How I came to Keto

The thyroid is shaped like a butterfly. After years of exhaustion, it wasn't until I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease that I found my way to Keto and a healthier, more energetic life.

The thyroid is shaped like a butterfly. After years of exhaustion, it wasn't until I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease that I found my way to Keto and a healthier, more energetic life.

I had a very long road to the Ketogenic way of eating. More than 10 years ago I had just a regular physical and part of it was the doctor feeling my neck. He said "Do you know you have some lumps in your neck?" Excuse me, "Hell no." He suggested I make an appointment with the endocrinologist in his office, which I did. I had no idea what was going on except that it might have something to do with my thyroid. DUH. I had asked for years about my thyroid as I was "weight-loss resistant" (my phrase, thank you very much) and exhausted to the point where sometimes coming home at 5PM, I would have to pull over to the side of the road to sleep before continuing my commute. I would go to the car to sleep during Little League games, high school shows and ceremonies, and anything where I might not have been missed while sleeping in the car. My thyroid "numbers" were never a concern to my (or any other) doctor. The endocrinologist did an antibody test and announced that I had Hashimoto's disease. I had never heard of it, and the doctor's reaction was, "We'll just watch you." I did get a biopsy done at that point as well as an ultrasound just to confirm that the nodules were "nothing to worry about."

Learning about Hashimoto's and firing my doctors — all of them (even my OB/GYN)!

When I asked the doctor whether I needed medication, his answer was, "We'll just watch you and if the thyroid stops working, we'll deal with it." No explanation about Hashimoto's — I left his office feeling doomed about some awful disease I knew nothing about. That stopped there. I started combing the internet for anything I could find and learned that (A) Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune condition. Up to that point I never even heard the words "autoimmune condition" and had no idea what it was. (B) I learned that gluten can aggravate autoimmune conditions. (C) I learned that Hashimoto's "sits" at the thyroid so that the thyroid can continue to function — it's almost an overlay and can affect thyroid function — or not — and that it might take years. Then I googled "gluten-free" and learned about that, with the first directive being to read Dr. Davis's Wheat Belly. book. Then I googled "how can a thyroid function even with Hashimoto's disease" and came up with Stop the Thyroid Madness. Then I googled "find doctors who encourage gluten-free." From there I learned about functional medicine and how their lab result ranges are entirely different from conventional medicine lab result ranges. I googled and googled and googled until I found functional medicine doctors in my area who were taking patients and my insurance. I made an appointment and when I walked into their offices (it was a practice with functional doctors of many specialities) I knew I had arrived where I needed to be when I saw they had a stack of Wheat Belly books for sale to their patients. The beauty of a functional doctor's intake appointment is that they allow 60–90 minutes for intake, and I almost cried as I poured out my heart about how I have been obese and exhausted, and got nothing but blame from my doctors for being lazy, unable to follow diets and that I was, by implication, stupid. The doctor ran tests (I counted more than 20 vials of blood!) and when I went back for my next appointment she told me that I did, indeed, have an under-active thyroid (as per functional medicine ranges), and that my weight-loss resistant and exhausted self had a basis in fact, not in innuendos. I never went back to my primary care doctor or the endocrinologist who stated "when your thyroid dies we'll deal with it." Because the practice was so inclusive, I also picked an OB/GYN and an orthopedist from their practice. I never looked back.

It started with Paleo and an elimination diet

The nutritionist on staff started me on an elimination diet based in the Paleo camp. As part as my first testing, we found out my food sensitivities and went from there. I stayed with Paleo for years but I never lost weight. I was so distraught that I signed up for a wonderful program, Mindful Eating, thinking again, that it was my weakness that was causing the inability to lose weight. I loved the program, and actually do use the mindful practices I learned in my own practice but, unfortunately it teaches moderation — and, as I have learned through Keto, my success comes from abstention not moderation. I then also incorporated Primal, which has a few tenets different from Paleo, but they are basically the same. I strayed, and went through another 2–3 rounds of Weight Watchers, the last time lasting one meeting and not even one week. I was so hungry I almost chewed my face off on my commute home. I sat and cried and started looking up psychologists dealing with food addiction.

During the summer of 2016 a friend of mine was telling me about the Atkins induction phase. I heard "no fruit" and was completely turned off — I'm not going there. Nope. Never.  But I did, for the first time, start looking into what low-carb means.  I read Weight Loss Zen: An Attitude Adjustment Guide for Keto, then a book that author recommended: Taking Out the Carbage, then a book that author recommended: Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. I started opening my mind a little bit. Then that same friend suggested Why we get fat and what to do about it, and the rest is history. It changed my life. For the first time I realized it wasn't me: I wasn't being lazy, uncommitted or stupid. IT WAS THE FOOD. IT WAS THE HORMONES. IT WAS NOT MY FAULT — EVER! I listened to the book on CD maybe 10 or more times, going over and over the very scientific parts about insulin and hormones, until I could understand every bit of it. One passage meant more to me than anything: "So long as we believe that people get fat because they overeat, because they take in more calories than they expend, we're putting the ultimate blame on a mental state, a weakness of character, and we're leaving human biology out of the equation entirely. . . . Do these authors wish to range obesity as a 'behavior problem' among psychiatric instead of metabolic diseases?" OMG, now I understood that the unlimited fruit salads, root vegetables and banana breads made with dates and honey were keeping me fat! The more I tried to be "good" by eating all those real foods instead of candy bars, the deeper I fell into obesity and metabolic disease. Fatty liver, pre-diabetes, and sheer exhaustion are not moral diseases, they are metabolic diseases. I am not lazy or stupid. I am metabolically damaged by the foods I thought were good for me.  

I learned all I could about Keto, hired a coach during the tough times and found a doctor who is supportive of my Ketogenic lifestyle. I do not blame anyone for anything — I have forgiveness because they all did what they knew to do. Now I know to do what I know to do. I forgive myself too.

ETA (edited to add):  I just listened to the latest episode of Keto Woman podcast (#34) with Amy Berger who talks about her thyroid journey.  I highly recommend that if you are on your own thyroid journey that you listen as well.