It can be your story: finding hope and losing weight with thyroid disease

Angela, a lovely blogger, shared her story to help other women in Finding Hope with Hashimoto’s and weight loss. If you have a similar issue, read her amazing story and learn how to deal with you problems and actually get results.  

I was recently thrilled when I received a reader story about her triumph over Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is not only about how she lost weight but about how she kept hope alive through it all. I got choked up reading all the drama that Angela went through to finally get a diagnosis. I also can relate to her sense of hopelessness and heartbreak. I applaud her will to not just take the doctors’ word for it, but to keep searching for answers and listening to her internal cues. I totally agree when it comes to thyroid health: we have to be our own advocates. I hope this story can help many of you who are suffering with this condition that seems to be misunderstood by conventional doctors.

Angela’s Story of Finding Hope with Hashimoto’s and weight loss

In Retrospect…

When looking back on my life now with all the things I went through, I can’t quite believe that I wasn’t more proactive. I think instinctively I always knew there was something not quite right. However, I had gone to several doctors, had “all the tests” (or so I thought) and was duly told that I was healthy and ‘normal’. That I should just eat less, and exercise more. And so, I trusted them (they’re the experts, right?), took them at their word…it was the biggest disservice I have ever bestowed myself. Life Lesson learned.

 What am I talking about? Unexplained weight gain – but an awful lot of it. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it all started, just that with each bout, it got progressively worse and I was made to believe it was entirely my fault. Here and there you hear people joke “Oh, it’s not her fault she’s big – she’s got a ‘thyroid’ problem”…well I can tell you, it was NO joke for me. Real thyroid dysfunction, at any level and of any kind, is no laughing matter. In my case, it messed with all my hormones and completely morphed my physical appearance into someone unrecognizable. It annihilated not only my self esteem, but pretty much my entire well being and the ability to live life the way I wanted to.I have just turned 46, and for the first time in 30 years, I finally feel almost completely in control of my body as far as my Hashimoto’s is concerned, but get this: I was only diagnosed 5 years ago….Yep, 5.

The First Bout…

I grew up in Hong Kong, an amazing, unique and vibrant city and still live here because I genuinely love it, despite the overcrowded streets and hefty pollution, it is my home. I consider myself to have had a fairly normal childhood, great parents, great friends, great lifestyle; I loved school and was always active and very sporty. Skinny as a child and skinny as a teen…then, at 16, I had my first unexplained weight gain. Not much, maybe 15lbs, but to me (or any teenage girl for that matter) very noticeable, all coming on quickly over summer vacation. I figured it was caused by too much junk food, not enough running, the discovery of alcohol etc…Only, my friends were all making the same lifestyle choices, and they didn’t gain an ounce. Perhaps that should have been my first “ah ha” moment…but I was too young and carefree, and what the hell did I know anyway? At that time, I had just started the pill, my periods were always irregular till that point and so the doctor suggested this as a means to regulate me, and since one of the side effects was ‘weight gain’, I pretty much thought that was it.

Some experts say Hashimoto’s can be triggered by stress, pregnancy, or the environment as well as the genetic component. No one really knows why any autoimmune gene gets ‘turned’ on, all I can tell you is once it is has arrived, it is there to stay and it sucks.

So, what possible stress could a 16-year-old girl have? Well, it was the year my parents divorced, and in the British education system, it was exam time, the kind of exams that pretty much determined whether you got into the university you wanted…or not. Coincidence? Maybe, however there is no way to know for sure.

The Second Bout…
The next substantial unexplained weight gain was far more noticeable, approximately 50lbs in 8 months. I was  23, and the weight stayed for the good part of 6 years, though it wildly fluctuated over that period. Nothing I did exercise wise seem to make a difference. I was still eating what I call the typical diet at that time: healthy, or so I thought…lots of fruit, whole grains, low fat, and so on.

The ‘Standard American Diet’ food pyramid certainly has a lot to answer for!

At this stage I ballooned to a size 16-18, and at age 29, (after filing for divorce) I moved to live in San Diego for 5 years. During my time in California, I totally embraced the outdoor lifestyle, and despite the weight pushed myself a little harder. I hiked, ran on the beach, took up kick boxing and Pilates, and by the time I moved back to Hong Kong at the end of 2001, I was once again a healthy size 8. Up until this point, at least some semblance of activity seemed to shift the weight, but that was about to stop.

A year and a half later, inexplicably, I was back up to a size 20 with most of the weight piling on in about a 8 month period. This was the third and worst unexplained weight gain yet, with a myriad of symptoms that came with it, symptoms that I had never had (or noticed) before…all building up to what I call the ‘hospital incident’.

  The Worst Bout…
By the time I turned 36, I was at a real low point. I felt awful. I looked awful, too; I gained about 80lbs out of nowhere in that year and I had not changed any eating habits – I still exercised till my energy levels zapped.

(I think it is important to note here, that I have never been a real big junk food or processed food eater. I grew up with an Asian Mother and Caucasian Father who always ate ‘real’ food, bought at the market, cooked fresh. Meat, green veggies and rice or potatoes, but always real food).

My hair became coarse and started falling out. I had trouble swallowing and would often self choke on thin air. I hurt all over, in my joints and I was incredibly stiff especially upon waking. I was hot, all the time, I mean really, really hot and clammy. My neck had swelled about 4 inches all around – none of my necklaces fit, and I was puffy – all over, not just fat, but puffed out tight skinned fat, like a sausage about to burst its casing! You couldn’t even pinch any skin on me due to all the edema.

In hindsight I will always be grateful to my then (and current) trainer Ross, who asked if I was a secret eater, or was I on steroids of some sort because I looked ‘puffy’…I was totally, utterly, mortally offended, and though we laugh about it now, it just went to show how others viewed me – and it was really depressing.

Oh, did I mention depressed?

Yes, I was constantly depressed, and angry. A bubbling well of ‘WTF?’, ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘why me’ stewing away inside, definitely not the best for ones psyche.

JK Rowling (yes, Harry Potter JK) once said, “Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be?” – Well YES!!! To a formally slim, fit and sporty girl, YES it was! Not purely because of vanity (though I admit, my appearance was a significant aspect), but because I felt trapped in a body that wasn’t mine, and unable to live my life the way I wanted. I was being swindled out of my 20s and 30s!

But mostly, I felt like a fraud, I felt diseased and largely (no pun intended), I felt robbed of joy, and despite everything I did,  I could not attain a healthy weight, I couldn’t achieve the one thing that was so crucial to me…which was fundamentally to be healthy and vital. One doctor told me, “You’re not fat. You have fat. Just get rid of it”. Hmm…

 Fat that is not self inflicted can really mess with a girl’s mind…

Eventually, you become this other person with all the stigma that fat has attached to it in a skinny-obsessed world. You hide, you stop doing things, and essentially you put everything on hold. I wondered what the ‘thin me’ was doing in an alternate universe; how was her life panning out? Well, this is what I did, for almost 20 years…I had put my life on hold, effectively because I had zero energy and did not feel like myself, in fact, I had no sense of self anymore, I think it was because I felt unworthy. It was THAT bad.

Read the rest of the story on Angela’s blog:

Angela, a lovely blogger, shared her story to help other women in Finding Hope with Hashimoto’s and weight loss. If you have a similar issue, read her amazing story and learn how to deal with you problems and actually get results.

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