Thyroid, Metabolism and the Weight Wars
Weight loss is often called the “battle of the bulge,” and the metaphor is quite fitting. For many Americans, weight loss is an ongoing war that often leaves them with a sense of defeat every time they step on the scale. In any battle, it serves you well to know the lay of the land and the weapons at your disposal. Let’s start by looking at how a gland in your neck can impact your overall weight.
Many people blame thyroid glands for their weight problems, and there is validity to the claim. The thyroid, one of the endocrine glands, affects the way your body gets energy from food—in other words, your metabolism. Thyroid issues plague millions of Americans, the majority being women. An underproducing thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) is the most common problem and, yes, it can cause weight gain. Studies show that even minor changes in thyroid functions can cause weight to fluctuate.
Metabolism is a complex process that never stops because your body has a 24/7 reliance on energy. It’s obvious when you’re working in the garden or walking through the mall, but you also burn energy when you’re at rest. Bodies need power for breathing, blood circulation, hormone level adjustments and cell repair, among other things. The number of calories needed for basic functions is called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Factors behind BMR figures include:
- Size and Composition—If you’re large or muscular, you burn more calories.
- Gender—Men generally have less body fat and more muscle. This burns calories too.
- Age—Muscle decreases as we get older. Fat takes up more space, so the calorie burning process slows down.
There are simple ways to give your metabolism a boost. Add sensible portions of protein-rich foods like tofu, beans, fish or lean meat to your diet. The slightest dehydration can slow your metabolism, so drink plenty of water. Green tea can be helpful as a beverage or in extract form. Chopped red and green pepper can temporarily raise metabolic numbers by almost 20 percent. Dietary supplements containing conjugated linoleic acid are highly effective at raising metabolic rates and preserving muscle tissue.
As you fight those extra pounds, remember that a war is a series of battles—and victories don’t happen overnight. Avoid “starvation diets” or other quick fixes. Add some physical activity to your daily routine, like a relaxing walk or bike ride. And talk with your care provider if you have medical conditions that require dietary monitoring.
The war against weight is well worth the fight. Arm yourself with a positive attitude, smart dietary planning, and a more active lifestyle. The pounds will lose ground, while you enjoy a well-earned victory lap!