motherhood,  self care,  THM,  Trim Healthy Mama,  Women's Health

Trim Healthy Mama: a {sorta} quick low down

So there’s this book that is about the thickness of a local phonebook, at least in it’s first edition. Which I did not read, because the revised second edition is what populated on my Kindle after no library wait at all (mysterious, for a friend tells me she is 50 out of 70-something on her library system’s waitlist. Guess I got lucky). And I read this book, in about a day or five, and it seemed to be sensible advice, if a little magical in thinking.

riiiiight, keep fats and carbs separated by at least 3 hours at mealtimes, and shoot for lots of protein and add a little collagen or gelatin to these smoothies and above all AVOID THE SUGAR. 

And the weight will drop off.

But then, imagine my surprise when things indeed did start to move south on the scale. Though if you’re familiar with Dwija’s instagram, perhaps you already knew the punchline. #wow.

I’m not saying this is the simplest eating plan in the world to follow, because there is definitely a learning curve for how to properly combine (or rather, to not combine) fats and carbohydrates, but it does hold a significant advantage over, say, the Whole 30 because it doesn’t cut out entire food groups, nor does it require Draconian adherence to the rules. My favorite line of the sister-authors is “you’re only 3 hours away from your next slimming meal.” because I’d wager I’m not the first one to have ever blown a diet by letting a french fry or two slip through and then WELP, GUESS WE’LL START OVER ON MONDAY (shovels McFlurry into mouth.)

I like the balanced, this-is-how-a-grown-up-eats approach, and above all the lack of a starvation or total depravation angle. And the constant refrain that you are choosing to eat this way, and if you choose to “cheat,” it’s simply that: a choice. And one that doesn’t need to be filed under “shameful failure, do not proceed.”

One of the sisters is more of a natural foodie/purist who delights in fermenting her own sourdough and cultivating her own scobys (scratches head over spelling) for home brewed kombucha. The other one eats movie theater popcorn when she’s on a date with her husband. And then moves on.

That concept is the one I really like. The “make-the-choice-that-works-right-now-because-it’s-a-Christmas-party,” but that doesn’t careen into a spiral of shame and late-night burrito choices just because you “cheated.”

In other words, I think this must be what it’s like to eat like a grown up. And as a woman who was once, for a very prolonged period, a girl and then a young woman with an eating disorder, that has been a tricky balance to achieve. And continues to be. But I love the freedom THM gives, since you can eat pretty much all good food. Just not all at the same time.

Let me explain in a few quick paragraphs the basic parameters of the plan: (and this is as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s, so if your eyes are glazing over, feel free to disappear.)

  1. Don’t eat fats and carbs at the same time. Your meals are either E (energizing) or S (satisfying), and always built around protein. Now, this is an admittedly sad rule, because apples and peanut butter do not play nicely together in this universe. But! It’s for the sake of stable blood sugar, which, in turn, leads to pounds dropping off.
  2. The authors purport that your body runs on a twin engine metabolism, burning either fat or glucose, and if you give it one of the two available fuel sources at a time, it will burn through that one injection of fuel and then look to your stored energy supply (read: fat) and start burning through that next. (This is the part that seemed a little wishful to me. But at 14 pounds lighter, I can’t be too skeptical.)
  3. If you give your body both fats and carbs (glucose) in the same meal, your body will burn through both, never kicking into the reserve drive and burning your own stored fuel. If the meals are well-balanced, they’re known as an C meal, or a crossover. This is what pregnant or nursing women should shoot for to experience even, healthy weight gain (and then loss), and ensure a healthy milk supply. Is also a good template for growing children who are in no need of weight loss, but who can definitely reap the benefits of stable blood sugar. These meals look like more typical “healthy” meals: baked potatoes with butter plus steak or chicken plus grilled vegetables. All of those foods are good and healthy, but if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to skip the butter on the potato (and swap it for a more glycemic-friendly sweet potato) and make sure the steak or chicken is a lean cut. Ooooor, swap the potato out entirely for a pile of broccoli or asparagus brushed with melted butter and loaded up with melted cheese and maybe some bacon. And maybe add a little crumbled blue cheese to the steak.
  4. So, an E-meal might be: a bowl of oatmeal with a few berries on top + low fat cottage cheese + a sprinkle of a blood sugar safe sweetener (stevia or something like it. No fake sweeteners though, and no “natural” sugars like honey or maple syrup, since they’re still sugar once they hit your bloodstream.)
  5. And a S-meal might look like a plate of bacon and eggs and a cup of coffee with cream (and a little collagen power mixed into it. Because it’s tasteless and mixes well into hot things, and adds as super punch of protein.)
  6. And a Crossover meal might look like a Caesar salad with grilled salmon and a side of roasted sweet potatoes drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan. Fats and carbs, but evenly balanced. Won’t make you lose or gain weight.
  7. There are also things called Fuel Puels, which as best as I can figure, are super low calorie snacks to tide you over or to help move the needle if you’re really wanting the weight to come off quicker. These would include smoothies made with almond milk, clean whey powder, a little cocoa powder and some of their approved sweetener, and maybe with a little frozen okra (one of their favorite ingredients for gut health, and surprisingly wonderful at providing thickness in soups, stews, and smoothies) and a handful of frozen berries tossed in. Another good fuel pull option might be some celery with low fat cream cheese. Or an apple with a couple almonds. These FP meals/snacks are the part of this whole program that feel the most “diet-y” to me, and the authors emphasize that they are optional upgrades for people looking to move the needle quicker, or are experiencing major blood sugar resistance.
  8. Eat every 3 hours during the day. And don’t eat much, as a rule, after dinner time. It sends a mixed signal to your body when it should be switching into a different metabolic mode for sleep, and it keeps your blood sugar elevated when it should be tapering off in a healthy way as your metabolism winds down.
  9. If you’re having an E breakfast and are hungry again in an hour or less, you can have a snack, but it needs to also be an “E.” Same with S’s. Match your closely-spaced (closer than 3 hours) snacks to your meals, if you must have them, or else you’ll trigger that cross-over mode where you’re burning both fuels and therefore not losing weight.
  10. Don’t get stuck in a rut. As a dyed-in-the-wool early adapter of Paleo/Whole 30/Atkins/Southbeach/whaterver high protein thing is currently popular, it’s a little scary for me to eat oatmeal for breakfast without accompanying fats. Or to eat a dinner that includes brown rice or sweet potatoes but not butter and olive oil. But my body (so I guess bodies in general, if I can make a wild inference) likes the variety. So even though it’s tempting to eat nothing but S meals (because cheese), it seems to work best if I mix in at least 5 or 6 E meals a week.
  11. Don’t take it too seriously. Obviously I veered wildly off the rails in Italy and drank all the wines and slurped all the cappuccinos. But because I don’t eat gluten, I couldn’t go too wild, so no pastries at breakfast and no cones with my gelato. And GF pasta tastes like sadness the world over, so even dinner was a somewhat subdued affair. But, I still managed to return to America with an irritated sweet tooth that is having trouble setting down. La dolce vita not for nothing.
  12. You can do this no matter what your eating/cooking style is. Like to eat Paleo? This works for that. Like buying a lot of pre made ingredients and hitting up the drive though? Works for that, too. Don’t want to cook separate meals for your people? Definitely works for that. I’ve been making lots of sweet potatoes and rice and quinoa on the side and I either eat it or I don’t, but the kids hardly notice I’ve been cooking differently. We already don’t eat buns with burgers or brats, and if it’s Mexican night I just offer them corn tortillas or taco shells and wrap mine in lettuce. Which is the hardest part of this whole affair for me, so 60% of the time, I eat the dang tortilla. It’s a long game.

My hope is that this kind of lengthy synopsis is helpful to someone getting started with THM, and to anyone (hi, Christy!) who doesn’t feel like slogging through the entire book. But this is by no means exhaustive. I’ve found a couple great blogs for THM recipes, and there’s a ton on Pinterest. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes very second nature, and it’s easy enough to reset after, say, 11 straight days of “cheating” in a foreign country. Or trick or treating, I’d imagine.


This is not a great before and after shot, it’s more of a progress shot. But you can tell in the (sorry, blurry) left picture from August that I still look vaguely pregnant and my face and arms are bigger. Everything has slimmed out a little bit in the picture on the right, taken earlier this week, and while I don’t look pregnant anymore (yay!), I probably have another 20-25 pounds to go. Which is fine. Piano, piano. (Oh, and Dave has also lost about 7 pounds just from eating what I’m serving. Which is a pretty awesome bystander effect.)


  • Ann-Marie

    You nailed it by saying, this is how adults eat. Yes. I’ve had the fastest return to my prepregnancy weight ever (like six months earlier), just by following the plan most of the time. After I’m not nursing, I will need to cut down on the crossovers, but I do feel like I can eat this way forever. And if I choose to blow an entire meal? Ok, it’s really going to be ok. The choco secret big boy (seriously, what’s with the names?) is my go to for the afternoon to hold me over until dinner.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      yeah I probably should have added that starting the plan conveniently coincided with the one year postpartum mark, which is when my hormones seem to get their sh#t back together (provided I’m no longer breastfeeding. Which I’m not.) and start allowing my body to release, ahem, emergency stores of energy. But I really am happy with the way it’s working! I have yet to make the Big Boy thing, but I have been adding okra to everything and it makes stuff so creamy! And my kids think it’s something sweet because they always see it go into smoothies and then taste the sweetness of the fruit and stevia, hahaha

  • Karyn

    I was following this but nothing was happening for a month or so. Then I fell off the wagon and am the exact same weight eating whatever. I kept getting advice that some people don’t lose until they wean the baby but that’s not exactly motivating 😛 I’m so jealous of the people getting such great results. But I will sincerely try to be happy for you and Dwija, lol!!!

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Oh Karyn I really am remiss for not including the caveat that I am not nursing any more. I never lose that last 15 pounds until the baby weans *and* I’m at least 1 year post partum.

  • Amanda

    Good synopsis! Nitpicky, but an apple is always E not fp.

    I have not achieved Dwija results, but I’ve lost about 15 lb in 3 mo, “cheating” at least weekly. Because French fries. More than that, I do feel better, which was the real goal. Plus, I stay full, which makes it sustainable.

  • Anamaria

    Hi, I am an occasional reader of your blog but have never commented before (and I do things like review books and read philosophy in my spare time, so I can’t believe I am first commenting on a diet post!). I am nine months post-partum and very very very slowly losing weight (but only in the past month or so) and I keep thinking about trying this. BUT I wonder if maybe all I need to do is actually 100% quit the sugar for the weight to come off faster? Has anyone tried just no sugar/white carbs vs. THM? I guess all/mostly cross-over meals vs. THM, with the emotionally healthy outlook of “the next good meal is only three hours away”/I can chose to “cheat” & celebrate with food once in awhile/etc?

    And does anyone have advice on how to actually quit the sugar????? (Especially nap times when my own nap seems to not be able to happen for one reason or another… for awhile an espresso was doing the trick but not lately. Chocolate just seems necessary most days………. yikes.)

    No, I am not looking to lose all the baby weight while nursing/in the first year. Ten pounds up is fine with me. By the way, I do exercise a moderate amount on a frequent, regular basis (at least five days a week).

    • Melissa

      I’m interested to hear a reply to this question. I think this plan sounds so great and dwijas results have me like woah….but I actually don’t think I currently have the brain space to think this much about my diet, as opposed to just trying to eat healthy food? For those who have done TMH… what kind of mental/time commitment are we talking about here?? Sincerely, mom brain

    • Cami

      I considered THM but honestly I think the key is cutting carbs. Look up Maria Emmerich. She is all about eating this way 100% of the time but that’s not realistic so give yourself permission to enjoy something on a date with your husband or at friend’s houses. Depending on what you treat yourself with, you may feel terrible or feel fine. But expecting 100% causes lots of people to fail. Anyway, the idea is cutting grains, sugar, etc. She promotes low carb/high fat which is essential! The high (healthy) fat makes a huge difference and you have to ditch the 80s diet info of “fat makes you fat”. It’s so incorrect. A couple blogs share this eating style and recipes such as ” I Breathe, I’m Hungry” and “All Day I Dream About Food”. I’m nursing AND pregnant so I’m still eating potatoes and fruit regularly because I didn’t feel right on the full restrictive deal. But prior to getting pregnant, I lost 10 lbs by cutting out the carbs. I use Stevia a lot to sweeten. There are some great dairy desserts. It’s more of a moderate protein plan rather than high protein because Maria states that too much protein also converts to glucose (I think I’m remembering that right). So lots of veggies and moderate protein. I also incorporate nuts. I had to cut dairy because I’m not tolerating it well this pregnancy. Anyway, I highly recommend looking into this before THM only because you don’t have to remember all the meal types and combination rules. I’m happy for those who love THM but being pregnant with 3 kids under 5 right now and homeschooling, I don’t have the brain capacity to learn THM. Maybe this will work for some of you out there. To be honest, we already ate pretty healthy- lots of whole foods and homemade meals but cutting grains alone makes a big difference! And often you find out your body doesn’t want them much anyway. One more thing… Lots of people with serious ailments healed after changing to LC/HF eating. Tons of testimonials on Maria Emmerich’s site. Best wishes to you all!

  • Diana

    I’ve actually read that whole phonebook sized original book and was mostly convinced to start the plan but overwhelmed by the learning curve and the foods that I’d love but have to give up. BUT…I still think about it often and as I get older I think more and more that we should at least give it a semi-half-hearted try. At least for most meals. I think I could do it.

  • jeanette

    I guess I’m from a different period in food history and out of touch in the new food world order: what in the world is collagen powder? I’ve heard of collagen before in the context of skin products, but never as a food additive!

    So, I looked it up. Okay. Still sounds yuk to me and I’m not in the least way enticed. However, one thing I noticed it didn’t say mix it into food, but rather:
    “To ensure optimum digestion and absorption of amino acids, consume collagen powder on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before a meal.”

    Maybe that is helpful information about collagen powder use. Still not enticed! But I’ll have to see if my daughter knows about it (I’m quite sure she does!)

  • Emily Borman

    Thank you for the synopsis. I’ve been thinking about trying this but each time I start reading I get a little overwhelmed. Just curious, how would you fit Pioneer Woman’s Sunday Stew recipe into the diet? Leave out the mashed potatoes and call it an S meal? Substitute radishes for the carrots?

  • Haley Cadena

    Just read this while eating my E lunch! So excited you shared about Dwija’s success AND that I, too, got a kindle copy of THM very quickly. I’m nursing my second and have the same problem as you with postpartum weight while nursing, so this is a welcome beam of hope, for sure! Can’t wait to hear more! And excited to see if it keeps working (I think I must be on Week 2; lost a pound last week). I REALLY APPRECIATE YOU SHARING!!! 🙂

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