Updated: Oct 5, 2022
Hypothyroid symptoms are wide and varied.
However, there is one particular symptom that is almost 100% consistent across all people with a chronically under-active thyroid: weight gain!
The issue of weight is a difficult one for many, let alone those of us who have a medical condition which exacerbates weight gain!
If you have been working on this sticky issue for some time, it can be a difficult subject to look at without getting emotional. This hypothyroid symptom has huge lifestyle affects, as significant increases in weight drastically effects our health, our ability to engage in social situations, sporting activities, our mental and emotional health and slowly undermines the self-confidence of most people.
In addition to all of the above, weight gain, particularly if it is a significant amount of weight, is generally socially unacceptable. It is frowned upon and regarded with dislike and suspicion by many. Whilst there are many 'activists' who are trying to change peoples views on large or obese people, it is a common perception (wrong although I believe it to be) by most, that weight can be simply managed if only we can just learn and apply the basic premise that weight control is a simple matter of managing the energy equation:
energy in equals energy out
Calories in must equal energy output
It is hard for people who have a healthy thyroid function (which is almost 90% of the population) to comprehend that this energy equation is just not so reliable for the 10% of people who have a thyroid dysfunction or who may be hypothyroid.
Worse still than simply not understanding this, is that many people in society actively believe that it is acceptable behaviour to denounce and attack those who are overweight and / or obese. There is little room for understanding or compassion in some quarters, and it may not be so uncommon for us to hear comments that suggest hypothyroidism is simply an excuse to allow yourself to become overweight!!
It is not surprising to me that this point of view exists in the mainstream, particularly as even the medical professions are increasingly taking a stance to refuse and defer treatment or health care based on someones BMI. Such refusal of care is not seen in many other conditions - not for smokers, or drug addictions or for participants in dangerous sporting activities. All of these activities might be labelled as "life choices" (although there is bigger question around addiction being a 'life choice') - but ironically, this is exactly the reason that many obese people are considered to be unworthy of help or medical attention (as others believe it is a life choice to 'overeat' and become obese)!
I believe that this type of attack is little more than 'fatism', and that unfortunately, this behaviour is still one of the last socially acceptable 'isms' that we hold in the West.
But hey, that is getting a bit off track for this blog,(can you tell I have a bit of a 'thing' about it!!?) and really is another story!!
Standard BMR Calculation
The 'energy equation' is generally applied using the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation (above), a formula introduced in 1990.
For men: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5 For women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
There is a way to get a much more specific measurement for an individuals BMI.
To do this one must accurately calculate BMR by visiting an expert, who will take measurements of carbon dioxide and oxygen for analysis after you have fasted for 12 hours and also after having eight hours of sleep.
To calculate your own BMR, and get a reading of the number of calories that your body requires to function, go to Myfitnesspal BMR Calculator.
BMR Malfunctioning However, there are some aspects of hypothyroidism that I believe do make this simplistic equation a little less straight forwards, and understanding this in terms of our biological function, and the specific 'stresses' we are under can help those of us with hypothyroidism to adjust our thinking and our expectations.
Water intake is very important for us, because it is one of the essential ways that toxins and waste products are transported out of our body.
This is really important for people with hypothyroidism, as the body struggles to cope with toxins, and requires good pathways to release these.
Up to 75% of us are chronically dehydrated - meaning that we are persistently not drinking enough water to support the daily biological functions that keep our body running smoothly, and keeping us healthy.
Current recommendations for amounts of water that we need to drink are 0.5oz of water, to every 1lb of our body weight.
For those of us who are un-used to drinking the amounts of water that we require for optimal health, and for those of us who are already overweight, the large levels of water intake can seem daunting!
My suggestion is to try to increase your water intake gradually - increasing your levels by 1/2 litre each day, until you are comfortable, and then stepping up another 1/2 litre.
Some symptoms of dehydration include: feeling thirsty, poor concentration, low energy, joint pain, heartburn, depression, constipation. Risks of infections, especially of the urinary track are also increased due to dehydration.
0.8g of protein to each 1lb of body weight