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Wednesday May 22nd 2019


Thyroid, Yoga & Food

Post Published: 24 August 2010
Category: Guest Bloggers, Thyroid Yoga and Food
This post currently has 15 responses. Leave a comment

“Oh, your thyroid results are interesting. A little low, let’s watch that.” Do you remember the first time you heard those words? I do. I was in my early twenties – a full-time student struggling with managing my academic and financial stress. I was tired. Very tired.  I was gaining weight. Alot of weight. Faster than seemed normal. I knew something was not quite right.  My Doctor had some trite advice about losing weight and how that would help. In my head I was thinking ‘no shit sherlock – that’s why I’m seeing you!’

I tried to lose the weight in order to “normalize” my thyroid levels myself (no medication or advice other than lose weight was offered to me). Some blood work results would be normal, some would be normal-low and other times low.  My weight, however, just kept climbing. I didn’t seem to eat more than the average person, I got in some exercise where I could – I was baffled.  My weight was increasing exponentially. This pattern of wonky blood work and climbing weight continued for about 10 years.

I didn’t think of myself as having a thyroid problem. I had a weight problem. A weight problem that my made my thyroid wonky. Oh, how far off was I? See, I didn’t have a thyroid problem. I didn’t even have a weight problem. I had a Jennifer problem. Bear with me. Let me explain.

See, I had become so separated from my body that I didn’t even know which end was up. I tried diet after diet. I made hollow promises to myself that I’d walk an hour everyday. Yeah, no. Did not happen. I continued eating relatively “healthy” – at least according to outside standards. I ate low-fat yogurt, whole grains, pasta, vegetables, fruits, chicken and always the 100 calorie pack of your favourite snack foods. I “had” to watch the calories you know.

I also was sick almost everyday. I had migraines, blurred vision, painful joints, skin rashes, sores, constant diarrhea, and an upset tummy – the list could go on but I’ll stop right there. You get the picture.

But one day, after I had been exercising daily and counting calories with NO results, something changed. I changed. I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting in the top corner of my bed, near my pillow and I thought to myself “I cannot keep doing this. This is craziness. I am the way I am. And that will have to be good enough. I cannot do this anymore.   I can’t keep torturing myself.” And that moment has truly changed me, my body and my mind.


Once I truly accepted myself,  I slowly started to change. I never dieted again. I decided to take care of my morbidly obese body. I started doing the things I had always wanted to do but was too self-conscious to do. Like try yoga. I was probably at least a size 28 (or larger) when I went to my first yoga class. I found a teacher who was plus-size herself and was passionate about yoga being for everyone. Everyone.

When my first yoga class was over I felt an incredible rush of peace and well-being sweep over me. I felt like I was coming home to myself. I knew that I had found my thing. My passion. I had a good job. I had hobbies. But I did not have a passion. Until I tried yoga.

I have been practicing yoga for over two years now. Some poses, like the warrior ones, come easily to me. Others are a struggle. But that’s why yoga is a practice. There is no race. There is no gold star for mastering a pose. Because yoga is so much more than the poses. Yoga allowed me to reconnect with my breath. To reconnect with my body. And for that, I am truly grateful.


By reconnecting with my body I noticed how sick I truly felt – all the time. I also began noticing that I felt more or less sick after eating certain foods. I kept a very loose food journal of what I was eating (no amounts, just the food) and how I felt emotionally & physically. This helped me to realize what my body liked and what it did not like. Turns out that dairy, gluten and sugar are not my friend. After I came to this realization, I wanted “validation” that there was indeed something ‘wrong’ with my body. That it was not in my head. I paid for a Naturopath to do food intolerance testing. Turns out I was intolerant to dairy and sugar.

I was telling this to my Mom and she kindly reminded me that of course I was intolerant to dairy, I was allergic to it! When I was around 8 I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies (dairy, pork, strawberries…). Seems as I grew up, became a teenager and then left home I conveniently forgot this fact. No wonder I was sick!

I had always known that I had a problem with refined carbohydrates – I was like a crack addict with bread, sweets & pasta. I know this had a lot to do with my weight gain. What I didn’t know is that you crave what it is you are allergic to. This totally explains pizza as my former favourite food!

I discovered the gluten allergy completely on my own. I was eating banana bread one evening after having not had much gluten the last few days, and I woke up covered in a rash, my breathing constricted and my hand swollen at least twice its size.  I had celiac testing which came back negative and my Doctor agreed that this was likely an allergic reaction. I am still waiting (after almost a year!) to see an allergist.

But honestly, I know my body does not like gluten and it lets me know by reacting negatively  to it. I don’t need a physician to confirm what I already know to be true. Besides, I know for certain I’m not going back to feeling sick all the time!

Practicing yoga and becoming aware of what foods my body likes have had a huge impact on my lifestyle. Mostly positive with a few inconveniences. The major change has been in how I feel. How I feel about myself, how my body feels and what my mind feels. A nice side effect has been letting go of 110lbs – without deprivation, without struggle. I know what its like to be morbidly obese, with health problems others ignored. And I know what its like to always feel sick and tired.  I don’t want to feel like that day after day. You don’t have to either.

Thank you for reading my story. What I hope each of you take away is this:

total acceptance of who you are and what your struggles are is the first step

you are the one in charge of your health, no one else

you deserve to experience good health & brilliant well-being regardless of size

Be brilliant!


you can find me at www.brilliantwellbeing.com where I write about weight, wealth and well-being. You can sign up to receive news, updates & goodies delivered straight to your Inbox. I’m also on Twitter @jen_saunders

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15 Responses to “Thyroid, Yoga & Food”

  1. Katie says:

    Thanks Jen….this ailment certainly demands true personal recognition of what works and what does not. I too find that if I eat low carb, do a little physical exercise everyday and maintain a positive attitude, my body functions much better. The slightest variation in my food can instantly send my heart into palpitations and my body into lethargy. It is a constant battle as we do not live in a low carb society and one night of a spaghetti dinner which seems to be exactly what my body craves can set me way back…I try and substitute spaghetti squash if I am at home instead of noodles, but when you are at a friends home, I tend to eat what is served. It is a battle that most everyone out there does not understand so the support can be next to nothing. So I really appreciate this site and all of the stories to remind me I am not alone.
    Good luck on your journey…..

  2. Donna says:

    Thank you Jen for sharing your story with us.

    While I have never had a weight problem (not a perfect body but perfect for me) I have become much more aware of how my body reacts to what I put in it. I do not have it perfected just yet but it’s a start. I want to keep myself at a healthy weight for health reasons. Over the last year my weight has fluctuated within a 10 lb. range beause of my TSH levels and I can live with that if it helps me to know I need to react.

    When it comes to being active I have to push myself which I don’t do every day because I physically just can’t some days but when I do it helps. I don’t beat myself up about either way nor do I let anyone else. I am simply me and if you want to be in my life you take me as I am.

    I love what you said about accepting yourself, it is so important as is loving ourselves. This community has collectively been through so much and they need to hear this because sometimes it is hard to apply what we know to be true. Sometimes we feel guilty because we are not what we once were to others, never mind ourselves.

    Thanks again. Congrats on your well being and your weight loss. So very happy for you.


  3. Wabi Sabi Me says:

    I received my official diagnosis of hyperthyroidism + graves eye disease in Spring ’09. In the days following I read everything I could, both from a traditional and a western medicine perspective. There was some conflicting info but at some points both agreed. What jumped out at me immediately was the high number of American woman (especially African American women) with the diagnosis. One western site said there was no empirical evidence to suggest that women are more prone to thyroid problems then men. Yet a traditional site describing the chakras explained hyperthyroidism as a blockage in the chakra related to self-expression, resulting in more women than men with the diagnosis.

    This resonated with me immediately and I began to acknowledge & face my demons. My doctor was/is amazed at my progress. I never took more than 10mg Methimazole a day, and it was for only a year. Considering that the first day he saw me, he couldn’t believe I could still drive (my thyroid levels were that high).

    All that to say, “Ditto! I agree.”

    Self-acceptance is the first step to better health 🙂

  4. jillautumn says:

    Thanks so much for posting this Jen. I was a diagnosed Celiac patient before it was discovered I had Graves and Hashimotos. I completely understand the reaction to food. I have found it near impossible for people to understand my food restrictions. Its not that I just “prefer” to not eat certain foods, but I will get violently ill and end up in the ER if I eat any gluten. I’m not quite sure what is so difficult to understand about that but apparently it is. I have tried to compare it to someone with a bee allergy being stung, but still no luck. I definitely can’t eat at a friend’s house because they will not take the precautions I need to prevent contamination and I wouldn’t expect them too. My immediate family is very supportive, my 12 year old daughter has Celiacs also, but even my dad has given me shit at times. I eat at home and invite others here. Its just frustrating that I am able to accept others limitations (diabetes restrictions, wheelchair ramps, etc.), but mine are too inconvienent I guess.

  5. unearthingem says:

    That’s one of the things I’ve loved about falling over yoga. I’ve learned more about my body and it seems happier with me.

    Thank you for this incredible article! (I feel like I might actually be heading in the right direction this time!)

  6. Wabi Sabi Me says:


    I also have to “ditto” the food & exercise.

    Next to prayer, yoga was/is my saving grace. I now do lots of cardio on top if the yoga–willingly! I’ve dropped a stone and love how a brisk walk or zumba class clears my head and gives me energy. I have about another stone to lose and I will patiently & lovingly work it off at whatever pace feels right.
    My body also prefers a raw diet (It varies
    throughout the month from 100-80% raw) and
    distilled water. I also feel more satisfied eating organic versus regular produce.

  7. Jen Saunders says:

    Thanks to each of you for your comments on my post. It is truly amazing the impact that food has on us. The field of holistic nutrition intrigues me more & more each day!

    I think you are incredibly courageous to seek out the support from others online and to share so openly. This is something that has taken me a long time to do – creating a website, getting on Twitter & writing this guest post are all things that were way out of my comfort zone. Your comments mean so much to me.

    I firmly believe that true acceptance of ourselves “as is” is the first step in healing. I wish you much health & happiness!

  8. Awesome post, Jen! I love yoga too and I’ve eliminated gluten, sugar and dairy from my diet, though I’m losing weight more slowly than I’d like. Congrats on stepping out of your comfort zone — you’re a real inspiration!

  9. Dear Thyroid says:

    We love this post, jen, and your story; it’s so inspiring! As mentioned, we hope that you will write more for DearThyroid.org.

    Science based nutrition is a HUGE part of healing and wellness, period. It’s incredible what nutrition can do to heal our bodies. I’m always blown away by the changes that occur when we radically change the foods we eat. Similarly, with exercise; the right exercise for each one of us.

    One thing I also wanted to add, though Dear Thyroid does not endorse NOT being under medical care at all times or self-treatment, WE DO BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF nutrition, exercise, supplements and more, all under a doctor’s supervision, of course. We believe that looking beyond our borders for answers, empowering ourselves and educating ourselves, is paramount to healing and growth.

  10. Anna says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Jen! I have a somewhat similar story–undiagnosed PCOS for years, and a newly discovered gluten allergy. It’s amazing for me to see the pieces of all of this start to come together. I’m feeling better every day being off gluten.

    As a curvy yoga teacher myself, I LOVE the fact that yoga helped you embrace your body and health. The same thing happened for me, and now I love sharing that with others.

    Best of luck to you!

  11. Jen Saunders says:

    @Katie – thanks for adding the disclaimer re: being under the care of a physician or health professional. I am in no way advocating self-treatment. I am promoting taking responsibility for oneself.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments everyone – I am looking forward to sharing more of my writing with your community!


  12. Maria Minno says:

    Yes gluten sensitivity causes hormone imbalance, but other deficiencies can cause gluten sensitivity. Just because you found a “cause” doesn’t mean there isn’t a deeper underlying cause – such as a deficiency in the fat soluble vitamins – that causes gluten sensitivity and other food intolerances in the first place. Don’t stop there, there is so much more to learn!

    Wheat may be the worst, but even other grains like oats and corn have gluten. They all have to be properly prepared or they will cause no end of digestive and immune disturbance. That’s why traditional cultures always soak and ferment their grain foods. Still, even properly prepared, you must have a nutrient dense diet rich in the fat soluble activators and essential fatty acids to keep from getting intolerances to grain and leguminous foods.

    And back to bread, another terrible thing they put in bread is bromine. The dough conditioners all have bromine in them now, instead of iodine, which they used to use. Iodine supports the thyroid but bromine ATTACKS the thyroid! So then you need extra iodine, some to get rid of the toxic bromine, and some to support your thyroid.

    Also, fluoride is deadly to the thyroid. It also attacks the thyroid gland. So then you need even more iodine. Nobody gets that much iodine from food. You have to have a supplement, and it makes a HUGE difference! Check out the information on the Breast Cancer Choices website.

    And then there is soy. Oh my gosh, soy is so terrible for the thyroid and the endocrine system in general. Talk about causing food sensitivities! With all the toxic compounds in soy, and excitotoxins, and it’s almost all GMO, and loaded with pesticides on top of the phytotoxins. Sometimes just removing soy from the diet is enough to make a person get well.

    Furthermore, if you get enough of the fat soluble vitamins you will be so much better off in your thyroid health and immune system health. The ideal source of fat soluble vitamins is fermented cod liver oil/ butter oil blend. It helps keep you from getting allergies and food intolerances, and the vitamins and oils and EFAs and other substances put your endocrine system back into balance. It even protects you from heart disease, which is a bad side effect of thyroid disease.

    And then finally, you will need plenty of other vitamins, minerals, proteins, and saturated fats and cholesterol from the cleanest sources possible (pastured meat and dairy and live fermented vegetables and other foods) because all sorts of pesticides have fluoride, bromide, and other things in them that will attack your thyroid.

    This is all good news, because it can turn your health around. But there is more. The medicines and treatment you get for your thyroid disease can make it much worse. So be sure to try out nutrition and alternative medicine first before you start taking the drugs, radiation, and surgery. Try supporting your life system before you start dismantling it! Drugs poison your enzymes, radiation burns your cells, and surgery cuts away significant parts of your body. The damage from conventional treatments is often irreversible. They believe they are saving your life, but that’s only because they were not taught how to nurture things back to life.

    My thyroid gland has been through Hell and back, and it would like to say to you: Give your gland love. Go with nurturing life before you start killing your poor thyroid. It has already taken such a beating simply from living in this toxic world.

    Your thyroid gland is the seat of your voice, the voice you use to sing lullabies to your children as you hold them in your arms. It is the source of your energy to do your sacred work in the world. It is the voice of your heart, whereby you decide how to express your love and your unique blessings to the world and the people who are fortunate to be around you.

    Your thyroid does not deserve to be harmed. Please find what you can do to support your thyroid, and it will reward you with many blessings, blessings that you will appreciate as no other person can!

  13. kip says:

    Love this article, i too have started on things like yoga,
    i have also found seeing an Oesteopath and a Nutritionist,
    who have helped me more than anyone so far.


  14. Jeanie says:

    Thank you, sweetheart, for sharing this with us!

    My story is kinda similar…except my thyroid went HYPER HYPER…(the most hyper that any doctor at the hospital had seen..) and I went from 170 to 135 in a month.
    Now, of course…I was in a miserable relationship and denying my SELF what I wanted..I’m back up to 185.

    I’ve gone mostly paleo-vegan, working on raw, and exercising so much more now. I feel FABULOUS, and I’m waiting for the weight to fall off. 🙂

    Hm…will you be at SXSW or WDS? I’d love to meet/hug you!

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