What is hypothyroidism?

‘Hypo’ means less; ‘Thyroid-ism’ means a disease of the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is a malfunction of the thyroid gland, which causes decreased production of the thyroid hormone.

What is the role of the thyroid gland in our body?

It is the only gland that absorbs iodine from food and uses it to make the thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone breaks down calories, produces energy and boosts metabolism when released into blood stream.

What happens in hypothyroidism?

Reduced functioning of the thyroid gland causes Iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency leads to reduction in production of thyroid hormone, causing poor metabolism, weight gain, water retention (caused by the low temperature created within the body when enough calories are not being burnt to produce heat and energy) and fatigue.

How to lose weight with hypothyroidism?  

The reduced levels of thyroid hormone hamper body’s ability to burn calories at a normal rate. This makes shedding excess weight difficult but NOT impossible.

Losing weight can be tricky for someone suffering from hypothyroidism. Here’s why:

Hypothyroidism causes fat build-up, which leads to insulin resistance in the body, leading up to weight gain and susceptibility to diabetes.

The most effective way of losing weight would be a combination of diet and exercise to regulate metabolism and burn calories.

Here are some basic diet and exercise dos and don’ts for hypothyroid patients:


  • The diet for a hypothyroid patient should be nutritionally balanced to aid in recovery from nutritional deficiencies like selenium and iodine, which hamper thyroid functioning in the body.
  • Avoid pastas, potatoes, yam, and sweet potato. Instead, include complex carbohydrates in the form of fibre-rich foods like whole cereals, vegetables, whole pulses etc. Complex fibres keep you full without having much and stop you from the overeating. Once you start losing weight, your body’s cells will become more responsive to insulin.
  • Restrict foods with high glycemic index, such as corn, white bread, refined flour, muffins, cakes, rich desserts etc. because these cause excess glucose in the blood, which gets converted into fat.
  • Goitrogens are substances that suppress the functioning of the thyroid gland by interfering and blocking enzymes that allow thyroid to use iodine. This leads to enlargement of the thyroid (goitre) gland because the gland starts producing more cells to counter the deficit. The goitrogens-rich foods should not be avoided completely as they provide a lot of nutrition too. Simply watch out for the portion size and whether it’s heated or not because heat deactivates goitrogenic compounds. Some goitrogen-rich foods are soya and its products, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, spinach, strawberry, peaches, pears, peanuts etc.
  • The diet of thyroid patients should essentially be rich in selenium and iodine because problem becomes more severe when the person is already suffering from iron deficiency. Iodine plays an important role in synthesis of the thyroid hormone and Selenium helps in recycling of iodine by the body. Natural sources of selenium and iodine include seafood, Brazil nuts, eggs, tuna, salmon, sunflower seeds and plants grown in sodium rich soil etc.
  • Other nutrients that boost thyroid functions like Zinc, Riboflavin, Niacin, and vitamin E, are available in abundance in green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole cereals.

Also, water retention can be lowered with the help of following tips:

  • Avoid salted nuts, salted crackers, pickles, sauces, salt preserved foods etc.
  • Have plain salad without salt.
  • Avoid soft drinks because carbonation in soft drinks leads to water retention.
  • Avoid fried food because fried food takes longer to digest and makes you feel heavy and bloated.
  • Eat slowly to help digest your food better.
  • Drink 10-12 glasses of water in a day.
  • Exercise daily for more than 30 min because a normal body starts losing weight after 20 minutes of exercise, whereas a body with hypothyroidism takes longer.
  • Go for brisk walk for at least 15 min after each meal.
  • Include fruits and beverages like coconut water, plain lemon water etc. in your diet.
  • Avoid having raw vegetables like broccoli, cabbage etc.

Further aids of weight management: 

  • Avoid stress because it leads to unhealthy food choices and overeating. Reactions to stress are controlled by the adrenal glands, which are already overworked and under-functioning in hypothyroid patients. Stress also increases cortisol levels, which increases hunger, thereby affecting the insulin levels.
  • Deep breathing exercises can help you take in more oxygen and release more carbon dioxide with each breath and can help with weight loss, stress reduction, and relaxation.
  • Reduce the use of stimulants like coffee, Red Bull to conquer your fatigue. Hypothyroidism makes the adrenal glands susceptible to overwork and burnout. The adrenal glands can only take so much stimulation before they begin to under-function. Weaning off of stimulants, including coffee, soda and tea, can help the adrenal gland function at a normal pace without any pressure.

      Given below is a sample diet for your assistance:

  BreakfastMid Morning SnackLunchEvening SnackDinner
Paneer sandwich with plain lemon waterFruit chaatSalad, Vegetable/dal, Curd, ChapatiChickpeas chaatSoup, Vegetable roll


Exercise and diet go hand in hand to manage weight for a hypothyroid patient.

Here are a few benefits of working out during hypothyroidism:

1)   Exercise helps you fight water retention by sweating out the excess water from your body because when you exercise your body’s BMR goes up means body temperature raises.

2)  While doing exercise your body starts burning those extra calories, which under normal circumstances your body is storing, resulting in weight loss.

3)  Exercise also promotes better sleep patterns, because when you exercise your body secretes happy hormones that keep stress away throughout the day and helps you sleep better at night because of decreased stress level.

Start with a 15 minute workout routine (a combination of cardio) to help increase the blood circulation in the body and prepare it for strengthening exercises like knee pushups, lying superman, Russian twist, burpees, jumping jacks, etc. Finish your regimen with stretching exercises to cool down your body and avoid muscle injury.

One key factor when burning excess calories is to concentrate on strengthening exercises because muscles burn more calories than the same amount of fat. Hence, building lean muscles will help in losing more weight even when you are not exercising.

Along with the balanced diet, regular exercising not only helps in building strength, but also increases the metabolism and improves insulin sensitivity. All that you need is proper guidance from an expert regarding diet and exercise to achieve your weight loss target and manage hypothyroidism.

Sample Exercises-

Warm up Strengthen ExercisesStretching exercise
High Front Kick, Toe touch stretchRussian twist, Knee pushups, Lying superman, Frog situps, Leg lift with chairCalf stretch, Thigh stretch, Hamstring stretch, Shoulder stretch, Triceps stretch

It’s a fact that thyroid patients face difficulty in losing weight, due to their subnormal metabolism but there are no shortcuts to weight loss. One has to be patient and focused towards the goal.