So about that calorie-cutting I mentioned. Every winter since my huge weight loss, I gain back a few pounds over the winter. Not ideal, but whatever…it happens. Every spring, I ramp things up a notch or two and lose those pounds. But not this spring.
Try as I might, those stubborn winter pounds would not budge. And I was tired of my jeans feeling a bit tight. I kept persevering, certain that progress would happen at any moment. But it didn’t. Things came to a head about six weeks ago when I looked over the meticulous records I kept last summer when I got in to my best shape ever (so meticulous it sort of got boring at the time, but I am glad to have those records now).
“Surely,” I said to myself, “I was eating less, eating different foods, exercising more…something had to be different.”
Only it wasn’t. I didn’t exercise any more last summer then than I have been this year. And I wasn’t starving myself last summer, either! I was eating between 1,700 and 1,800 calories a day, average. That’s when I started to fret. I started thinking hard about what was different now than it was a year ago. I started eating oatmeal regularly last fall, but I ate a surprising amount of sprouted grain toast last summer, so all things were pretty much equal. I started to wonder if this was some weird side effect of the major surgery I had right after I was finished getting in great shape (like, right after…that was some bitter irony). I even started to wonder if my thyroid was not functioning quite right.
That last bit is huge, because never once, even at my heaviest (aka, obese), did I toss out the words, “Oh, I must have a slow thyroid.” I took full responsibility for my gradual weight gain, and my subsequent weight loss. Not to make light of hypothyroidism: My research (and baby, did I do research) tells me that it is underdiagnosed,* and there is a lot of disagreement about what levels of thyroid hormone are “normal.”
A year ago (right after surgery), my levels were just a touch sub par by “new” standards, but normal by the old standards. On Monday, I found out that my levels have worsened a bit since last year. Enough to result in difficulty with weight loss? Hard to say. So at the moment, I’m stuck in let’s-retest-in-three-to-six-months land, which is annoying but not unreasonable place to be. But I’m an action type of girl, so I’m not going to just wait around for three months. I’m trimming back my calories, and accepting that I might simply have unknowingly stepped over one of those lifespan milestones that means that losing weight and keeping it off is a little bit harder. But not impossible.
When a healthy lifestyle is indeed for life, some curveballs are likely to crop up occasionally. That’s life, after all. Just as no one way of eating is right for everyone, it may be that no one way of eating is right for all points in your lifespan. It seems obvious that young children, pregnant women, and people recovering from trauma or illness have different dietary needs. But subtler differences do exist outside of those rather clear cut examples.
Ah well, c’est la vie.
* If you ever suspect you have thyroid issues, make sure you have more than just your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels tested, because that only tells one part of the overall picture (TSH is secreted by the pituitary gland, and generally tells your thyroid to “make more hormone!” when it senses that levels are low.). You also want to have your free T4 and free T3 levels tested (T4 and T3 are the two forms of thyroid hormone, and the “free” part refers to the supply of those hormones that are actually circulating in your blood, ready to be used. “Total” T4 and T3 counts can be misleading, because some of that hormone is “bound” and not readily available.). Finally, be tested for thyroid antibodies. In my case, my TSH levels are a little high, but my T3 and T4 levels are on the very low side of normal. So even though my pituitary has raised it’s voice a little, my thyroid isn’t quite jumping to attention. I don’t have a problem with thyroid antibodies, which is good, because no one wants an autoimmune disorder. To learn more, check out the American Thyroid Association’s excellent FAQ page.