WARNING (Ha, ha!): This is lengthy, but thorough. If you've been hearing about the new book, Trim Healthy Mama, I'm hoping this will answer many of your questions about the book and the lifestyle it promotes.
I was thin most of my life until after my first pregnancy. Not uber-thin, like a twig, but nicely shapely and thin. Pregnancies and a busy life as a homeschooling mama have kept me from working out as often as I've needed over the years...and my weight has suffered because of it.
And, I love chocolate. Yup. I admit it. Being honest here.
By the time I reached my early 40s, we had switched to eating mostly whole foods...alongside our chocolate. :) You know, whole wheat bread/pasta products (many homemade), lots of veggies, locally raised grass-fed beef, fruit smoothies with breakfast, eggs from my friend's chicken coop across town, coconut oil and red palm oil and...chocolate. We even drank raw goat's milk and then raw cow's milk for about a year...but hardly ever chocolate milk. Go figure. :)
But you know what? Even with eating so many healthy foods, we had no idea that we were messing with our blood sugar levels. We had no idea that I was pre-diabetic. When I learned that I was pre-diabetic, I was shocked.
Little did I know that combining a grass-fed, organic, natural steak with whole wheat pasta or a plain baked potato was wreaking havoc on my insulin levels!
That's where a new lifestyle book, Trim Healthy Mama, came into our lives a few months ago.
My doctor hadn't given me much information about how to reduce my risks of becoming a full-blown diabetic. All she told me was to "eat fewer carbs and lose some weight". She also handed me some pills to be taken twice a day, that deceive the liver (I think?) into putting less sugar into the bloodstream. I've learned that this is typical for doctors these days: Here's a pill; you don't need to change all that much about your lifestyle, because you'll end up diabetic anyway. It happens.
My doctor is a very sweet lady. I'm not being disrespectful. But after talking to a lot of people who have suddenly learned that they are diabetic or pre-diabetic, they are usually getting the same message from their own doctors.
After I had been on this medication for about 18 months and had lost around 25 lbs. due to the medication, a friend of mine accidentally learned that she was diabetic. How? By testing her blood sugar levels after her daughter checked her own levels during a biology experiment for their homeschooling curriculum. Her daughter's homeschooling science experiment potentially saved her mom's life! My friend's story has really motivated me to start getting serious about eating in an insulin-friendly way.
Three out of the four of us in my family were having some of the same issues: excess weight around the waistline, low energy levels, and craving sugar and carbs ALL. THE. TIME. Not very much fun!
While Elmer and our daughters haven't been tested for diabetes, I have a hunch that at least one of them would show up as being pre-diabetic. And within 10 years, I'd bet you that two of them would both have been diagnosed as being diabetic, just like me.
What to do?
I hear women all the time saying how hopeless it is to be able to lose weight. They have tried every diet under the sun. The problem is that their diets probably have some good pointers that are helpful, but when women get close to their target weights and start eating "normal" foods again, they put the weight right back on.
I wanted a change in our lifestyle, not just in our diet.
At the same time, I didn't want our meals to be filled with artificial sweeteners that aren't good for us. Splenda, aspartame, sucralose, maltitol, etc. were no-no's for our family.
I learned aboutTrim Healthy Mama in November or December and decided to give it a try. Prior to this, I had only been on one diet in my entire life - the South Beach Diet. I had lost 30 lbs. over a six-month time period, six years ago, but the reason I gave up on the diet was because every dessert was full of chemicals and artificial sweeteners like Splenda. Blech. Splenda was highly processed, and it made my muscles ache. Any homemade recipes I made with Splenda, including the recipes from their website and the back of the Splenda bag, tasted a-w-f-u-l. Since I kinda like desserts, that was a problem. The other problem with South Beach was that once I began re-introducing carbs like potatoes, rice, and bread products back into my diet, I was almost instantly "hooked" on them again and began to constantly crave them.
I know that I am a beautiful person no matter what size I am, and while that is a healthy view of myself as a child of God, it also - unfortunately - slowed me down from taking a healthier step into getting down to my ideal weight.
Trim Healthy Mama isn't a "let's lose weight quick" type of book. Using THM's method of meal planning is a lifetime plan, not a quick fix. If you want to lose weight quickly, try another diet plan. Do a cleanse (ugh). Drink a ton of water. Exercise yourself to death. Train for a marathon. Have bariatric surgery...because THM won't necessarily help you drop 60 pounds in 6 weeks. That would actually be unsafe. Trim Healthy Mama recommends that people plan on losing 4-8 pounds per month. That's do-able, and healthy.
What we love about THM:
- written in a very friendly and fun tone
- packed with information but in a way that isn't overwhelming
- adaptable to both the food purist and individuals who can't or don't like to make everything "from scratch"
- easy to use for those requiring gluten-free diets
- free of artificial sweeteners
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Plus eye-opening chapters on:
What kinds of foods must I avoid when using the THM plan? That's always an important question people seem to have when starting a new way of eating.
Well, virtually nothing is banned, even for those needing to lose weight - except sugar and many carb-laden foods. Unfortunately, even for the whole food purists, sugar calories are found in raw honey, organic maple syrup, date sugar, coconut sugar, evaporated cane juice sugar, etc. So even if I am eating sugar in its most natural form, my body still reacts to it in the same way as it would white table sugar. There go the spikes in my blood sugar levels. Not good!
However, lest you think you must give up all cakes, cookies, pies, etc., that isn't true. There are some amazing recipes for no-carb or low-carb desserts and breads on the internet! You'll find some here on my website, as well.
For people who want to or need to lose weight, they're going to want to tone down the types of fruits that they eat. We are primarily eating strawberries, blueberries (in very small amounts), lemons, and apples. Bananas and grapes are an extremely high sugar fruit, so those don't come into our home anymore; nor does orange juice or any juices. But see, the fruit group isn't completely eliminated!
THM doesn't eliminate ANY food group, which is really nice! I'm not drinking milk with my lunch or dinner anymore, even though I've had milk with lunch and dinner for the last 44 years. Wow. I'm drinking almond milk these days for dinner - the "30 calories per serving" unsweetened variety. When eating a savory meal, I really don't want a sweet beverage, so the unsweetened plain almond milk is working well for me. I never knew I could make the switch! But I did, almost overnight. Yet, our fridge contains heavy whipping cream, half 'n half, sour cream, cheese, and plain traditional Greek yogurt. See? Dairy products aren't eliminated!
Vegetables? We've always been a big veggie eating family. Lots of salads, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc. THM recommends we avoid the starchy, higher glycemic index veggies like potatoes, but we can enjoy sweet potatoes, and in limited quantities, carrots...most everything else is allowed!
Grains? Yes! They are allowed - certain ones, and only when eaten with the right kinds of foods to compliment them in THM style so that they don't go straight to our waistlines. We have learned ways to eat oatmeal for some breakfasts, sweetened with stevia or another THM-approved sweetener like xylitol or erythritol (non-GMO). We can eat low-carb tortillas and wraps. Yum! Also, THM pancakes taste like crepes and are delicious! We can even eat popcorn, as long as it isn't laden with butter or high fat.
Proteins? Yes! Lean grass-fed beef, chicken, salmon, eggs, cheese, and nuts are our primary sources of protein now. While the authors don't eat a few things themselves, like pork products and shellfish, they allow people to eat those foods if they feel comfortable eating them.
- We love the conversational tone of the book, making it very quick and easy to read.
- The focus on the whole body health of the person, not just what is eaten, is excellent!
- The ability to use this book well as a whole food purist or as a "Drive Thru Sue" (one of the categories of people who prepare - or don't prepare - food in their homes) is provided. Flexibility is the key!
- $35 seems higher for a cookbook these days, but this book is packed from page one to the end. You will not be disappointed! There's a reason why Trim Healthy Mama has hit the #6 spot already for books of its kind on Amazon.com - without any advertising, promotion budget, big publisher, etc. Wow!
- The types of meals aren't "weird" - at least, not to my own family. We've made adjustments to some recipes, but we always seem to do that with our cookbooks.
- The level of support from one of the authors, Pearl, is amazing! She regularly answers questions on the Trim Healthy Mama Facebook page as well as the private forum for THM users.
- The ease of not eating hardly any sugar and flour products for several months at a time just amazes us! We are definitely seeing great results from eating this way.
- I've appreciated the chapters on women's health, men's health, how this will work for pregnant and/or nursing moms, etc. There is a lot covered in this one book!
Challenges in using Trim Healthy Mama:
Our family has enjoyed almost every savory THM recipe we've tried, and we've tried a bunch of 'em. The dinners are great for our family; so are the lunches and sides. But I'll admit up front that my children are not picky eaters. Good thing, because they wouldn't have survived childhood. :) I've always said, "I am NOT running a restaurant here!" :)
However, I was trained to bake and cook using measurements most of the time, with measuring cups and spoons. This doesn't mean that I measure Every Single Ingredient in my home, but I do rely on seeing general measurements in recipes that I use. I guess I'm used to this because every cookbook I've ever seen, and every recipe on the internet that I've ever seen, lists exact measurements. I've always felt I could tweak the measurements if I wanted, or leave off an ingredient or add an unlisted ingredient into the recipe, but at least there was some sort of baseline from which to work.
While many of the THM recipes do contain exact measurements, quite a few of them don't. I remember a THM Chili Relleno casserole dish I was making, but because no pan size was given, nor the amounts of some of the other key ingredients, I had no idea how long to bake this dish! Yikes! So the dish ended up taking 45 minutes longer to bake than the recipe originally stated. By the time it was ready, my husband was overly hungry and a bit on the grumpy side. It would have been much better to have exact amounts listed in the ingredients, with the recommended size of baking dish for the recommended amount of time. Then, if I'd chosen to double or half the recipe, I would have a much better idea of what size of baking pan to use and how much longer it would need to bake. Does that make sense?
Lest I give you the idea that every recipe is confusing like this, it's not. Just some of them. And thankfully, I can ask on the Facebook group and get a quick answer most of the time so that I'll know how to proceed. Then, I just pencil in the info. in my THM book for next time. I also purchased a set of Cuisinart metal measuring spoons labeled with "tad", "dash", "sprinkle", etc., and those have been very helpful - really!
We also weren't used to the taste of stevia, which has a bitter aftertaste. It took us about 6 weeks to adjust to the taste of stevia until we were very happy with using it. Unfortunately, NuNaturals changed their formulation of their pure stevia extract in April 2013, and it no longer tasted good at all, even after a few weeks. We will be switching to a new brand of stevia extract which will be available by December 2013 or January 2014. I'll let you all know what that brand is when it becomes available, and how you can purchase it online.
We've found a couple of websites that have dessert recipes that taste better to us, and while they are low-carb or no-carb recipes, they are higher in fat. We've just learned not to have dessert as often.
We've also learned which natural chocolate bar to buy in our town that is low carb and sweetened only with stevia and erythritol. (There's only one type in the entire town that will work for THM!) We've also found the type of no-sugar, stevia/ erythritol-sweetened ice cream bars in our town that THM recommends. These are expensive, though, so it's not something we enjoy as a regular snack.
SOME UNUSUAL INGREDIENTS YOU MAY WANT TO PURCHASE:
Every household has their own set of ingredients that they keep on hand. Me? I have over 100 spices in my cupboard, and I use most of them regularly. Other moms will only have salt, pepper, and maybe a couple of other well-used spices. That's okay. So while cardamom may not be unusual in my spice cupboard, it may be unheard of for you.
That's why I hesitate to say that some of the ingredients used in THM recipes are "unusual". Many people still don't use coconut oil in place of shortening and other liquid oils. So for them, buying coconut oil is going to be an additional purchase of what they would consider to be an unusual ingredient. For my family, we've been using coconut oil for years, so it's used almost daily in our home.
There are a few ingredients that you may want to purchase if you begin using THM. You don't have to purchase these, though, to stick with the philosophy of the book. It's all up to you! It's really great that the book identifies lots of places to purchase the ingredients, and their Facebook page has a document in the Files section that shows people the best price options and where to purchase them. I've highlighted the ingredients that I feel you truly do need to use Trim Healthy Mama:
- coconut oil
- almond milk (or other similar low-carb/low-sugar milk alternative)
- low-carb bread options (recipes are also included to make your own flatbreads and other bread products)
- chana dahl (a lentil/bean type of thing; I still haven't purchased this)
- chia seeds (optional)
- low-carb pasta like Dreamfields brand (doesn't work for everyone who is diabetic)
- flax seeds or flax meal (optional)
- almond flour (unless you are allergic to nuts; then, you may need to substitute other non-carb flours)
- glucomannan (a natural thickener made from the konjac root)
- konjac noodles (optional)
- nutritional yeast (definitely optional; adds flavor to savory dishes)
- defatted peanut flour (definitely optional)
- quinoa (optional - can avoid recipes that use this although we enjoy this grain)
- liquid stevia drops (or people can experiment with using xylitol and/or erythritol instead, or Truvia)
- Pure Stevia Extract Powder (or people can experiment with using xylitol and/or erythritol instead, or Truvia - I'll provide more info. late 2013 or early 2014 about a new brand that you'll love!)
- whey protein powder (the brand they recommended tastes quite good; another brand we tried was not good tasting)
- xanthan gum (optional)
- Greek yogurt (traditional, plain)
I did order online via Amazon or from a couple of other sites recommended by THM:
Anything else that you should know about Trim Healthy Mama?
The recipe index in the back of the book lists recipes by title, not by type of food, so it was very hard for me to find pancake recipes, for example. Thankfully, one of the gals using THM typed out a new recipe index, sorted by modern methods, and this is available for free download from the THM Facebook page!
You won't find photos of the recipes in this book. I know, sad. :( However, the good news is that the authors, Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett, are already working on their second book, and I've heard that it will contain at least some recipe photos. Hooray for those who love photos of what they are preparing! Also, there are some photos of recipes on the THM Facebook page and the private forum pages.
The THM lifestyle is not recommended for young children, pre-teens, or teens unless they are overweight and need to get down to a healthy weight for their age and height.
Has our grocery bill gone up? Definitely, the first four weeks were more expensive. However, over the last 10 weeks, I've learned where to buy ingredients that are less expensive, and the items I ordered online haven't needed to be ordered again, yet. If your grocery cart isn't used to basically only holding single-ingredient items, and is used to buying highly processed foods, you will find that the amount of money you spend on groceries most likely will go up, especially if your entire family is eating this way.
If you are more of a "whole foods" type of family, and you're used to having mostly single-ingredient items in your shopping cart, then your grocery bill shouldn't shock you too much. Keep in mind, though, that I live in the Pacific Northwest, and our groceries here are very expensive, even though much of the produce and seafood are grown and caught here. Groceries are typically much less expensive in the south and the midwest. Apparently, it's cheaper to harvest seafood and produce here on the west coast and ship it to other parts of the country than it is to keep it available in our own little part of the world. Hmm.
Lastly, how much time do I spend preparing meals?
The first week was tough. I spent a long time flipping back and forth through the book to do our meal planning for the week; then, shopping for ingredients that I wasn't used to looking for, especially since our Walmart had just finished expanding to include a grocery section, was time-consuming. I did quite a bit more cooking than normal, just because all of us weren't used to figuring out what we could eat for breakfast and lunch.
Now that we're used to the THM methods, my husband or girls will prepare their own breakfasts or lunches - or I'll prepare them. It just depends. The point of it is, we do have more dishes to do on some days, but I'm definitely not cooking as much as I did the first two weeks. It was an adjustment for us all, but everyone is pitching in to do their part, so I'm not really spending any more time in the kitchen than I used to do.
Let's give away one paperback copy of Trim Healthy Mama to one of Joy In Our Journey's readers!
Entrants must be 18 years or older; only U.S. residents are eligible to enter this giveaway. I will select the winner of this prize using Random.org (via this Rafflecopter entry form, below).
I will be verifying the winning entrant's giveaway entry options to make sure they are valid. In the past several months, multiple potential winners were excluded from winning even though their names had been selected randomly as winners, because they said that they had signed up for email subscriptions but had not completed the process, which includes clicking on an email you will receive to confirm your subscription. An email subscription to Joy In Our Journey.com is not a requirement to enter our giveaways, but if you do use an email subscription option to enter to win, please make sure that you click on the confirmation email that you will receive. That will validate your entry. Thank you! :)