Thyroid School, Issue #12// Nourishment VS Deprivation

If you’ve actually gained weight from dieting and exercising, you’ll want to continue reading.

Gosh, it’s so tempting, isn’t it? The whole eating-less, working out more to lose weight approach.

I get it. Logically and mathematically, it makes sense.

However, our bodies are more like thermostats than calculators and the thyroid is in charge of it all.

There are a few big things that send the message to the thyroid to slow down.

1. Stress (both physical and emotional)

2. Under-eating

3. Autoimmunity


Survival is a priority. Survival stress responses will always trump other non-essential functions (important, but not “essential” for survival) like digestion, metabolism, reproduction, sleep. When our body senses heightened stress, the thyroid downregulates those non-essential functions and upregulates survival mode. This is otherwise known as fight/flight/freeze versus rest/digest/reproduce/metabolize.

We all have a built-in threshold for stress resiliency and different stressors fill up our stress buckets more than others. Some stressors are unavoidable and out of our control, so instead of adopting a “no stress” mindset, it’s important to “know your stress”. Acknowledge the things you can control and the things you can’t and adjust accordingly.

Things that stress your body that you may not realize:

– over-exercising

– being too sedentary

– not sleeping well

– eating poor quality foods

– weighing yourself daily

– feeling under-valued and under-appreciated

– internalized, suppressed, and repressed trauma

– pollution (both indoor and outdoor)

– toxic relationships


This is a BIG one that I most often tackle in my 1:1 work with clients. Diet dogma and culture have brainwashed us into thinking that we should starve ourselves into a smaller pant size and that eating to satisfaction is a negative thing. Food is fulfilling both physically and emotionally, and you should never feel shame about either.

Our basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories burned at rest– that is: no movement beyond breathing and essential survival functions. For the average woman, the BMR is above 1200 calories per day. Read that again: the MINIMUM amount of calories your body needs when you’re literally lying in bed is 1200 calories.

When you underreat, your metabolism (governed mostly by your thyroid) turns down in an effort to preserve energy. As a safety net, you will also shift from fat-burning to fat-storing to make certain that you have reserves in case there is a prolonged period without food.

How do you know if you’re eating enough?

1. Tap into your hunger and fullness cues. Are you always pre-occupied with food? Do you get super foggy-headed and exhausted during the day? Do you lose control in the pantry when you get home from work? Those are common tendencies of an undernourished body.

2. If you’re disconnected from hunger/fullness cues (which is NOT uncommon if you have yo-yo dieted a lot), you can do some tracking and calculations to give you a ballpark. I like using unbiased and scientifically proven equations like this one to give an idea of calorie needs. You can compare your intakes (usually by tracking in something like ChronoMeter or My Fitness Pal) to what science tells you you need.

3. Autoimmunity

I’ve covered this a lot and will continue to, but the gist of it is that unmanaged autoimmune disease will progressively worsen your thyroid hormone output as the tissue of the thyroid continues to degrade.

Until next time,


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