I’m completely overwhelmed by the response to my Trim Healthy Mama story. The kind words and encouragement I’ve gotten from you, sweet readers, brought me to tears. I’m so thankful to all of you who acknowledged the courage it took to talk about my struggle with food, and lots of you bravely stepped up and said “me too!” I’ve had so many people ask “How does the Trim Healthy Mama plan work?” I decided the next logical post is a description of the plan. There are lots of blog posts out there that do a much better job than I can, but I’m going to do my best to give you the bare bones basics.
Trim Healthy Mama was created by two sisters, Pearl and Serene, who did tons of research before they even began to write the first THM book (which in turn took them five years to write). The do a great job of explaining the science behind why we tend to gain weight, even when we think we are making healthy choices. It all comes down to glucose, which is found in carbohydrates, and the fact that our body stores excess glucose as fat. We also use and store glucose first, before we burn fat, so any extra fat we eat automatically is stored instead of burned. I always knew meals like a hamburger and fries were unhealthy, but I thought it was because it was full of empty calories with little nutritional benefit. Now I understand that all the carbs in the bun and potatoes overload my bloodstream with glucose, forcing my body to release insulin and store the glucose as fat. My body doesn’t need the calories from the fat in the burger either after storing all the excess glucose, so that gets stored as fat too. (The book does a much more complete job of explaining this…if you are at all interested in more of the scientific details please read the THM plan book. I’ve heard Why We Get Fat is another great resource for understanding the science of weight gain). The sisters took their new understanding and applied it to their diets, and the Trim Healthy Mama plan was born. It’s built on just a few guiding principles that form a framework you can apply to any meal.
Principle #1: Separate your carbs and fats
This is probably the most important part of THM. This is not a low carb diet, but it is carb conscious. Because of the way our body responds to carbs and fat, it’s important not to eat lots of carbs and fats in the same meal. You can eat a meal full of fat and you will still lose weight, as long as you limit the carbs you eat with it. A meal high in fat but low in carbs is called a Satisfying or S meal. But our bodies need the nutrients and glucose found in carbs too. A meal that is high in carbs but low in fat is called an Energizing, or E meal. There is a third meal type, a Fuel Pull or FP meal. It is low in fat and carbs, which forces our bodies to burn stored fat. When we vary our meals between S, E, and FP our metabolism stays revved up and we continue to burn all the energy from the food we’ve eaten, plus we tap into our fats stores. Hello skinny jeans!
Principle #2: Choose the right carbohydrates
Even though we need carbs, we have to be aware of the insulin response from eating too many. Foods like bread and white potatoes (and, of course, sugar) cause our blood sugar to spike. Our body responds by releasing insulin, which clears the glucose from our blood stream by storing it in fat cells. Goodbye skinny jeans. Foods that are higher in carbohydrates but not too high include quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans, most fruit, and oatmeal. These foods are fine to eat as long as you don’t pair them with much fat.
Principle #3: Wait 2.5-3 hours in between fuel switches. You want to burn up all the fuel from the meal you’ve eaten, whether that is fat or carbs, before you eat the other kind of fuel. So if you have an S meal full of fat, you will want to wait about three hours before you have carbs in an E meal. If you can’t wait that long, a fuel pull snack like greek yogurt or a yummy fat-stripping frappa (chocolate protein shake) is a good choice. You also don’t want to go more than 5 hours without eating, so your body doesn’t go into starvation mode.
Principle #4: Find substitutes for your favorite treats
No surprise, but sugar in any form is a no-no on the THM plan. Same goes for most white or wheat flour (sprouted wheat flour is allowed in an E meal). Thankfully there are some on-plan sweeteners that can be used to make those treats that would be very hard to give up forever. Stevia comes from a plant that is made into an all-natural sweetener. It does have kind of a bitter aftertaste, but when it is blended with different sugar alcohols it’s a pretty good imitation for sugar. Truvia is a popular stevia blend that can be found at pretty much any grocery store. Pearl and Serene have done an amazing job of developing recipes for brownies, cookies, muffins, cakes, and candy to help with those junk food cravings.
These are just a few basics to give you an idea of how the plan works. If Trim Healthy Mamas sounds like a lifestyle you’d be interested in adopting you will definitely want to read the plan book which explains the science and all the principles in much great detail. The cookbook is also an invaluable resource if you decide to jump on the plan. If you’re still not sure, here are a few pros and cons I’ve noticed since starting THM.
– lots of variety
I still eat almost anything, I’m just careful about what I pair with it. If I do have a cheat I know I can start over again in three hours with an on-plan meal.
– Dairy is allowed
My favorite S meals include cheese, sour cream, greek yogurt, cream cheese, and of course, butter!
– No calorie counting
Although you must be mindful of how much fat you have in an E meal and carbs in an S meal, you don’t have to count calories or track your food.
– Delicious substitutes for my favorite treats
Thanks to THM I’ve finally broken my sugar addiction, without feeling deprived at all.
– Guidelines for healthy eating that are easy to stick to once you understand them
We all want to make healthier choices, THM has taught me what healthy eating really looks like.
– It works
As long as you understand the plan and stick as close to it as possible, you will see results.
– Cooking from scratch
If you don’t like to cook, this plan will be difficult for you to adopt. However, if you’ve always wanted to learn to cook this plan will turn you into a chef!
– Planning and preparation
In order to be successful you will need to meal plan and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. (Since I’m a planner by nature I actually love this aspect of the plan, but it’s a little harder to be spontaneous on THM).
– Specialty Ingredients
There are ways to do THM with just what’s already in your pantry, but you will probably need at least a few items you can’t find at your local grocery store. Thankfully most health food stores stock things like whey protein powder, nutritional yeast, and oat fiber. And of course there is always Amazon. It does tend to be more expensive to eat on THM, but then it’s usually more expensive to eat a healthier, whole foods type diet, no matter what diet you choose.
– Self-discipline and self-control
The sisters believe in food freedom, and don’t give a lot of portion guidelines because they want you to figure out for yourself how much is enough. This requires quite a bit of self awareness and control, but again, so does eating healthy in general.
Clear as mud? 🙂 I know the fuel separating and guidelines can be confusing at first. In my next post I’ll explain the way I do THM, with lots of examples and some of my favorite meals. Thanks again for all the love and interest in my journey toward healthier eating!