Welcome to Finding My Strong Blog’s first ever guest series. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be adding two guest posts from a wonderful writer who not only happens to be my best friend, but happens to be finding her own strong this year. Her journey through cancer, weight loss, and Hypothyroidism is one you won’t want to miss! Christy is a professional counselor and Mobile Crisis Team Specialist living in Annapolis, MD. Between lifeguarding for six years and subsequently responding to crisis situations with local police, Christy has learned to handle adversity, keep her cool, and how to make a plan of action. Christy is a strong believer in gaining support and learning from others and hopes to pass on some of what she has learned along the way. Christy’s journey to finding her strong is ongoing and you can follow Christy on Twitter: @beachnative27, on Instagram: beachnative27, and even on Snapchat for motivational gym snaps: (you may have guessed it…) beachnative27. Now join me as we learn more about to to build strong and healthy bodies through Christy’s inspiring journey.
Hypothyroidism… Heard of it? I hadn’t heard of this endocrinological condition until I was 19 and had to face what it meant in regards to my life. Basically it is a condition where your thyroid gland is slow and doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. The major issue here is that an underactive thyroid upsets the normal balance of your body’s chemical reactions and the more severe your thyroid impairment is, the more severe your symptoms are. Now the thyroid can have issues with being too fast or too slow and the graphic below covers the symptoms on either side of the spectrum… this post however, will focus on my experience of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism officially came into my life when I was 19, but it was actually wreaking havoc for years prior to my diagnosis. My slow thyroid is the culprit of mood fluctuations that I experienced as a child and as a teen. I would slip into severe depressions every couple of years, but did not know at the time that it was abnormal. These depressions included irritability, chronic fatigue, an immense lack of motivation for day-to-day activities, self-loathing, and thoughts of killing myself when things got bad enough. I grew up in an active and social family family and I am no exception. I have a wonderful family and a multitude of friends whom I did not want to alarm, so I learned to hide my depressions when they struck by gluing a smile to my face and excelling in school, sports, and in life.
The game changed when my family moved across the country from San Diego, CA to Annapolis, MD and my depression hit hard. Suddenly I had to finish high school away from all my friends and I was angry. I stopped playing sports to take more AP classes and I got a job at the local movie theater to take up time on my lonely weekends. … The weight started to pile on. I was no longer running around all the time and burning enough calories to compensate for my increased emotional eating. I’d never been skinny, but I’d also never been fat… then suddenly I was 193lbs at 17 years old. At 5’8” I still wasn’t fat, but I was no longer my healthy self. Then the depression hit harder and I proceeded to cope by eating. My happy façade fooled people enough that I had plenty of friends and no one gave me a hard time for putting on weight, but by the time I graduated high school I weighed 227lbs. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that it was suggested that I get a thyroid test… a very easy blood test. Sure enough my results came back positive. I had some facts to face. The first and foremost is that I now take a pill called Synthroid every day to provide my body with the extra thyroid hormone that my thyroid gland cannot produce. I will have to continue taking Synthroid for the rest of my life to stave off the worst of my symptoms.
So what now? I was a college sophomore and I was hovering somewhere in the 230-240lbs range, taking a pill every day and miserable. Suddenly the majority of my mood symptoms vanished, but I was left to contend with my struggle to lose weight. I say struggle because having hypothyroidism makes losing weight approximately 4x harder than the average person (a fact provided by my primary care physician). For the typical person it is a matter of calories in vs calories burned, not for those with hypothyroidism. You have to work even harder to get your metabolism up to speed… because as you may have guessed by now, a slow thyroid means a glacially slow metabolism.
My goal is to be healthy and to be strong so I made a commitment to myself when I was 19 that I was going to turn things around. I got involved with my university’s lacrosse team (Go Saints!), I began taking part in group activities, I swam every day in the summer and I did lose weight. But then I’d gain it back if I slipped in my diet, even just a little. I learned then that this will be a struggle I battle every day, for the rest of my life. I had to find the fight within me.
At 22 I went off to grad school and my weight was an even bigger struggle because insane time constraints can make the poor health choices easier to make. At 24 I recommitted to myself and started running. I may not have been very fast and the weight may not have fallen much, but I dropped 2 pant sizes in a month.
At 25 I graduated with my master’s degree and my graduation present to myself was to join the 24 Hour Fitness gym here in Annapolis. I took control of my typical excuses by finding a gym that is close to home, is open 24/7, and it has a pool. I sweetened the pot when I decided to start working out with a personal trainer. He’s expensive, but he’s worth every penny. I began working with him about five months ago and I am still working to dip below the 200lbs line, but I have dropped 7% of my body fat and I have lost inches all over my body. My commitment to myself and working with a professional trainer has gotten me onto the right track to become healthy and reach my goal of getting the heck out of the 200s. It’s a struggle every day, but I have achieved so much more than I ever would have imagined when I was that hopeless, heavy 18 year old. I had to find my inner fighter and tell myself that just because I am faced with some extra hurdles does not mean that I cannot overcome them. I ran from the girl I was and hid in the food I ate. Now I run for the woman I want to be and I work out to make sure that she is as strong as she deserves to be.
A little trip down memory lane…
When I was young and then at my heaviest:
Taking my life back:
A couple fitness tips for people with hypothyroidism:
- Commit to yourself and appreciate who you are
- Develop a fitness routine that you can stick with and set realistic goals
- Eat healthy meals 3x/day with two snacks in between (eating approximately every 3hrs will help kick start your metabolism)
- Keep carbs to earlier in the day
- Stay hydrated
- Get others involved in your goals (your doctor, trainers, work out buddies, and moral support in general can be a big help)
- Do your research to better understand your diagnosis and how to work with it
For those of you struggling with hypothyroidism or any other chronic health condition: do not give up on yourself… not ever. Weight loss is a challenge, but with the right support you can do it in a healthy and safe way. It is important not to compare your progress to those around you because your body chemistry is different and it is painful to watch sedentary friends lose weight while you consistently kick your own butt in the gym … at least it sure is for me. There are plenty of books and accounts out there for you to check out about hypothyroidism, remember that your experience will be unique to you as mine has been to me. I wish you all the best of luck in your fitness endeavors.
Laura’s Note: I am so incredibly proud of Chrity’s transformation. She’s a beautiful person inside and out — and a HUGE inspiration to me! I am also proud to announce that Christy has officially signed up for her first half-marathon this Fall. Join Christy and I (and Maxwell!) as we run the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on October 5th and let us know more about how YOU are finding your strong.
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