In her "falling off the wagon" episode earlier this week, Oprah Winfrey talked about how her recent weight gain was in part sparked by thyroid problems that began in 2007. While we usually think of an overactive thyroid producing weight loss, Winfrey said that she gained weight even when initially experiencing hyperthyroidism (she later developed hypothyroidism, meaning the gland was underactive).
Sounds weird, but it's not uncommon, says Daniel Duick, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Here's the deal: Those with severe hyperthyroidism usually lose weight. Their bodies are flooded with thyroid hormone, stimulating the metabolism and producing symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, and a rapid heartbeat. But some people with mild hyperthyroidism actually battle weight gain. Most at risk are those who have excess body fat, which can promote prediabetes, or high blood sugar that doesn't cross the line into full-fledged diabetes. They are at risk of gaining weight.
Weight gain also is a hallmark of hypothyroidism, the far more common thyroid condition in which the gland is underactive. Symptoms include the same fatigue as seen in hyperthyroidism, fluid retention, and even depression. If you're experiencing symptoms, ask your doc if a thyroid disorder may be a possibility.
Because the symptoms for both conditions are so vague, they are often not diagnosed quickly. (Winfrey said her viewers alerted her to the possibility of thyroid problems.) A blood test can identify the issue. U.S. News has written before about which people should be tested for thyroid problems.
Some other good insights came out of this week's show. If you're getting discouraged about your fight with fat, check out "9 Lessons From Oprah's Weight-Battle Defeat."