Using Yoga and Diet to Manage Thyroid Weight Gain

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“Oh, your thyroid results are interesting. A little low, let’s watch that.” Do you remember the first time you heard those words? I do. I was in my early twenties – a full-time student struggling with managing my academic and financial stress. I was tired. Very tired.  I was gaining weight. Alot of weight. Faster than seemed normal. I knew something was not quite right.  My Doctor had some trite advice about losing weight and how that would help. In my head I was thinking ‘no shit sherlock – that’s why I’m seeing you!’

I tried to lose the weight in order to “normalize” my thyroid levels myself (no medication or advice other than lose weight was offered to me). Some blood work results would be normal, some would be normal-low and other times low.  My weight, however, just kept climbing. I didn’t seem to eat more than the average person, I got in some exercise where I could – I was baffled.  My weight was increasing exponentially. This pattern of wonky blood work and climbing weight continued for about 10 years.

I didn’t think of myself as having a thyroid problem. I had a weight problem. A weight problem that my made my thyroid wonky. Oh, how far off was I? See, I didn’t have a thyroid problem. I didn’t even have a weight problem. I had a Jennifer problem. Bear with me. Let me explain.

See, I had become so separated from my body that I didn’t even know which end was up. I tried diet after diet. I made hollow promises to myself that I’d walk an hour everyday. Yeah, no. Did not happen. I continued eating relatively “healthy” – at least according to outside standards. I ate low-fat yogurt, whole grains, pasta, vegetables, fruits, chicken and always the 100 calorie pack of your favourite snack foods. I “had” to watch the calories you know.

I also was sick almost everyday. I had migraines, blurred vision, painful joints, skin rashes, sores, constant diarrhea, and an upset tummy – the list could go on but I’ll stop right there. You get the picture.

But one day, after I had been exercising daily and counting calories with NO results, something changed. I changed. I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting in the top corner of my bed, near my pillow and I thought to myself “I cannot keep doing this. This is craziness. I am the way I am. And that will have to be good enough. I cannot do this anymore.   I can’t keep torturing myself.” And that moment has truly changed me, my body and my mind.


Once I truly accepted myself,  I slowly started to change. I never dieted again. I decided to take care of my morbidly obese body. I started doing the things I had always wanted to do but was too self-conscious to do. Like try yoga. I was probably at least a size 28 (or larger) when I went to my first yoga class. I found a teacher who was plus-size herself and was passionate about yoga being for everyone. Everyone.

When my first yoga class was over I felt an incredible rush of peace and well-being sweep over me. I felt like I was coming home to myself. I knew that I had found my thing. My passion. I had a good job. I had hobbies. But I did not have a passion. Until I tried yoga.

I have been practicing yoga for over two years now. Some poses, like the warrior ones, come easily to me. Others are a struggle. But that’s why yoga is a practice. There is no race. There is no gold star for mastering a pose. Because yoga is so much more than the poses. Yoga allowed me to reconnect with my breath. To reconnect with my body. And for that, I am truly grateful.


By reconnecting with my body I noticed how sick I truly felt – all the time. I also began noticing that I felt more or less sick after eating certain foods. I kept a very loose food journal of what I was eating (no amounts, just the food) and how I felt emotionally & physically. This helped me to realize what my body liked and what it did not like. Turns out that dairy, gluten and sugar are not my friend. After I came to this realization, I wanted “validation” that there was indeed something ‘wrong’ with my body. That it was not in my head. I paid for a Naturopath to do food intolerance testing. Turns out I was intolerant to dairy and sugar.

I was telling this to my Mom and she kindly reminded me that of course I was intolerant to dairy, I was allergic to it! When I was around 8 I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies (dairy, pork, strawberries…). Seems as I grew up, became a teenager and then left home I conveniently forgot this fact. No wonder I was sick!

I had always known that I had a problem with refined carbohydrates – I was like a crack addict with bread, sweets & pasta. I know this had a lot to do with my weight gain. What I didn’t know is that you crave what it is you are allergic to. This totally explains pizza as my former favourite food!

I discovered the gluten allergy completely on my own. I was eating banana bread one evening after having not had much gluten the last few days, and I woke up covered in a rash, my breathing constricted and my hand swollen at least twice its size.  I had celiac testing which came back negative and my Doctor agreed that this was likely an allergic reaction. I am still waiting (after almost a year!) to see an allergist.

But honestly, I know my body does not like gluten and it lets me know by reacting negatively  to it. I don’t need a physician to confirm what I already know to be true. Besides, I know for certain I’m not going back to feeling sick all the time!

Practicing yoga and becoming aware of what foods my body likes have had a huge impact on my lifestyle. Mostly positive with a few inconveniences. The major change has been in how I feel. How I feel about myself, how my body feels and what my mind feels. A nice side effect has been letting go of 110lbs – without deprivation, without struggle. I know what its like to be morbidly obese, with health problems others ignored. And I know what its like to always feel sick and tired.  I don’t want to feel like that day after day. You don’t have to either.

Thank you for reading my story. What I hope each of you take away is this:

total acceptance of who you are and what your struggles are is the first step

you are the one in charge of your health, no one else

you deserve to experience good health & brilliant well-being regardless of size

Be brilliant!


you can find me at where I write about weight, wealth and well-being. You can sign up to receive news, updates & goodies delivered straight to your Inbox. I’m also on Twitter @jen_saunders