Running and Hypothyroidism

Sure, doing something like a half Ironman with hypothyroidism might make you a little tired, but don't let that stop you from living your dreams!

Sure, doing something like a half Ironman with hypothyroidism might make you a little tired, but don’t let that stop you from living your dreams!

It has been just over a year since I found out I have crappy thyroid.  They ran a few blood tests during a routine physical and soon informed me that my thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) was elevated above the normal range.  TSH is responsible for telling your thyroid that it needs to produce more hormone.  If the TSH is too high, then that means it has to keep reminding the thyroid to produce more hormone (kind of like your mom nagging you to clean your room when you refuse to listen the first time).  So, when you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism it means that your thyroid is not producing enough hormone.

I was lucky that I was even diagnosed (well, I suppose I shouldn’t consider myself lucky) because most people are unaware of the fact that they have hypothyroidism.  I never thought twice about being overly fatigued because I am so fortunate to have already been diagnosed with Thalassemia Minor (another story for another time, but it basically causes a decreased production of hemoglobin and creates anemic symptoms… but not the type that iron supplements can fix).   Other symptoms of hypothyroidism can include: excessive weight gain, hair loss, swelling, digestive issues, low body temperature, weakness, yellowish skin, muscle aches, depression… and the list goes on.  The long list of symptoms is no wonder why people would not be immediately led to assume that hypothyroidism is to blame.

Fortunately, hypothyroidism can be managed with medication (that you have to take every day for the rest of your life).  However, it is often hit or miss and TSH levels can change based on what you eat, how you are feeling, what the temperature is outside, etc.  It is difficult to pinpoint an exact dosage that will keep your thyroid actively producing the right amount of hormone.  I am never really quite sure if I am tired because I ran 10 miles, chased 3 kids around the house, cooked dinner, did chores and worked with my clients all in one day or if it is my thyroid on the fritz.

Running (as long as you don’t overdo it) is supposed to make you feel re-energized and ready to start your day!  At least that is what I always tell my clients.  However, sometimes I feel like it makes me downright exhausted.  If I haven’t done a long run in a while, then it is almost necessary to come home and take a short nap right away if I am expected to accomplish anything else the rest of the day.

To make matters worse, I have often been told that running too much (or being involved in too much strenuous activity) can exasperate the symptoms of hypothyroidism.  “Well, you probably shouldn’t be training for a half Ironman in that condition.”  Well, screw you.  Don’t you know that runners are hardheaded?  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my approach, but I also would never tell anyone to stop doing something that they love just because your body might not be operating at 100%.  I mean, who really operates at 100% anyway?  I’m almost certain that nobody has a perfectly functioning body (unless you are a robot).

So, as a not-so-restrained runner, I just have to accept the consequences for my actions.  If that means being a little more tired and finding the need to fit in a nap, then so be it.  I don’t give a crap if you judge me for my midday couch slump.  I have to work at 150% while the woman next to me with the normal functioning thyroid can keep it all in check at 100%.  It’s just another one of those challenges that only makes you stronger (at least that is what I keep telling myself).  I know that I could have it much worse if my TSH levels go through the roof.  I could gain weight (even after running 2 hours a day while eating only vegetables), lose my whole head of hair and slump into an extreme depression (which would probably keep me from running and cause me to gain more weight as I eat my misery in cupcakes).

If you know that something isn’t quite right, then don’t wait to have it checked out.  Figure out what the problem is so you can fix it (the best that you can) and find a way to continue moving forward.  Sometimes challenges try to keep us from doing what we love, but don’t succumb to the easy path.  Take the road less traveled and find ways to use your experiences in order to help those you see struggling along the side of the road.

If you want more information regarding thyroid issues, then check out Mary J. Shomon’s website: http://www.thyroid-info.com/

Food Mysteries

At least alligators don't have to worry about what to eat... they just grab whatever slithers by...

At least alligators don’t have to worry about what to eat… they just grab whatever slithers by…

Food is just a mystery to me.  I can’t seem to figure it out.  I came from a meat and potatoes family and it was almost funny that I turned the tables and refused to eat certain foods that I was raised with.  At first my family just made fun of me and then they started making me BBQ chicken when the entrée was pot roast or beef ribs.  They didn’t raise their eyebrows any more if I opted to only have the salad or passed on the bacon.  It was obvious that my tastes were changing.  Not only my tastes, but also my views on food.

I pretty much always knew that fast food was a fast way to heart disease.  Yet, that thought never stopped me from consuming crap during my twenties.  Hey, it was fast, easy and very tasty.  My three pregnancies were an excuse to eat whatever and whenever until I finally started to realize that my unborn baby was eating exactly what I was eating.  Yeah, that might have screwed them up a bit, but I somehow ended up with a child who isn’t a fan of french fries (totally not my response to fries), two that absolutely love seaweed (not my favorite delicacy) and one that loves baked goods (okay, she might have gotten that from me).  As parents, I suppose we still have a chance once they come out of the womb.  They obviously see what we eat and eat what we feed them.  It is up to us to do the right thing.

Just over one year ago I decided to cut out all poultry, beef, pork, lamb, buffalo, kangaroo, ox, snake and deer (okay, so maybe I never even tried half of that…but it is true that I have tried kangaroo).  What I am trying to say is that I sort of became a vegetarian, but I can’t really say I am a true vegetarian because I still eat seafood.  If I try to tell someone that I am a “pescatarian” they just give me a strange look and say that they never heard of that religion.  Seafood is a mystery to me.  I love my omega-3s (my healthy fish fat) and I trust that the Mediterraneans know what is going on.  I also somehow believe that my mom’s family has roots in the Mediterranean region.  And you know what?  I love me some seared ahi and couldn’t commit to giving it up.  Plus I figured that this is MY diet so I can eat whatever the hell I want.

That’s why I can say that sometimes I feel like being a vegan.  I know I am not a vegan in the definition that vegans have for vegans, but remember that this is MY diet so I can take a little bit of veganism if I want (just like I took a little bit of vegetarianism).  Maybe I could just call it pescavegarian.  I tend to bake things that are dairy-free because my husband is lactose intolerant.  That means that I buy tofu sour cream to make that chocolate cake or use almond milk mixed with vinegar to add a bit of “buttermilk.”  Then there is that little known fact that I often order soy lattes and drink almond milk in my cereal.  I choose to eat the soy or coconut milk yogurt.  I thought I was doing the right thing for my health.  It didn’t seem like too much of a mystery.

Then the matter of soy came to light.  Soy has become a new mystery.  And darn it, I like soy lattes better than non-fat lattes.  I tend to include tofu on our weekly menu at least 2 times a week.  Those soy beans are pretty darn good too.  Then I recently became diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  I learned that certain foods (including soy) may have a negative impact on thyroid function.  Of course soy is a discussion of debate, but there is no point risking additional thyroid issues with overconsumption.

This is MY diet and I will do what I see fit for my body regardless of what anyone else says.  I am pretty darn open-minded, so I often do my own research and then decide what will work for me.  And I don’t need to label it vegetarianism, veganism, paleoism, or whatever other terms mainstream society is using these days.  I will just call it the “Heidi diet” and I am set.  This “Heidi diet” is always in a state of flux because I am constantly learning new things about food.  Some of these new ideas only make food more mysterious, but sometimes it does make sense (like avoiding McDonald’s at all costs).

Did I mention that when you include fitness into the mix that there is an entirely new mystery to be resolved?  It is called what to eat while on the run.  Um, I am talking literally here.  How many calories to consume before a run, during a run and after a run.   I have to figure out what will keep me satisfied and what won’t cause tummy troubles.  They tell you to eat sugar, but then you wonder if you will go into a diabetic coma from eating so much sugar.  Make sure you are getting those electrolytes too!  Sometimes I get it right and I feel great.  Other times I slam into a wall (not literally) and feel like I am a sputtering engine trying to chug up the street at super slow speed.

Fortunately my family doesn’t mind my compulsive need to solve these food mysteries.  They try the chocolate mousse made with tofu (even my meat-loving father was impressed) and aren’t taken aback when my daughter asks my stepmom with surprise:  “you have never had tofu before??”  My husband just goes with the flow and tries everything I put on his plate, while my daughters aren’t always so laid back.  Yet, we encourage them to try and then move on from there.  Eventually I hit a home run (for some reason my baking experiments seem to have more success).  It is definitely a learning process and new mysteries are often sparked by new ideas.  I don’t know if I will ever get it right, but what exactly is right?