Skip to main content
ASK AN EXPERT
Got a question about a health story in the news or a health topic? Here's your chance to get an answer. Send us your questions about general health topics, diet and fitness and mental health. If your question is chosen, it could be featured on CNN.com's health page with an answer from one of our health experts, or by a participant in the CNNhealth community.




* CNN encourages you to contribute a question. By submitting a question, you agree to the following terms found below.
You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. By submitting your question, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your questions(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statment.
Thank you for your question!

It will be reviewed and considered for posting on CNNHealth.com. Questions and comments are moderated by CNN and will not appear until after they have been reviewed and approved. Unfortunately, because of the voume of questions we receive, not all can be posted.

Submit another question or Go back to CNNHealth.com

Read answers from our experts: Living Well | Diet & Fitness | Mental Health | Conditions

Expert Q&A

  • Share this on:
    Share
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

How can I lose weight if I have hypothyroidism?

Asked by Serene, Sacramento, California

Open quote
Close quote

How can I lose weight when I have hypothyroidism and I can't do strenuous exercise? My doctor is still adjusting my thyroid medication, so my TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) is still high at 22. Added to that, I've got heart problems and have been told by my cardiologist not to do strenuous exercise! I do a lot of walking and typically do 10,000 steps a day. I've been doing a low fat 1,400 calorie diet with no result. I was thinking about a low-carb 1,200 calorie diet and upping my steps to 15,000 a day but I'm wondering what else I can do when I can't exert myself.

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi Serene,

It sounds like you are in a frustrating situation. First of all, until you are taking the appropriate dose of thyroid medication and your TSH is in the normal range (I like to see it in the mid-normal range for my patients, around 2, for those that are struggling with their weight), it will probably be very difficult for you to lose weight.

The thyroid gland plays an important role in metabolism, and if your thyroid hormone levels are low, as indicated by a high TSH (thyroid hormone normally suppresses TSH when present at normal levels), your metabolism will be low and you will not burn as many calories every day.

When your TSH gets into the normal range, however, don't expect the weight to just fall off without continued effort. I find that most of my patients have to continue working very hard to lose weight even when their TSH is in the normal range. Without knowing your age, height, weight (especially where you tend to carry your excess weight -- in the hips and thighs or in the belly), it's hard to make specific recommendations.

I think trying a nutrient-dense 1,200-calorie diet with fewer starchy carbs like bread, crackers, pasta, rice, cereal and baked goods might be useful, especially if your waist is greater than 35 inches (40 inches for men). Try to eat lean protein with most meals and snacks as this can give you a slight metabolic boost and having a cup or two a day of green tea (decaf is OK if you can't tolerate caffeine) could give you a slight metabolic boost as well, especially before exercise (check with your cardiologist regarding the caffeine since I don't know the nature of your heart problem).

As far as exercise, 10,000 steps a day is terrific. If you have the time and energy to increase to 15,000 steps per day, that could help. The latest government guidelines suggest that some people may need 90 minutes per day of exercise to lose weight. If your cardiologist approves, you might consider adding in hills on a regular basis to work your muscles differently and burn more calories.

In addition, I would definitely add strength training at least twice a week to build calorie-burning muscle. If you begin a strength training program, the scale may not move right away, but it should in the long run and it will help you keep the weight off.

Finally, for optimal heart health, a low-fat diet is not the best approach. A better idea would be to follow a moderate fat diet (about 25-30%) and substitute healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, olive oil and canola oil for saturated fat like butter, cheese, cream and sugary and refined carbohydrates (Choose whole grains, which are heart healthy.).

More Q&A

  • CNN's Medical UnitCNN's medical unit brings you the best experts available to answer your questions about current events and health issues that matter most to you.
Will jogging hurt an obese person's joints?asked by: Asked by John Simmet; St. Paul, Minnesota
Is creatine a safe supplement?asked by: Asked by Ralph; New York
What foods cause flatulence?asked by: Asked by Peter; United States
Quick Job Search
keyword(s):
enter city:

CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.