Prior to my diagnosis of thyroid disease, I spent twenty-eight years being mostly disconnected from my physical, emotional, and spiritual body, and not fully supporting its needs. I didn’t know how to care for the flesh, blood, and bones I was living in, and I didn’t know what my body needed from me on an intimate level to thrive. In turn, my body couldn’t show up for me either; it was breaking down and malfunctioning in subtle, and not so subtle, ways.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was working as an Executive Assistant at MTV networks and had been feeling run down. My two LARGE cups of coffee per day were slowly steeping their way toward three. On top of that, I consumed at least two cans of Diet-Pepsi every day. You would think that with all that high-octane caffeine stimulating my system, I would have enough energy to make it through the average workday, but I didn’t.
By one-thirty in the afternoon, my eyes grew irritated and dry, and I couldn’t keep them open. Using a pile of unfiled paperwork as a pillow, I plopped my head down in front of my computer screen to take a fifteen-minute nap. Thankfully, my boss escaped the office every day for long leisurely lunches, so my naps went largely unnoticed. The odd thing was, even though I was feeling physically exhausted, I had trouble sleeping at night and suffered wild bouts of insomnia. I found relief drinking shots of NyQuil, but it always left me groggy as heck the next day. I felt as though I had a horrible hangover without the benefits of a fun night out on the town with my friends. I also experienced random moments of uncontrollable anxiety and stress. I would be sitting at my desk typing on the computer, not exerting myself strenuously in any way, and my heart would race uncontrollably. If this has never happened to you, imagine the vibration of a machine gun releasing rapid-fire rounds.
Badabadabadabadabadabadabadabadabadabadabadabah!!! It was nerve-wracking and left me feeling anxious about a potential heart attack at the tender age of twenty-eight!
Chronic fatigue, insomnia, and uncomfortable heart-racing symptoms weren’t the only indicators that something was amiss. My immune system was weak, and I suffered from frequent colds and bouts of flu that lasted way too long. Once a respiratory ailment caught hold of me, the coughing and congestion lingered for weeks, and sometimes months. I became the cough-drop queen! I was always slurping on a symptom-soothing candy: cherry mint, honey lemon, original herb, and cooling menthol. They were yummy, but didn’t actually help. I constantly cleared my throat of some mysterious congestion that never seemed to fully resolve itself.
For me, the worst part of having a weakened immune system was the unsightly cold sores that made regular appearances on my lips, nose, philtrum (the area between my lips and nose), and chin. It seemed that no area around my mouth was safe from the shameful blistering and scabbing. Oh the horror! I would call out sick from work for a few days until the fiery blister subsided. But, the scab always remained for at least seven to ten days to remind me, and everyone else who glanced in my direction, that I was cursed with the dreaded herpes virus!
Another interesting symptom: I was freezing all the time. No matter what I did, I could not warm my body, especially my extremities. My hands felt like carved ice blocks. When I wasn’t typing at the computer, I would sit on my hands to warm them. I also remember bundling myself up in sweatshirt, sweat pants, and sweat socks at bedtime, but it didn’t help. The cold sensations were coming from inside, not outside, my body.
The symptoms that ultimately brought me to the doctor’s office were chronic sore throat, laryngitis, and a swollen neck. My diagnosis arrived wrapped up in a goiter-shaped gift box that said, “Congratulations, you have thyroid disease.” The doctor informed me that my hyperthyroid condition was incurable and recommended I take radioactive iodine to destroy my thyroid and then to take Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone) for the rest of my life. Radioactive iodine was not an option for me. Years earlier, I witnessed the devastating effects of radiation on my mother’s body and vowed never to put radioactive anything anywhere near me, especially not inside me. You can read about my eye-opening experience with my mother’s breast cancer in my first book, The Whole Truth – How I Naturally Reclaimed My Health and You Can Too!
I told the doctor I wanted to improve my diet and my lifestyle instead of destroying my thyroid with radiation. She told me my diet had nothing to do with my thyroid and that my condition was “incurable.” The doctor was correct. According to what she learned in medical school, my condition was indeed incurable. Thankfully, I didn’t go to medical school, so I had a different perspective. I was willing to give my body the ingredients it needed for a fighting chance to heal.
I left the doctor’s office with a focus on healing my body. It was time for me to step up, improve my diet and lifestyle, and learn how to properly care for myself.
From the time I was in my early teens, I was obsessed with dieting and the need to be ultra thin like the models in the popular magazines. It’s funny that growing up, I was a skinny little kid. I didn’t actually start gaining weight until after I went on my first diet at fourteen years old. For as long as I can remember, I was always on some type of diet, seeking, but never obtaining, weight loss. I was up, I was down, but rarely was I ever happy with my weight. At my plumpest, I was 149 to 153 pounds, which by no means is fat, and may not seem heavy to some folks, except that I’m 5′ 4″ on a tall day. And, according to the ideal weight charts, I was in the “overweight” range.
As a teenager, I was chubsy-ubsy for sure. I wore sweat pants most of the time, because squeezing my butt into a pair of jeans was downright uncomfortable, and I refused to buy the next size bigger pants. The weight I gained as a teenage dieter refused to leave my body no matter how often I dieted. Whatever fat I released while dieting always seemed to reattach itself to me… like a bad relationship – which it certainly was! My relationship with food was downright dysfunctional. I had been on every diet imaginable: Slim Fast, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Fruit Only Diet, Vegetables Only Diet, Fat-Free Diet, High Carbohydrate Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, and many others. I was always depriving myself of some major food group – carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. I didn’t eat sensibly; I just followed the guidelines of the latest weight loss fad.
There were also times that I didn’t eat anything at all. I would take Dexatrim over-the-counter diet pills or weight loss pills prescribed by a doctor in Long Island. When I took those diet pills I would eat NOTHING for days at a time. And, right before my high school prom, I didn’t eat anything for an entire week! That’s seven days with zero food. Just water and diet pills. Egads!
My crazy dieting behavior created an endless cycle of bodily stress. Plus, I had a love/hate relationship with my bathroom scale. On days that I was one or two pounds lighter, I wanted to get down on my hands and knees and kiss the little white metallic bathroom creature. Yay! But, on the days that I was heavier or the same weight as the day before, I would start torturing myself, and my body, for failing. I was bulimic for quite a few years. I alternated between throwing up and taking daily laxatives to try to poop my weight down the scale. The scale ruled my life. Whatever the scale said in the morning would set the mood for my day. If I didn’t like the number on the scale, I would think all day long about how “fat” I was or how much weight I needed to lose. It was a constant stressor, and I know today that stress contributes to weight gain and poor health.
On a typical dieting day, I would start with coffee, artificial sweetener, and skim milk. I drank that every morning until I discovered soymilk. I thought soymilk was a better option for me and it became my go-to, guilt-free, creamy liquid. Some days for breakfast, I would have a caffè latte and a whole wheat bagel, dry – with nothing on it but air. Bagels aren’t meant to be eaten that way, but I was afraid of cream cheese, butter, or any type of fat. Other mornings, I would scarf down instant oats with maple syrup and a splash of soymilk. My midmorning snack was fat-free or low-fat cookies or a granola bar, or on a “good” day, an apple.
For lunch, I would line up with the rest of the herd at the local salad bar trough and eat a big bowl of raw vegetables with fat-free or low-fat dressing. Sometimes I would indulge in a slice of pizza with the greasy cheese peeled off and discarded in an orange stained napkin that sat on the side of the table. Occasionally, I would sneak a bite of that fatty cheese, but I always felt guilty afterwards. Damn that cheese! I was convinced that brief moment of enjoyment is what kept me fat!
In the early afternoon, right before my daily nap at my desk, I would pop a handful of Skittles or plain M&M’s into my mouth because they didn’t have any fat. I would, of course, wash it down with a Diet Pepsi. A few times per week, I took the elevator down to the frozen yogurt shop in the building to indulge in a guilt-free, nonfat or low-fat frozen yogurt with crumbled peanut butter cups sprinkled on top. Because the peanut butter cup was deconstructed the calories must have somehow escaped.
Usually, I finished my day with a big sensible salad and a piece of grilled chicken or a tuna fish sandwich with low-fat mayonnaise on whole wheat bread.
At that time, I thought my typical day of eating was healthful compared to most other folks. I mean I wasn’t eating fast food like Burger King or McDonalds, and I wasn’t sitting down to a big fat T-bone steak with French fries. I also went to the gym religiously three to four times per week and climbed the StairMaster to nowhere for at least fifty minutes, and sometimes an hour.
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why the heck I wasn’t shaking those excess pounds off my butt. The truth is, I was living a dieting nightmare. I was eating mostly high-carbohydrate meals with low-fat foods and copious amounts of salad. Plus, I was exercising really hard even though I was physically exhausted. I know today that all of those behaviors contributed to my weight problem and to my thyroid disease.
When I finally snapped out of that dieting mentality and instead focused on healing my illness, the weight naturally dropped off within about three months. And, I have kept it off for almost two decades with absolutely no fear of it coming back. Clearly, focusing on healing my thyroid disease turned out to be the best diet ever! It’s an amazing feeling to heal the body of an “incurable” condition. It’s empowering. It helped me build confidence in my body’s ability to do what it is naturally designed to do: function properly.
I’ve discovered that all you really have to do is give your body what it needs, and it will reach its ideal weight without much effort. By remaining focused on the goal of healing the body instead of the triviality of weight loss, I have learned amazing things about life, health, and well-being. Healing the thyroid is not solely about eating a nourishing diet. Food is only the first step in this journey. The human body needs proper physical nutrition, reduction in stress, and emotional and spiritual healing to become balanced and to properly heal.
Keep in mind that healing doesn’t happen overnight. Healing takes time. My own goiter took eighteen months to disappear! With natural healing, especially with anything that has to do with the endocrine system, patience is the key. One of my favorite quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a great reminder for us: “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.” Remember to be patient. Your body can heal when given the right nutrition, love, and self-care.
Many people may feel that being diagnosed with a disease is one of the worst things that could possibly happen to them. My thyroid disease taught me valuable lessons about my body and woke me up to a whole new way of eating and living. Having this disease was truly a blessing that inevitably improved my health and my entire life as well as the health of countless clients.
Want more? You might also like:
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.