My life, to this point anyways, can best be described as pre-Nolan and post-Nolan. In my pre-Nolan life, I would not be writing this blog. Certainly not about Hashimoto’s, but probably not any blog. Not because it was a boring life. It was semi-charmed, kinda vanilla. Nolan, by the way, is my son.
Post-Nolan life was “supposed” to be just like it sounds. Insert bouncing baby boy into loving marriage, adjust to new life as a mom, etcetera. But shortly after he was born, I was not feeling well. It was beyond the usual postpartum, bluesy not feeling well. My hands began to shake. I was exhausted, but when I had the opportunity to sleep I could not. My heart was racing and I felt on the verge of a panic attack every waking moment of the day. I started getting hot flashes and was ALWAYS hot and sweating. Finally, I took my temperature, thinking I had a fever. My body temperature was 93.8 degrees. Clearly not normal.
So I did what most people would do. I Googled it. And that's when I saw it ... thyroid disease can cause lowered body temperature. This wasn’t exactly a surprise as both my mother and grandmother had thyroid diseases. I had mine checked every year to watch it, but still thought it’d skip me because I was healthy. Pre-Nolan, I was a runner and a cyclist. I ate healthier than most of America, or so I thought.
I took my hunch right to the doctor the next day. She skipped right over the postpartum depression questions and went right into blood work. I received a call that afternoon that my “levels” were off and an immediate referral to an endocrinologist.
Within days my husband and I found ourselves sitting in an endocrinologist’s office and hearing the words “You have Hashimoto’s”. Hashi-what? Sounds like the name of a Japanese restaurant. She went on to explain that my current symptoms were a result of a hyperthyroid state, but that the usual trajectory would result in a hypothyroid state. Translation: my metabolism would slow way down. This autoimmune disorder was attacking my thyroid gland and would ultimately render it useless. I would eventually be on a medication taken daily for the rest of my life. Telling this to a woman that gained a bit too much during pregnancy and still had a good chunk of weight to lose was a bit traumatizing I have to admit.
So back to Google I went (bad idea), and what I found is the reason I decided to start this blog in the first place. Now here is where I need to be careful. I’m not discounting that the side effects of this disease are real and felt by many, including myself. What I felt discouraged about was the lack of positive stories to tell. I felt hopeless and sad reading the endless personal stories of copious weight gain, struggles with weight loss, depression, fatigue, hair falling out, exercise intolerance, infertility, etc ... What I needed to hear is how one can LIVE WELL with this disease.
I've read nearly everything I can get my hands on. Based on the information I’ve read, I've made the following lifestyle changes:
- I've cut out gluten and adopted a “clean” eating lifestyle
- I work out 6 days per week, 45-90 minutes per time, depending on the type of exercise (this wasn't that big of a change from pre-pregnancy)
- I take a high-potency daily multivitamin and fish oil supplements
- I limit goitrogenic foods
I also should add that about 4 weeks after I was diagnosed, I switched into hypothyroidism. I began taking Levothyroxine, and just had my dosage increased. So far, I feel lucky. I was diagnosed early and was able to avoid a lot of the ugly side effects.
I remember when I first made my diet changes: NO gluten, NO processed foods, organic foods, limited sugar (I’d like to say none, but I need my few glasses of wine a week; a girl's got her limits!). I GRIEVED and cried pretty much nonstop for 5 days. Yes. I cried. Over food. Sounds ridiculous to me now. In our culture, food equals celebration. We meet friends for happy hour, have cake at birthdays, and barbeque on 4th of July. I thought of all that I would miss out on, and it made me sad.
After I ended my little pity party, I had to start looking not at what I would miss out on, but what I could gain. Health. Feeling good. Do I want a piece of pizza or do I want to feel good enough to play sports with my son? That thought sealed the deal.
It’s amazing how your taste buds change when you eat whole, nutrient-rich foods. It’s really true that you start to crave such foods. Food is fuel, not comfort. If I need comfort, that’s what I have so many good friends for! Is my diet “perfect”? No. I indulge occasionally on a little ice cream or dark chocolate, but it really isn’t that frequent.
People often ask me how I stay committed to this way of life. Buying organic IS more expensive. Making foods from scratch DOES take more time. I've learned how to shop smart for organics. I buy organic meat in bulk from Costco, and they also offer large bags of frozen organic produce that saves a ton of money when you compare it to what you would have paid for it fresh. We also eat out a lot less, which helps me justify the increase in our grocery bill. I cook several meals on Sunday to provide us with most of the week’s meals.
The hardest part of my new lifestyle is going to dinner at other people’s homes. With my family, it’s easy. My mom is gluten-free, and she makes sure I can eat what she’s serving. In other cases, I’ve asked the host (depending on the relationship) what he or she is serving to see in advance if I can make it work, and if not I bring a dish to share that I know I can eat. It’s worked pretty seamlessly so far.
I did make it back to pre-pregnancy weight. It took 9 months, 190 hours of exercise (5-7 hours a week on average), and 289 miles of running (during the summer months). Oh yeah, and an unquantified amount of dedication and support from my fitness motivational group, a few choice friends, and family members.
At the beginning of this all, I talked to one of my best friends who told me, “This will eventually become your new normal”. How right she was. It’s kind of ironic that I've become the healthiest I've ever been by getting sick.