Playing Doctor (Part 1 of the thyroid post)

Disclaimer: This post is about my personal journey restoring my health. I will not be sharing any amounts of medications or supplements that took,  or am currently taking. If you think you may be suffering from an undiagnosed thyroid condition, please seek a medical professional. This is strictly gossip for you all (sort of not really…) Enjoy!

Growing up with a few medical professionals in my family, whom I idolize deeply, I always had an interest in health and nutrition. My grandfather is a doctor who has specialized in alternative medicine, and healing through nutrition. His cousin has followed in his footsteps to practice the same type of medicine. These two people are passionate about health, and I greatly respect that. I have tried to the best of my ability to soak up the knowledge that my grandfather effortlessly emits from his entire being. He is a doctor who thinks. He has never been one to put a bandage on a wound, but instead find the root cause and heal from within. This of course is what most of us strive to do when we follow a whole foods based diet, right? You can now understand why I am so passionate about this way of eating, and how miraculous food can be for the body.

Despite my passion for healthy food, my road to get to this place of peace and love of food hasn’t been so easy. My insecurities are ones that I will be working to move past probably for the rest of my life. When I was eight years old I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I had a severe phobia of vomiting throughout my childhood. This phobia caused a lot of pain for myself as well as my parents. I wont go into the details of that time in my life, but it was pretty difficult. I had severe panic attacks, I stopped eating for a while, I had serious separation anxiety from my mom, and once I finally started eating again I would only eat at home. My rationale as a child was that if I didn’t eat, I couldn’t throw up. So I wouldn’t eat. I didn’t understand the thoughts or feelings that I was having, and for years I was in a constant state of panic.

Through some child therapy I was able to let go of some of my anxiety, but the damage I did by not eating showed up very quickly when I started eating again. By the time I was eleven I was eating normally again, but by that time my parents had separated. My dad was never as health conscious as my mom, so meals with my dad were not as healthy. I was also spending a lot of time with neighbor friends, who had an unlimited supply of snack foods and candy. This all resulted in me gaining weight quickly. I went from being a thin, anxious child, to a somewhat chunky pre-teen. By the time I was in middle school I felt fat, and ugly. I come from a family of thin, athletic people, and I felt like an outsider. By the time I got to high school I started to find interest in dieting. The first time I actually went on a “diet” was the summer between 9th and 10th grade. I did several diets and cleanses through high school to which I saw short lived success. Being so young I didn’t know how to translate a “diet” into a healthy eating plan that was sustainable in the long term. This caused a roller coaster ride of extreme dieting which caused “failure” and binging on junk food until I was about 22 years old. In the back of my mind, I knew that health was what was important, but I thought it was harder for me, and this was something I had to work at. This caused me to resent friends, family, and food.

After high school I got really into working out. I was at the gym everyday doing either spin class or kickboxing. I was eating low fat foods, and sugar free foods. My diet consisted of food which contained a lot of chemicals. My battle with my body continued, and I was at a loss. My aunt Justine has always tried to guide me in the way of health, and is actually the one who I truly credit for inspiring me to get back in touch with my passion for health. I quickly transitioned from globo gym world to yoga, which really helped change the direction I was going with my mind and body. By now I had completely eliminated all artificial sweeteners, soda, and most desserts from my diet. I thought I was really getting somewhere, but something still wasn’t right. At this point I was following a vegetarian diet and eating a lot of soy, grains, and sugar. Again, I couldn’t figure out why it was so much harder for me. Why my weight was all over the place, and why I didn’t feel good? I was eating healthy, right? I wasn’t eating meat, I was eating whole grains, rice pasta, tofu, fruit, and “natural, gluten-free sweets.”  I was doing everything “they” say you need to do to be healthy and thin, but something was still wrong.

After having a complete meltdown about my body, my mom suggested I get my thyroid checked. I knew there were some thyroid problems in my family, but I never considered that could be something I would have deal with. I talked with my grandfather, and he agreed that I should pursue treatment. I then scheduled an appointment with my cousin Franne Berez and started my treatment. She did a saliva test, put me on homeopathic remedy as well as some thyroid support supplements, and I waited for the results. She was pretty concerned to find that my cortisol levels came back MORE than double the average values. She said it was as though I was walking around in a state of alarm all day long. Apparently I had not overcome my anxiety, I had just suppressed it to the point where I felt normal being anxious. I did not have health insurance at the time, so I started a trial run of Armour Thyroid to see if it would help based on my symptoms of low thyroid (weight gain and resistance to weight loss, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, etc…) I couldn’t get blood work done, and neither my Grandpa Buz, nor Franne were too concerned with blood results. Often times, blood work comes back normal, when in fact there is a problem.

I started the thyroid hormone and within two to three months I had lost 12 pounds. I was feeling great. The problem was though, that I had very little knowledge on thyroid health, or foods that can effect thyroid health. I was vegetarian, and I had no idea that soy is so harmful that it can cause thyroid cancer, and yet I was eating it all the time. The instructions on Armour Thyroid specifically say “do not take with soy” (you are supposed to take it on an empty stomach because there are several foods that can influence the hormone, but the specifically call out soy). I didn’t want to have a permanent problem with my thyroid. I didn’t want to have something be “wrong” with me. I wanted it to be situational, and not something I’d have to deal with forever, so I really didn’t take things seriously. Since I was following a vegetarian diet (which I did not tell Franne or my grandfather), consuming a ton of soy and grains, my weight again started to fluctuate. Faced with a similar breakdown about my body as before I started the thyroid, I decided to make a drastic decision with my eating.

After hearing about the HCG diet I decided I wanted to try it out. I was desperate to change the way I looked and felt, and I had no idea what else to do. For 30 days I injected myself with human chorionic gonadotrophin, and ate a 500 calorie a day diet that consisted of only steamed or raw green vegetables, low sugar fruits, and very lean protein. In 30 days I lost almost 30 pounds and turned into someone I didn’t even recognize. My previously tight size 8  jeans were now living in the trash because I could pull them up without unbuttoning them. I was now in size 4 jeans that were loose on me, my breasts (which have always been small to begin with) were barely there anymore, and for a month after finishing HCG I didn’t get my period. I was skinny, and scared to eat. I threw out all of my old pants, and chopped my hair off thinking I wouldn’t let myself gain any weight back if I didn’t have pants that fit a bigger size and my hair was too short to mask weight gain. I didn’t get that thin by following a normal diet. I did it in a way that wasn’t natural, so I was scared of what would happen when I started eating normally again. The follow up to the HCG protocol was pretty simple, for three weeks to maintain weight loss I could only eat lean protein, non starchy vegetables, healthy fat, and fruit. It was Paleo.

The HCG follow up protocol which I did not know was Paleo, was effortless. I felt great. My weight didn’t budge, and I felt like I had finally found a way to eat that worked for me. However, I had also felt as though I made a deal with the devil. I had gotten so thin so fast, that I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I had no idea that I could ever be that small, and I had no idea that I even had that much weight to lose! My mind was a mess from the experience and my cells were starved for nutrients. I was scared to eat fat, and eating a low fat Paleo diet was literally making me miserable, but since I didn’t know that your brain NEEDS fat, I didn’t know how to fix it. Once I found Marks Daily Apple, I soaked up as much information on the ancestral way of eating as I could, however I was still struggling a little. I was trying to figure out how I could enjoy “normal food” like everyone else around me without going overboard, or gaining weight. I gained some weight back, but it was healthy weight. I was still a much smaller version of the person I used to be, although it was hard to see myself that way.

After meeting Bill and starting our Paleo journey together, I realized that this really was a way of life, and I didn’t have to feel like I should be able to eat conventional processed foods and stay thin to be normal. Those foods do not fuel our bodies, they only cause harm, and it’s not normal to be able to eat processed food and grains and thrive from it. It was eye opening to come to the realization that it wasn’t me that was wrong, inadequate, or not normal, it was the foods I thought I should be able to eat that were the problem. Luckily I had Bill standing by my side, always helping me talk through my thoughts. Bill loves me, thinks I’m beautiful, and tells me this everyday. He has always been there to pick me up when I’m down, and I am positive that I wouldn’t be as comfortable in my own skin as I am today without his love and support.

Now, here’s when things got messy. I was feeling so great following a Paleo diet, that I decided I didn’t want to be taking ANY prescriptions. I didn’t need them, I was healing my body with food, right? I was wrong. NEVER play doctor. I decided I didn’t need my thyroid hormone. I didn’t think I actually had a problem with my thyroid. I thought it was situational, and I had healed myself in one year eating a Paleo diet. My weight had fluctuated even on thyroid, so I figured I could take myself off of it, and get through it all by eating the right foods. Boy was I wrong…


Click here to read Part Two, The Healing Process.


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    1. smilingjudy
      September 17, 2012

      Wow. The parallels in our lives are uncanny. Thanks for sharing, Hayley. Looking forward to part 2.

    2. ozzeeya220
      September 17, 2012

      Thank you sooooooo much for sharing this!!! I am also hypothyroid and on Armour. I thought when I was diagnosed a little over a year ago and put on medicine I would finally lose weight. Not so. It wasn’t until a friend told me about her friend who was eating Paleo and showed me her before and after pictures. I made a decision to abandon all my diets and start Paleo. Since July 10th I’ve lost 35 lbs. I got scared I was doing something wrong, losing so much weight so fast, but I am eating and eating healthy fats, I use coconut oil, raw honey, etc. I dont measure anything or count calories, etc. I will eat Paleo forever! I am very thankful to my friend who brought Paleo to my attention and am really thankful to you for sharing your story. I can totally relate :0) Can’t wait to read part 2

    3. glorindiel
      September 17, 2012

      I’m really interested in this story Haley as there’s a history of thyroid problems in my family and I’m nervous about finding the right doctor to find out if I actually have issues with mine. All of my previous tests (because I have other issues that doctors are always concerned about my thyroid) have come back fine. So I’m not really sure if I do or don’t have a problem. Can’t wait for part 2!

    4. [email protected]
      Supporting Member
      September 17, 2012

      I can’t wait to hear the rest of your story…my weight loss journey sounds very similar to yours and right now I’m just coming to terms with the fact that even though I follow a pretty regimented clean diet (gluten and refined sugar free for 5+ years now after following the hcg diet and 2+ years of grain, legume and mostly dairy free) I might still have a thyroid problem that needs some serious investigation…thanks for your transparency and for sharing your story!

    5. September 17, 2012

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Hayley. It takes serious guts to share personal stuff like this. Can’t wait for part two.

    6. September 17, 2012

      Thanks so much for the support everyone! I’m happy to share it all with you.

    7. athorsdo
      September 17, 2012

      What a great post. Can´t wait to read Part Two. I´ve been trying Paleo for couple of weeks now – I find it easy when I plan ahead. Difficult when I don´t. I don´t really feel any different – however my shopping has changed drastically. I read every food label possible and believe that I´m doing better for myself and my family by buying “better” food. Good luck on your journey, I´ll keep reading 🙂

    8. Lissa
      September 17, 2012

      This is very interesting. I hope I can find answers or a pointer on where I need to go. After many failed attempts with calorie restriction, low fat, whole grain and near-vegetarian diets, I finally lost 35 of the 70 pounds that I gained out of the blue on a 800 calorie, extreme low fat packaged-food diet. However, it left me feeling nearly lifeless and the rate of loss was so slow, I was very discouraged. The majority of folks on the diet were losing 2 to 3 pounds a week, I was barely losing 1 pound a week. So, then I read Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat” and the lights went on. I switched to Atkins and felt marvelous. But the weight loss that had been agonizingly slow ground to a complete halt.

      I remained on Atkins induction for months with still no loss. I eliminated this and that and the other thing until I was eating nothing but eggs, lettuce, beef, salmon, chicken, broccoli, olive oil and coconut oil, and drinking nothing but lots of water. Still no weight loss. I watched calories, keeping them at 1500 or less. I added lots more fat. I did fat fasts, egg fasts and intermittent fasts. Finally I just settled on a diet void of grains, sugar, starches and most fruits.

      Eventually, I was convinced to have my thyroid checked. Yep. Low Free T3 and Free T4 and high_ish TSH. (For those who are checking and getting results that are “normal” be sure to note that “Within lab range” is not *optimal* and if they are only testing TSH, you aren’t getting the whole picture at all. You need to know Free T3 and Free T4 and they need to be at the top of the range. Go to stopthethyroidmadness.com for more information.)

      So I started on Armour. It was a disaster. I felt like crap. No energy, constant head spins, nausea … all I wanted to do was sleep. I also gained 5 pounds in the first month despite little to no appetite.

      My cortisol and iron levels were not checked before I started Armour (I switched over to NP Thyroid which is also natural dessicated thyroid.) Both being low, I was unable to utilize the thyroid hormone. So I started iron supplements and hydrocortisone, along with a ton of other supplements. I also started on bioidentical progesterone as I was also estrogen dominant. But I still felt horrible most of the time. Keeping up with all these pills and creams was a pain in the butt, plus tracking my temperature, blood pressure and blood sugar was a huge disruption in my life.

      And the weight kept piling on. I’ve now gained back 20 pounds. I’m barely holding the line now only by severely restricting my intake. I eat only when I am actually hungry – tummy growling, feeling tired type of hungry. Some days that’s a handful of nuts. Only. All day. Plus the coconut oil in my coffee. A substantial meal will cause the scale to go up at least one pound. Seriously, yesterday all I had all day was two eggs, 4 slices of bacon, coffee with coconut oil, lots of water and a handful of almonds and today the scale was up a pound.

      The last time my thyroid levels were checked, they had gone DOWN. So did my iron levels. When my cortisol was rechecked, it was way high, so I had to come off the hydrocortisone. The progesterone nearly put me into menopause, so I stopped that too.

      For now, I have given up. I’m off the thyroid stuff and will be off all the crazy supplements soon. I continue to avoid grains, sugar, starches and most fruits but I am really beginning to wonder why, as it is not doing me much good. Five years ago, people were shocked to find out I was a ripe old 43, now I could say I am 60 and no one would bat an eyelash.

      Sorry this was so long. I will be awaiting more updates, hoping and praying something will resonate.

    9. andibandi
      September 17, 2012

      wow- what an amazing story- and so similar to mine! I am now following paleo, but trying to eat gf and dairy free. I still struggle with consuming legumes (if I should or not). My blood tests for my thyroid came back ‘normal’ past 3 times, with only once was it borderline high. I have never heard of Armour thyroid, so I will look into this! Looking forward to part 2!

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