It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, but I also never thought it would happen to me. I was the skinny one with perfect proportions that everybody hated, who could eat as much as I wanted of anything I wanted and never gain a pound. I had skinny jeans and my pick of the boys growing up.
My how things change. I started gaining weight near the end of 2008, through summer of 2009. The pounds piled on effortlessly, and it seemed like I accumulated about 5 lbs a month right around the time of my cycle. I gained almost 20 pounds in 6-8 months. Because this took place right after getting married, people winked and nudged me, “are you sure you’re not pregnant?”
I won’t elaborate, but I was pretty dang sure I wasn’t – and I was right. I leveled off, gaining and losing 5 pounds here and there, occasionally getting about 7-10 pounds off and then packing them right back on again, 5 pounds in a single week.
Now, I know I should be more active. I’m relatively sedentary in the office and after getting home in the evening. I also know I should cut back on carbs and sugars. My meals are phenomenally healthy but my snacking, as organic as it is, still needs help. But my diet is pretty spot-on for the most part and I get way more movement than most people out there. I take no medications, so I’m not bogging down my liver. My stress is slowly coming down (on average), so my weight should be coming off….right?
So, having gotten tired of the “fanny pack” in the front and the “puffy butt” in the back, I posted to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle message forum. The first reply was beautifully simple: have you had your thyroid checked?
It was somewhat embarrassing, because that is what I do. We went to the 3-day intensive last summer on this very subject. I help patients with this very issue. And here I was, Func Med extraordinaire, and I hadn’t even checked my own. I looked at last summer’s records; none of the thyroid tests had been included on my orders last year (I’m to blame; I ordered my own tests and neglected to check it).
So, the results came back. High TSH. Functionally high, mind you, but well into that territory. There was no question. T4 was bumping along a little sluggishly, too. And my white blood cells needed serious help, so there’s obviously an immune problem. Given the concomitant gluten intolerance and my mother’s positive thyroid antibody result, well, that seals the deal. Even without an antibody test, I’m almost 100% certain: Hashimoto’s.
Wanna know what Hashimoto’s looks like? Forget the stereotypical pictures of thin hair, dry skin, and brittle nails. Forget the fatigue, sensitivity to cold, and constipation. I have none of those. (Sure those symptoms are very characteristic of low thyroid, but don’t do what I did and rule out a thyroid issue and/or neglect to test thyroid function simply because you don’t have any of the above symptoms. Low thyroid, I now realize, comes in many flavors.) But nope, I have thick hair that indeed comes out more easily, but not that easily, and certainly not in clumps. I have oily skin and strong nails. I do not get tired in the afternoon, and I have to lull myself to sleep at night. I do get warm easily. I’m alert and energetic.
I’ll tell you what I do have: mild brain fog. It’s very mild, so much so that I might not notice it had I not been trying to run a new practice this past year. But I notice that I forget things or fail to absorb information. Often, things don’t “stick”. My memory is suffering and my brain fatigues faster than it should. I find myself having to take breaks so that my brain can recoup.
I’ve never been pregnant, I don’t take birth control pills or any other hormones, I don’t partake in “crash” dieting, and I haven’t yet reached menopause – all major triggers for a thyroid problem. I do, however, have a fairly high glucose average throughout the day; this may have triggered an insulin spike or ten, setting off the chain.
But seriously – if you look at me, I’m not your typical low thyroid individual. I’m not depressed, I’m not totally brain-fogged in, I’m not fat throughout my body, my hair is thick (hoping it stays that way), my skin has more oil than most, my nails grow full and fast, and I find myself pushing the Tabasco envelope to induce heat resistance. I’m up with the alarm and I’m up late into the night, without ever napping during the day. I’m also still within relatively healthy weight (hoping that stays that way too). You wouldn’t see me on the street and know Hashimoto’s instantly. In fact, even if you knew what there was to know about the condition, you may not even peg me for having it.
That in itself is a testimonial to a decent lifestyle. Here I am without having taken any steps to balance out my problem, nor taking any medications, and you probably couldn’t tell (except for the fact that I tug at my jeans every 5 seconds). But when you eat well, move often, and manage stress, life pays you back. Even if you eventually owe some.