2021: My Thyroid Year in Review
What worked? What didn't? What are my 3 biggest takeaways for YOU? This is what we're going to cover in this raw and personal review of 2021.
Happy New Year, Thyroid Thrivers! I hope you're faring well and hanging in there after the wild bull ride that was 2021. The start of a New Year brings the fresh air of a new beginning. I know I'm not alone in feeling like this new beginning, even though there's still so much uncertainty, feels especially welcome. It's like when the sun sets on a difficult day, and you fall into bed knowing that if nothing else, tomorrow, the sun will rise on a new day.
The past couple years have been tumultuous for us all, to say the least. But I think we can all agree that there have been some silver linings. We've been forced to winnow out the chaff in our lives, whether that's employment we hated, energy vampires (and other bad relationships), habits that don't support us, or a negative mindset. No way around it-- that winnowing is hard work.
We've had a greater opportunity than ever before to say adios to what's not serving us, and start rebuilding a new and better, and more thyroid-friendly life. All aspects, from our support system to the food we eat, to our movement routine, our self-care, our emotional health-- it's all root-cause material when it comes to our thyroid issues.
I'll try just about anything to discover what works and what doesn't, and trust me, I've had plenty of failed experiments along the way. I've also had some big wins, and I mostly want to share those, so I can inspire and encourage you on your own healing journey. Of course, I'll also be sharing my epic fails, and my 3 biggest takeaways for YOU. Finally, I want to let you in on some amazing stuff that's in store for you and the Hypothyroid Chef community, as we look ahead to 2022.
- My 3 biggest thyroid-related health wins
- My most epic health fail of 2022
- My 3 biggest takeaways for YOU!
- What 2022 means for Hypothyroid Chef
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Disclaimer: This information is for educational and inspirational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers before making changes to your diet, health care, or exercise regimen.
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My 3 Biggest Thyroid Health Wins of 2021
Frozen Shoulder Recovery:
Frozen Shoulder, a.k.a. Adhesive Capsulitis is, unfortunately, one of the many issues we're more prone to as Thyroid Thrivers. According to studies, people with thyroid disorders are 2.7 times more likely to develop frozen shoulder. That does not mean you will get frozen shoulder, but if you do, know that your thyroid disorder is indeed a root cause factor. This was confirmed by my surgeon, who added that being female, in mid-life, with Hashimoto's, all increased my risk.
Frozen Shoulder is characterized by stiffness and decreasing range of motion in the shoulder capsule. Adhesions form in the joint, literally locking the shoulder in place. There are three stages: freezing (the most painful, IMO), frozen, and thawing. Each stage can last several months and in most cases, the Frozen Shoulder cycle resolves within one to three years. Yes, YEARS.
After consulting with an amazing surgeon here in Missoula, we decided I was a good candidate for capsular release surgery, so that I could shorten that process as much as possible, and avoid side effects like depression, sleep deprivation, and weight gain caused by pain and immobility.
If you are dealing with frozen shoulder, I am sending you one-armed hugs. Seriously, it's like a cruel joke. And aside from those risk factors, there is no known cause, which makes prevention difficult if not impossible. Mine started right around the start of the pandemic, which isn't surprising considering that stress is another known trigger.
It is believed that Frozen shoulder is likely an autoimmune condition, so I was well-armed (get it?) to apply all my thyroid-healthy diet and lifestyle interventions to help me heal faster. I went full anti-inflammatory diet both before and after my surgery and it absolutely helped. I also discovered some amazing pill-free pain relief options which I cover in this Instagram video.
By doing the surgery, 6 months of intensive post-surgical physical therapy, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, staying active, prioritizing sleep, and eliminating alcohol completely for over 6 months, I believe I significantly shortened my Frozen Shoulder saga. I had surgery on December 10, 2020, and a year later, I am skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, swimming, and just planned a surfing trip. I'm not 100% pain-free, but almost, and my range of motion is nearly 100%.
I know from my Frozen Shoulder Support Groups on Facebook, that many patients opt to do nothing, and different things work for everyone. In most cases, Frozen Shoulder does resolve, all on its own eventually. I wasn't willing to wait up to 3 years, so I took a more proactive approach, and I believe it worked for me.
I Quit Drinking Alcohol:
Since my thyroid journey began, my consumption of alcohol has steadily declined. I do occasionally partake, but I spent the vast majority of 2021 alcohol-free. As mentioned, my Frozen Shoulder saga was a big part of what inspired this change. I also knew that alcohol isn't great for Thyroid Thrivers.
I'll be doing an entire episode on this soon, but here's just a few quick reasons why alcohol and your thyroid don't mix well.
First of all, alcohol negatively impacts the liver, and the liver is where thyroid hormone conversion occurs. Another factor is weight gain. I've reached a point, at 45, where nothing seems to be working for weight loss, and my body seems hellbent on putting on a mid-life middle that I am desperately trying to stop. Ladies, it's important to know that alcohol is estrogenic, which has a lot of negative implications for our hormonal health, including making it more difficult to lose weight.
Finally, alcohol is NOT good for our gut health and may be the best reason to reduce or eliminate alcohol in your life. This was another big factor in my personal decision to drill down on cutting out alcohol. I've struggled with gut-flora imbalances since my thyroid journey began. It's common, and it's been one of my personal bugaboos.
After the vast majority of a year spent alcohol-free, I had my first negative candida test in 10 years!!! HUGE WIN. While I'm not 100% alcohol-free, continuing to reduce it in my life is 100% on the books for 2022.
I Worked Out Consistently for a Year!
If you watched my 5 tips on thyroid-healthy exercise, you learned about the special challenges we face as active Thyroid Thrivers. If we push too hard, we can fall flat on our face with things like exercise-induced autoimmune flares, or straight-up exercise intolerance. Pile on some physical complications we're more prone to, like Frozen Shoulder (gah!), and staying active can get tricky.
The overdo it and crash cycle? Been there, done that.
The workout for a month and then get distracted for a month cycle? Yup, done that too.
The decide to ignore my body's signals and then pay the price cycle? Uh-huh, done that too.
But this year I tried something new and it actually worked! I exercised consistently for the entire year, by choosing a doable exercise goal of 150 minutes per week, per the American Heart Association's recommendation.
Were there weeks I did way more than this? Absolutely. Were there weeks I didn't hit the mark? Yes, I had 3 grace weeks throughout the year. But I stick with it, and hit a minimum of 150 minutes per week for the entire year--YES!!!
While it may seem paltry to some of my super-active friends (who don't have a faulty thyroid), I'm practicing not comparing myself to others. I'm super proud of this achievement, and I learned a big lesson about setting SMARTER health goals that are attainable and realistic, and most of all, appropriate for ME.
This brings me to...
My Most Epic Health FAIL of 2021
Like many of you, I struggle to lose weight. People say that things like a slow thyroid, age, genetics, and the shifting hormonal situation that women face at mid-life are, "just excuses."
They're also very real factors, that can compound and add up to being overweight or obese if we're not careful. And sometimes, even if we ARE careful!! It's maddening, but I've come to adopt the mindset that feeling good is more important than looking like a swimsuit model.
We are all beautiful, lovable, and worthy at any size. Please, love and accept yourself wherever the dial falls on the scale. But here's my personal rub: I feel better when I'm lighter. My clothes fit better, my balance is better, my body works better and I am happier. I can love and accept myself, and also prioritize losing weight.
Now, I've done plenty of weight loss programs that didn't work. This year, my weight loss experiment was Noom. While there's a lot I liked about the program, and I adhered to it (along with my other thyroid-friendly guidelines), I finally threw in the towel after 6 months and only 1 pound lost.
What I've realized with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's, is that sometimes we need to forget about the stupid scale. Compulsively tracking meals can lead to disordered eating, or excessive stress around eating that can undermine our goals. Sometimes, like in mid-life with frozen shoulder, Hashimoto's, a pandemic, a 10-year old, and one business you're having to shutter while simultaneously building another one, it's an accomplishment just to not gain weight. Heck, it's an accomplishment these days just to feel good, get out of bed in the morning, and give ourselves the nourishment, hydration, self-care, play, and exercise we need in the midst of the crazy storm life is throwing at us on the daily.
I've interviewed so many experts on thyroid weight loss, and have adopted their recommendations. There's a lot of good advice out there, and yet, the fact remains, weight loss is often harder for us.
Whatever I need to do to crack my personal weight loss code at this point in my life, I haven't discovered it yet. So, what am I going to do? Keep trying. But without worrying too hard about it, or getting all in my head about some stupid number.
My 3 Biggest Takeaways for YOU
1. Don't Make Assumptions - Get Tested
Maybe you *think* you have a thyroid issue because you have so many of the symptoms you've seen and heard about on social media, but you've never been tested.
Maybe you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but don't *think* you have Hashimoto's, because wouldn't your doctor have tested you for it? (Typically, NO.)
Maybe you're fully diagnosed and *think* you may have one of the issues you commonly hear about on social media like adrenal fatigue, or estrogen dominance, or leaky gut.
There's a saying in functional medicine: Test, don't guess!
I can't emphasize this strongly enough for you. In fact, I was reminded of this myself in 2021 in a big way. I've been under a lot of stress and was feeling that sloggy, brain-fogged fatigue that just won't let up. I know this is my body telling me something's off, and so I tried what had worked in the past, like adaptogenic herbs for example, but it just wasn't cutting the mustard.
I decided it was time to invest in some detective work and had two big tests I hadn't done before: The DUTCH Test, which is considered the gold standard for getting a complete and comprehensive hormonal picture, and the GI Map, which is considered the gold standard for gut health testing. I'd like to talk about both of these more in-depth in their own posts, but both of them gave me an important reminder: Don't make assumptions.
I thought for sure I had adrenal fatigue, and that my cortisol was going to be off, but my DUTCH test showed that my cortisol curve was normal. It was my testosterone that was super low. The symptoms of low T and adrenal dysfunction can overlap, but effective treatment is totally different for both. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I was able to tweak my supplements and medications to address the correct issue, and that's made all the difference in the world.
I had a similar experience with my GI Map which showed me some surprises about my gut health. My chronic candida was GONE (yay!), and I don't show signs of leaky gut or high sensitivity to gluten (probably because I avoid it). What I did show signs of was sluggish digestion-- very common in Hashi's patients. My ND recommended Betaine with Pepsin or ACV at every meal to help me get better nourishment from my meals, and to avoid SIBO, which I was showing some slight precursors for.
That's a lot of technical info, and I don't want to get off track, but my takeaway for you is: Don't make assumptions. Find a good functional, integrative, or whole-health-oriented doctor you can work with and GET TESTED.
Doing so throughout my healing journey has helped me dial in on more accurately targeted treatments, and because of that, I feel better. Yes, it's an investment, but it's also saved me hundreds on supplements that were missing the mark, not to mention suffering through chronic brain fog and fatigue.
2. Don't Neglect Your Mental Health
Not ever, and especially not right now. The emotional stress and trauma we're all collectively going through are for real, and if you think it has no effect on your thyroid health or thyroid symptoms, think again. Unmanaged or unaddressed stress and emotional trauma are some of the most overlooked root cause factors in chronic illness and autoimmunity.
Last year, in addition to trying to navigate a pandemic I was also raising a 10-year-old who like every other kiddo on the planet is being somewhat robbed of a normal childhood these days. Our future on this planet has never looked more terrifying or more bleak. As a family, we lost a ranch that had been in my husband's family for generations. With it, we said goodbye to a long-held vision for our future, and for him, a huge piece of his identity. It was like living out our own season of the show, "Yellowstone," and it was heartbreaking.
Of course, I had to close down Thyroid Refresh in 2021, which I had invested SO MUCH of my time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into. It was the right decision, but a super emotionally difficult one, and I had to go through it all while simultaneously rebuilding Hypothyroid Chef. I said goodbye to a tight-knit team of 6 at Thyroid Refresh . Now, I do every single aspect of Hypothyroid Chef myself, which I enjoy, and which has also had a steep learning curve.
There's quite a bit more that 2021 threw at me, that's too personal to get into on a public platform, but this is what was piled on my plate last year, and I know you have a heaping plate too. Every single person I know right now-- friends, family, neighbors-- is dealing with an overflowing pile of grief, loss, uncertainty, fear, stress. And while I'm a fierce believer in silver linings, and I've been practicing faith that somehow this is all for the greater good, it's still a very difficult time we're going through together.
Be kind, especially to yourself and also to each other, and please, get the emotional support you need. Trust me, you need it, I need it, we all need it. Whether it's talking to a professional or a close confidant, whether it's writing in your journal, or prioritizing a meditation practice, no matter what it is that works for you, prioritize it, make time for it, and take extra good care of you. If we don't the bill is going to come due, and it's not going to be pretty. So, let's come out of this not just okay but better, more compassionate, and stronger than before.
3. Embrace the Messy Work
Does anyone else feel like we're all going through some kind of major astrological Marie Kondo-ing or something? It's like, the Great Resignation is a reflection of our collective unwillingness to do anything but what aligns with our highest purpose, and what is essential to our wellbeing.
It's messy, like when you can't open your business because the employees didn't show up, or when you can't get a doctor's appointment because so many of them have chosen early retirement. But when I go up to 30,000 feet and look down on the chaos and disorder of the present, I see some very hopeful signs. We are being distilled to our essence, called to live our truth, and more in touch than ever before with what's important to us.
If you've ever cleaned out a closet (which is a GREAT activity for 2022) you know that it gets worse before it gets better. Schtuff is strewn EVERYWHERE. And you have to sort through it all: The donation pile. The keep pile. The move it somewhere else pile. The put it in storage pile.
It takes way longer than you thought it would. You wonder if you should have even started the process. But if you stick with it, you eventually reach the point where the job is done. It's better, more organized, less cluttered with non-essentials. Because of it, we're better, more organized, and less cluttered with non-essentials.
Get my drift? Don't miss this grand opportunity to Marie Kondo your LIFE. It's messy, and you might find yourself wondering if you should have even started the process. But in the end, you'll be better off. What that messy process enables us to do, is to live our best lives. It gives us the space to find what brings us JOY and then DO that.
This messy work enables us to play more, to love more, to laugh more, to eat better, to sleep better, to serve better, and to BE better. This is what a thyroid-healthy life looks like, and while I wouldn't wish thyroid dysfunction on anyone, I also wouldn't trade this healing journey for anything in the world. It's an incredible teacher.
What's on the Horizon for Hypothyroid Chef?
After the messy work of Marie Kondo-ing my life and work, I can honestly say that I've never been in a better place with my work. I am LOVING being back at the helm of Hypothyroid Chef, and I am so grateful to every single member of this awesome community of Thyroid Thrivers. I appreciate your patience with the transition, and with my learning curve.
My word of the year for 2021 was PERSEVERE, and as you've just heard, I did plenty of that. My word for 2022 is PLAY, and that extends into every aspect of my life, including Hypothyroid Chef. If there's one thing I want to help you believe about thyroid-friendly living, it's that it can be easy, fun, and delicious.
I know you may be wondering, "Why don't you have a meal plan or recipe bundle?" Well, I've been busy behind the scenes and I've got an amazing new bundle coming your way that is going to help you make thyroid-healthy eating your new normal. Get hyped, because it's comin' at cha very soon!
Later this year, I will be graduating from the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, as a Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach! I look forward to opening up my coaching services to you, in some format.
For my OG fans of THYROID30, I'm still in the imagining process, but I will eventually be incorporating some kind of group coaching membership designed to help you live and eat thyroid-healthy. While I no longer have the gamified app that THYROID30 was, there's a lot of exciting and more engaging ways to do this in a community setting.
If you have ideas, requests, or feedback, hit me up! I always welcome and appreciate your feedback. I'd love to hear what you need help with most, what you've been loving the most about Hypothyroid Chef content, or the Thyroid-healthy Bites podcast. Tell me what you'd like to see more or less of. Drop a comment on social, DM me, or shoot me an email.
Peace Out, 2021!
Happy New Year, Thyroid Thrivers! As always, I wish you the BEST of health, in 2022 and beyond. I'm looking forward to another year together of learning, growth, and inspiration.
If you're new here, welcome! I invite you to join us on the thyroid-healing path. The best way to get started is by downloading my FREE Thyroid-friendly Grocery Guide.