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Dr. Oz and Wendy Williams talk weight loss, thyroid disease and ideal waist size

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Wendy Williams has become famed for her flippant chatter on her talk show. But when she joined Dr. Mehmet Oz on his show Aug. 28, their conversation became serious as they discussed women's health topics ranging from weight loss to thyroid disease. Plus: Discover how to determine your ideal waist size and why it's so important.

When dieters talk about their weight loss goals, they usually emphasize the number on the scale and their clothing sizes. But Dr. Oz says that another number can be even important when it comes to your health: Your waist size. If your waist is bigger than 35 inches, you have a higher risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

With a 30-inch waistline, Wendy Williams seems in perfect condition. But she told Dr. Oz that her collection of wigs hides her weight-related health condition, which is thyroid disease. Wendy didn't initially know that she had this condition, and visited a doctor only when she experienced other symptoms, including sweating and weight loss.

"I thought, thank God, my metabolism has finally caught up to my ravenous appetite," Wendy told Real Health magazine about her weight loss. "I loved the way I looked. But besides the sweat, my eyes looked popped out a lot. It was brought to my attention by my family, so I went to the doctor."

The doctor sent her to an endocrinologist, and it turned out that "most likely the stress had triggered the thyroid condition," Wendy revealed. "[My weight loss] wasn't my metabolism catching up. It was hyperthyroidism."

Various types of thyroid disease exist, and symptoms vary widely, including hair loss, cracked or peeling fingernails, weight gain or weight loss and fatigue. Some people with the condition also experience depression.

The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the nation is known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis. An autoimmune disease, it occurs when your body attacks your thyroid gland. Women experience this condition more often than men.

But thyroid conditions, as well as other types of autoimmune diseases, can take time to diagnose because the symptoms vary so much. And that can be challenging both for the doctor and the patient.

"A lot of symptoms are nonspecific and variable, depending on the person," said David Fleming, MD, president of the American College of Physicians and a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri, in an Aug. 27 interview with ABC News. "On top of that, many diagnostic tests are expensive and aren't done routinely, and even then they don't always give us a black and white answer."

Among those conditions are multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and type 2 diabetes. "There are a lot of people out there with elevated blood sugar levels who aren't getting to the doctor regularly, so they aren't getting checked for it," said Dr. Fleming about type 2 diabetes.

Wendy isn't the only celebrity to open up about her struggles with thyroid disease. "Baywatch" actress Gena Lee Nolin also experienced mysterious symptoms that no physician initially could diagnose.

Based on her own battle with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Gena says that many sufferers do not initially make the connection between their symptoms and the disease. And their physicians also sometimes fail them. She wrote in her book "Beautiful Inside and Out: Conquering Thyroid Disease with a Healthy, Happy, 'Thyroid Sexy' Life" about her weight gain, hair loss, lethargy and depression.

“It is a lonely invisible, disease,” reflected Gena in a recent interview with ABC about her life prior to a diagnosis and treatment. “The weight gain, the anxiety- I wasn't myself.”