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I’ve been following Trim Healthy Mama principles for 4 1/2 years now, and I’m hooked for life! The thing I love about this plan is that I can make it work for me wherever I’m living, whatever I’m doing; it’s flexible. However, what works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for others, and I’ve found that while some people can keep their carbs and fats separated and instantly drop weight no matter what they’re eating, my body isn’t quite so responsive. Today I’m going to share some Trim Healthy Mama strategies that are working for me and allowing me to actually lose weight in a very sustainable way.
First, my story in a nutshell…
I quickly lost about 20 pounds and was within 2 pounds of goal weight within a few months of starting THM at age 17. Then I went to Bible school for 7 weeks, kept traveling off and on for a few years, wrote a cookbook and was under a lot of stress while not getting much exercise (and trying to eat the food as fast as I made it so I could test more recipes) – you get the picture. I gained back everything I had lost and then some, and I was stuck. After my cookbook was published, I decided that I needed to figure out something that worked, because even though I ate the Trim Healthy Mama way pretty consistently, the scales were not budging! Oh, I knew where some of my pitfalls were…I just had to learn self-control. That was the hard part.
But little by little I put some pieces together and formed new habits. All these strategies are choices that I had to start making every single day until they became habits. And guess what? They work! I’ve lost about 20 pounds in the last year and am less than 10 pounds away from goal weight. I feel really, really good – better than I have in a long time. I feel healthy, I feel active, I feel much more at peace. Most of all, I feel like I have tools in place to help me keep losing weight and then maintain that loss indefinitely. That feels good.
The picture above was taken in May 2017, after I had been starting to figure out some of these strategies and had lost a little bit of weight. The picture below was taken on Christmas Eve 2017, when we were visiting relatives in Wildwood, New Jersey. I lost close to ten pounds between the two pictures and definitely toned up a lot of muscle!
(Throughout this post I’m sharing some pictures of things I’ve been eating lately.)
Contentment | This one is first for a reason. The principle of contentment has become my life theme in the last year, and it’s played a huge part in my ability to finally lose weight. Guess what, y’all? If you’re reading this, you have internet access, which means that you’re most likely part of a civilized world. (I speak in generalities, I realize.) We are spoiled people. We are picky people. We are entitled people. I speak of myself first and foremost! How much food do I actually need to eat to be healthy? Do I really need dessert with most meals? What are the eternal consequences of having to eat a food I don’t particularly enjoy because it’s what’s available? If we could learn to live more simply and not over-satiate ourselves on a regular basis, we would be happier people, we would be skinner people, and most importantly, we would be more effective in the kingdom of God.
Above: Contentment could mean Easy Chocolate Oatmeal every morning. No hardship for me; I love this stuff and never get tired of it!
My fiancé Ryan has been a big conviction and encouragement to me in this area. He is one of the most grateful people I know. He doesn’t expect much, but he genuinely enjoys the most simple pleasures of life and is thankful for the most trivial things. That’s how I want to be – in all of life, and in my eating habits as well! Ryan has taught me that less can be so much more. You can enjoy a small piece of cheesecake even more than a big piece of cheesecake if it’s something special to you and you savor every bite. After living like this for awhile, big pieces of cheesecake aren’t even appealing (I happily noticed this phenomenon when I made this Black Raspberry Cheesecake for my birthday in December). They feel too rich, too extravagant. There is beauty in simple things, like cucumbers with a little bit of Greek seasoning or Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of peanut butter. This doesn’t just go for food. Since making an effort to be a more content, grateful person, I’m more satisfied in every aspect of life. It feels so good to be satisfied, and it feels more healthy spiritually as well.
Eat to live, don’t live to eat. | This one goes hand in hand with the previous point. Food is definitely a gift to be enjoyed and I don’t see anything wrong with making an effort to cook yummy things, but food – and even a “healthy lifestyle” – can easily become an idol. If the preparation and consumption of food become an all-consuming passion to the exclusion of other, more important things in life, food has become an idol to me, and idols are sin. Even if you don’t really enjoy cooking but are getting overwhelmed because it feels like you’re always either creating dirty dishes or washing them, it’s time to simplify! Being a slave to food any which way you look at it is no way to live. If you’re scared of cooking or eating food, keep things simple (there’s nothing wrong with eating the same thing multiple times a week) and focus on savoring the creative process as well as the eating process. Chew slowly and enjoy what you’re putting into your body. If you’re scared to fellowship with friends because you don’t want a shred of sugar to pass your purist lips…(don’t take this wrong, but) get over it. There is balance on both sides of the equation! Learn to enjoy your food, but don’t let it eat you instead of the other way around! Food is a gift God has given us to sustain us.
Below: Super easy lunch or supper for the family: BLTs! Bake a pack of bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven, then use it to make sandwiches on low-carb wraps. Our whole family loves this. The kids usually use bread, but some of them have started to like Joseph’s pitas once in awhile! In the picture below I’m using a low-carb flatbread thing that we found at a discount grocery store. As long as each serving has 6g net carbs or less, you’re good. Find net carbs by subtracting dietary fiber from the carb count.
Chill out. | You’d be amazed at the effect stress has on your ability to lose weight! Do your best to get plenty of sleep (obviously circumstances can affect this, but we choose how to use our free time…), rest in God and allow Him to give you a peaceful state of mind, and slow down and savor your food instead of gulping it. All these things will not only improve your ability to lose weight and your quality of life in general, but they’re great spiritual exercises as well! Self-control is a Biblical principle; and for me, choosing to live a calmer, more relaxed life takes a lot of self control!
Exercise! | Living a more exercise-conscious lifestyle has really helped me lose weight! Let me preface this by saying that I have always considered myself to be lazy when it comes to exercising. I mean, I enjoy going out and doing things outside and playing active games, but exercise purely for the sake of exercise? I’d rather be reading a book in the comfort of my cozy flannel sheets and fleece blankets! But when I decided that something had to give and I wanted to get into better shape, I started running 4-6 times a week. I did 2-3 miles a day out in the pasture while listening to podcasts or WhatsApp messages from my boyfriend; and once I got over the initial, “OK, this is not fun and I’m out of breath and why am I doing this again?” – I loved it. I loved the instant results: growing back into old clothes, gaining better breath support for singing, and feeling so alive after actually exerting myself! Pretty soon, running was no longer a chore but a means of unwinding after a long day at my desk. It was fun – a time to recharge. It was a way of taking care of my body, and that made me feel good inside. I gained a lot of endurance and no longer got winded after 2 minutes, which made running infinitely more fun! In fact, I started running in various situations throughout the day when I normally would’ve walked. I looked for ways to get more exercise – such as doing squats while waiting for my tea to heat in the microwave.
Doing heavy exercise can stall or at least slow down weight loss sometimes because when your muscles are used, they retain fluid. Your body will catch up on your rest days, so don’t worry. Just remember – would you rather noticeably shrink or see a lower number on the scales? The number will catch up eventually. Having a higher ratio of muscle in your body means your body will burn more calories even when it’s resting, so just like it takes money to make money, you need to work hard and make an initial investment in your muscle to let you get to the point where you can live off the interest with only minimal work. 😉 (But by that point you’ll probably enjoy exercise for the exercise itself, so maintenance won’t be an issue.)
Can you lose weight without exercise? Definitely! Some people can much more easily than others, though, and having an extra catalyst to boost my metabolism made a huge difference in my ability to lose weight. And I like feeling stronger! If physical issues or time constraints limit your ability to exercise, just do what you can and keep the “exercise-conscious lifestyle” premise in mind. Just like little snacks all day long add up around your waist, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing 20 squats while waiting on the microwave will add up too!
Below: Since carrots are a little too starchy to be eaten freely in an S setting, I like to crunch on them with my E lunches!
Fill up on veggies. | Non-starchy veggies are low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients, making them the perfect thing to fill up on! Put your meals over a bed of salad to get your veggies in. Hamburgers, spaghetti meat, grilled chicken, leftover meatloaf, hard-boiled eggs, baked salmon, canned chickpeas…pretty much any protein source can become a salad! Putting frozen veggies in your shakes can be a great way to get a dose of veggies too. Okra and glucomannan both help balance blood sugar and aid weight loss, so this Chocolate Dreamy is one of my go-to shakes! (Plus it’s a THM Fuel Pull, so it’s on the lower calorie side!) Not a fan of okra? Try frozen cauliflower, like I did in this Pumpkin Pie Milkshake! (Stay tuned for more recipes of this type in my next cookbook!)
Below: Quick salad with lunch meat, a little sprinkling of cheese, and a combination of salsa and creamy Italian dressing on top. The Italian dressing has half the fat of Ranch (plus I thin it down with a little water) and roughly the same amount of carbs – watch out for excess carbs in lower fat dressings.
Bring on the gluccie! | Glucomannan is a natural thickener that helps balance the blood sugar and slows down the absorption of fats, aiding weight loss. It really fills you up so you don’t need to eat as much, and I use it as much as I can! The texture can take some getting used to, and some brands can be slimy, but I use this brand available from Netrition or Amazon and love it! I use it in hot drinks like this Cranberry Nog or hot chocolate a lot right now, and if a recipe doesn’t call for as much as I want to use (at least half a teaspoon), I just add more for a thicker, more filling drink! (Sometimes it turns into a hot pudding, but I’m good with that!) It works great to thicken shakes as well, like this Chocolate-Covered Cranberry Superfood Shake that combines okra and gluccie for a weight loss punch in very voluminous, THM Fuel Pull form. Gluccie can add a neat texture to baked goods as well, as I recently found out in these chocolate and vanilla pudding cake recipes.
For my current favorite go-to super-filling hot chocolate snack/dessert, I don’t measure, but I heat some almond milk and water (a mixture of the two for budget purposes) in a huge mug in the microwave. Add cocoa powder, whey protein powder, THM Pure Stevia Extract Powder, a little salt, and a lot of glucomannan. Add the glucomannan on top so it doesn’t get wet and clump before you use an immersion blender to blend it up smooth. SO easy. You can add some low-fat cottage cheese for extra creaminess if you like. Made as written, it’s a Fuel Pull. Don’t add cottage cheese and add some coconut oil for a THM Deep S drink. I have several hot chocolate recipes you can use as guides here in my recipe index if the idea of no measurements scares you. 😉 This recipe should be pretty close, and you can tweak it a little according to what I’ve written here if you like.
Cut needless calories. | One of the things I love about Trim Healthy Mama is that as long as you keep your carbs and fats separated, you’ll never need to count. We do not have to calorie count! I’ve never counted calories! However, being calorie conscious is a very good thing! As I said in this post, “Did you know that there are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrates, but 9 calories per gram of fat? We totally need fats to remain healthy, but we do need to be aware of the fact that they’re twice as calorie-dense as some other macronutrients. Trim Healthy Mama offers a balance of S (fats), E (carbs), and FP (low carb, low fat) meals for a reason! Switching up fuel types switches up calorie load.”
Pearl and Serene have talked about this concept a lot in recent podcasts, and it’s been a good reminder to me! Sure, we can have coconut oil, we can have butter, and we can even have peanut butter and cream cheese, but eating cheesecake after every meal is just overkill! Recently I’ve tried to focus more on the cleaner-burning foundation fats like butter and coconut oil (coconut oil is a great metabolism revver!) and keep the peanut butter and cream cheese to very moderate doses. You don’t need 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on each stalk of celery! Learn to savor a thin layer! Try a Chocolate Pudding Cake with coconut oil and glucomannan instead of a mousse made with whipping cream and peanut butter! Speaking of Chocolate Pudding Cakes (which are a metabolism-revving THM Deep S recipe, by the way), when I created that recipe I started with 2 teaspoons of coconut oil instead of a full tablespoon like I used to put in all my mug cakes. Coconut oil is a great fat to use, but if you don’t need a full tablespoon to make the recipe taste good, why add the calories? If you can use salsa as a salad topping once in awhile instead of a fatty dressing like Ranch, why not – or go half and half? It’s little things like that that will either add to or subtract from your overall calorie consumption. Even though the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating may rev your metabolism so you can get away with eating more calories than you could on other diets, the calories still matter eventually.
Below: Cabbage sautéed in a little butter and seasoned with garlic salt – one of my favorite side dishes!
Es and FPs are essential. | As I said above, carbs have less calories per gram than fats do, so E meals (healthy carbs, low in fats) and especially Fuel Pull meals (low in both carbs and fats) are naturally going to be lower in calories than most S meals. It’s important to juggle fuels because your body burns fats and carbs differently and switching up will rev your metabolism (and make sure you get all the nutrients you need), but do you see why it’s so important not to just eat S meals all the time from a calorie standpoint as well?! The longer I’m on plan, the more I love my E meals. I often eat 2 E meals in a day because I love them so much! When I first started, my body didn’t crave them – probably thanks to an overabundance of carbs for years and years – but now that my system has been “purged” of that excess glucose, I love E meals and find them very satisfying. Very soon I hope to put together a sample menu of what a typical week of meals has been looking like for me lately, so if you want to be sure to see it, you can click here to sign up for my email newsletter.
Get those E and FP meals in, but don’t be afraid of S meals. Just be conscious of not always piling on the fats at every S meal. You can have lighter S meals and heavier S meals and in-between S meals!
Below: Baked sweet potato topped with ground venison in spaghetti sauce and a little sprinkling of Parmesan on top. Odd combination perhaps, but it was a yummy E supper! Venison is very lean so it can be used in an E setting, while ground beef should be kept in an S setting unless it’s really lean and rinsed in hot water after frying to remove as much grease as possible.
Keep the snacks light. | I don’t often do Fuel Pull meals because E and S meals give me more options to fill up my family, but I regularly eat Fuel Pull snacks! Since meals tend to be more substantial, I figure that I don’t need to add a lot more food to my day, but I’m hungry at snacktime! Solution: a Fuel Pull that has protein but not many carbs or fats. Low-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with my choice of topping is a go-to for me. A teaspoon of peanut butter, a sprinkling of sugar-free chocolate chips, a drizzle of Hershey’s sugar-free chocolate syrup…the possibilities are endless. A Fuel Pull hot drink with glucomannan (like this Cranberry Nog) is another very filling, fat-stripping option.
Below: Low-fat Greek yogurt with stevia and frozen strawberries stirred in. Fuel Pull!
Do you really need dessert with every meal? | Even though I often don’t use as much sweetener as a lot of people do, I am a dessertaholic! They don’t call me the Ice Cream Queen for no reason. 😛 After starting THM and hearing the “you can have cake for breakfast!” mantra, I grew accustomed to having dessert after every meal. Unfortunately many of them were rather heavy desserts tacked on to already-heavy THM S meals, and that made for a lot of calories! I wasn’t necessarily gaining weight, but I wasn’t losing either! Over the past year, I’ve cut back on dessert a LOT and unless I’m making a recipe for the blog, I rarely keep goodies in the freezer. If I want something sweet, I’ll make a single-serve dessert or do a Fuel Pull or Deep S hot chocolate with lots of gluccie to fix my sweet tooth and fill me up. Not having large quantities of sweets on hand is helpful for me because if I have them, I’ll eat them! Hear me out – if you need to have THM sweets around to keep you from raiding the Chips Ahoy cookies, go for it. After being on plan for 4 years, I don’t really crave sugar very often, so that’s not much of an issue for me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I make sweets sometimes, but they’re more of a special occasion now instead of a constant. When I eat a rich dessert, I view it as part of my overall meal and try to cut back on my overall portions to “make room for” the dessert. If I want something sweet to finish out my meal, I might have a small piece of 85% dark chocolate – and I mean small! Not even a whole Moser Roth section! Just enough to give me that sweet finish on my tongue. If you savor it, it’s worth so much more!
Back to the contentment principle – do I really need dessert at every meal? No, I don’t. I’m still learning that!
Below: My E lunch consisted of a leftover baked sweet potato topped with Greek seasoning, salsa, and a little bit of leftover Budget-Friendly Cornbread. I eat weird things. I followed it up with a Fuel Pull gluccie hot chocolate with protein powder as my protein source.
Well, there it is…
If these sound like “desperate measures” to you, keep in mind that everyone’s story is different, and I’m just sharing what’s been working for me in case there are people out there like me who are doing Trim Healthy Mama faithfully and just can’t seem to get the results that everyone else is getting. Hopefully these things will give you some food for thought.
What strategies have been working for you? Do you have any tips to share? Please comment below – I’d love to read them and I’m sure everyone else would too!
Someone commented the other day on one of my posts that there’s nothing like an upcoming wedding to use as inspiration for weight loss. 😛 That’s very true, and being busy and eating very simply has sped up the weight loss for me in the last month or two. However, I’d like to clarify that I’ve been implementing these principles over the last year and was putting some of the pieces together even before I met my fiancé, so I think these things will work for you even if you’re not planning a wedding!
Speaking of wedding planning, things are going well, but at 38 days and counting, “wedding” and “moving” have taken over my life and “cooking” is kept very simplistic! I worked ahead on a bunch of recipes in December so I actually have recipes to post through the beginning of March, but it’s just a matter of writing the posts which may or may not get done depending on my schedule. I’m not stressing it right now – personal life comes first, and the idea of taking care of a husband and home before my blog is becoming natural to me far quicker than I thought it would, for which I’m very grateful! I love my job and always worried a little bit about whether I would be able to find the balance with it after marriage, but I think it’ll come and that makes me happy. 🙂 I fully intend to keep blogging and maybe even work on a few publishing projects for the foreseeable future (I’ll need something to do!), but Ryan comes first! (If you missed our love story, here’s PART 1 and PART 2.)
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