What Exactly Is the Trim Healthy Mama Diet?

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trim healthy mama

Trim Healthy Mama authors Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison | Facebook

If you spend any time on social media these days, you’ve likely heard of Trim Healthy Mama.

With two books (a long and a short version of the plan), a series of cookbooks, and plan-branded food products, the Trim Healthy Mama way of life has been taking the internet by storm.

Although the authors (sisters Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison) insist the plan is not just for mothers, it has been embraced mostly by women, who have flocked to its Facebook page to share testimonials of success, to Pinterest for its recipes, and to online message boards offering support and success stories to those newly starting out.

Jenne Page is one of those women who has been eager to share her successful Trim Healthy Mama (THM) weight loss journey with anyone who’s interested.

In fact, not only does she credit the plan with helping her lose weight, she insists it’s the reason she was able to get pregnant with her second baby after four years of trying.

“I’ve tried numerous diets my whole life and this is the one I felt the most successful at,” Page told Healthline. “I felt like it helped me to manage my PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome]. I truly feel the THM plan helped me get pregnant. It was a piece of the puzzle.”

She’s not alone in believing the THM plan helped to manage her PCOS (a hormone-driven condition). In fact, there was an entire thread on this topic on the Facebook page in 2017 — with plenty of mamas weighing in that they’d found similar success.

How the plan works

The plan is geared toward reducing insulin spikes. The main “rules” look like this:

  • Eat every three hours.
  • Separate fats and carbs, which the authors refer to as “fuel sources.” You can eat both — but never in the same meal.
  • Cut out all added sugars.
  • Keep carb sources to fruits and vegetables, or sprouted or sourdough bread, which the plan authors say are less likely to spike insulin.

Healthline reached out to Miranda Willetts, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD, LDN) who helps clients through her private practice, Well-Nourished, with questions about how some of these rules might be beneficial.

In regards to the claims about reducing blood sugar spikes, she explained, “Both sprouted and sourdough bread are low glycemic foods and would be less likely to cause insulin spikes than a white, refined bread. But it would depend on what they ate the bread with and how much bread they had.”

In regards to the rest, she explained, “I am not familiar with any scientific evidence that supports their claim that feeding the body two fuel sources at once can stall weight loss. Based on the amount of success stories out there, it sounds like there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that supports their program. But based on what I know, I would imagine the weight loss effects that are seen are due to increased awareness/mindfulness around hunger/satiety cues and food choices, as well as being involved in a community that offers guidance, support, and accountability.”

The desire to lose weight, get healthy, and feel fit seems to be a universal one in our society today.

But achieving those goals often feels out of reach for the masses. So they search for solutions that might just make that “perfect body” a bit more attainable.

Fad diets

We’ve all encountered fad diets at one point or another.

Atkins. South Beach. The Ketogenic Diet.

These diets tend to gain credibility for one important reason: they work. Healthline reported previously on the research behind some of the most popular fad diets.

Time reported in 2017 that the weight loss industry has swelled to a value of $66 billion. Consumers are flocking to anything and everything that promises to take the weight off.

The problem is that for many people, these diets aren’t sustainable. And while consumers may lose weight as long as they are following the “rules,” that weight often comes back when the diet is over.

A 2016 National Institutes of Health study followed 14 contestants on the television show “The Biggest Loser” for six years after the show.

Even after all the tools and education they had been given over the course of their weight loss journeys, all but one regained most of the weight they had lost while on the program.

In 2007, researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) analyzed 31 long-term diet studies. What they found was that people can initially lose between 5 percent and 10 percent of their body weight on any number of diets, but as many as two-thirds of dieters will put that weight back on within four to five years.

Trim Mama claims

This is perhaps why the THM authors say their plan isn’t a diet and certainly isn’t a fad.

Instead, this one falls into the category of lifestyle changes that may require a long-term commitment to see continued results.

Both sisters maintain they’ve remained “on plan” for many years and through multiple pregnancies. They’ve even gotten their families in on the action, with Pearl writing that her husband was able to achieve and maintain a 45-pound weight loss.

The key, of course, is staying on plan.

For Page, that wasn’t an issue… initially.

The THM cookbooks and Pinterest pages offer countless recipe ideas.

“I was able to make an on-plan food for almost any craving I had,” she said. “It really helps when you’re addicted to food. I was even able to eat bacon.”

But there were some downsides.

“There’s a lot of food prep involved with this lifestyle,” she explained. “You feel like you’re always cooking. There are fast options, but if you want the yummy looking on-plan glazed cookie, for example, you’ve got to make it.”

There was also one other drawback that caused Page to go off plan once she found out she was pregnant. The plan calls for replacing sugar with stevia.

“There’s some controversy about using stevia while pregnant,” Page said, “so I decided to not eat stevia and ended up derailing completely once I got pregnant.”

The authors address the controversy that stevia may contribute to infertility and miscarriages in their book.

“While solid evidence that stevia causes infertility or miscarriage is not to be found (even though multiple studies have attempted to do so), there are many reputable studies pointing to high blood sugar and insulin resistance as certain reasons for both miscarriage and infertility,” they wrote.

According to Willetts, “I’m not a big fan of food rules but limiting sugar intake is something to be mindful of and I appreciate that the plan allows for natural occurring sugars found in whole foods. I believe stevia could be a safe and worthy sugar substitute for someone trying to move away from added sugar, but not enough research has been done to make a judgment about stevia’s overall safety.”

Does the diet work?

The jury is still out on whether THM is a fad diet.

Becki Parsons, a registered dietitian and clinical exercise physiologist, has tried the diet herself and compiled all the research to either back up or discount the author’s claims.

She gives it her seal of approval, saying the plan “provides a structure for moderation that is mostly based on valid concepts and is likely to generate weight loss.”

She also calls for moderation, though, explaining that the plan “is more restrictive than necessary for health and weight management, but keep in mind that your lifestyle is your own, so you can choose parts of the plan that work for you and parts that don’t.”

For Page, getting back on plan since giving birth to her baby (who is now 8 months old) has proven difficult.

“We are currently in the middle of moving,” she said. “So while it’s possible to stay on plan, I have continued being off plan since being pregnant. I’ve gained the weight back now, too.”

Still, she’s a firm proponent of the diet.

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