My name is Maria and I have Hashimoto’s Disease.
Some of you may recognize me because you’ve taken one of my classes here at American Family Fitness. I’ve been in the fitness industry for 30 years and teach many formats including Zumba and yoga. I’m an Exercise Physiologist and helping people get and stay fit is my passion. I’ve dedicated 3 decades to learning how exercise improves health and quality of life. As a mom of 3 sons, I went back to school and earned a Bachelor of Science in Community Wellness as well as 40 health and wellness certifications. I’ve spent most of my life inspiring, educating and motivating others how to be healthy.
You can imagine how shocked I was to learn I’d been suffering from a disease my entire life and until 4 years ago I had no idea I was one of the 14 million Americans who have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Disease.
With my diagnosis came shame and embarrassment. I mean, how could I, a fitness professional, not be healthy? Why was I gaining weight, taking daily naps and having heart palpitations? What had I done to bring this on? What rule did I not follow? How would those who look at me as the pillar of health ever trust my advice again?
I quickly learned that what I had had an impact on my life for as long as I could remember. From the age of 13, I had had heart palpitations. Doctors could never find out why and eventually told me I was imagining them. My metabolism had had major swings. I remember someone accusing me of an eating disorder. I eventually realized that Hashimoto’s affects the thyroid and fluctuations in metabolism are common. There were times I could not consume enough calories and other times I wasn’t hungry at all.
Hashimoto’s disease is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid, a small gland at the base of your neck. The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that coordinate many of your body’s functions.
Inflammation from Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). My picture on the left is at the beginning of my diagnosis when my anti-bodies were at their highest level. The picture on the right is after finding the proper medicine and dosage and eliminating gluten and soy. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It primarily affects middle-aged women but can also occur in men and women of any age and in children.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve become the poster child of how to survive and thrive with an autoimmune disease. I incorporate F.I.T.-Food, Inspiration, and Training. I now teach others that lifestyle, along with medicine, can impact how Hashimoto’s effects your health.
With Hashimoto’s (which for me is genetic and my 27-year-old son was recently diagnosed), food plays a huge role in my energy level and inflammation. Gluten and soy can cause a flare-up, which results in flu-like symptoms. Through trial and error, I’ve had the most success in cooking my own meals, getting enough rest, limiting high-intensity cardiovascular exercise (my body seems to respond well to yoga, as well as meditation) and incorporating more strength training (loss of muscle can happen with an autoimmune disease). I am thankful that I am an Exercise Physiologist because of the resources available to me that have helped me in my journey. And of course, I am now sharing my discoveries with other individuals who have the same disease.
If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or any other autoimmune disease, I hope to not only be your inspiration but to be your cheerleader! We may not be able to cure ourselves, but we can live our best lives with proper nutrition, effective exercise, and education. May your best days be ahead of you.