A day in the life of a hypothyroid fitness nut (and why I celebrate small victories)

A day in the life of a hypothyroid fitness nut

An Army Officer named Maria went from being a fit person to someone who heard cruel words like You need to lay off the donuts.

Written by Maria, the girl behind The Good Life

In 2010 I was officially diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But before I got this diagnosis, I went through a frustrating road…

In 2008 after returning from a deployment, I was in the best shape of my life thanks to doing nothing but exercising while deployed…or so I thought. When I arrived home in November 2008, I started feeling odd. In the 20s and 30s degree weather I was having hot flashes, my heart was running like a wild horse and I started having what felt like chest pains. Suddenly I started developing insomnia and became very emotional about everything to the point that it took a toll on my personal relationships. I know my family felt like I was going through some post deployment depression or something. It was unreal yet I didn’t do anything to try to find out what was going on.

Then in April 2008, while on a trip to a civil war battlefield, I was short of breath after only walking. When I went home my mom noticed that my neck was swollen. I didn’t believe her but when I checked my neck, indeed it was swollen. To make a long story short, I went to the ER and they treated it as an allergy. However, when the “allergy” did not go away after 72 hours, I went to see my doctor who did some blood work and diagnosed me with Graves’ Disease. Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune condition that leads to overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

Immediately I went to see an endocrinologist who treated me with medication. Because of the size of my goiter (swollen thryroid), he recommended against radioactive iodine. After a year of unsuccessful treatment, we decided on surgery because it was affecting my performance at work. As someone in the military, physical fitness is essential and I was having a lot of issues with high blood pressure because of the disease. And again, to make a long story short, after my thryroid was removed, I became hypothyroid which is the complete opposite of hyperthyroidism in that the thryroid does not produce enough hormones. In my case without a thyroid I was not producing any hormones and with that came a whole different set of issues.

Within 30 days after having my surgery I gained 20 lbs. ballooning to 208 lbs. which was also 3 months before what was supposed to be the culmination of a dream of mine: running the ING NYC Marathon. Yeap, that never happened. My body went into full blown chaos and I felt horrible.

As a former college track and field athlete and then someone who really enjoyed fitness as a whole, thyroid disease came with a different set of realities and changes–the biggest one being that my body did not react nor behave the same way as it did when it had a normal thyroid function. I went from being fit to someone who heard cruel words like OMG, when did you become the fat one? or You need to lay off the donuts.

A day in the life of a hypothyroid fitness nut

But these days comments like that do not bother as much (although they still sting) because my main concern now is getting healthy and feeling like I do not have to struggle every single day. It has taken three years after my surgery to finally start getting my system back into a semblance of normalcy which at times can be very fleeting. Whenever I mention that a lot of my problems I have are because of hypothyroidism, I always get this reaction from people as if saying “Right. Hypothyroidism”. And what I want to say is “Shut the hell up! Yes, that is exactly what it is! I really want you to walk in my shoes for one day and see how it feels when I am having a bad day”. I know people with hypothyroidism who are doing great, but others like me? Not so much. And make no mistake, when it is bad I am a mess of painful joints, sluggishness, lack of motivation, and emotional mood swings. Here is how a day in my life goes:

rise and shine

5:00 AM: Wake up, let the doggie out and take my Synthroid medication. I take the medicine on an empty stomach and then wait one hour before I eat breakfast or drink coffee. Then I go back to bed. You may be wondering at this point why doesn’t she go for a run? I am going to tell you why: BECAUSE I HAVE NO FRIGGIN’ ENERGY! THAT’S WHY! One of the worse symptoms of hypothyroidism is chronic fatigue no matter how much you rest. This is how I feel most mornings {except I’m not that cute}:

hypothyroid dog

However, if I do have the energy I usually go for a run. But it is very rare for me to workout in the morning because I am dragging. Which was a big problem when I had to do Army physical training with my unit. My best runs and workouts are in the evening. At that point my body is ready to roll for some major workouts.

6:30 AM: Wake up, do my devotions and feed the dog. Take shower.

7:30 -12:30: Have breakfast. Go to work. Meal 2. Meal 3 (3 hours later). Go home and walk the dogs for 20-30 minutes. Go back to work.

** I feel the need to mention that I eat 5-6 SMALL meals a day, you know… before anyone asks me why I’m pigging out if I want to lose weight.

workday over yet?

By the time 1:00 PM arrives I have lost whatever little energy I gained from breakfast and lunch. I’m sucking wind by then.

If I have a meeting pray that I have energy and that the mental fogginess that comes with this disease has not taken over because it does not matter how much I try to concentrate, part of my brain is not going to be at that meeting. This was very problematic when I was initially diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and then after my thyroid was removed. Mentally and emotionally I was so bad that I almost resigned my Army commission (of course it didn’t help that my boss at the time thought I was making this up and started every freaking conversation with the words “now, don’t get emotional about…”).

catching my second wind

Here is the funny part, around 3:00 P.M., I start catching a second wind and my energy is usually back after that…for the most part. This is why I do any major projects in the afternoon and why I workout during the evening. I am like the Energizer bunny in the afternoons and I love it because it is also when I take my dog for his long walks so I need to have the energy to do that.

I go for my runs around 6:30 PM and then head off to the gym. If I am doing another type of cardio in the gym, I am there no later than 7:00 PM. This is when most people are winding down for the day but this is when I am just getting started. I tell you one of the advantages of working out this late? The majority of the machines at the gym are empty at those hours. This is my time to bring it and leave all in the gym.

Now, workouts do not always go as planned especially if I am having joint pains. I am not talking about arthritis here. I am talking painful joints that hurt to move even sitting down. This is one of the worse symptoms for me YET it is the best symptom for me to know when my hormone levels are off. More than any other symptom I get from this disease, joint pain is my measure of how my system is doing.

so hungry

By the time I make it home from the gym, I am starving…like I could inhale my food. One of the tricks I have learned to avoid this and the overeating that usually can follow, is as soon as I leave the gym I start drinking a protein shake. This immediately helps me with that “feed me, feed me, feed me” frenzy mode my body goes into. By the time I prep my food and sit down to eat dinner, I am ready to eat slow and what I need– not what all I can possibly shove in my mouth in 5 seconds. Then after a shower and relaxing time either reading or watching tv, I am ready to sleep. I usually go to bed around 10:30 PM, this has always been my normal time to go to sleep even before my thyroid problems.

so tired

The weirdest thing for me is that about three nights a week I wake up around 3:00 AM and then can’t go back to sleep. Just wide awake. Usually this lasts about 30 minutes and then I start getting tired so I am back to bed… only to wake up at 5:00 AM and start the cycle again.

So yes, when I say that one of my many aches, pains or weight gain may be because of my hypothyroidism…IT PROBABLY IS. I am not making it up or making excuses. I love to workout and being fit but sometimes the body has another plan and it does not give me a choice. I have to stop and rest. Sometimes I am stubborn and push through. This never turns out good especially as it relates to joint pains. But in this fitness journey as a hypothyroid there are a three important things I have learned and have helped me.

1. Do your research when it comes to the right workouts. This is a lot of trial and error. Whatever fitness plan you start, make sure you tweak it for your situation and ensure it is right for you. Workouts like Crossfit and such do not work for me. I have to rely on workouts that are more gentle to my body. Believe it or not running without overdoing it has worked for me which is why I continue to do it– plus I love doing it. I personally need cardio to lose the weight. No way around it.

2. Diet. My diet is 95% gluten free and it has made a tremendous difference. I am not as sluggish and have more energy. Plus it has made it a bit easier for my body to start losing the weight. Get rid of processed foods, refined sugar, and ditch the soda! When it comes to cruciferous veggies and goitrogens, do not stay away from them completely. You can still enjoy them cooked to reduce the goitrogens and in limited amounts. I know this may be controversial for some. But again: this is what works for me.

3. Weight loss. It takes time and as you know, it is a yo-yo for the most part once you are hypothyroid. You seem to find the balance between your meds, exercise and diet, only to have your hormone levels go out of whack again. It is a fine science trying to lose weight with this disease but you must have patience.

All of this that I have gone through is why I now celebrate small victories: the morning I wake up full of energy, the days my hair does not fall when I brush it, when I lost 1 lbs. instead of 5, when I was able to have a completely happy day without an emotional mess. These are things most people take for granted but I bet you, if you ask a hypothyroid they do not. When you have a bad day, it is like living with a debilitating disease. What am I talking about? It is a debilitating disease at times and it takes a toll on everyone around them. It is no joke and it annoys me when people make jokes about hypothyroids or snide remarks about the disease. So the next time someone tells you “I am hypothyroid” do not dismiss them and be thankful you are not walking a mile in those shoes. Believe me when I tell you — you do not want to.

Maria

A bit about Maria

Hello everyone! My name is Maria and I am the girl behind The Good Life — where I blog about health, fitness, faith, and my daily dealing with hypothyroidism. All different areas but all equally important to me to have a good and thriving healthy life. In my daily life I am an Army Officer and momma to the most handsome Wheaten terrier.

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About Dana Trentini

Who knew that little butterfly-shaped thyroid gland at the base of my neck could affect my life so completely? I founded Hypothyroid Mom in memory of the unborn baby I lost to hypothyroidism. Winner of two 2014 WEGO Health Activist Awards: Health Activist Hero & Best In Show Twitter. *Hypothyroid Mom includes Affiliate links. Connect with me on Google+

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