I have hypothyroidism, but why does my weight matter?
Trigger warning: Discussion of weight loss as treatment option.
I have had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis for about ten years. I was originally tested right after high school with an elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Because of the complicated issues surrounding hypothyroidism, I didn’t get treated until about a year ago. One of the questions my doctor asked me was “Do you have trouble losing weight?” My response? “Yes, but so do a lot of people, so I don’t think that matters.”
Since last year, I’ve joined a lot of thyroid forums and weight loss is a hot topic. My question is why? Hypothyroidism causes a lot of problems. And I mean a lot. It effects pretty much every cell in the body. It causes severe (and I do mean severe) fatigue, depression and moodiness, high cholesterol, a higher risk for diabetes and insulin resistance, muscle and join pain and swelling, etc, etc, etc. In other words, it does a lot of bad stuff to a person. So why is it that we focus on weight instead of how we’re feeling?
For me, fatigue has been the worst. At one point before I was treated, I was so tired I wouldn’t eat unless someone else made me a meal because I had no energy to make it myself. Because I’m alone for most of the day, this meant eating one meal a day. I was sleeping 14 hours a night and still needing naps. I couldn’t function. I felt sick when I’d try to do anything physical, so I couldn’t even clean around the house properly. I’ll tell you, whenever I started treatment, I didn’t care if I stayed fat (in fact I worried that I would lose weight and thus become a less effective Fat Acceptance advocate), I cared about whether I’d have energy and whether I’d feel like a normal functioning person again.
What really got me (and what prompted this post) was while listening to an episode of The People’s Pharmacy on NPR, one of the interviewees, Kent Holtorf, mentioned that people with hypERthyroidism (and overactive thyroid) may gain weight when treated and he framed this as something being wrong with the way we treat thyroid disease. He even mentioned the dreaded “obesity epidemic.” Again I ask, who cares if they gain weight if they’re feeling better? Why is weight the main focus here instead of their health?
Several things annoy me about having hypothyroidism, besides having the disease itself, which is lifelong. One of those is that I somehow get a free pass for being sick and fat. Yes, I’m one of the 5% of Americans with a “condishun” as fatphobes on reddit like to put it. I get told, “Oh, you have HT? Well that’s okay then, you can’t help being fat.” *headdesk* Neither can 95% of fatties! I don’t want a free pass! I don’t want to have an “excuse”! I want people to be understanding and empathetic to fat people’s plight and part of that is realizing that body size doesn’t matter!
Back to my original point: hypothyroidism is about so much more than weight. Left untreated, it can cause myxedema, which can lead to coma and even death. Even in it’s milder forms, it can completely ruin a person’s life — and we’re talking about how it makes you fat??? That’s the hot button issue? Really?
There are even books about how to lose weight with hypothyroidism. In my opinion, we should leave weight out of the equation altogether. Yes, sudden weight gain or loss can show us that something is wrong, but outside of that, why does it have to be included in the discussion? Why? Because most people don’t want to be fat. It’s that fatphobia fuels the discussion on weight and disease. It’s that weight loss dominates all discussions of treatment.
I accept that I’m fat. I accept that I’m probably fatter than I otherwise would be because of my HT, but that doesn’t mean it should be my main worry. How I feel, how healthy I am, how well I can function… those are my main worries. Let’s leave my fat out of it, okay?