This is Sherille Bradley’s incredible healing journey after suffering a debilitating thyroid condition.
Before Sherille Bradley, 30, became a fitness entrepreneur — before she racked up thousands of faithful followers on Instagram — she had one major goal in life:
To become a scientist who made a difference in the world.
“I’ve always known since I was little that I’ve wanted to be a scientist,” Bradley told the Shadow League. “If you ask anyone that I know personally, that was something that I always would tell people.”
Perhaps her love of science came from the many afternoons she spent glued to the TV screen, watching the Discovery Channel and TLC with her father. Or maybe it was all of the extra science classes she took at school.
Whatever the case, Bradley was always tickled to learn about how this planet ticked, and she studied around the clock to achieve her dream.
When she started her PhD program in biomedical sciences at the University of Texas in 2014, it was as if her fantasy was finally coming to fruition. Orientation day, she thought, was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life.
But something was preventing her from enjoying it all.
“I was feeling really depressed and self-conscious,” Bradley said.
Ashamed of how much weight she had gained over the past year, Bradley was too embarrassed to take any pictures of what was supposed to be a special moment. Her body felt tired and heavy.
“This was not my normal self at all,” she said. “I have this photo I took [where] I was hiding my face because it was so swollen and puffy.”
Unfortunately, Bradley’s health took a strange turn in 2011. As a 24-year-old, she was an otherwise healthy 5’8” woman, averaging 140-pounds, who loved hitting the gym with her friends. But within two years, her weight just kept creeping higher and higher, and she knew it wasn’t because of all of the muscle was gaining.
One day she stepped onto the scale and was shocked to see she weighed nearly 200 pounds. What’s more, Bradley just felt exhausted all of the time.
“I couldn’t really understand why I was always feeling so out of it,” she said. “I didn’t want to do anything or engage in anything. I just wanted to sleep.”
After that less-than-perfect orientation day, Bradley was at her limit and she sought out an endocrinologist to figure out what was going on.
The doctor discovered she had hypothyroidism: a condition where the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones for the body to function properly. Symptoms include fatigue, cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain.
At first, Bradley couldn’t even believe what her doctor was telling her.
She was too young to have thyroid issues, she thought. Her mom had been diagnosed with acute hypothyroidism, but she was in her 50’s. Bradley remembers accompanying her to the hospital for surgery.
“She had nodules that she had to have operated on on her throat,” she said. “She also had a portion of her thyroid removed.”
Unfortunately, thyroid issues can be hereditary, and according to research, they tend to affect women more than men.
Some specialists claim that the rates of thyroid illnesses in women are at an all-time high, which is reflective of the recent headlines in celebrity news.
In 2018, infamous talk-show host Wendy Williams revealed that she had Graves’ disease after a scary fainting episode during one of her tapings. At Essence Magazine’s 9th annual Black Women in Music event last January, Missy Elliot gave an inspiring speech about how she she won her long-time battle against Graves’.
There are doctors who hypothesize that increased cases of hyper and hypothyroidism among American women is due to increased societal demands: More women are balancing demanding careers, families and school more than ever before.
While DNA may have played a part in Bradley’s diagnosis, she thinks that stress probably triggered her condition as well.
“I was getting married at the time and I was transitioning into a master’s program,” she said. “So there was a lot of different things happening at the same time.”
Thankfully, Bradley’s case wasn’t as severe as her mother’s. Her doctor just prescribed her medication that she was told she had to take for the rest of her life. Her energy levels increased. The depression melted away. But when it came to losing the excess weight, the pills only did so much. Bradley had to figure that out all on her own.
“I never got offered help [from my doctor],” she said.
But don’t forget, Bradley is a biomedical scientist. She understood that the key to her weight loss was figuring out the perfect balance of food and exercise to increase her metabolism. While she got the exercise part down-pat, diet was her main concern.
And so in October 2014, she started a MyFitnessPal account and started logging everything that she drank and ate. After experimenting for a while, she discovered that a ketogenic diet — or “lifestyle” as Bradley likes to call it — was the most effective for her.
When anyone “goes keto”, they are opting to eat an extremely low-carb, high-fat diet. For Bradley that meant less rice, pasta and bread, and more veggies, healthy oils and fatty fish.
Most people rely on carbs to fuel themselves throughout the day, but the ketogenic diet forces the body to use fats for energy, instead.
In other words, Bradley became a fat-burning machine.
It didn’t happen overnight, however. It was many years of sacrificing sweets and lifting multiple times a week. After nearly four years of training and dedicating herself to this lifestyle, Bradley’s body chemistry began to change.
She became more lean and toned, and she felt like she had more energy than she had in a long time. So much so, that she asked her endocrinologist if she could eventually dump her medication.
The doctor, who was originally skeptical, was floored to see that Bradley’s hormone levels had returned to normal.
“She was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you were able to change like this. ‘What were you doing?’,” said Bradley. “She was like, ‘I need to recommend [keto] to my patients’.”
To be clear: There are no medical studies that prove that the ketogenic diet is the cure for hypothyroidism. There’s a chance that Bradley could be a rather fortunate case. Still, she has her theories.
“I think the ketogenic diet helped cure my condition because metabolism and fat are interconnected,” she said. “Fat is needed to regulate hormones, and the thyroid is a factory of hormones that control your metabolism. People with hypothyroidism have under active thyroids, so it may be that increasing good healthy fats helps to improve the function of the thyroid.”
Regardless, Bradley’s success is showing others what’s possible.
After slowly weaning off her medication in 2018, she started competing in figure competitions and has since placed second at multiple events in Texas. She programs all of her workouts, writes her meal plans and gets some extra help from a posing coach here and there.
Bradley hopes to one day fine tune her methods to help teach others how to master the ketogenic diet in the bodybuilding world.
On top of that, she’s still completing her PhD in immunology all the while studying to get her NASM personal training certificate. She also started a health and fitness business with her husband called Sedulously Fit.
Together, they help people develop workout and meal plans that work for them. Ultimately, with all of her knowledge and experience, Bradley wants to fill a gap she feels the medical industry is not providing to many Americans.
“I feel like what doctors need to do more of is try to push people to really look at their lifestyle and consider if they could change things up with nutrition,” she said. “The first thing [doctors] want to do is say, ‘Hey, take this medication to treat your symptoms. And then come back to me and see if you need more meds later’… Instead of saying, ‘Hey, why don’t you switch up the way you’re eating maybe and let me help you.’”
Bradley may not be a doctor (yet), but she is determined to teach people how to “sedulously” strive for their health goals.
“If you are dedicated and if you are diligent about anything, you can see the change that you want to bring about in your situation,” she said.