I think I first saw mention of keto on the hypothyroidism subreddit. I became curious first because my doctor had already told me I needed to restrict carbs and second because this hypo sufferer on reddit claimed keto allowed her to lose a ton of weight easily.
I was duly suspect. The only time I had been able to lose significant weight was with a Herculean effort in college. I ate a starvation diet, tracking my calories through Weight Watchers. I exercised religiously. I didn’t go out with friends because socializing meant food that my exhausted discipline wouldn’t be able to refuse. And every quarter pound was a tooth and nail fight.
See, that experience in college should actually have been a red flag for me. An otherwise healthy 19-year-old should have been able to shed good weight eating at a caloric deficit and working out regularly.
I wouldn’t find out for another 12 years about my autoimmune disease, that even then was trying to kill my thyroid (and, slowly and subtly, me).
After college was grad school. The weight I had poured every ounce of my considerable will into losing crept back on, despite similar efforts to eat well, eat little, and exercise. With the stress of school, I just didn’t have the “discipline” to look or feel better, I thought.
Then I got married to an amazing guy. After the wedding, my weight ballooned, seemingly out of control. We didn’t eat out (we couldn’t afford to)! I cooked healthy things! We did an elimination diet together to figure out some food allergy issues. My husband lost 10 pounds in a month. I lost nothing.
I slept all the time and still felt exhausted. My throat felt tight. For a singer and music teacher, that’s a big deal. My hair was thinning. I had no motivation to do ANYTHING, even fun stuff, which meant my poor neglected friends fell away one by one. I could barely hold a low-stress, part time job. I thought, “Is this what getting old feels like?” I was 30.
I went to a doctor and said, “I think I’m too young to feel this old.” Lucky for me, she ran a thyroid blood panel. Unlucky for me, I was told over the phone, “All we can say is it’s autoimmune. We’re sending you to a specialist.”
“But wait!” I exclaimed, the wind knocked out of me. “…can I have kids with this disease?”
The nurse couldn’t tell me.
I went to more doctors. Over two years, I managed to find a good treatment plan. My symptoms receded. I regained some energy. I lost a little weight, just from being properly medicated.
But by this time, I had done my homework on keto. I’d read up on calculating net carbs, supplementing electrolytes, how to bake with sweeteners and almond flour so I could still make fun desserts now and then. And I was ready to take the plunge.
I was a private music teacher who worked on school campuses, so I waited til the end of a school year to start. I would have time to adjust, learn some keto recipes, and get into a routine before the next school year started. On May 25, I began eating fewer than 20 net carbs per day.
By the end of August, I’d lost 30 pounds from my heaviest weight. My energy was bubbling OVER. My coworkers did a double take. exclaiming over and over how good I looked. My students were actually a lot more polite about my weight loss! They didn’t remark at all. I was still just Mrs. Van Orden to them.
By the time I’d been on keto for a year, I’d lost 45 pounds and had been maintaining for 3 months. I was (and still am!) skinnier than I’ve ever been in my adult life. It was easy to do keto all the time. I’ve never ‘cheated’ (on purpose…) and gone over my carb limit. I’ve gone from a part-time private lesson teacher to a full time high school choir director, in charge of my school’s entire choir program. I’ve traveled on keto, gone out with friends on keto, and managed to keep my non-keto husband well fed the whole time. (He makes it pretty easy by being willing to try anything, and just gets his carbs on the side.)
And soon we hope to add a member to our family, now that my health is under control and I’m able to hold a job with benefits. I’ve learned plenty of people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. It doesn’t hurt that keto appears to boost fertility too!
My self-destructing thyroid stole most of my 20s and made my life hardly worth living. Proper treatment kept me alive. Keto helped return me to a life worth living.
1. What tactics did you employ to help you get to your goal? What did you find helped you get to your goals best?
First, I waited until my hypo symptoms had receded some due to proper medication and dosage. I tried keto when I was still very hypo and it was unsustainable. I had to focus on getting the right meds and the right dosage first. Then, I waited until I had a big chunk of time to devote to meal planning and experimenting with keto recipes (for me, that was summer break, as I’m a teacher).
2. What is the most impactful change you’ve made to your diet and why do you feel it’s been the most important?
There are two.
1) Eating no more than 20 net grams of carbs per day. It’s that simple.
And 2) staying gluten free. On keto, the second one’s mostly a no-brainer. But there are some keto bread recipes that use wheat gluten for texture. How I WISH I could try them! But I’ve seen the blood work. I was TOTALLY skeptical that going gluten free would lower my Hashi’s antibodies count. But it did. I went gluten free long before I was keto just to prove my doctor WRONG and that there was no tie between gluten intake and high antibodies. But it backfired on me!
3. What is the best single piece of advice you can give to someone that is just starting out?
You are worth the effort. Don’t fear socializing when there’s food you can’t eat around. You don’t owe anyone anything when it comes to food. Bring your own snack/drink, and focus on having fun connecting to people, not putting stuff in your face. Let people think what they’re going to think. Your results will speak for themselves.
4. How do you feel your life is now that you’re at your goal?
I hate to say it, but it’s easier to command respect from people. 🙁 It’s a sad fact of our society. One I don’t agree with, but one I’m nevertheless benefiting from now that I’m at a healthy weight. But I try my best to show respect to everyone I encounter, no matter what they look like. After all, I used to be that exhausted, frustrated person in constant pain. I dare not forget.
5. What do you consider the biggest change in your day-to-day life?
Clothes are fun again! 😀 And my chronic joint pain has receded into nothing. I can’t express what a relief it is not being in pain every waking second.
6. What did you do to find support throughout your journey?
I had to look no further than my husband. He saw that I wanted to try keto and said, “I will eat whatever you put in front of me. As long as there’s some bread or rice on the side.” I almost never cook two dinners for us, and that took away a huge mental barrier for me to even get started on keto.
7. What do you currently do to manage your day-to-day diet?
I meal plan once a week. I pick out next week’s recipes and make a grocery list. It saves me time and money. I still track most everything that goes in my mouth, although I will give myself ‘no tracking’ days once a week or on a holiday.
That just means I eat keto foods, but I don’t log them in my Cronometer app. I do intermittent fasting so I don’t have to make myself work lunches. It’s more for time savings than weight loss!
8. What is your favorite keto recipe from www.ruled.me that’s become a staple?
I make Ketofied Chick-Fil-A-style chicken tenders all the time! I have like 6 jars of saved pickle juice in my fridge right now, just waiting to marinate!! I dip them in a dipping sauce I cobbled together of mayo, spicy brown mustard, erythritol, liquid smoke, and a dash of lime juice. All the satisfaction of fast food, NONE of the guilt!
9. If there is one thing that you could do differently during your journey, what would it be and why?
I wish I could have discovered and started keto sooner. Sometimes I wish I could figure out who it was who posted about keto when I first read the name. I want to thank them. Oh, and I would steer clear of maltitol from the beginning!