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Unable to lose weight , increase metabolism or gain energy despite dili...
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Questions in the Thyroid forum are answered by Mark Lupo, MD. Topics covered include Goiter, Graves Disease, Hyperthyroid, Parathyroid/Calcium Problems, Thyroid Cancer, Thyroid Nodules/Cysts, Thyroiditis, Thyroid & Pregnancy, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Thyroid Tests, and Thyroid Surgery.

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Unable to lose weight , increase metabolism or gain energy despite diligent dieting & exercise

I have been hypothryroidal for about 5 years now, and currently take .075 mg. of Levoxyl daily.  I just had my thyroid tested last week, with a Free T-4 of 1.3, and a TSH of 2.04.  Ever since menopause, about 2 years ago, I've developed severe allergies and I also have been steadily gaining weight.  I've always weighed between 112 & 118 lbs., and am now 143 lbs.  I exercise daily by taking a very vigorous 3 mile walk/run and also do yoga & a bit of weight lifting for 1/2 hr. daily.  I am allergic to wheat, and my diet consists mostly of whole grains & rice, lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, a moderate amount of protein in the form of fish, dairy products (yogurt, fresh (uncooked) cheeses, and some meat.  I try to moderate very diligently my intake of sugars and eat very little, if any, processed foods.  I probably eat about 1800 calories a day.  After the onset of menopause, I had severe uticaria & facial swellings for about 1-1/2 yrs and was taking about 15 to 17.5 mg. of Levoxyl daily at that time.  For the last several months, I've been taking only .075 mg. of Levoxyl and the hives have pretty much disappeared.  I don't know if the allergies are contributing to my weight problem or not.

My concern is that, no matter how much I exercise and watch what I eat, I cannot lose even so much as an ounce of weight or excess fat.  I currently flucuate between 142 & 145 all the time, even if I get sick with the flu and don't eat for 2 weeks.  I've never exercised so much in my life and for the first time in my life, the exercise doesn't seem to be increasing my metabolism or energy level (I feel half-asleep most of the time), or helping me to lose weight or excess fat.  Can you give me any advice or suggestions?  Thank you,  Deborah G.
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I don't think the thyroid is the cause of weight problems -- it seems to boil down to diet/exercise -- perhaps with assistance of dietician and/or exercise physiologist.  Could also be asked to be tested for insulin resistance/pre-diabetes.
10 Comments
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Hi Deborah. I am new here but wanted to tell you I feel your pain. I exercise regularly and eat very well and cannot lose an ounce.  I recently gained 10 pounds for no reason.  Most docs in my experience say the weight gain will go away with T4 meds IF the weight is related to thyroid probs.  However, I know personally that it is 20x more difficult for me to lose a pound than a person with normal thyroid function.

Hang in there. You are healthier for exercising, for sure.
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Thank you so much for posting this question.  I have been having major weight problems ever since my thyroid problems started and no one seems to ever answer my questions.  I have been going to weight watchers and exercising everyday and NOTHING!  Everyone says that I must be gaining muscle if the scale says I'm not losing anything, but I honestly think I am just getting fatter.  I have a dr's appointment today and am going to seriously raise this concern with her.  I will let you know what she tells me.  

I'm sorry to hear about your problems, but feel better knowing I'm not alone either.
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Thanks for  posting this questions!  Inquiring minds want to know!
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I initially lost a lot of weight on weight watchers. I still follow the program but started gaining last August unexpectedly. I have gone up ten pounds despite being on weight loss points. It is so frustrating and agonizing not to be able to eat normally. I do need to exercise more but this is ridiculous. I've heard all kinds of reasons for the weight gain. I've had my fast blood glucose done and it was normal. My cholesterol is great. I can only come up with my thyroid as the culprit. You would think that after two years of being on meds I would be able to maintain my weight but nope! I've also heard that armour causes you to gain water weight at first but this is definitely more than water weight. Nobody seems to really have an answer. This causes me to be depressed more than my actual thyroid.
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Well, I went to the dr last week and in not so many words she said I would not be able to lose the weight.  

My question is this:  If I am considered hypo because they have me on such a high dose of synthroid to supress ca, wouldn't I be able to shed the weight like all of those true hypo people?
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I am having the same trouble on Armour.  I started out great.  Good energy, felt great, joined weight watchers and slowly started loosing weight. 209 to 200 in two months. Up to 90 mg Armour and labs looked good at last visit. TSH was 0.36 and Free t3 300 + Now all of a sudden two weeks post last visit and labs......weight gain, depression, no energy.  Have been diagnosed with Insulin Resistance and was put on Metformin 500 BID before I was diagnosed with Thyroid probelms. Came off the metformin to get an accurate thyroid test result and haven't gone back on Metfromin since being dignosed with hypothyroidism. I am wondering would the combination of the two medicines possibly be the answer to the weight loss since Insulin Resistance also makes it difficult if not impossible to loose weight? Doctor says no but I think so. Anybody on Metformin and Armour out there?
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Hi, I had a partial thyroidectomy and immediately gained 20 pounds (within 3-4 months). I'm on Synthroid and Levothyroxine. I have been training for a marathon and (running up to 19 miles) also limit calories to 1200-1600 calories a day and still hover around the same weight. It's really discouraging. I do go to a naturepath and she has prescribed Vitamin B complex (2 pills per day) for energy and that seems to help. Other supplements include L-Tyrosine and Glutamine and Thyroid Assist. I feel better taking these, but the weight just won't budge. I'm sick of being told it's "water weight" or that I've gained muscle. It's nice to know there are others sharing the same frustration as me, but I wish someone out there had an answer to what's going on with my body.
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Your problem sounds familiar!  I had gained 25 lbs (from 110 to 135 lbs), my lab values were about the same as yours with the same med dosage, I exercised like a crazy person and ate super healthy. My weight (fat) never budged and my doctor thought my thyroid was fine.  I am not a doctor, but here is the combination of things that helped me:

1) Micro managing my thyroid! I watch my lab values closely and insist that I keep my labs where I feel best. If I leave the TSH range of 1-2  I don't feel normal even though my labs may be "normal".  2) Sleeping 8 hours (no more no less) no matter what. 3) Eating 6 small meals per day that consist of mostly lean meat and raw veggies but also some fruit and bread. 4) Drinking at least 1 gallon of water every day. 5) Exercising 6 days per week: Weight lifting 3 days for 1 hr, cardio and yoga for 3 days for .5 hr each.  6) Taking a multi vitamin daily.

I starting losing weight steadily (but slowly) once I followed that routine exactly. I lost my flab and am starting to look better than I ever have!!! There is hope! Best of luck to you.
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Thank you, Beth (and everyone else) for all your helpful comments.  Since I posted my original comment, I have the following information to add.  About a month ago, I began a LOW GLYCEMIC diet, one of the recommendations I found in Mary Shomon's book (see the following paragraphs) and that seems to be helping me to slowly lose some weight.  I have lost 5 lbs. over the past month, which translates to 1/2 to 1 lb. per week.  Beth, I will follow up on your excellent advice and break my meals down into 6 small meals per day and drink more water.

This is the principle behind a low-glycemic diet:  I'm sure you all know that the body stores unused carbohydrates as fat.  And you probably know, there are two types of carbs, complex & simple.  Simple means the body breaks down the carbs into glucose quickly and complex means the body breaks down carbohydrates very slowly.  Once the food is broken down into glucose, it enters the bloodsteam as blood sugar.  The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measurement of that blood sugar.  Blood sugar that is not quickly used by the body for energy purposes is then stored as FAT!  The longer it takes to break down a carb, the lower the glycemic index, as the food enters the bloodstream at a much slower rate.  Thus, white table sugar, which is pure glucose, has a very high GI (100) and kidney beans have a GL of about 20.  You'll also find the term GL, which means glycemic load.  The GL is a measurement that takes into account the GI of a food along with how much of that food is eaten (serving size); thus watermelon, which has a very high GI (70), has a very low GL (4) per serving.  So, it is possible to eat a low calorie but high glymic diet, and still find yourself not losing any weight, or even GAINING weight!  This is due to the hypothyroid person's overall lower metabolism; even on our meds, we metabolize glucose at a much slower rate than the average person does.  So if you don't immediately use up all the glucose that you're putting into your body (by eating high glycemic foods), then you body will convert all that blood sugar into fat.  I have been on a high fiber & low glycemic diet for the past month and it appears to be helping (very slowly, but that's better than nothing!)  

There are two books I have been reading, which I have found to be enormously helpful & full of new research information that many of you fellow hypothyroid sufferers (and your doctors) may not be aware of.  These two books are:  Living Well with Hypothyroidism by Mary Shomon, who also has a thyroid column on About.com; and The Thyroid Solution by Ridha Arem, M.D.  Both these books are excellent, they are in essence a compiliation & analysis of most if not all of the current available medical information regarding hypothyroidism written in a logical and unbiased manner.  Once you read either one of these books (or both), you'll realize that hypothyroidism means much more than just take a synthroid or levoxyl tablet daily to manage it.  

Many of you may have found that initially the thyroid medicine worked well, but after a couple of years, or after hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause, the meds no longer do the entire trick and many of your initial symptoms are returning, or even worsening!  You might think that it is normal to feel this way once you get in your 40's (it isn't!) or once you've hit menopause (no, it's not!).  It means that you may have to change your eating habits, definitely take up an exercise regime if you're not already on one, and investigate the possibility of adding cytomel (T3) to your T4 medication.

I'm following the advice of Mary Shomon and am currently compiling a written list of my symptoms, along with my diet & exercise regime, to give to my doctor a few days before my next appointment.  I also now know what blood tests I want my doctor to perform.  I'm going to insist on a T3 this time, along with the T4 & THS he habitually does; also a CBC to see if my cholesteral is being affected.  And if my doctor won't cooperate, I now know where I can find a list of proactive thyroid doctors in my area, thanks to Mary Shomon's book.  We patients need to take the initiative with our own health if our doctors don't or won't do their job as completely as they should do.  Thyroid management care is rapidly changing, and not every doctor is aware of what he or she can do to help you get back to feeling normal again.  You've got to take the bull by the horns yourself if you want to be in the best health possible.
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A related discussion, Hypothyroid 14 years was started.
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