Endocrine Community
Get answers. Share advice. Learn More

My Thyroid Lifestyle

Personal trainer Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness on how tiny tweaks can make a big difference in how you feel with hypothyroidism

In hypothyroidism, the lack of thyroid hormone can take a major toll on the body. Not only does it affect metabolism, it can also impact heart rate, temperature, hair, skin, and even cognitive function.

In third grade, at the age of 11, Katie Dunlop started noticing the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Her hair was falling out. She had severe constipation and migraines, and she was experiencing serious fatigue.

“It’s really invisible and hard for people to see and recognize,” she explains. “I thought there was something wrong with me for being so young and not being able to do things.”

Katie said that she took some flak for her complaints. “Teachers, peers, parents, they all think you’re faking a headache or trying to get out of an activity, so that was hard emotionally.”

Doctors thought her symptoms were puberty-related, but it became clear over time that they were wrong.

Katie also started gaining weight. Fast-forward to high school and college: she began exhausting her body with constant workouts as well as late-night food binging and using fad diets and diet pills. She’d drop some weight, feel awful and exhausted, and then regain the weight. It was a cycle, and none of it was sustainable. 

Focus on how you feel, not how you look

Katie wanted to make real changes. To do that, she started with her “why,” the core reason she needed to make changes in the first place. “It got to a point where my ‘why’ was no longer to get skinnier. My focus shifted to feeling better from the inside out.”

Rather than restricting, Katie started paying attention to how certain foods made her feel. She stuck with the ones that made her feel good (and not bloated), and subsequently eliminated fat-free and sugar-free diet products. She also started noticing which workouts made her feel energized instead of exhausted, and prioritizing her mental health above all else.

Katie's favorite foods for hypothyroidism

  • Healthy fats and omega-3s, such as salmon, nut butters, and coconut oil
  • Sprouted grains 
  • Less gluten, which can be hard on hypothyroidism
  • Plenty of veggies (she likes asparagus, spinach, and zucchini)
  • Fiber

Katie also doesn’t eat kale, broccoli, or Brussel sprouts very often, as she’s found them hard on her body with hypothyroidism. 

Baby steps add up to big changes

“Set microgoals,” Katie recommends. “I'm talking one step at a time, baby steps. Take the time to get in tune with how you feel mentally and physically.” 

Without the option of an expensive gym membership, Katie started working out with her own body weight a few times per week and doing at-home exercises, even for a few minutes. She also stopped staring at the scale and didn’t look at it for six months, as she didn’t want to focus on the number anymore.

When she checked it again after six months, Katie found that she had lost 45 pounds. More importantly, she felt better mentally and physically, although of course she still battles fatigue from time to time and now relies on both medication and lifestyle to feel healthy. It was four years after that, in 2014, that she that started Love Sweat Fitness.

Hypothyroidism life lessons

Katie says she’s learned a lot from her journey with hypothyroidism. First, she recommends people have “grace and patience, because you never know what someone is going through, especially if symptoms are invisible. It’s easy to place judgments about physical appearance or the size or shape of their body, but you don’t know what they do or don’t do. Everyone is in a different place in life.”

She also says that she had to come to a point of acceptance. “I had to understand my physical body might never change, and that I needed to treat myself with respect and love to give my body its best chance.”

Today, Katie still feels the symptoms of hypothyroidism, but she has them under control. She is currently on levothyroxine, a drug used to treat low thyroid activity, and she has also added Cytomel into her routine. Levothyroxine is a synthetic version of the T4 hormone, while Cytomel is a synthetic version of the T3 hormone.

“I am often tired. I dealt with so much hardcore fatigue during all of high school and college, and I still do deal with it, but most people wouldn’t know it, since I’m the queen of burpees.”

Katie Dunlop is a certified personal trainer and the creator of Love Sweat Fitness, a community of nearly 500,000 on Instagram and over 600,000 on YouTube. Oh, and she’s got an app for Love Sweat Fitness as well.