I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s about 3 years ago. At that time, I was working as a personal trainer at a commercial gym on the east coast. The schedule I was forced to keep was awful. Often times I had a 4AM wake up call, worked until 10PM, only achieved 4-5 hours of sleep per night, and rarely took even a single day off. On top of all of this – I was still working to lose weight. I had previously lost 30lbs, but I wanted to lose about 20 more to achieve my esthetic goals. I knew there was a problem, however, when despite working out 6 days a week, for an average of 2 hours per day while eating only about 1,000 calories, I started to gain weight.
Now let me clarify about the 1,000 calories per day detail. That number was not created out of malice. In no way was it my plan to starve myself “skinny.” The point in time when that started to occur, I simply was never hungry. My metabolism had already crashed. Food was just not the thing I was thinking about, and on the flip side, I found myself having dozens of spare hours with nothing to do in a gym – why not jump on a treadmill to kill some time? It never occurred to me that the actions I was taking meant I was over taxing my body and doing irreparable damage.
So there I am – performing draining workouts, eating next to nothing, yet watching the scale climb drastically week to week. My coworkers said hideous things about my appearance, my clients started to doubt my expertise, and I was falling into a helpless depression. I sought out medical advice – clearly something was wrong. I saw 5 doctors – internists, endocrinologists, general practitioners, etc., all of whom ran their favorite labs, deemed them all normal, and suggested I tried to “move more and eat less.” Well, shit, at a weekly average of 14 hours of activity and 7,000 total calories, how much more should I move and how much less could I eat?
My hair started falling out, I developed eczema all over my body. I began to be able to count on monthly yeast infections, and got hit with a strong wave of insomnia. I had no personal life – my depression and lack of energy drove away those closest to me, and the insane work schedule I forced myself to keep insured my remaining friends gave up on ever trying to invite me anywhere – my answer was always no.
And then, fate intervened. I don’t say that flippantly – if this one moment never happened, I don’t know where I would be today. There I was, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, when an acquaintance of mine posted an article from a nutritionist detailing various conditions and disorders, primarily in women, that could not only prevent weight loss, but actually could result in weight gain. I remember shaking and crying as I read the article. After nearly a year of feeling unheard, being called a liar, and being given the advice to “just get over it,” I had an article where every word resonated with my core and confirmed I wasn’t crazy or making it up. Without hesitation I emailed the author and requested to start working with her.
The first mission was to get specific blood labs. She wanted to check in using an extensive panel on my thyroid (for those of who enjoy initials, she requested to see TSH, Free T3/T4, Total T3/T4, reverse T3, anti-TPO, TgAb) and few other hormonal profile labs. Sounds easy enough, right? While when I requested these labs from 3 of those 5 doctors mentioned earlier – one never responded, one flat out said “no,” and the third reached out to say I was wasting my time and that he “didn’t even believe in those tests anyway.” Hard to understand someone not believing something that has a name, value, and testing procedure, but sure…you do you, Doc.
I felt like I had hit a wall. Here I thought I was so close to finally having some answers, and instead I had 3 doors slammed in my face. I ultimately looked to an independent lab. The prospect of paying out of pocket was terrifying, but turning back wasn’t an option. I dosed out some cash, a few vials of blood, and finally got confirmation – with skyrocketed antibodies and plummeted cortisol levels – I was dealing with Hashimoto’s.
So where to go from there? I finally had an answer, but what does all of that mean, anyway? I like to sum it up as such: the body cannot discern various types of stress. It does not understand work stress versus home stress, lack of food versus a fight with your partner, or even exercise versus lack of sleep. Stress, is stress, is stress. Well, your body’s one goal in life is to survive – to keep you living and breathing. So as I bogged down my system with work, emotional stress, and lack of self-care, my body built a defense mechanism to conquer what was threatening it – in short, my thyroid. That’s right, my body, in an act to defend itself, had actually started to wage an internal war.
So what was my battle strategy? I prioritized me. I quickly made moves to leave my toxic job and start my own business where I could be in charge of my own wage and hours. I cut back my exercise from 6 times per week to 3 or 4. I slept…a lot – 8-10 hours every night and even sometimes a nap during the day. I put myself on a strict autoimmune protocol elimination diet for 3 months before beginning to reintroduce foods into my system. Some foods continued to stay out – gluten and dairy are the big ones, but I gladly welcomed back eggs, tomatoes, and most nuts and seeds. I moved out of a bad living situation and built myself a home that has become nothing short of my sanctuary. I began to notice my symptoms disappearing – my hair grew back thicker, my skin cleared up, and I started to have energy to reach back out to dwindled relationships. The weight I gained during diagnosis persists, but I continue to focus on a day at a time. I remain hopeful that my body will let go of the extra weight when ready.
3 years after diagnosis, I’ve come a long way, but as you can see, the road wasn’t easy. My hope in sharing my story is that it might reach a few readers and inspire them to reach out – either for assistance with his or her own autoimmune condition, or even just to share their own story. One thing that continues to shock me is how little is known about these autoimmune conditions despite the community being so vast. I really hope starting a conversation about this topic will help all aspects of medicine come together to find more viable treatment options, and maybe even one day, a cure.