Disclaimer: I’m not a medical doctor. Please check with your medical doctor or licensed health care provider before you implement any of these ideas.
I don’t know how much of a minority I’m in. I feel like maybe more of us exist out there than we might think.
I have a big fat secret to share….
Here goes…I so hate to admit this.
What could it be? Just so know, it’s not that juicy. I’m not professing to a hidden gambling addiction, I’m not telling you that I have become an atheist, or that I am abandoning my husband or kids, or leaving my church.
Sorry, this is something much less dramatic. Without any more delay…I am officially announcing…
I’m someone that the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) diet plan has not worked for.
Yes, it’s true. Sob!
But…great news! I have found a solution! You can too!
As is my style, I always like to go into the back story and explain all the details. So this post gets long. If you want to skip all that, and cut to the chase on how YOU too can lose weight if you are what the THM authors call slow weight losers, aka “turtle losers” then skip to the end of this post. Look for the numbered list below the bold subtitle that says “So…are you ready for some solutions?“
I have hope for you, my friend, whether you lose slowly, or lost a lot at first, and then hit a plateau and haven’t lost any weight in a long time.
Now, if you want to dive deep into my details, here goes. Much as I love the diet’s creators, Serene and Pearl, I have to admit that THM hasn’t worked for me to lose more than 5 lbs total, ever. I mean, I absolutely adore Serene and Pearl. I think they are amazing. I love that they have studied nutrition and diet without any formal college degrees, just because they have a passion for it. I love that they took time out of their incredibly busy lives as homeschool moms of many children (as one myself I know how crazy hectic that lifestyle is) to study nutrition for weight loss. Then they dedicated themselves to practice their ideas, then develop recipes, and then get together to write three books so far about the plan. Another book is on the way. Wow, that’s a lot of work on top of being a homeschooling mom!
I love that they are Christian and and are unafraid to mention that in their books. I love that they used truth from the Bible to create their diet plan. I love that they are stay-at-home moms who have created a business out of sheer passion and determination. I love that they talk about things that I so relate to like childbirth, breastfeeding, homeschooling, whole foods, and things of my 80s teen years like peg jeans and scrunchies. I really get them and feel like we are soul sisters. Here they are, in the video below, explaining the plan.
I also love that with all of their passion, knowledge and energy they created an eating system that has allowed thousands of people to lose weight and get off insulin and other medications, like for high cholesterol levels. They are miracle workers. Because I love all of that about them, I wanted to be part of the crowd that lost weight with their plan. I wanted to be one of their success stories.
Reading stories of people who lost weight in the THM Facebook groups, I thrilled at hearing about women who took sugar free cakes to extended family birthday parties. I love seeing their “before” and “after” photos. Their cakes were happily gobbled up by unwitting relatives. The Facebook posters exulted in being able to help Grandpa get off meds for diabetes and high cholesterol, all while eating cakes and cookies full of hidden okra, spinach, or squash. It all sounded so deliciously, domestically goddess-y and heroic. That on top of being able to lose weight oneself seemed so romantic.
That’s why I have felt so frustrated. Something I wanted so much, for so long, has sadly eluded me. I worked the THM plan on and off for 3 years, from Fall 2016 to Fall 2019. In Fall of 2016, after having complications with keto to lose 10 lbs, which made me stop doing keto, I bought the first two THM books and devoured them. Initially, I started doing THM so I could lose these last 10 lbs or so. I wanted to lose those last stubborn pounds after losing 70 lbs doing a different diet (HCG injections, which are expensive, but totally work).
After months of being “on plan” I couldn’t get the weight off so I just decided to maintain with THM, starting in the spring of 2017. Maybe I should accept this weight, I thought. Maybe this was my “queen weight,” as they say in the THM world and I should just be happy with it since I am middle-aged and not princess age. OK. I was truly OK with that. I stopped trying to lose weight. All went well for two years. I maintained within a 10 lbs window from 2017 to 2019. I was happy that I could fit into size 8-10 pants, something that I couldn’t even do when I was in high school. It’s been fun to wear those ’80s floral capris that I always wanted to wear back then. The bright colors appealed to me back then but I felt I was too fat to look good in them. Now I confidently wear them, even though they are probably out of style LOL.
During this time I blogged a bunch about THM. I had a TON of fun using their cookbooks, trying out all sorts of recipes.
I still remember how giddy I was waiting for the Trim Healthy Table book to come out in the fall of 2017. I took it to my son’s football games that fall and lusted over the luscious looking food photos in between his plays on the field.
I learned how to use non-starchies to sub for my dinner whenever I serve carb-loaded rice, pasta, white potatoes, or noodles, to the rest of the family. See the video above on how to make “cauli rice,” or rice out of cauliflower.
This spaghetti squash below is my “go-to” sub for low-carb spaghetti noodles. It’s so amazing how God has made a low carb food that separates into noodle-like strands after you cook it!
As a frugally aware mom, I learned how to stretch ground beef from Serene and Pearl. In the video below, the sisters show to use mushrooms. I do the hack with cabbage.
Here’s my list of ten ways to do THM on the cheap for more frugal THM tips. This was before I got into cabbage. Add that to the list. My Veggie Gals girlfriend Joyce would be so proud. She has had a cabbage fetish for over a decade. Almost every single potluck gathering involves cabbage from her, LOL!
On this THM journey, I learned all about interesting ingredients I had never heard of before in my whole foods, La Leche League mothering life, like gluccie, baobab powder, erythritol, xylitol, and maca powder, among many others. I love the THM fun recipe titles like “Good Girl Moonshine, “Egg Scrammies,” and “Chocolate Monkey Crepes.” Of course, some people dispute the real/whole foods nature of xylitol and erythritol and powdered white stevia.
I played with flaxseed meal and oat fiber and almond and coconut flours to make grain-free baked goods, to mimic the THM baking blend. I adapted to the somewhat yucky mouth feel of baked goods made with just flaxseed flour and oat fiber, since when I made baked goods the whole family could eat, I had to leave out the tree nut flours for my allergic son. You can see my recipe adaptations in these links below.
chocolate (that’s what I have crushed up, as a topping, on my Greek yogurt above, I ate this almost every day over this past summer and lost weight!)
The Wonder Wraps in the video above are fun to eat but I don’t like spending that much time any more to make my lunch. They take some fussing to make so they don’t fall apart.
Pancakes. Yum! I love these pancakes made from oat flour. They taste just like white flour pancakes.
After two years of all this fun eating and recipe testing and tracking of food (not fun), I thought, OK, I’ve been hyperfocused on food and weight for years now. Can I just take a break? Can I feel like a normal human and just start eating and not track every bite in a daily diet log or even think about what I’m eating or how much? Can I have true “food freedom”?
So I let go of the hyperfocus. The spring of 2019. I stopped tracking my diet or counting carb grams.
After a month of eating whatever and whenever, attempting to eat intuitively, meaning, not overeating, the weight was creeping up and up. Summer was upon me and so was a big high school reunion, my 30th. I didn’t want to undo my 70 lb weight loss any more. So I started reigning in my eating. First I tried keto, for the third time. I gained weight. (More on how to fix that later). Some of my sibs really got into keto at this time. I remember telling my sister-in-law that keto no longer worked for me, that my body must be “keto-ed” out.
Then I did THM strictly with measuring every bite of food I took. No more than 10 g of carbs for S meals, no more than 30 g of carbs for E meals. After two weeks of that, doing the “THM Fuel Cycle,” two weeks in a row, I had gained weight as well. 5 lbs.
Noooooooo!!!! By the time fall rolled around, last year, I could only wear 2 pairs of my pants and 3 of my skirts.
Admittedly, part of the problem might be that I am perimenopausal. Pearl is the same age as I am and she said in a podcast once that she has shifted over to eating more carb meals to keep her weight stabilized during this time. I have tried that. Eating more carbs just increases my carb cravings.
Eating more E meals (carbs) may have worked for them in perimenopause, but not me.
Are you in the same boat? I know I’m not the only one. Even the photographer for the THM books, Rohnda, has admitted on the THM podcast show that she has not lost weight on their plan. Here is that podcast. She explains her perspective and I love her reasoning.
Anyway, if THM works for you, I am happy for you! Great! But if it doesn’t, I’m confident my plan will work (please check with your doctor first). I know some of you have got to be out there. Turtle losers, unite!
So…are you ready for some solutions?
Here’s what to do if THM doesn’t work for you. These are the three core elements I have relied on to lose 35 pounds in four months (from mid-April, two days after Easter 2020 to mid August 2020, shortly before I moved).
- Cut way back on your stevia, even ditch it.
Dare I say this? In the THM world, stevia is the much adored darling of alternative sweeteners, along with its companions, xylitol and erythritol. Those are added to stevia for the THM sweetener blends for baking, called Gentle Sweet and Super Sweet. If you want to eat treats and desserts in the THM plan, that means a combination of those things (stevia, xylitol, erythritol) unless you can manage on honey, which I have heard works for some.
I have a strong sweet tooth, so to satisfy it while doing THM, I was using up one 4 oz. bag of stevia a month. I used it to sweeten my hot cocoa that I was guzzling every day, to sweeten my homemade sugar-free chocolate, and also any cakes or other treats I made. That’s a lot of stevia!
Here’s how and why I stopped using so much.
I started my recent weight loss journey the day after Easter 2020. So that was the middle of April. At that time, my protocol was to pair the keto diet with eating one meal a day (OMAD). I still used stevia liberally, in my cocoa and treats. All went well for four weeks, to the middle of the May. I had lost 15 lbs in 4 weeks. Great! So far, so good!
Then, for two weeks, I stayed at the same weight. It would not budge.
On the first day of June, I was feeling desperate. I really wanted to find the missing piece to this mystery puzzle of why I had hit a two week stall. I did research and came across mention that stevia is insulinogenic. That means it causes insulin to rise in the body.
Whoa! What?! Stevia does what?!
In the THM world, you are just taught about avoiding blood sugar spikes, not necessarily insulin spikes, in order to avoid weight gain. Stevia may be low glycemic-wise, or low blood sugar inducing. That’s why it is allowed on the THM plan. Insulin, however, causes weight gain just as much as high blood sugar. The very word sounds like “insulate” right? That’s a clue as to what it does. Insulin in the body means that as a hormone, or chemical messenger, it is adding more fat, or insulation, to your body. It is taking sugar out of the blood and putting the sugar into your cells to be stored as fat. Those cells full of fat insulate your body.
I have felt this happening. I have tuned into my body enough to know that just like when I have eaten sugar, and get that warm feeling in my body because of the spike in blood sugar, I get a warmth after eating too much stevia.
In the book The Obesity Code, on p. 205 we see the following:
Wow! Sweet little old, innocent looking stevia can do that?! Well, yes! Dr. Fung, M.D. says so.
(If you want to read The Obesity Code, you can probably find it at your public library. Or check it out from scribd.com by signing up for a free 60 day trial here. Scribd.com is a monthly subscription service where you pay $9 a month to have access to over one million ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and sheet music and 60 millions documents. It makes my homeschooling mom’s heart flutter! And yes, that is an affiliate link.)
So…if you are at a weight loss stall I highly recommend you cut back on stevia. You don’t have to ditch it completely, but if you can, do so. Eating keto (which we will cover in point 3 below) will greatly cut back on your carb cravings so you can cut back.
When I learned of this insulinogenic fact about stevia, I immediately stopped drinking my stevia-sweetened cocoa for a month. I busted through my weight-loss stall, in ONE day! Hooray! Then I kept at it with IF and less stevia. Any more stalls I had would last no more than 4 days.
So…the terrific news is that as of this writing, I have lost 35 lbs in four months. Not a weight-loss record, but darn good respectable progress as a middle-aged woman, without using HCG or some other product! I can now fit back into all my size 6-8 pants and skirts. Yay! I still have my stevia sweetened chocolate and cocoa, but not every day, and I am still losing weight. This is the cheapest diet ever because you spend zero money on any product, and less money on food since you are eating less. This is the best diet for your wallet!
2. Cut back on how often you eat
That means doing Intermittent Fasting (IF). See the above book by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore to learn everything you need to know. This will space out your eating so your body has more time to use the fuel you already have in your body (your fat and sugar stores) instead of using the food you eat that day, which can make you feel like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere. This way, your body will lose that stubborn weight. In THM language, IF is the ultimate “Fuel Pull” (FP). An FP is any food in the THM plan that doesn’t add fuel (fat or sugar) to your body, but rather it “pulls fuel” from your body and burns it. That’s because it is low in fat and sugar, the two fuels your body uses. It is also moderate to high in protein. (Some people say that protein is not a fuel, but according to another book I read by one of the co-authors, Jimmy Moore, it can be. Gluconeogenesis is the process of turning protein into sugar, which can turn to fat. That can happen if you have too much protein, according to Jimmy.)
In the THM plan, a cardinal rule is to eat three meals a day, each spaced at least three hours apart. I have found that eating schedule to be MUCH too often for me, if I want to lose weight. I don’t know if it’s my genetics or being perimenopausal, both of those factors, or what. All I know is that once I started eating less often, using IF, I started losing weight and keeping it off. That leads me to my next point.
Eat OMAD (one meal a day), a type of IF
Like I mentioned earlier, I started my post-Easter weight loss plan eating OMAD plus keto when I did eat. This worked for a month as I just said. But then I hit a plateau for two weeks. So I started looking into ADF. A woman named Jess, in the video below, lost over 100 lbs doing that.
Do ADF (alternate day fasting)
This is another type of Intermittent Fasting. It works for some. If you stall on OMAD, you might consider ADF.
Get Scientific with DDF (Data Driven Fasting)
Another type of IF is “Data Driven Fasting.” That means to fast according to your physiological markers. This can end up being OMAD, ADF, or fasting 2-3 days in a row. (Oy! I didn’t think I could do that, but I have now several times and have gained new mastery over my body.) This means you check in with your body to measure how it is using its fuel stores, and eat based on what the measurement says.
Yes! Exact numbers. I like this. In fact, I love this!
This is exactly what I needed and what I feel is so missing in the THM diet. As someone who has a love for science so much that I have a college degree in it, along with a love of mathematics, I need exact numbers. I crave exact numbers. THM did not give enough of that to me. It was not precise enough for my body. The THM plan does say that if you want to eat E meals, eat no more than 30 g of carbs for that meal, and no more than 5 g of fat. If you want to go S, then do no more than 10 g of carbs for the meal. That’s it for numbers and it wasn’t enough for my body to lose weight. “The Plan” never says what the upper fat gram limit is for S meals. Apparently, I needed that, as someone who loves fat! I love my S and heavy S meals and easily overdose on them if not given an upper limit.
OK, back to fasting according to physiological markers, or data driven fasting.
Two ways exist to do this:
a) Measure your blood sugar with a glucometer. Watch the video above and below. (She does also go into measuring blood ketone level as well in the top one, just ignore that for now.)
If you want to get into the real nitty-gritty, learn about it here. Warning: the article is long. Skip to the part in bold that says, “How to use your glucose meter as a fuel gauge.” That part mentions a woman named Lori, who I found in a Facebook group and messaged for more info, which led me to the next method, below, using the scale. Lori says she lost weight to get to 129 lbs, perfect for her 5’5′ frame. She shares her story in the above videos, on a podcast
and in a podcast, turned into a YouTube video, below.
b) Weigh yourself every morning, using your old-fashioned bathroom scale. Study it out here.
My thanks to Rebecca Latham of the above linked lowcarbbetterhealth blog and her companion Facebook group for helping me learn more about this. That’s the method I chose to use to lose 35 lbs in 4 months. I just needed something simple, what with my choatic life of preparing and packing to move out of state. Basically the idea is to lose .2 lbs a day. Not two lbs, 2 tenths of a lb. If you don’t hit that goal, you fast for the day. I have fasted up to three days in a row. Every time I did that, I lost at least 4 lbs. I know this is not for everyone, but it has worked for me. You can get support from the Facebook group here.
Gin Stephens wrote a great book about IF and how she lost weight doing it.
I enjoyed listening to this podcast interview she did with Bronwyn, a mom from New Zealand who I completely identified with as she is about my age and did THM for a while. Bronwyn’s mom put her on a diet at age 11. Listening to her story made me realize that like her, I used IF in my early young adult years to lose weight. I didn’t realize I was doing it back then, but it worked. I lost 65 lbs my second year of college, in one semester (four months). I did OMAD along with going sugar free.
3. Eat a keto diet that is high protein, moderate fat, and low carb, using Dr. Phinney’s limits.
This is where all those high fat THM recipes come in handy, known as “S” meals for “satisfying.” (So keep those THM cookbooks and use those S recipes, just remember to cap your enjoyment of them within the macronutrient limits below. I also recommend you keep them to use during maintenance mode as well. The THM cookbooks are the most family-friendly cookbooks I know for pleasing the whole family including, men and kiddos, with real food and no sugar.) Once I stayed with S meals, my carb cravings went away.
To do this you eat the macronutrients in the gram amounts promoted by Dr. Stephen Phinney, MD of virtahealth.com. Use this chart below according to your height.
So you look at the chart and find your height and what the daily recommended grams of protein, carbs, and fat are needed for your body to lose weight. Then record everything you eat everyday, writing down the grams of carbs, fat, and protein for each food. Either Google it or use the amazing tracker app Cronometer which will tell you the grams of each. Total up the grams for each macro for the day and strive not to go over. You probably will at first, so don’t stress. Just figure out what you need to cut back on so you don’t go over, and do better the next day.
I know this can be tedious and some say it’s not sustainable. Well, neither is summer. Counting grams and tracking for weight loss is a season in your life. Dig in and do the work and you will get a great harvest of weight loss!
When doing S meals on THM, it was so easy for me to go overboard with the fat grams. Using the Phinney macros gave me the number I needed to reign that in, allowing me to lose weight.
I learned about the Phinney macros from my friend Tammi , a homeschooling mom of 9. She has lost over 200 lbs using these macros. Amazing! She has a YouTube channel, I encourage you to check it out. I love Tammi!
4. Supplement your diet with sole water, or just Morton Lite Salt, so you have the right amount of electrolytes. This is where I made my mistake before, summer of 2016. After months of keto, I got heart palpitations and abruptly lost my cycles. I figured something drastically wrong was happening. After learning from Tammi about how to do keto properly with the Phinney macros and proper electrolytes, It was smooth sailing. Dr. Phinney has an article about electrolytes here. I learned from Tammi to consume 2 1/2 tsp of Lite salt a day. That plus the Phinney macros is how I got keto to work for me, so I wasn’t “keto-ed” out.
That’s it! That’s how you can lose weight if THM isn’t working for you.
As I finished writing this, I’ve realized my method is actually a modified THM Plan. It means eating S meals, especially with limits on heavy S, and spacing them out more, according to your blood sugar levels, or your weight on your bathroom scale. If you don’t hit the goal number, you fast for that day. If you want to get even more nerdy, eat according to blood insulin levels. You get that number by dividing the blood ketone level by the blood glucose level, as Lori demonstrates in the video about the glucometer in the above-mentioned video, several paragraphs back.
I love what Lori says over here, in her bio for one of her podcast interviews:
“I am a 59yr old woman, NON-diabetic, who eats all foods, all macros, all available at a grocery store. I am at an all-time-low in my weight for my 5’5” frame: 129lbs. That’s smack-dab in the middle of the Normal column on a BMI chart. Most of my meals focus on a single fuel: carbs or fats, based on what I feel like eating – no plan, no schedule to follow. (Celestia’s note: Single fueling is part of the THM plan.)
“If social circumstances don’t allow for fuel separations, so be it; I can be flexible and eat what is available. Of greater importance than my bathroom scale number is the number on my glucose meter (https://youtu.be/4hC0kNOVb4g) and my ketone meter (https://amzn.to/33T1AJ9). My blood meters are my fuel gauges guiding me in my Data-Driven Fasting lifestyle (https://bit.ly/2XCRjAG).
“I ENJOY fasting times almost as much as I enjoy feasting times. Fasting saves me money, allows me more free time in my life, and offers me hope for aging well until God calls me into Eternity.
“Feasting lets me fill up to my heart’s desire, eating whatever I feel like eating…which sometimes includes non-nourishing choices. During fasting, I am resting my digestion and cleaning up my arteries through autophagy (https://youtu.be/XswcZrzJYiM).
“During feasting, I am nourishing my body and satisfying my taste buds. My fasting & feasting lifestyle has been influenced by Trim Healthy Mama (http://amzn.to/2qAWy53), Delay, Don’t Deny (https://amzn.to/2vIl98h), #DrBozRatio (https://youtu.be/FBovEjbiAOE), nephrologist Jason Fung (https://youtu.be/5r4ql0uBIOs), Type I’s Cyrus Khambatta and Robby Barbaro (https://apple.co/2MQPqds), the how-to book Complete Guide to Fasting (https://amzn.to/2XUM8MR), and the absolutely amazing weight loss fight endured by Eve Mayer in Life in the Fasting Lane (https://amzn.to/2ZSQfKC).
“One of my goals of my dietary style is to be metabolically flexible by encouraging my body to switch between the fuels of fats and carbs (https://www.facebook.com/BenjaminBikmanPhD/videos/637007857114550/)
“My ideals are: “Let thy food be thy medicine.” —Hippocrates. “Your diet doesn’t need a name or a belief system, just enough nutrients.” —Marty Kendall, OptimisingNutrition.com.”
Well said, Lori! That’s my goal too! To be able to switch between the two fuels and burn them both quickly, without carb cravings when I eat the carbs, and keeping my fat grams within reason, so that I maintain in the middle of my recommended normal range of a BMI chart. In the THM books, Serene and Pearl often talk about revving your metabolism, or being able to burn through foods quickly, as they do. I’m almost to that point! When I would read about that, I wondered what it would feel like. Since I’ve been doing keto plus IF, many times I have felt my body burning up fuel. It’s hard to describe but I can tell when it’s happening.
Here’s Lori below, making dinner with a recipe from the original THM recipe book, called Cheeseburger Pie. Yes, I am keeping all my THM cookbooks too. They are still valuable to me in this modified THM way of eating and deserve a place on my cookbook shelf. I hear they are writing a new one to come out soon, and I look forward to that one too. May this modified THM plan work for you too! God bless you on your health journey!