A Surprising Reason Behind the Plateau

By Sally Mellinger

At 15 and a height of 5’5”, I tipped the scale at 230lbs.  I was extremely unhealthy, and made a vow to myself that I would lose the weight and get fit…and I did.  By 16, I was 150 pounds.  I did it the healthy way, too.  I learned to eat right, and how to incorporate fitness into my life.  However, this story is not about how to lose weight. This story is about what to do when the weight loss stops for no reason and when a plateau, accompanied by other unpleasant side effects, lasts too long.

Plateaus throughout my weight loss were normal, and would last anywhere from a week to a month, but I had been stuck for 4 months.   Along with the stubborn scale, I noticed I was cold all the time.  My hands and toes were always icicles.  I was having trouble sleeping, I was exhausted all the time, and my mind felt “foggy.”  I had trouble thinking clearly, and would often mix up the order of my words in sentences.  Determined to make it to my goal weight of 140lbs, I kept pushing forward.  Eating less, and moving more, but no amount of exercise or dieting was budging the scale.  I began to feel desperate and making bad choices. I passed out one day while visiting a family member in the hospital.  I didn’t realize I had eaten so little in the past few days, I just knew that the scale wasn’t budging.

My mother drew the line at passing out, and I knew I was walking a fine line between healthy and obsessive.  Shortly after passing out, my mother read an article in a magazine about low thyroid production and the symptoms it can cause.  Symptoms typically associated with low thyroid are:

* Fatigue

* Weakness

* Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight

* Coarse, dry hair

* Dry, rough pale skin

* Hair loss

* Cold intolerance (you can’t tolerate cold temperatures like those around you)

* Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches

* Constipation

* Depression

* Irritability

* Memory loss

Going through the checklist of symptoms, I realized I was suffering from several of them.  My mom and I were both shocked because hypothyroidism (the medical term for low thyroid production) usually only occurs in aging women, and not 16 year old girls.  Knowing the possible cause of my uncomfortable symptoms encouraged me to make a doctor’s appointment.

The doctor was skeptical that someone my age could be affected by hypothyroidism, but considering my symptoms, he ordered a blood test.  A few days later, I was back in the doctor’s office to talk about the results.  I did have a slight hypothyroidism.  The doctor explained that there is no exact level of normal thyroid production.  Everyone is measured within a healthy range.  My level tested slightly below normal and my symptoms indicated that this was severely affecting my quality of health.  Depending on the individual, a thyroid level below the normal range can affect everyone differently.  Some will experience very prominent symptoms, while others will barely notice a difference.

For the past 10 years, I have been on a small dose of synthyroid, a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone our bodies should produce naturally.  Luckily, the medication is relatively inexpensive, so having health insurance or not having health insurancehasn’t affected my ability to afford the treatment.   I take a small little pill every morning on an empty stomach, and I have my blood tested about every 6 months.   Unfortunately, weight loss and maintaining my weight is a constant struggle, even while on medication.  I have to work extra hard to lose weight, but it has made me more conscious of my choices and lifestyle.

The moral of the story is to pay attention to what your body is telling you, especially when you notice an overall decrease in your health.  If a weight loss plateau lasts longer than you feel normal for your body, do not resort to desperate measures.  Your body is telling you something is wrong.  Make a doctor’s appointment, and open up the lines of communication with a health professional.  If you are suffering from symptoms related to hypothyroidism, I highly encourage you to seek professional help.  Relief from your symptoms is possible.

I did reach my goal weight eventually, but maintaining that weight was difficult.  I am thankful for my experience with a stubborn plateau, because I’m not sure I ever would have acknowledged the other symptoms as serious and an indication of a bigger issue.  I also learned to listen to my body, which in the bigger scheme of things is much more important than fitting into my skinny jeans.

About the author:

Sally Mellinger is an avid writer who spends her time writing for eHow.com, Suite101, and guest blogging. She enjoys doing research on health and fitness topics, and sharing her knowledge with her readers. She has recently become interested in politics, and has been learning more about health and dental insurance to better understand health care reform and how it effects the average American.

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  1. says

    The moral of the story is to pay attention to what your body is telling you
    Sally, thanks for writing this important article. I had my thyroid checked a few years ago when I became very sensitive to the cold. All turned out alright, but it is good to know the symptoms to look for.
    Aside from any issues with your thyroid, starving yourself to get those last pounds off is usually a bad idea. I kind of know from experience! Slow and steady wins the race!

  2. says


    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Figuring out the cause of my symptoms was a blessing…I was so miserable! I’m happy to share my story with other women if it means another woman may find a solution to their symptoms.

    Thanks for the comment. :)

  3. Pam@IW says

    Several years ago I was feeling very fatigued. As soon as I got home from work I had to lay down before I could even think about housework or starting dinner. I also had gained about 30 lbs over the course of a year or so without any real change in my daily habits other than decreasing my activity because of my feeling tired all of the time. Those were really my two main symptoms and so I attributed it to aging and menopause.
    Then I started having a very full feeling in my throat. I always felt like something was pressing against my esophagus and there was a feeling of difficulty swallowing at times. So I went to the doctor and they tested my blood work and sent me for an ultrasound of my thyroid.
    I was diagnosed with thyroiditis and monitored and treated with medication and remain on medication today. I feel so much better now and although I struggle with losing weight, I am not gaining any weight anymore. I have a lot more energy and I am able to go the whole day without taking a nap most days. Thyroiditis destroys your thyroid over the course of months or years so we are still figuring it out with medication and slowly increasing every six months or so.
    I also want to say that I am a registered nurse with and extensive work history and it took me awhile to figure out that there was something more going on than just getting old. I think a lot of nurses ignore there own symptoms. Anyway, pay attention to your body and always seek the advice of your health care provider.

  4. jennie says

    I think a lot of times as you get older you may have symptoms that crop up occasionally and you don’t think much about them; they really need to increase in intensity or frequency for you to pay attention, and then it’s like, “why didn’t I do something about this before?” It’s just hard when things creep up on you. Thanks for the timely reminder to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.

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