How to Lose Weight With Hypothyroidism

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 26, 2022

The thyroid gland controls a person’s metabolism. Having an underactive thyroid can make losing weight a challenge. However, weight loss is possible with the right approach. In this article, I’ll share 10 effective ways to lose weight with hypothyroidism

I’ll start by explaining how hypothyroidism affects weight. Then I’ll share weight-loss tips as well as when to see a medical provider.

Important note: See your healthcare provider if you are taking your thyroid medications, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and still gaining weight or can’t lose any weight. 

How Does Hypothyroidism Affect Weight?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the throat. 

It is responsible for making hormones that control how the body uses energy. 

These hormones affect every part of the body, and without enough of them, many functions slow down, including metabolism. 

Studies show that metabolism can slow down as much as 50%

Decreased metabolism can lead to weight gain.

Concerned about hypothyroidism? Chat with a medical provider using K Health.
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Tips for Losing Weight With Hypothyroidism

Here are 10 tips to help lose weight if you have hypothyroidism. 

Eat a healthy diet

The following recommendations come from research examining what a healthy diet means for someone with hypothyroidism.  

  • Vegetables: Aim to eat a variety of vegetables several times a day.
  • Fruits: Eat fruit at least once a day. Fruits contain many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • Foods rich in calcium: Foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and small fish that contain edible bones support bone health. Eat these foods several times a day.
  • Whole grains: Eat foods such as buckwheat, wholemeal wheat, and rye bread once a day. 
  • Nuts and seeds: These are a good source of selenium and zinc, both important elements for people with hypothyroidism. Enjoy nuts and seeds several times a week. 

Additionally, limit or avoid the following:

  • Sweets, sugar, honey (once a week or less)
  • Sweetened beverages and energy drinks (once a week or less)
  • Fast food (once a week or less)
  • Soybean and millet (twice a month or less)
  • Alcohol (once a month or less)

Get plenty of fiber

Fiber adds bulk to your diet, which can help you feel full faster. 

This is helpful for weight control. 

Fiber also promotes softer and bulkier stools, which can help prevent constipation

The recommended amount of fiber for adults is 21-38 grams daily. 

However, if you are not used to fiber in your diet, slowly add more to prevent gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps. 

Eat healthy fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help with hormone function and make you feel fuller, which can prevent overeating.

Sources of healthy fats include: 

  • Fatty fish (tuna, sardines, salmon, trout, herring)
  • Chia seeds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Avocado
  • Flaxseed
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Yogurt

Limit processed foods

Processed foods contain high amounts of added sugars and oils that may increase weight gain. 

Limiting these foods may support thyroid health and weight control.

Examples of highly processed foods include:

  • Fast food
  • Hot dogs
  • Cakes
  • Soda
  • Cookies
  • Donuts

Get enough protein

Protein is the building block of muscle. 

However, certain types of proteins are better than others for people with hypothyroidism. 

Eating proteins rich in zinc and selenium may help people with underactive thyroids. 

Low zinc levels are linked to hypothyroidism, and selenium may help your body make more thyroid hormones.

Protein SourceContains ZincContains Selenium
Lambyes
Beef, steakyesyes
Beef, liveryes
Beef, groundyes
Chickenyes
Turkeyyes
Hamyes
Eggsyes
Crabyes
Oysteryes
Lobsteryes
Shrimpyes
Halibutyes
Tunayes
Sardinesyes
Baked beansyes
Cashewsyesyes
Almondsyes
Pumpkin seedsyes
Brazil nutsyes

Avoid refined carbs

Refined carbohydrates are highly processed grains. 

These foods have little to no nutritional value and often contain high amounts of added sugars. 

They do not promote long-term health. 

Refined carbs are found in:

  • White bread, pasta, and rice
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Brownies

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise helps not only with weight control but also helps with some other hypothyroidism symptoms such as:

  • Increasing energy levels
  • Supporting better sleep
  • Improving mood
  • Increasing bone density
  • Boosting metabolism

If your hormones are well-controlled, you can generally start any form of exercise and work to increase your strength and endurance.

If your hormones are not well-controlled, speak with your medical professional about a safe way to begin exercising. 

Manage stress

High levels of stress increases the hormone cortisol

Elevated levels of cortisol promote weight retention. 

Learning to manage stress may help you control your weight. 

Here are some helpful tips put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Take breaks from watching the news or hearing negative stories
  • Take care of your body through nutrition, exercise, and adequate rest
  • Make time to unwind by doing activities you enjoy
  • Talk about your worries with people who you trust and who care about you
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Recognize when you need further help, such as seeing a counselor or psychologist

Monitor hormone levels regularly

Checking your hormones will help you and your healthcare provider monitor how well your thyroid is functioning. 

When you are first diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your medical provider may test your hormones more frequently to monitor how your treatment plan is working. 

Once your thyroid hormones appear to be stable, your medical provider will likely test less often. 

Is It Harder to Lose Weight With Hypothyroidism? 

Your thyroid makes two hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). 

These hormones control how your organs use energy.

When your thyroid isn’t making enough T4 and T3, your body’s functions slow down, decreasing your metabolism. 

When your metabolism slows, you aren’t burning as many calories for energy.

This can lead to weight gain.

So yes, it is harder to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism; however, it is possible. 

Concerned about hypothyroidism? Chat with a medical provider using K Health.
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When to See a Medical Provider

Talk to your medical provider if you are taking your thyroid medications, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and still gaining weight or can’t lose any weight. 

They may want to check your hormone levels to ensure you are in the target range. 

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism?
While it may be more difficult, it is possible to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism. Certain foods can help support thyroid function and may help control your weight. Try to avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as those high in added sugars and highly processed foods.
Why can't I lose weight with hypothyroidism?
People who have hypothyroidism have thyroids that make fewer hormones. This causes their metabolism to slow down and burn fewer calories. Hypothyroidism can also make a person feel tired and less motivated to exercise.
What is the best diet to lose weight if you have hypothyroidism?
The best way to lose weight with hypothyroidism is to focus on eating vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and healthy fats. These foods help you feel full faster than processed and high-sugar foods and may promote a healthy weight.
How long does it take to lose weight with hypothyroidism?
The time it takes to lose weight when you have hypothyroidism differs for each person. It depends on how well they control their thyroid hormone levels, the types of foods they eat, and how active they are.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.

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