Being physically attractive is one of the foremost concerns of today’s generation. Everyone wants a tall, thin and fit body. Being fat is not only unhealthy for the body, but it reduces our self-esteem and confidence. Thus everyone out there, who has a few extra, undesired pounds in his/her body, is looking for a way to get rid of it. No wonder, the net turnover by the fitness and wellness industry in USA reached a whopping 25 billion dollars last year! 

But, is obesity just a lifestyle disease? Everyone, who puts on a few pounds, is given the same advice: Hit the Gym, go on a diet. What if there is something else wrong with him / her, that prevents them from losing those extra, evil pounds?

The Story of Calories and Metabolism

Most people are aware of the term “calories”. It is like an evil monster, the less you have it, the better. Well, that is main aim behind dieting – to reduce the amount of calories taken in per day. And exercise – it helps in burning all those calories we take in.

So, the basic aim of weight loss is – lose more calories that you take in. You need to cut back 3500 calories just to burn 1 pound of fat. That’s a lot!

Now, here’s a shocker. Exercise burns only a tiny portion of the calories we consume. Finding it hard to believe? Let’s do some simple maths:

  • Average Calorie intake by a person (when not dieting!) = 2000 – 2500
  • Average Calories lost by Metabolism = 1800 – 2400

So, as you can see, most of your calories are burnt by doing what you normally do every day – sitting, standing, talking, breathing, etc. So, even without exercise (or maybe a little bit of running or jumping once in a while), a normal, moderately active person should be able to maintain their ideal body weight.

What does the Thyroid Gland do? 

Now, here comes the hero (or villain) of our metabolic system. Remember, when I said, our body burns nearly all of our calorie we consume? Well, there is a slight catch. This amount is controlled, to a large extent, by our Thyroid Gland.

Keeping the “science” part short and simple, our Thyroid gland produces a number of hormones, which regulate our metabolism. Now, what will happen if your thyroid gland starts to function less? Well, for starters, your metabolism rate will go down drastically. Those 1800 – 2400 calories, which we burn just by doing what, we normally do every day; it goes down to as low as 600 – 900 calories per day.

If your thyroid gland is underactive, you may be suffering from Hypothyroidism.

The “Follows a strict diet, exercises regularly; but can’t lose those pounds” Guy

This is the person, who might be suffering from hypothyroidism. Just to be clear, we are talking about a person, who is eating a strict 1500 calorie diet, and is spending 30 min a day, doing rigorous exercise. He / she should be losing weight; but they are not.

An underactive thyroid gland can wreak havoc. It will make you tired all day, despite getting good night sleep. You will gain pounds and pounds out of seemingly thin air. Losing weight becomes a nearly impossible challenge.

The “Eats a ton of food every day, but never gains a pound” Girl

 Now she’s the girl everyone (who’s trying to shed those extra pounds) hate. She can eat all the cakes, pastries, and burgers in the world, sit on the couch all day, but never gain a pound. Well, these kind of people may have an overactive thyroid gland. Thus, they are able to metabolize all those extra, cheesy calories they take in. Lucky people, aren’t they?

Why don’t I simply reduce my calorie intake? 

Now, this might seem like an obvious and easy choice for all those hypothyroid people out there. Alas, if only things were that simple.

While the maths might simple to you, but in reality, our body does not follow such a simple rule. If you reduce your calorie intake to very low levels (1200 or below), your body simply starts to reduce its metabolic rate in order to stop losing its stored energy (fat). Yes, that’s right; your body wants to stay fat!

This is the main reason why a crash diet never works in the long term. While you are on a crash diet, you lose weight, but your metabolism also drastically reduces. Now, you have to return to your normal diet after some time – it is impossible and unhealthy to follow a crash diet pattern for a long period. As soon as you start eating normally, you start gaining weight rapidly, since your metabolism has slowed down. So, Mission Failed!

What do I do then?

If you are feeling tired all day, keep on gaining pounds after following a strict diet and exercise plan, it is time to visit an endocrinologist. He / She will ask you to get your Thyroid hormone levels (TSH and maybe Free T4) tested. TSH is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. Higher TSH means you have an underperforming Thyroid gland.

But, there’s a catch. As for all hormones, there is a normal range. So, your Doctor might not want to prescribe any medicine if your TSH level is just borderline high. These meds have some side effects and so doctors avoid prescribing them, unless necessary.

Now, what else can you do?

The only other option is exercise, along with eating small meals at regular intervals to boost your metabolism. If you are taking your meds properly, you should be able to lose all the excess weight you gained due to your underactive thyroid. Go out on brisk walks, play a sport, go swimming or hit the gym – it will help you stay fit, as well as lose those extra pounds in no time.

But, remember, never ever take thyroid meds (especially those for hypothyroidism) to lose weight, unless your doctor prescribed them. You could get seriously sick.

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