Almost 5 short months ago, I was where you might be right now. A friend at Bible study had talked about Trim Healthy Mama a little bit. I had bought and started reading the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book, and I was about to jump off the cliff. I had no idea what I was doing, but the alternative was not pretty. In the months since taking the plunge, I’ve watched other new THMs navigate their first few weeks and the same sorts of things come up over and over. Here are what I think are the 10-ish main things to keep in mind.
NOTE: All page and chapter numbers referenced here are from the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book that is pictured here and available at many local book and discount stores, like Barnes & Noble, Target, and WalMart, and at Amazon.com.
1. Trim Healthy Mama is NOT a quick weight loss program
It’s actually not a weight loss program at all but a healthy way of eating for life. Yes, you will hear stories of people who lose 20 pounds in their first month, but you may not, and likely will not, be one of them. A healthy weight loss rate is considered to be 1-2 pounds per week and not a “turtle” loser or slow loss. You are going to feel tons better even before you start seeing results. I kid you not, just reading the book alone I felt 10 pounds lighter. And those first few weeks on plan I’d be sitting in bed reading a book and swear I could actually feel myself shrinking. Keep at it! Slow and steady wins the race!
2. Read the book
You have to really READ the book. Don’t just skim it. Gwen’s Nest has a handy Quick Start Guide that is a helpful study guide, but there is just no way around having to read the book yourself. If you don’t know the core concepts, it will be hard to be successful over the long term when real life hits.
3. Don’t read the whole book.
Yes, I know, I just told you to read the book and now I’m telling you to skip part of it. However, Trim Healthy Mama takes a while to completely digest (no pun intended) and some chapters will cause beginners to create excessive complications that will hinder progress. You don’t need to know about numbers (see point #6-Don’t Count Anything below) or the nuances of various types of S meals at this point. Stick with the basics.
Read Chapters 1-9 in the plan book.
Do NOT read Chapter 10. Don’t read this chapter until you’ve been on-plan awhile—I would actually recommend never reading it (sorry Serene and Pearl). If you can’t convince yourself it’s okay to skip the whole chapter, just read pp. 85-86 up to the “Numbers for S Meals” heading and stop. It explains why numbers can be a problem. See also #6-Don’t count anything below.
Skip Chapters 10-28.
Read Chapter 29 – Exercise. This will give you info on why it’s a bad idea to start THM and a new exercise program at the same time. If you have been exercising for several weeks or months or longer before THM, keep at it. Just don’t start THM and join a gym in the same month.
Start by using recipes from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook (if you get it) or blogs like Gwen’s Nest, Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen, and Briana Thomas and use the food lists from the book(s). Pair S foods with other S foods or FP foods. Pair E foods with other E foods or FP foods. Stay simple. Don’t overthink it. The more you cook other people’s recipes, the more you’ll figure out how foods go together and you’ll be able to start tweaking other things to fit THM. If you haven’t yet, join the THM Facebook Group. You will learn a lot of valuable information just by reading the questions of others and asking your own questions. Be warned though, this group moves fast and you may want to adjust your FB settings so you don’t get all its posts in your newsfeed.
Once you have a good grasp of E, S, FP and are comfortable, you can go back and read the rest of the book (including Chapter 10, if you want).
4. You don’t need to buy THM products or join the THM paid membership site to make the plan work
The plan won’t work any better if you buy THM branded products. It is not like Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, etc. where the whole idea is to make money off you by requiring or strongly suggesting that the program will work better if you buy the program’s products. You do need a few special things like an on-plan sweetener, on-plan flour(s), and coconut oil, but most of these things can be found at your local grocery store.
THM has also launched a paid membership site that has premium content such as how-to videos, articles, a menu builder, some pre-made menus, live chat, and forums. It is pretty reasonably priced–starting at less than $0.30/day, however, purchasing a membership is not going to make the plan work any better for you. The only thing that will make the plan work for you is you learning the principles and making a serious effort. Things offered at the site may be helpful for you (many mamas say the menu builder is a huge time saver for them), but they are not necessary to be effective.
5. Don’t weigh for AT LEAST 6 weeks
Weigh and measure yourself when you start. Also take before pictures. You don’t have to share them with anyone, but you’ll be glad you did after a few months. Now, here’s the big tip. Do NOT weigh yourself again for AT LEAST 6 weeks! The number on the scale only tells you your gravitational pull to earth. I like to think of it as how much the earth loves you. It has no relation to your worth as a person, what size jeans you wear, or even how healthy you are. Same goes for doctors’ beloved BMI. The flaw in BMI is that it is based on weight and since weight doesn’t tell you anything, BMI is worthless as well. It takes a significant amount of time—several weeks–to get comfortable and confident eating the THM way, and if you aren’t seeing the scale do what you want it to in those first few weeks, chances of getting frustrated and giving up are great. Stress also signals your body to hold on to weight. Just fight the urge and don’t do it! You’ll feel the changes and see them in how your clothes fit. Be patient and trust me on this one.
6. Don’t count anything. Not calories. Not carbs. Not fats. Not points.
This is part of that skipping Chapter 10 thing I mentioned above. When THM was originally written, it was written without numbers. The numbers were added in response to some people from traditional weight loss diet backgrounds feeling like they needed numbers. However, after spending 4 months at the THM Facebook page, I’ve seen too many people get so wrapped up in the numbers that meal time and snacks become a big math problem. My personal philosophy is that numbers are just another food prison we can put ourselves into. You can’t sustain counting for life. If you go by the S, E, and FP food lists in the book and maintain reasonable portion sizes, you don’t need to count.
7. FP foods are not freebies
This is a myth I see a lot on the THM Facebook Group page. They are not “freebies” that can be snacked on at any time. Yes, they are low-calorie, low-carb, and low-fat, but doing low-calorie all day will cause low-level fueling or fuel stacking and slow weight loss. The idea is to fill your “gas tank” with calories and then give it time to burn off those calories (and hopefully some more in the process). If you are constantly eating or drinking calories (even small amounts of them) your body is never going to run out of calories and won’t need to go to the backup calories (fat stores) you want to lose. You should wait at least 2-1/2 hours between each meal and/or snack (pp. 79-80).
8. If you don’t like a food, you don’t have to eat it
You eat real food that you like and just pair it as outlined in the book. Don’t like Greek yogurt? No problem. Don’t eat it. There are plenty of other things to eat. Personally, I do not do diet food. No smoothies, no frappas, no trimmies, no yogurt (aside from plain in recipes where it is hidden), no shakes, no Quest bars, no bullet proof coffee, etc. I don’t use protein powder or collagen powder except in recipes that call for it. I eat out at fast food places 3 times a week. I am not advocating that as something everyone should do (I shouldn’t even do it), but that is something that I choose to have in my life and with the better choices of THM principles (like no buns and no fries) I have been able to lose 25 lbs, 2-3 jean sizes, and 2-3 shirt sizes in 4 months. If THM required me to completely give up fast food or eating out and said I had to eat yogurt and salad, I would never have even tried it. There are some things that you do just have to flat out give up, but there are many good alternatives (don’t even get me started on spaghetti squash–way yummier than pasta and so good for you).
9. Stop whining
This point may hit a little too close to home for some and they’ll likely label me a first class word that rhymes with witch. However, I’m big on being real and calling ‘em like I see ‘em. If you look back to my 1 month progress post, you’ll see me whine too. I speak from experience and self-reflection.
The two most common refrains are “Why isn’t the scale moving/moving faster!” and “This is just too much work and you have to buy all these special ingredients!”. You didn’t get fat overnight, so why do you expect to get skinny overnight? Yes, THM takes time and effort. You have to reframe how to think about food and be honest with yourself about what you’re really eating—and what’s eating you. You have to actually cook, at least a couple times a week anyway. As for special ingredients, see #4 above. This idea of “I’m entitled to quick, easy, and painless” is a big part of why our culture is fat in the first place. How bad do you want it? You’ll invest your time, energy, and money in what is important to you. So how important is this to you?
10-ish. Trim Healthy Mama is NOT a weight loss program
Yep, I said it again–thus the 10-ish. If you are looking for quick weight loss without having to think much, THM is not for you. If you need a program that tells you what to eat, when to eat it, and how much of it to eat, either by providing prepackaged food or having you count something (fat, carbs, points, calories), THM is not for you. I am not trying to discourage you from trying THM, but I want you to go into it with eyes wide open.
If you treat THM like a weight loss diet, you will fail. Why? Because when real life creeps in (or smacks you upside the head, as it often does) your “diet” will fall by the wayside and the weight will come back. To be successful, you need to train yourself to eat a different way and a way that you can sustain for life—through vacations, funerals of loved ones, working 60 hours a week, chasing toddlers, driving the mom taxi, and all the other assorted stuff life will throw at you.