I Suffered From Unexplained Exhaustion & Weight Gain — Until I Was Diagnosed With Hashimoto's Disease
It was just a few years ago that the symptoms began, and while I ignored them at first, they eventually became too loud to not listen to. My weight was fluctuating, and there isn't even a word that covers how exhausted I was feeling. I was sleeping eight to 12 hours a night, but I could only get through about four hours of the day before I fell back asleep.
But more than anything, I simply didn't feel like myself. I felt really swollen in ways that I couldn't describe, and because I work out and motivate people for a living as a Peloton instructor, I just kept justifying in my brain that other people are more tired than me.
Eventually, I started to wonder if I just needed to work out more. With my background and education in fitness, I knew that your body can become used to the exercises you're regularly doing, and so I started seeing a trainer to help me figure out what was happening with my body.
Approaching a diagnosis.
Even while I was following a healthy diet, I didn't have the energy to work out any more than I already did, so my next thought was that I needed to rearrange when I was eating. I hired a nutritionist and dietitian who did blood work, and I explained to her how tired I was. But at the time it was hard to assert that I was more tired than anyone else. However, after the blood work came in, there was finally proof that I was even more exhausted than I thought.
My dietitian told me that my blood work was unlike anything she had seen in the history of her practice. So after a good cry (or five), I finally saw a specialist. At that point, I was showing markers for possibilities of autoimmune disease, and the list was plentiful. To say the least, that was a little scary, especially considering my career in the fitness industry.
Once I got the justification that I was just as tired as I thought, I couldn't stay awake. My body just took over, and it just goes to show that mentality will take you a long way.
The specialist confirmed everything the dietitian had said, and I finally received a diagnosis: Hashimoto's disease. She prescribed me medication that would help my thyroid and recommended a few other habits to support my health. That said, I wouldn't notice a difference for six to eight weeks. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that was when my journey to healing began.
What is Hashimoto's disease?
Hashimoto's is when your body starts attacking itself, which was the hardest sentence for me to hear. I had a story in my head about who I was, so I had to redefine what being healthy meant because prior to that, it had meant living disease-free. But my immune system was attacking my thyroid and treating it like a foreign object.
Hashimoto's often causes hypothyroidism—it doesn't always, but it did for me. It affects your mood, your weight, the density of your hair. Other common experiences include depression, dry skin, and feeling cold all the time—looking back, I had so many of these symptoms, but I didn't realize that all roads were leading to the same thing.
How I cope with my symptoms.
I was lucky that leading up to my diagnosis some of the best things in my life had already happened. I met my now husband, already had a solid support system, and landed my dream job working at Peloton. But during that time, I still felt like I was constantly suspended on edge, just masking my emotions really well. Deep down, I knew that the surface sadness was not at my core, but it was hard to ignore after a while. Thankfully, I had all of these wonderful things to look forward to.
Today, I first and foremost prioritize my sleep. A lot of healing happens through sleep so I continue to prioritize that because there's no bargaining with a quality night's rest. I can miss out on other things, but sleep is my nonnegotiable, which has helped me quite a bit.
I think meeting people where they’re at instead of trying to convince them out of how they’re feeling is so important.
I also work with a naturopath dietitian who emphasizes great nutrition since food and exercise can help so much with symptoms. I also eat the way I want to feel, so my mantra is: Treat your body like it belongs to someone you love. There's no better test of that than when your weight is fluctuating wildly and you don't feel at home in a body that's supposed to be home. Hydrating more and showing my tired, hardworking muscles some love is also important. That's why I teach so much stretching and foam rolling, because I want to help people recover too.
I'm someone who never wants to be on medicine if it's not 100% necessary, so I needed a professional to tell me that this was not something I could fix by myself. It took a minute to find the right professional, and it might require a little give-and-take, but finding those people is 100% worth it.
One final thought.
This has been a good lesson for me to show people grace and not let my ego get in the way in everyday interactions. You never know what someone else is going through. You might be that bright spot in their journey, even if you never see them again.
It can also be difficult telling people how you feel in this world of excess positivity. Sometimes people will try to talk you out of how you feel, which can be really frustrating. If I was feeling swollen or bloated, people so often respond with "no, you're beautiful," but this has nothing to do with external beauty. I think meeting people where they're at instead of trying to convince them out of how they're feeling is so important.
Hannah grew up in Portland, Oregon and came to New York City to dance. She is passionate about guiding others’ fitness journeys and watching them evolve. A kick-your-butt drill sergeant, fiery New York dancer and a West Coast flower child all at once, Hannah is dedicated to a teaching style that empowers people to appreciate how strong they are, and how to protect that strength with stretching when they hop off the Bike and head out into the world.