Trim Healthy Mama. It's all the rage. The diet plan of choice amongst 30-something moms like myself,
I just had a baby 3 months ago, and babies come about as the result of a pregnancy and with pregnancy comes the rather unfortunate side effect of weight gain. I'm NOT one of those lucky moms who easily lose weight while breastfeeding. I always have to "try" to lose weight after a baby. It doesn't just fall off. It's very unfortunate. Good thing those babies are cute and worth it.
So, I decided to check out Trim Healthy Mama from the library.
I read it.
I bought the cookbook.
I even tried it for a week.
And then I stopped.
First a summary.
The basis of trim healthy mama is you separate out your fats and carbs. Each meal you eat starts with a protein base and then you can either make it an E meal by adding in up to 45 grams of slow-acting carbs (no pasta, white potatoes, white bread). Instead the carbs are things like beans, old-fashioned oatmeal. fruits and sprouted grain breads. You are NEVER supposed to eat a whole banana...just 1/2 at a time. The E meals can include up to 1 or 2 tsp of fat, but that's it.
Or you can have an S meal, which is low in carbs (no more than 10g) but high in fat. So E meals contain protein and carbs while S meals contain protein and fat. With all meals, you are encouraged to eat lots of green, leafy veggies.
The authors of this plan (two sisters named Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison, neither of which has a medical or scientific background) believe that the body can only handle 1 fuel source at a time and that when you combine them, the body will burn the carbs first and the fat is stored as fat.
Lots of people seem to LOVE this plan and have had great success with it. Lots of people!
I do think that in many ways it can be a very healthy way of eating. It basically eliminates all junk, that is for sure. If this works for you, that is great.
It doesn't work for me. Here are some of my reasons:
I'm not buying the part about separating fat and carbs. I don't think there is any scientific basis to this whatsoever. I do think it makes sense that the body burns carbs before fat, but really what it comes down to is the body will burn as much fuel as it needs and if you eat significantly more than that, you will gain weight. It doesn't matter if that fuel is fat or carbs....if you eat too much, your body stores the excess as fat. If you eat less, you lose weight (assuming a healthy metabolism and all that).
I think this diet plan works because by separating our your fat and carbs and limiting yourself to less than 45 g of carbs at a time, you are basically eliminating every possible fattening or delicious food on the planet. Except for bacon. But, really...this eliminates just about all the foods that people are inclined to overeat. Candy, cookies, sweets, cake, pancakes, cheese and crackers, bread and butter, pasta, pizza, lasagna, chips, fries, hamburgers (with the bun), soda, juice, coffee with cream and sugar etc, etc.
I don't think there is some intrinsic difference between eating toast with butter versus eating dry toast and that same amount of butter 3 hours later, except that no one eats like that.
I think it's the same reason why low-carb diets work. If someone is eating low-carb they are eating less. It's hard to overeat on steak and bacon. For one thing you have to cook it, so portion control is way easier. You can't just go back for more steak the way you can for more pasta . I don't think there is anything inherently fattening about carbs...it's just that carbs are way more likely to be overeaten than high protein/fat foods. And some people have trouble with blood sugar spiking after eating carbs, so they are driven to eat more. But that doesn't mean the carbs themselves are fattening, so much as they are inclined to make one more likely to overeat. Eating limited, healthy portions of healthy carbs is no more fattening than not eating them.
Ultimately it does come down to calories. Limiting carbs or separating fuels is going to almost definitely make someone limit their calories. Oftentimes very significantly.
It's basically low-carb and that makes me feel terrible. Everyone likes to say that it's not low-carb because you have your E meals which can have up to 45 grams of carbs. But actually anything less than 150 g of carbs a day could be considered low-carb.
While the diet doesn't tell you how many E-meals and how many S meals to eat a day, I don't think many people eat more than one or two E meals a day. Which puts you at less than 100 g of carbs a day. So yes, it is low-carb. It's just not very low carb.
And, low-carb makes me feel terrible. It just does. I've tried it and I HATE it. I feel weak. shaky, tired, headachy, anxious and just all-around terrible.
I feel "best" when I eat carbs, fat and protein AT EVERY MEAL. The hard part is to not eat too much, but I do need some.
It's not easy or intuitive or natural or food freedom or whatever they claim. I'm sure it gets easier as you do it, but I do think it is fairly complicated. And, it makes it difficult to eat anything that anyone else serves. And you to have to do a lot of cooking. I mean, I already cook a lot and make lots of stuff from scratch, but I do like having the convenience of buying things like ketchup instead of making my own. I like to be able to put cream (except I can't eat cream now) in my coffee without worrying about if I just ate an S meal or an E meal. And if I'm running out the door and don't have time for breakfast, I like being able to make a quick peanut butter sandwich on sprouted grain bread. If I'm hungry in the afternoon, I like being able to grab an apple or grapes or carrot sticks for a snack without worrying about if I'm too close to an S meal.
I like being able to eat a WHOLE BANANA at a time. Having to cut a banana in half and then having the other half wasted is just terrible. I love bananas.
I like to eat. A lot. I mean, I literally like to eat a lot. I used to sometimes wish I was a grazing animal (like a horse or a giraffe) and could just graze on leaves all day. Only half-joking people. So, I really like munching on a handful of carrot sticks or bowl of air-popped popcorn or an apple. When I was doing THM and had the munchies, well there aren't many choices for munching. THM doesn't include a lot of munchy foods. If I had an S meal, I would try munching on nuts or their skinny chocolate......neither of which are all that skinnifying when "munched'. And since E meals contain limited carbs, you still can't do all that much munching. You are basically left with just being able to munch celery or peppers. Which is not that exciting, although, I do really love peppers.
I'm off dairy for now. When I took Annika in for her 2 month check-up, I mentioned that i thought she might have mild reflux. She would spit up a lot and she would sometimes wake up from sleep, gagging/choking. So, he suggested that I stop eating dairy (since I'm breastfeeding and the milk protein (casein) gets into the milk) I tried that and it is helping her reflux symptoms, but in addition to that her cradle cap improved a lot. So, for now, no dairy for me. The thought of following something like THM AND not being able to eat dairy was just too dismal for me to consider. Yes, you CAN do THM without dairy, they even helpfully label their dairy-free recipes in their cookbook, however, it seems rather depressing. Most of the good, delicious recipes involved dairy, If I can't have dairy, I at least want to be able to eat a WHOLE banana, or an apple or whole eggs.
Despite what they claim, it's not all natural. One of the authors claims to be a food purist....which I find somewhat laughable considering the fact that the two sisters develop and sell certain products which include artificial sweeteners. For example ,their Gentle Sweet has stevia, xylitol and erthyritol. There is nothing food purist about xylitol or erthyritol. One could argue that stevia is natural and pure...but not sugar alcohols. That's processed stuff right there. No, you don't HAVE to use those products. You could certainly do the diet using only natural, pure foods. It sounds depressing that way, but it could be done. But the fact that the creators of the diet market and sell something so processed while claiming at the same time one of the sisters is a "food purist" seems off to me. Unless I am misunderstanding the book and Serene (I think she is food purist sister) doesn't eat any of her own line of artificial sweeteners. Which would seem odd because quite a bit of their recipes involve their sweeteners.
It doesn't seem sustainable long-term: It just doesn't. What seems sustainable to me long-term is healthy, sensible eating. Not separating carbs and fats and paying attention to every little thing. Not, not being able to not eat most foods that other people cook and serve. And low-carb is not sustainable long term for me...and this basically is low-carb.
Maybe if I was eating dairy, it would seem easier. But, without dairy it just seems terrible. All the delicious foods involve dairy.
The authors like to claim that very few foods are off-limits. Which makes no sense, because the vast majority of foods are off-limits....unless you cook it yourself using THM recipes and guidelines. What they mean to say is that no food groups are off limits. So yes, you can have pizza, if you make your own crust using their THM guidelines. Yes, you can have cake, if you bake it yourself. But, you can't ever have pizza or cake that anyone else makes or serves. You can have cookies and crackers and ice cream all that...IF you make them yourself using their recipes. However, you can't have anything you might find in a store that is convenient or easy.
Having to cook EVERYTHING from scratch FOREVER is just NOT sustainable to me. Maybe I can do it for a little bit, but then life happens. Sickness, moves, pregnancy, new babies, periods of extra busyness and it becomes very much not sustainable. The fact that I tried this diet while having a 2-month old, homeschooling and trying to get back into working from home was probably not the best move. But that's how life goes. There is always SOMETHING.
If you like cooking and experimenting in this kitchen, I think this can be great. But if that isn't your thing so much, this is going to be more difficult.
It can get pricey. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it is definitely more expensive than the standard American diet. If you buy their sweeteners and baking mix and not-naughty noodles and collagen and whey protein and mineral salt, it definitely adds up. You can do the plan somewhat cheaper buying some of that stuff in a store, but it still going to be more expensive than the standard American diet where sugar and white flour are really cheap. And things like collagen and whey protein are expensive. Meat is expensive and the plan typically involves eating lots of meat, although you can do it as a vegetarian. It's just limiting even further an already limited diet.
What I'm doing instead: Good ole-fashioned healthy, sensible eating. Snacking on carrot sticks instead of chocolate chips. Reaching for an apple instead of crackers for a snack. Limiting and avoiding things like pasta and white potatoes. Eating lots of veggies. Making sure to get enough protein. Eating healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil...but not too much. Cutting out sugar. No dairy....but that has more to do with the fact that dairy seems to affect my baby. Although cutting out dairy is certainly helping with weight loss I am sure.
Yes...this is working. I am losing weight. Slowly, about 5 pounds in the last month. That is okay because you don't want to lose weight too quickly while breastfeeding anyway. I also think that slow weight loss is more likely to stay off. I generally like eating this way. I like carrot sticks and apples. I like eating lots of vegetables and fruits.
I only really have a problem with weight gain during pregnancy . Almost all of my extra pounds are baby weight (not just from this baby...all the babies).
While I have to work to lose weight after each baby (hence why it hasn't always all come off after each one), I generally don't need to work hard to maintain my weight. As long as I am eating fairly sensibly with occasional indulgences, I do fine.
I do use some stuff from Trim Healthy Mama: A lot of their recipes essentially just cut calories. They use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar or honey. They use oat fiber (which is zero calorie) in their baking mix. They sell a zero calorie, konjak root noodle called not-naughty noodles. Unsweetened almond milk (30 calories a cup) versus dairy milk (over 100 calories a cup) in smoothies.
What it really comes down to is that I think all the Trim Healthy Mama rules are just ways to help people limit calories and prevent blood sugar spikes so limiting calories is easier.
So, I am using some of their stuff. I use stevia in my smoothies made with almond milk or in my "trimmies" (a recipe from their book). I'm not a huge fan of stevia but I think it has its use when one is trying to use lose weight. I would not use it long-term, but for times when weight loss is desired, I think it can be useful. I use their not-naughty noodles and they are actually pretty good in stir-frys and soups. I made a homemade THM baking mix which I have been using instead of our regular gluten-free baking mix.. One of my children can't eat gluten, dairy or peanuts, so I'm already used to gluten-free cooking and dairy-free cooking. Using my homemade THM baking mix instead of other gluten-free ones adds nutrition and cuts calories. The baking mix has oat fiber, coconut flour, almond flour, ground flaxseed and gluccomann, so it's pretty healthy stuff.
I do think the diet is overall healthy in some ways. It basically cuts out anything bad and the sisters are good at making sure that what one IS eating is healthy and full of nutrients. Many of their recipes involve adding things like collagen (for extra protein) and using lots of nutritious ingredients.
It can get pricey though..so I don't put collagen in everything.
I am eating a lot of their recommended foods and trying some of their recipes, but I'm also eating a lot more fruit and other carbs than they recommend. I'm not worried about E meals or S meals or separating my fuels. I eat whole eggs with sprouted bread. I am mostly staying away from sugar and white pasta and white potatoes and trying to anchor all my meals in protein. I do have some treats however.
The diet is effective at controlling your blood sugar. That part is good. Eating their desserts and such doesn't spike your blood sugar or make you want more. Part of that is because they don't taste nearly as good (let's face it...sweets made with stevia will NEVER taste as good as foods made with sugar), but part of that is because there is no blood sugar spike.
Ultimately, I really believe that successful weight loss comes down to designing your OWN personal diet that works for YOU. We are all different. The sisters apparently found something which works for them, and which works for many other people. However, it doesn't work for me. I am however, able to take some good parts from it and use it to create my own diet which does work for me.
Since it just so happens to be Sunday, I figured I would snap a picture of what I wore today for My Sunday Best.
The skirt and boots are from Schoola. A super cool online gift shop. If this is your first time shopping there and you go through my link, you get $10 (and so do I!)