What Is Happening?!

[DISCLAIMER: This post is about me, changes in my own body that I was concerned about, and what I did to help myself. Please do not use the comment section as a place to tell me or anyone else that we shouldn’t worry about it, decide that this is about vain, or that it’s not as bad as someone else. This is only about feeling healthy in our own body.]


Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I weighed the same. I had the usual 2-4 pound water retention fluctuation every woman gets, but other than that unpleasant week every month, I weighed the same. I have always been a pretty healthy eater and I have always exercised, so it’s never been an issue for me, and I am grateful for that.

About 8 years ago, I had to get my uterus removed thanks to a lovely thing called “adenomyosis” which causes a uterus to blow up to the size of a grapefruit, causing a ton of pain and even more bloat than normal. I kept my ovaries for the hormone factor, but that’s it. I suffered for three years with that thing before finally caving and getting it taken out, which was the best decision, ever.

Additionally in my 30s, I found out that I have nodules on my thyroid, which apparently is a very common thing that most people don’t even know they have and in most cases, never affects the function of their thyroid. Since discovering these nodules, I get my thyroid function tested a couple of times of year, and have the two largest nodules biopsied annually. My endocrinologist says my thyroid function is still in the normal range (although in this past year, it is starting to get on the low side of normal) and I have gone from four to six nodules, which is concerning to me. That, and over the past year, my vitamin D levels have dropped, my hair has thinned a bit, and I have been 5 pounds heavier than I was when I had all my parts in me. I have scheduled an appointment to see a specialist at USC Medical Center on October 17th, so I thought I’d spend the time before then testing to see if my thyroid really is the culprit.

See, my best friend is 8 years older than me and dealing with all kinds of crazy stuff happening to her body because of (as she puts it) the dreaded MENOPAUSE. She has someone helping her with nutrition, exercise, and various natural things to help her not feel like she’s going to lose her marbles with the hot flashes, forgetfulness, and the unexpected part, weight gain. It’s a constant struggle, but she’s managing. Between her and another friend of mine who is 60 years old who said “After 50, the weight just piled on!” I was concerned that my five pound gain was the beginning of going through what these two have been through.

This got me thinking about my own situation. At 45, hormone levels Β (estrogen, not necessarily thyroid) do start to drop a bit, and that can affect metabolism. So, what if my extra 5 pounds is because I need to do things differently and help my metabolism? I did a little research (staying the hell away from WebMD) and for a woman my age, the things that have changed in me could either be lower estrogen related or thyroid related. They’re basically the same symptoms. Gee, that’s helpful. In either case though, metabolism does slow down so I wanted to test that out on myself.

My son, Nolan, is a certified personal trainer and sports nutrition counselor. He completely understands what a person needs as far as protein, healthy fats and carbs, and how to keep metabolism up and most importantly, keep insulin levels low. As we get older, these things need adjusting in our bodies because our hormones do play such a large part in them. I set up the “MyFitnessPal” app on my phone to know just how many calories I needed to consume each day and for me, I knew I needed to increase my protein intake (I exercise a lot and without enough protein, my body is just eating my muscle as fuel) cut back on the unnecessary carbs I was eating (bread and my beloved cereal) and focus on boosting my metabolism and keeping insulin levels low by not having cereal and/or fruit first thing in the morning (carbs that boosts insulin) and trying to get a lot of protein early in the day, which fuels my body and keeps me from wanting snacky carb stuff late in the afternoon. It’s been tough because I am actually eating more than I normally do because of trying to keep my metabolism up and preventing insulin levels from getting too low.

I’ve never been a junk food eater. I don’t buy chips or cookies or fast food or other empty things like that that don’t have any nutrition. I do have the occasional ice cream or gelato but even though my snacking wasn’t typical “junk” it still wasn’t what I should be consuming nutrition-wise. I cut all that out (except for last night where I really wanted a spoonful of peanut butter and washed it down with a beer because I had done an INTENSE weight-training circuit with Nolan earlier in the day and no amount of protein or veggies felt like enough) and made my focus on proteins and vegetables balanced with some grains and nuts (we still need carbohydrates and fats, just healthy ones and not in excess) and in eight days I dropped four of the five pounds I’ve been carrying around.

I know as far as weight loss goes, that is usually considered water weight, but considering my diet was already pretty healthy to begin with, I’m not sure that’s the case for me. (I could be wrong.) I definitely feel more energetic, I don’t have afternoon or evening snacky cravings, and I just feel better overall. Yes, I do still enjoy the occasional glass of wine or beer (although I didn’t have either the first few days) but I’m not overdoing it because I know that increases insulin levels and is just a bunch of empty carbs, and I continue to drink a ton of water (which I have always done) so it seems to be helping.

My little test seems to show that it’s most likely my metabolism and Β not my thyroid, but I am still seeing the thyroid/head/neck specialist because it’s important to know medically if there’s any concerns (most importantly, the nodule existence.) It is pretty cool to know what I could do differently that helps me nutrition-wise to feel better, though.

If you’ve had similar experiences, Β please share them in the comments. I would suspect this is a fairly common thing for women as we age and the more we know what we can do to help ourselves, the better we will feel!

43 thoughts on “What Is Happening?!

  1. I’m 44. The changes have really got me down. I’m having weight challenges which is something very new for me. I hate it. Thank you for sharing this. I know I’m not alone but it’s a scary and depressing thing.

  2. It took me three years of campaigning for my doctor to finally agree to increase my thyroid medication dosage. Wouldn’t you know it, a few months later my hair stopped falling out and I was much less tired all of the time. In my case, my thyroid no longer works because of radiation, and I have been on the same medication for a long time. My levels were in the normal range, but after the higher dosage my levels are exactly the same as before. Even though my situation is different, the best advice is always get a second (or third) opinion, and listen to your body, it knows when something is wrong. Good luck!

    1. The endocrinologist I’m seeing is the second one for me. They both keep say my thyroid levels are within the “normal” range (although it’s on the low end of normal) but I have discovered that “normal” may vary from person to person, which is why I’m getting a third opinion. My sister-in-law was on the low end of normal and found an endocrinologist who put her on the lowest dose of thyroid meds and she feels TONS better. I still don’t know if that’s actually the cause but I totally agree with getting multiple opinions just to be sure!

      1. I know what you mean, even as a guy. During college and afterwards, I was always using and carrying Nalgene bottles, not knowing that I was ingesting tons of BPA. Because BPA is structurally and chemically similar to estrogen, it was causing a lot of the same thyroid issues that you see in women your age. I was on Synthroid for a while, but still not feeling great. Meanwhile, I had gone from being 185 going into college to 250 lbs and maintaining there. Then, in November of 2011, during a routine physical, my doctor asked if I noticed the lump on my neck. Well, fast forward 8 months, two surgeries, and one RAI treatment later, I was in remission for Stage One Thyroid Cancer.

        Like you said, your metabolism is affected by estrogen, but it really is controlled by thyroid function. Now, I don’t mean to pry, but what are your cholesterol and triglyceride levels looking like? I ask because even after dietary changes, my triglycerides actually shot up, and they didn’t return to a more normal level until after my thyroid was removed. If your cholesterol and triglycerides are elevated, you might have another clue.

        All that said, I hope that you and I don’t ever share my diagnosis, but if you did, I’m here for you. πŸ™‚

  3. I’m 49 breakfast is the worse meal for me for lots of reasons (crave carbs, don’t feel like eating first 3 or so hours I’m up) I know that doesn’t help the metabolism or blood sugar. I’m curious what the best things are for breakfast?

    1. I’m the same way. I like to sit around and read and drink coffee for the first couple of hours that I’m up. Now I drink a large glass of cold water as soon as I wake up (kicks in the metabolism) and within an hour, I have a 12 ounce glass of unsweetened almond milk with some brown rice protein powder (I use Jarrow Formula’s in vanilla) because other concentrated protein powders hurt my gut. (whey or plant-based) I avoid soy protein because that messes with our hormones when too much is consumed so since I’m doing this daily, I’m avoiding soy. At first it was pretty chalky and bland, but after two days of doing that in the morning, it really helped me feel better and I’ve gotten used to the taste.

      1. Thanks for the suggestion that is not something I would have thought of. My husband wakes up thinking about food and just doesn’t get me. I like to say I’m a “slow burn”. Wide awake (unlike him) and ready to get the day going just not interested in eating. Drinking a large glass of water is something I forget to do – must change that.

  4. I’m in the same boat with age and weight. I’ve been trying to up my protein too to recover lost energy. Can you share some high protein breakfast recipes if you come up with any? All the best protein needs a carb to go with it! My low budget daily rations look like eggs and toast, sardines and crackers, beans and rice. I do like the easy microwave frozen edamame for a snack. That’s probably healthy.

    1. I used to eat eggs and toast all the time but instead I have eggs (mostly whites because another thing that’s happening is my bad cholesterol is up) with black or pinto beans and mix a little salsa into it. Toast, crackers, and rice are empty carbs that boost insulin too much so I’ve been avoiding things like that. Quinoa is good but the amount of protein vs carbs in it isn’t all that great but it is super inexpensive and better than eating pasta or rice. I totally get trying to eat healthy on a budget. My son says to make sure sodium and sugar levels are low in foods and drinks you get, which can be done, but you have to take the time to read labels. A local farmers market will have all kinds of fresh veggies, nuts, beans, and fruit that’s way cheaper than grocery stores. I hope that helps. πŸ™‚

  5. i’m so glad you’re checking your thyroid! mine broke a few years back and i spiraled into my own hellish nightmare and i’m constantly urging people to find a doctor who pays attention to your symptoms, not just your “levels” and the “normal range.” every body is different, and everyone’s body’s needs change over time, so keep on being your own best advocate, and thank you for opening this conversation about the many different sources of hormones and how they affect people! i’m really glad you’re feeling better, and i hope it keeps getting better!

  6. Smart! Getting checked anyway.

    I have always been on the large size, but i too maintained a steady weight. Then boom gained 20 lbs. (started as lung health issues). Took a year, but found out my issue was my thyroid.

    Yep, numbers vary for everyone. For me I only feel good at 1.3 and lower.

    I still can’t drop the weight though. But I am not very active, and asthma has hampered what activity I did do. πŸ™

    Glad to see you are able to find a solution yet still getting checked! Wish I had been more forceful with my doctor(s) in the beginning. Might not have had such a rough ride.

    Good luck.

  7. A little over three years ago my thyroid and iron levels finally dropped below the medically accepted normal level. Finally. They had been sitting at the low end for several years and I had been fighting fatigue while trying to control my ever-growing weight problem. I went on iron and thyroid medicine and my energy levels increased tremendously. I finally had the gumption to exercise and eat well. I lost 80 pounds and have gained back 3 — although my clothes fit the same so it may be muscle. I’ll be running a half marathon in a month. (At 50 and currently in my menopause year.)

    All that to say that I completely agree. No one is truly average or normal. Well done on taking the initiative when it was only 5 pounds. Love your blog.

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Sue! It’s a bummer they actually waited until the levels did drop below normal because it does seem to be different for everyone. Running a half marathon is quite an achievement and such an awesome way to kick menopause in the face. πŸ™‚

  8. I appreciate your candidness, and your concern for yourself, and others. I’m 48, going to be 49 in December and last year started feeling slightly menopausal so I had my doc check my hormone levels. the levels didn’t seem to indicate anything out to levels of even peri-menopausal, but I know it’s coming. I’ve been overweight for some time, and diabetic type 2 for many years. In 2011, my doc scared me into losing weight at 258 pounds with insulin, and I managed to lose enough weight to cut my meds in half, including totally getting off 1 (expensive-not-covered-by-insurance at 250 bucks a month) scrip! Whether it’s 5 pounds or 105 pounds, if it’s making you uncomfortable, do what you can to fix it, and keep us updated:D <3

  9. I am super lazy working girl so I did those egg muffins. You scramble up some eggs and pour them in a greased muffin tin with some veggies and bake them. I throw a bunch in the fridge and freezer (I do them on the weekends when I have time) two to a bag and grab them as I run out the door. They turned out to be something easy I could eat in the car without wearing it.

    I come from a long line of broken thyroid women, my sister just had to have hers out, my mom’s went all wacko a couple years ago and went from inactive to overactive and caused all sorts of issues, so we watch them carefully. And if you are used to that big glass of water in the morning that is great, because you should take your thyroid pill first thing in the morning with a full glass of water and then have nothing else for at least a half and hour (according to my doc and pharmacist).

  10. I’m 37. I’ve had an enlarged thyroid for several years that no one can explain (blood work mostly normal?), and I also have nodules and a cyst on my thyroid. I get an ultrasound on it yearly, and nothing ever changes. I’m having hair loss, dry skin issues, and chipping/splitting nails.

    I generally carry 10-15lbs more than I should, but that’s been a lifelong thing. I currently can’t exercise because I’m in physical therapy for a torqued sacrum. But recently I started eating more salad and replacing almost a full meal a day with salad, and I’ve dropped 5lbs.

    I think I might be premenopausal? Or my thyroid is starting to act up weirder than normal? I really don’t know. I need to discuss it all with my GP and/or endocrinologist, but I haven’t made the phone call yet. : P

    Thanks for posting your struggles, Anne. What you’re saying makes me feel less alone in all of this.

    1. Courtney, occasionally I look like I have a bit of a goiter and my doctor doesn’t seem to think that’s a concern either. This whole is it thyroid/is it menopause symptoms is such a tough thing to figure out but make that phone call to your doctor and see if they can help you!

      1. Thanks, Anne. I appreciate the encouragement. : ) I’m actually seeing my doctor tomorrow for upper respiratory blarg, so I plan to bring up the thyroid?/menopause? stuff then. Yay for being an adult, right? πŸ˜‰

  11. Fitness and nutrition awareness are great.
    The nice thing about using MyFitnessPal or other methods to measure your nutritional intake and exercise is that it allows you to treat yourself from time to time while still improving your health and without feeling guilty. You don’t have to eat 100% healthy 100% of the time. You can splurge on beer and peanut butter or a slice of pizza now and then and even enjoy it more because you know that overall, you’re getting healthier.

  12. With me, the weight creeped on after 40 until one day I stepped on the scale and it said 207. I was 49 and after being fine with me, I suddenly wasn’t any more and decided to do something. I used Lose It to track calories. Still ate the same kind of things but cut way back on snacking, desserts, etc. It took a year but I lost 50 pounds. And I’ve kept it off for four years. I give myself a three pound fluctuation but if I see it creeping, I watch what I’m eating and cut back for a while.

    Oh, and while I was doing this I was also going through menopause. This November it will have been three years since my last period. And at my last physical was told my thyroid was a little low. But I’m not on meds. Trying to avoid that for as long as possible.

    That’s my story.

  13. So I’m about the same age you are with a vastly different story. I have been overweight since college and by the time I was in my mid 30’s had topped 250 lbs (I’m 5’4″). Through hard work and totally changing my eating (I hate to use the word “diet” because of the connotations), I lost over 100 lbs and have maintained it (with one 30 lb blip) ever since. I’m 46 now and still holding close to my goal weight, although lately it’s gotten a little harder to do.

    I love that Nolan is helping you with this and it sounds like he and you are on the right track with more protein and healthy fat, not raising the insulin levels, and just generally being more aware of what you eat.

    My go to breakfast is a smoothie made of greek yogurt (high in protein), spinach or kale, blueberries and strawberries, and a heaping scoop of unflavored whey protein. I am another of those people who is a “slow starter” and can’t really face food in the morning, but I can do a smoothie and find it keeps me full (and loaded with protein) until a late lunch.

    I also drink a ton of water a day and have found that when I don’t drink enough water I will often feel it the next day. Oddly enough, being dehydrated will make my fingers swell and I’ll feel bloated and lethargic, so I’m a big promoter of getting good hydration.

    Good for you for taking control of it, Anne, and for posting about it publicly. You and Wil are two of my favorite bloggers. πŸ™‚

  14. Hi Anne, I’m pretty sure that ALL carbs break down to glucose which is not only what ‘boosts’ insulin levels (because insulin is what allows the glucose to get into your cells to be processed for energy) but is also the most efficient way for the body to get the energy it needs. What you may want to consider is the glycemic index of various foods.

  15. I love My Fitness Pal; I’ve logged for 1210 days now, took off 70 pounds and my insulin resistance disappeared. I now have a 17 month old grandson and I’m determined to stay healthy for him.

  16. Thank you, Anne, for this post! I put on 20 lbs at age 40 while getting off postpartum depression meds and, a full year later, have NOT been able to lose the weight. I’ve worked my tail off the last year and am beginning to feel like giving up since I have lost no fat. 3 different physicans have all told me its my age combined with poly cystic ovarian syndrome. Your son should do virtual consults with the over 40 females, it’s near impossible to find a trainer/nutritionist who gets it!!

  17. I have two older sisters (6 & 8 years older to be precise) who consult each other about health issues and report regularly to their respective doctors for check ups and whenever something flares up/doesn’t seem right. I try to emulate them (as I call it, “Not being a guy” about my health), since this is the only body I have. Keep on your medical folks with your concerns, and if necessary, journal what you observe so that you have a written history of your signs and symptoms. Memory starts to suck when you get older (brain getting full?), and sharing your journal during an appointment may help the docs figure out what is going on.

  18. Yup I really REALLY need to lose weight since I have about 70 pounds I need to get rid of. I know my weakness is carbs and cheese. Here’s hoping I can use your tips and get rid of my unhealthy cravings!

  19. 43, type 2 diabetic and on 5 medications for it, including insulin, corresponding high BP and cholesterol. Currently awaiting an op for fibroid removal, over 200lb. It’s a real struggle to lose weight and give up the sweet stuff for snacking. When I see people who seem able to make the changes “just like that” without any effort, it kinda makes me angry and jealous. I wish I didn’t have this constant struggle and I hate having to feel conscious of everything I eat all the time.

    And reading the comments, don’t know if everyone is American, but wow! Such a difference between what people eat and what I do! It’s difficult to know how to break out of old habits and patterns.

  20. My best friend went through a similar thing with her thyroid (after not having any previously diagnosed issues) about a year ago. We were both doing a Couch to 5K training program and around week 3 she wasn’t getting better (it was actually getting harder for her to do the program and she felt like crap all the time). She was tired and lethargic. She had also began to notice that no matter what she ate (and she ate pretty healthily) she wasn’t losing the weight she wanted, much less maintaining. She went to her doctor and was diagnosed with thyroid issues. Since going on a very low dose thyroid medication, her energy levels improved within a week! She had to fight her doctor to even get the tests done because she had always been in the “normal” range and her doctor kept telling her that exhaustion and plateaus were part of weight loss and learning new exercise routines. Turns out, you know your own body best!

  21. Thanks again for sharing, Anne. Good for you for taking charge of your health and acting now before little problems become bigger and more intimidating.

  22. I’ve learned that some anti-anxiety and anti-depression mess can mess with your weight and cholesterol as well. Mine both went up; currently looking for the right combo.

    1. I didn’t know that. I don’t take either one so I know that’s not the culprit for me but I hope you find the right balance for you!

  23. I had my thyroid checked by my regular doctor and she said “slightly low” and prescribed kelp. A year later I felt worse and went to a endocrinologist. The full thyroid panel showed that now only were my levels LOW, they were non-existent and I had 3 nodules. One biopsy later, it was labeled THYROID cancer. That was 10 years and going through menopause the next year, ago. Yeah go get it all checked, you will be glad you did.

  24. I have had a very similar experience, and it’s always good to know you’re not the only one! I find my low dose thyroxine just makes everything easier, and for menopause (I’m 43 and was diagnosed two years ago – so a little early, but not unexpected), black cohosh (marketed as Remifemin in NZ) has been a game-changer. Better sleep, less moods, FAR fewer hot flashes etc. And what’s with the Vitamin D? My nutritionist suggested I get that tested – though my GP was against it – and turns out – yep – it’s low. Really important to push your GP on these tests, or get a second opinion. (My GP is amazing, but she sees me once a year – whereas I live in my body every day, so I have a better idea of what’s right or not.).

  25. At the rapidly nearing age of 43, I’ve recently lost a significant amount of weight (50+ pounds) with the help of Weight Watchers, a gym membership and a resulting radical change in eating and exercise life-style. One of the triggers to do this was the knowledge that life changes were approaching and that if I didn’t get a better handle on being healthy now, it would be that much more difficult in coming years.

    One of the main things I’ve learned from this experience, along with being a life-long migraine sufferer, is that I have to be constantly reassessing what is going on with my body. Nothing stays the same. The routine that worked for me yesterday may not work next year, next month or even tomorrow. I have listen to what my body is trying to tell me and be willing to change things up in response. It’s a lesson I seem to have to reteach myself over and over and over.

  26. I started having issues back in 2009. I got off work at 1am, and when I got home, for whatever reason, started looking at my neck and noticed two very large bumps. I went to my doctor, and found out that I have Hashimoto thyroiditis, which is the most common form of hypothyroidism. In 2011, I had a total thyroidectomy due to multiple nodules, several being over 3cm. It’s been a rough road after the surgery but it was best to take it out. I had a “shelf” in my throat when I would swallow, because of how big the nodules were. My levels still have not been able to even out, but we are working on it. I take 2 different medications to get my levels normal, and I take them differently on the weekends. I would definitely go for a 3rd opinion, and see if this dr can give you more than you are a little on the low side. Best of luck to you. πŸ™‚

  27. Many doctors do not know how to properly test the thyroid; you are wise to seek additional medical counsel. The standard lab test is not inclusive. I found a specialist who listens to the patient and tests based on patient complaints/symptoms vs. text book. At the time I first went to the specialist, my hypothyroidism was out of control and since the thyroid impacts so many other aspects of the body, I was barely functioning. I’m 52 and weight gain has been a frustrating issues; it began creeping on in one year when I was both playing softball and training for a half marathon – and could not figure how why I was gaining. It’s still a challenge and I find it very frustrating. PM me if you have questions about which tests my specialist run to keep watch on my thryoid to compare to what your doctor runs. Best of luck to you!

  28. Since turning 40 in October of 2013, I can see for the first time ever how my hormones are changing. I’ve been a migraine sufferer since age 7 but other than that I’ve been in good health. I was lucky (until now) to never have monthly cramps or any of the moodiness that a lot of women get each month…until now…I can honesty feel the change in my mood and emotions each month now. I have to tell myself it will pass and “talk myself down ” out of these terrible moods every single month now. I’m blown away by how crazy my hormones are now! Before getting remarried in 2012 and having a baby (surprise! ) I dropped 30 pounds in 2 months by focusing on proteins and reducing carbs. I’ve always been curvy and absolutely love my curves. I’m hanging out at size 16 but no matter what I do, I simply cannot shed more than a few pounds (ah that water weight) . I think it’s time to check in with my pcp. I don’t mind growing older but don’t want to lose my marbles along the way!

    -Meg in Orlando πŸ™‚

    1. Sarah, I’m not Anne, or Nolan, obviously, but I was wondering what your question was, exactly? The LaCroix sparkling waters are nothing more than water with carbonation (and some citrus flavoring). IMO, there is nothing different from them than plain old water. They don’t even have all that much sodium.

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