How to Safely Lose Weight After a Thyroid Removal

Follow up with your doctor after a thyroidectomy to discuss your weight-loss goals.
Image Credit: mixetto/E+/GettyImages

If you've had thyroid cancer, a thyroid nodule or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), you may have had to get a thyroidectomy — a surgical procedure where the entire gland is removed, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.


Under healthy conditions, the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck — produces hormones that help balance many bodily functions, including your metabolism, per the Cleveland Clinic. Once it's removed, it can be difficult to lose weight.

Video of the Day

Video of the Day

In fact, weight gain is a common side effect of thyroid removal, as your metabolism is no longer regulated by thyroid hormones, according to a May 2018 review in ‌Thyroid‌.

But don't worry: It's possible to lose weight after a thyroidectomy. Options include a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes. Learn more here.

1. Follow Up With Your Doctor and Get Blood Work Done

To begin your journey toward weight loss after a thyroidectomy, make an appointment with your doctor to go over your current medications and how you're feeling, per the American Cancer Society. There, you can discuss your weight-loss goals.


You can also request (or your doctor may recommend) blood tests to measure your hormone levels, to ensure they are in the normal range. If your levels are too low, your metabolism may slow, and you'll have difficulty losing weight, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Based on the results, your doctor can adjust the dose of your synthetic thyroid hormone medication — more on that below.



After a thyroidectomy, you may need to get regular blood tests done to make sure you're getting the right dose of hormones in your medication, per the American Cancer Society.

2. Take Thyroid Hormone Replacements

Typically, people who've undergone a thyroidectomy have to take hormone replacements, per Johns Hopkins Medicine, in the form of thyroxine — or T4 hormone replacements such as Synthroid and Levothyroxine. These are synthetic versions of what was once naturally produced by the gland.

Another type of hormone replacement is called triiodothyronine, or T3. Triiodothyronine is naturally produced by your thyroid, but it is not typically prescribed after thyroidectomy, as it's not as prevalent as T4, per an October 2019 review in ‌Endocrine.


According to the review above, there is some promise that taking a combination of T4 and T3 after thyroidectomy could balance your metabolism and help with weight maintenance, but more studies need to be done to confirm this connection.


Work with your doctor to find the best medication and dosage for you.

Ultimately, you will likely be on hormone replacement medications for the rest of your life. Without the replacements, your body can enter a state of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) after a thyroidectomy, per the American Thyroid Association. Hypothyroidism can also slow down your metabolism and lead to weight gain.


Why Am I Losing Weight After a Thyroidectomy?

If you're wondering why you may be potentially ‌losing‌ weight after a thyroidectomy, it could be due to the dosage of your hormone replacement medications. If you find you're losing too much weight too quickly, your doctor can help adjust your dose through follow-up appointments and by tracking your symptoms.

3. Eat a Balanced, Low-Carb Diet

Removal of the thyroid gland causes hypothyroidism in about 30 to 50 percent of people, per the Columbia Thyroid Center. And hypothyroidism can lead to weight gain, per the American Thyroid Association.

While there is no such thing as a "thyroidectomy diet for weight loss," or a "hypothyroidism diet" in particular, according to the Mayo Clinic, there are certain ways of eating that have been shown to help people lose weight, including a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet.


In this case, aim to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates you eat, like white bread, white rice, pasta, baked goods, soda and candy, per Houston Methodist.

Try to incorporate healthy protein sources like lean chicken and turkey, tofu, fish and egg whites. You can also add plenty of non-starchy vegetables (including lettuce, broccoli, onions, pepper, green beans, asparagus and more) and healthy fats like olive oils, avocado and nuts, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Keep in mind, however, that foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates — when eaten in excess — can make it difficult to lose weight, even if you are on hormone replacements, per the NIH.

Of course, if you're having trouble figuring out what to eat, you can work with a registered dietitian.


4. Exercise Regularly

It's well known that consistent physical activity is an important component to losing weight, whether you've had a thyroidectomy or not. If you want to keep your metabolism running at optimum levels after a thyroid removal, though, exercise can especially help.

In fact, some exercise may improve muscle insulin sensitivity and is a key tool in prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders, like hypothyroidism and diabetes, per a June 2016 review in ‌Frontiers of Hormone Research‌.

Of course, wait until you have recovered from your thyroid removal surgery and you have your doctor's OK to start working out. You can start slow with low-intensity aerobic exercise like walking, jogging or cycling. You could even try yoga or pilates.

Then, you can slowly build up to higher-intensity cardio activities such as running, kick-boxing and strength training routines. A combination of both high-intensity and moderate-intensity workouts throughout the week has been found to help aid fat loss, lower LDL cholesterol and improve cardiometabolic health, per the Mayo Clinic.

A small February 2018 study in ‌Thyroid‌ also found that a home-based exercise regimen helps reduce fatigue and anxiety and improves immune function in people taking thyroid hormone replacement after thyroidectomy.


The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio each week (or a combination), along with at least two days of strength-training workouts.

5. Be Patient With Yourself

It takes about two full weeks of rest to fully recovery from a thyroidectomy, per Penn Medicine. Beyond that, losing weight after thyroid removal is going to require some patience and time (like many things).

But don't get discouraged. If you're having trouble getting started or have reached a plateau in your weight loss, consider working with a dietitian or a personal trainer who can help you set realistic and healthy goals.


It's also important to remember that you will not lose a great amount of weight on thyroid hormone replacements alone.

According to the American Thyroid Association, a lack of thyroid hormone causes an average weight gain of 5 to 10 pounds. But once you are put on thyroid hormone replacements, the average weight lost is around 10 percent of your total body weight.

The Bottom Line

Losing weight after a thyroidectomy can be difficult, but it is possible. While not everyone gains weight after getting their thyroid removed, there is a chance, as the lack of thyroid hormones can negatively affect your metabolism.

If you happen to gain weight after a thyroidectomy, visit your doctor and discuss medication options and other lifestyle changes you can make, like eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.




Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...