joey from Friends. I’m like, Joey doesn’t share food like, Nat, does not share food. I don’t know what it is, I can share everything else but if someone’s like, oh, can I have some of that? I’m like, oh, like, no. How do you say no, politely? Well, I don’t say no, politely to my husband. I’m just like, no, I will label this and lock it in the fridge but actually, I haven’t done that yet. I probably should.
Yeah, so your body wants to protect you, your body wants to just keep you safe, and there is also, as I mentioned, smarter ways to actually diet. So one of my favorite strategies, as I mentioned before, is doing diet right, and also making sure you don’t, you know, you don’t put yourself in calorie deficits for really, really long period of time. You kind of cycle in and out of it is the healthiest way to actually do that.
Okay, then the final question was, do you think that you have to get healthy before you lose weight? And the answer is that you can choose to lose weight over getting healthy if you want but personally, it’s against my approach and my ethics as a practitioner. So, for many people, I actually think you can do it at the same time. So, the people, you know, that work with me, I try and do both at the same time but sometimes it is a lot going on and so I encourage people to just give us a few months of solid healing of the root causes, because actually, for a lot of people that alone, creates change. And then if for some reason, it doesn’t, we can dive, you know, into more advanced strategies in terms of weight loss that I talked about in the beginning, but as I said, for most people, when you create a healthy body and something that’s functioning well, you will find your natural best bodyweight, but I don’t want to take away from the people who are like, what the fuck, I’m actually doing everything I can, I’m the healthiest person I know in terms of my habits, and nothing’s happening. I’ve been in that situation myself, and it feels really lonely when someone says oh, well, you just, you just need to work on your gut health and you’re like, I don’t have gut problems, it’s fine. So, there are other strategies that you can use. So, that’s kind of my two cents on that one.
Okay, so those were all of the questions in relation to thyroid health and weight loss that you guys wrote in. If you have follow-up questions from that, if you feel like there was something that you want more clarity on or that wasn’t addressed, then please either direct messaged me on Instagram or submit your question to [email protected] and I’m going to create yeah, a running list of all those questions and group them into theme so that you guys can just listen to the ones that you are particularly interested in.
Now, the next thing I wanted to add in is the little part of the podcast where I am actually going to share with you something non-nutrition related that is helpful in your healing journey. And that one thing that I’m going to share with you first, is detaching yourself from identifying with like identifying as the condition that you have. So, the example I’ll give is someone with Hashimoto’s or low thyroid function.
Instead of saying in your mind or to yourself that I have Hashimoto’s, or I have an underactive thyroid, changing the language to, I’m experiencing Hashimoto’s, or I’m experiencing an underactive thyroid at the moment is different because I think what we can do is, we can really start to allow our quote-unquote, diagnosis to become us and then get subconsciously stuck in that and continue to look for it.
I’m a big fan of using visualizations and affirmations. I love the work of Joe Dispenza, if anyone has not heard of him, then go and look up the podcast, or his books that he’s written, or if you have the luxury of seeing him in person, then definitely do that but it’s really, I think we create a lot of stories around, around illnesses and around things we’ve been diagnosed with and I think we can really easily get stuck in it, and I think also in the healing journey, it’s really common that I see people searching for reasons to stay where they are. And perhaps it’s because that’s all you’ve known and that’s all you’ve identified as in with for a really long time.
As humans, we like what we know, and we like staying with what we know because we end up you know, we identify with it, and it’s safe and our, our natural instinct is to stay there. And so, we really need to actually actively start to create a different story for ourselves, and that’s where talking to yourself in a way that you already have what it is you desire, helps manifest that and create that as your reality. So, instead of saying, I can’t wait until I have, you know, good thyroid health or I can’t wait until I have energy, it’s better to create to say it to yourself as if you already have it like, I have amazing thyroid health, and I wake up with so much energy and continuing to use that as your affirmation or your visualization even like I really, I mean, I’m a very visual person so, I really actually like picturing myself for example, you know, where I want to be in, you know, whatever my goal is so let’s say it’s, I want to be on the beach in Bali, then I will picture myself there, picture how I feel, picture bright colors and picture all these different things and create as much detail as I can around that in order for me to be able to focus on it and believe it. So, that’s beach, being on the beach in Bali is probably a terrible example in relation to what I’m trying to get it, but get the point across, but for you guys it might be if you’re, for example, if you’re really trying to fall pregnant, picturing holding that baby in your arms and all the emotions that come with it.
There are lots of little things to think about but I really truly do see like falling into a victim mentality, self-sabotaging, and looking backwards as a huge barrier to so many people in their healing journey particularly when it comes to chronic health issues and I’ve totally been there myself as well. So, I, I get that it’s difficult and I get that it’s something that you know, you end up identifying with but you can absolutely break it and the power of doing that is crazy. So, look after Joe Dispenza and start to have a listen to some of the podcasts he’s been on, or even just the books he’s written because he explained it much better than I do and I feel like you guys would get a lot out of that.
And then, drum roll, I really need lights and sound effects or something. The next thing, the very last thing I wanted to share with you guys was a recommendation, and my recommendation this week, besides Joe Dispenza, is actually a food. So, I’m really into creating like, I really like strange snacks at the moment and one of my and this isn’t really a strange snack but it’s just, I keep suggesting it to clients and no one’s, feel like no one’s ever heard of it or even done it. And so now, I am going to tell the masses and it is purple flesh sweet potato. So, the one that has white skin on the outside and it’s like bright purple on the inside. It’s so pretty. So, cooking that in coconut oil, and cinnamon, and salt, and then allowing it to cool down and having it cold with a little bit of nut butter, my favorite is almond butter, or just regular butter as a snack. Oh, my gosh.
You get the benefits of resistant starch which is what happened to what he’s created when you call him cool potato. And then you also get the blood sugar balancing benefits of cinnamon, and then you also get the benefit of it tastes freakin’ delicious, and you guys are going to thank me for that one. So, have to get the purple flesh ones, don’t complain to me if it tastes like crap if you get the orange ones or the other ones. The purple flesh ones are the ones that work the best. So, give it a crack. Let me know whether you like it or not. And if you have any other ideas in relation to purple sweet potatoes because they are life and enjoy. So, last thing is make sure you send me all your questions and let me know whether this is something you guys are interested in and you want me to continue. Otherwise, I shall not continue and I will just, we will just stick to a regular podcast all the time. And that’s it.
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