Editor’s note: This post is not meant as medical advice – please see your health care professional/s and work together on a plan that works for you. If you’re new to the blog then you can read the archive of these posts. I first wrote about my Hashimotos health story back in 2013, when I had a major mental shift in the way I approached my health.
I ditched the scales and changed my “why” when it came to exercising and eating healthily. Hashimotos is a thyroid auto-immune condition and it makes it super difficult to keep your weight in a healthy range, let alone lose weight.
You can read my other health update posts from the past four years, here, here, here, here, here, and (2017) here. If you’re digging into those archive, you’ll see me talking about all manner of things I’ve tried at any given time. Some I’m still doing, some I ditched and things I wasn’t well enough to do back in 2013, I’m now doing. It’s, as they say, a journey.
During the time of sharing my journey, I’ve had hundreds of requests for details of my Brisbane-based thyroid-specialist GP. He’s a bloody legend and I’d not be where I am today without the partnership we have in my health. If you’d like his details, please email [email protected].
I’m going to upfront with you. If you’ve come to this post looking for a “secret” or some magic trick that’s been responsible for me feeling the best I’ve felt, health-wise, in a long time, then you’ll be sadly disappointed.
There is no one thing that I’ve done or changed about my life this year that has helped me have more energy than I’ve known in a very long time. It’s a combination of things – some I’ve been doing for a long time; some I’ve added into the mix this year.
What I can tell you is that the combination of things (which I’ll run through below) I’m doing, or have done, has worked for me to have my healthiest year since pre-glandular fever days in my early 20s.
The photo above? On the left, that’s me, post-Christmas holidays and first day back at work early January this year. On the right, that’s me last month. I’m happy within myself in both photos. I just see a much stronger, healthier person in the second photo.
I don’t track my weight or measurements because it can be incredibly de-motivating for a Hashis sufferer. Those stupid numbers can wildly fluctuate from day to day or even in the same day. So, I don’t have any mind-blowing kilogram loss to share with you – or even a centimetre loss. I was a size 16 (probably borderline 18) and now I’m a size 14, which hasn’t changed since I last wrote a health update in April. Obviously, because retail clothing size is so crazily inconsistent, I can now fit everything from a size 10 to 14, depending on the shape of the garment and the brand.
Weight loss is not what this post is about. It’s not what I AM about. I just want to feel the healthiest I can feel. I want to feel strong. I want to wake up (most) days with energy and without the “thyroidy” fog that can take over your mind and body. I’ve lived so many years with that fog that it’s still a surprise not to wake up with it.
10 things that have helped me feel healthier this year
(Some of these have been covered in previous posts. If they’re listed again below, it’s because I’m still doing them!)
1. Meeting with my GP every three months. This has been crucial over the past three years to get me to this point of wellness. Every three months I have an extensive blood test. My thyroid levels are tracking well (I’m on regular medication – compounded Natural Desiccated Thyroid extract that includes T3, T4) but my protein and iron levels are not always where they should be. The regular blood tests keep me on track with the correct supplements needed to support these deficiencies and my thyroid function. Importantly, my GP wants me to feel the best I can feel. If you don’t get that level of understanding from your health practitioner, I urge you to get a second opinion. As women, we put up with too many vague symptoms in our daily life. We shouldn’t have to. If you’re not feeling great every day, find someone who will support you to change that.
2. Ditching alcohol during the week. Sadly, the scientific research is correct: drinking alcohol inhibits weight loss. And it’s a shocker for anyone with an auto-immune condition. BAH HUMBUG. I can say that I’m mostly good with this. I’ll admit, post-European holiday, it was difficult to break the cycle again and I know this is the worst time of year to try and keep off the booze – well for me anyway. Lime and sodas in a fancy glass are my mid-week tipple of choice.
3. Eating three meals a day – no snacks. I discovered the concept of just eating “three meals a day” from Susan Thompson. I haven’t done Susan’s course but her ideas made sense to me. And I got the green light from my GP. I’ve long ditched the gluten (a red-light food for anyone with an auto-immune condition) and we eat predominantly non-processed, whole foods. That hasn’t changed. My sticking to three, small (low carb, protein-filled) meals of days has suited my lifestyle and I’ve not been hungry – or hangry!
4. Healthy week-night dinners are a no-brainer. We’ve been ordering the WW Fresh boxes from Aussie Farmers Direct since last September. Not only do I not have to think about the “what’s for dinner?” question, menu plan and buy ingredients, I know what we serve up every night is healthy. We eat a greater variety of meals, way more vegetables, save money on our weekly grocery shop and most meals are on the table in 30 minutes. I sub out any gluten products with gluten-free and, if we have more people over for dinner, I buy more of the protein.
5. Juice Plus JBT program. I started the Juice Plus capsule program and my family has also seen the benefits in extra energy from this program. We also don’t crave sweet stuff – we crave more of the good stuff. Mr SY and my youngest has also been taking these whole food capsules – and we’ve been making daily protein smoothies, adding in fruit, chia seeds, greens and whatever takes our fancy. For me, the smoothies substitute out either breakfast or lunch. That convenience is key for me. It is an extra expense but it’s one that we’ve all found has been justified. Email me if you’d like to know more.
6. I’ve increased the amount I exercise. Signing up for this year’s Sydney Coastrek was one of the best things I could have done. I don’t like to be unprepared for anything so it meant that I did get out there and move my butt so I could actually get through the 30km on the day. As part of that training, I added in one HIIT (high intensity interval training session) at Body Smart, which I still do. Each week, I also do one Reformer Pilates session at Body Smart, an infrared yoga class at Harlow Yoga (infrared saunas are great for auto-immune conditions – it’s a different kind of heat from Bikram) and now I run three sessions a week (see #7 below).
Increasing my weekly exercise routine was not something I approached lightly. With any auto-immune condition, exercising too much can set you back health-wise. I’ve found this out the hard way in the past and this time around I was determined to make it happen with baby steps, gradually building up to the training I’m doing now. This has ensured that I’ve not fallen (flu-like) sick along the way. What has happened along the way is an injury or three. My physio assures me this is normal for a 50-year-old woman getting seriously into exercise for the first time in her life. Going to Body Smart has allowed me to train through those injuries because the exercise physiologists are trained to help modify their programs to suit. More about that and their open day tomorrow (November 4) HERE.
7. I started running. I cannot even believe I just typed those words. 2016 Nikki would never have written those words. The thing is, after all that walking training, I needed a bit more. I also wanted a time-efficient way of ticking off my cardio every week. When I read Gillian’s post on Champagne Cartel following the completion of the Gold Coast half-marathon, I had goosebumps and maybe a little something in my eye. At the time, I was lying in bed in our villa in Croatia and I was contemplating going for a walk/run. I’d already signed up to do 5km in the Bridge To Brisbane event in August so I knew I had to make a start. And start I did. That day on the Island of Vis, I probably ran a total of 30 seconds before walking the next 4km.
Back home, I signed up for the Operation Move learn-to-run program but because it wasn’t starting until mid-August, I knew I couldn’t wait before starting my own running training. So I downloaded the Couch to 5km app and gave it a crack. When the Operation Move program started, I switched to that. Best. Move. Ever. This weekend is the end of the 12-week program. I’ll run 30 minutes without stopping. Yes 30 minutes, not 30 seconds! Each week has been a challenge but the support of the trainers and the group has seen me step up and complete each session. I’ve only missed one session and that was on account of having a keratin treatment in my hair and not being able to get sweaty for 48 hours. Laugh away. I did.
I don’t have any goals around running a half-marathon (never say never) but I know I want to better my 5km efforts and maybe work towards a 10km run. Baby (running) steps. I have had my podiatrist and physio on speed dial for most of the 12 weeks as my body screams WTAF at me most mornings. I can’t say I love running but I can say, I love the feeling that comes afterwards.
8. I schedule my exercise in. So if all of the above has got you feeling like you need a little lie down, I don’t blame you. It’s a packed exercise week, that’s for sure. Remember, I didn’t start off doing everything I’ve listed. I’ve gradually built up to this point. Depending on work and family commitments, I’ll mostly have one rest day each week. I sit down each Sunday and map out my training plan for the week and make sure classes are booked. With the exception of the odd Sunday afternoon run by the river, I do most of my training early morning, with my alarm going off between 5-5.30am. This was a killer in winter but now the motivation to get up is easy. By 7am it’s too bloody hot to be doing anything outdoors.
9. I got the whole family on board. We don’t do separate meals in our house. What I eat, everyone eats. My husband and youngest son are also on JBT with me (my son’s supply is free). I train at Body Smart with my husband. Our youngest son either walks/runs with my husband or I.
10. I’ve had a stronger mental shift in my whole approach to living. My husband cannot believe the change in me. I was the one who would give anything just to stay in bed. I’ve gone from craving that on a daily/weekly basis to craving training if I have to skip a session for some reason. I still have thyroidy days, when a combination of the training and my work and social schedule catch up with me. If I feel that, I stop and I do crawl back under the doona. The best part is there are fewer of those days than before.
As someone who cannot remember what it feels like to feel 100% healthy – I was 23 when a bad bout of glandular fever set me on a health train I not wish upon anyone – I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to create the perfect storm that has given me my healthiest 12 months since 1991.
So tell me, how is your health right now? Have you made any changes of late that have helped you? Got any specific questions for me about any of the above?