Preview: Why I stopped doing the Trim Healthy Mama diet after successfully losing weight on the plan.
Ask a mother what her favorite smell is, and she’d likely answer as I do: newborn baby. What parent hasn’t sunk their nose into the soft fat folds of their baby’s neck or their downy soft hair, and taken a deep whiff?
After the birth of my 7th, an extremely premature baby, my sudden donut cravings puzzled me. Most days, as I made the long trek from my suburban home to the downtown hospital where my baby was in the NICU, I caved to the siren call of the artisan donut shop nearby.
Finally, it struck me: donuts smell yeasty and sweet, similar to a newborn infant. Preemies don’t have that smell. Grieving the loss of a normal, healthy pregnancy and birth experience led to my donut obsession.
Many people land here after searching for information on the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan (hi!). I found the diet when I was eager to lose stubborn pounds I’d gained courtesy of those postpartum donut cravings.
I’ve since abandoned the plan for good. Why would I do that, when it worked? Here’s why I stopped doing Trim Healthy Mama.
The Problem with Diet Culture
Diet culture wasn’t on my radar several years ago. But now that it’s part of the collective conversation, I don’t want to support it.
What is diet culture? It’s the pervasive cultural belief that appearance and body size are more important than overall well-being, and the idea that controlling your body through strict attention to food is desirable.
Diet culture is dangerous.
In its mildest form, it creates this illusion that you cannot be completely happy unless you have the ‘perfect’ body shape. This can lead to low self-esteem and social anxiety. In its more dangerous forms, diet culture can exacerbate mental health conditions such as eating disorders.Babylon Health
So what’s the alternative? We know that growing obesity rates are a public health crisis. Should we disregard maintaining a healthy weight? No.
One approach gaining momentum among dietitians is intuitive eating. Here’s a list of its 10 principles.
I love this. When I embrace a more balanced approach to eating (like a French woman), I’m happier and healthier.
Separating Carbs and Fats is No Fun
The Trim Healthy Mama diet stipulates creating meals based on protein + fat, or protein + carbs. Sounds easy enough.
The problem is, carbs and fats together are what makes food delicious and satisfying! Bread without butter, pasta without olive oil, beans without cheese?
THM rules suck the fun out of eating, and eating should be pleasurable, full stop.
Mindfulness is essential to intuitive eating. Turns out, when we focus on pleasure and are fully in the moment, we eat naturally eat less.
Because protein + fat meals (in THM parlance, “S” for satisfying) are so much tastier, I ate them most of the time. That meant I wasn’t eating enough carbohydrates.
This is a common struggle among THM followers.
The official Trim Healthy Mama Facebook group is flooded with posts asking, “how can I eat more E (carb) meals?”.
Not eating enough carbs is a problem. It causes mood and energy levels to tank. Low-carb diets can also be dangerous for pregnant and nursing mothers and those with thyroid issues.
Sugar Alternatives Taste Like Sadness*
I enjoyed very few THM desserts. Out of the dozens of recipes I tried, only 2-3 actually tasted good. I prefer to indulge in a little sugar from time to time. Making sugar forbidden increased my cravings. This is a common occurrence according to diet experts. (source)
According to my research, stevia in small amounts is likely safe. But the other artificial sweeteners used in THM are controversial. Erythritol, an ingredient in THM Gentle Sweet is problematic. (source)
*p.s. if you get this reference, I’ll send you a Littmus lozenge.
THM Requires Obsessing About Food
Being “on plan” requires doing more planning, shopping, and thinking about food than you would otherwise.
Even if you avoid THM specialty ingredients, it’s simply more fuss to cook. Eating out “on plan” is difficult too.
In addition, some of the THM substitutions simply aren’t acceptable to one’s family. Cauli mash isn’t fooling anyone. My family craves real spuds.
Keeping everyone happy at dinnertime means spending more time in the kitchen preparing separate dishes. Ain’t nobody got time fo that!
Grocery prices are going up, and we’re all feeling the pinch. If you’re doing Trim Healthy Mama, saving money on groceries will be tougher.
Budget-friendly foods include rice, potatoes, pasta, bread. All are either discouraged on THM, or require specialized ingredients or exclusive, time-consuming recipes.
Beans are on plan for “E” (carb) meals, but eating them without fat, as required for the THM plan, is unappetizing. Love beans and want to eat them more often to save money on food?
Enter your name and email address to download my free printable, 30 Days of beans.
Dieticians Dislike Trim Healthy Mama
Bona fide experts in the field of nutrition have very little positive to say about the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan. A quick Google search will plainly show this.
The sisters (Serene and Pearl, creators of the THM merch empire) admit they have no education in the area of medicine or nutrition. Their books pull from their own anecdotal, not evidence-based experiences and experiments with various diets, and from reading books and studies.
The problem with this?
It’s extraordinarily difficult to understand medical journals as a layperson.
Reporters and bloggers often muck it up when they try to paraphrase research studies, often arriving at precisely the opposite conclusion as the researchers.
A health book written by uncredentialed people should be taken with a grain of salt. If the diet “works”, it’s because the follower is eating fewer calories, period. This is likely why people have success with THM: because the complicated rules naturally lead to less consumption overall.
I wonder why the sisters have dieted so much. They’re both willowy. My intention is not to criticize their physical appearance. But it raises the question, why are rail-thin women dieting in the first place? I legitimately wonder whether they’re orthorexic.
Abusive Ideologies: THM and Fundamentalism
Fact is, I did lose weight on the diet, and I got a handle on my emotionally-triggered sugar cravings. Here’s the crucial reason why I stopped doing Trim Healthy Mama.
Serene and Pearl’s mother is Nancy Campbell, publisher of the Above Rubies magazine. Above Rubies promotes THM but not the other way around. Why?
My guess is the controversy surrounding A.R. would hamstring the THM business. Trim Healthy Mama has exploded from just books into food, skincare, makeup, CBD and other supplements, kitchenware, and a licensed coaching business.
Above Rubies is controversial because it’s aligned with a number of harmful groups. The Quiverfull/Gothardite/International Basic Life Principles movements are fundamentalist, evangelical, patriarchal, high-control groups that encourage abusive practices such as spanking of infants.
These groups recently got widespread attention in the Shiny Happy People docuseries.
(Note: I’m respectful of everyone’s right to choose their religious belief, but not all religious behavior is worthy of respect, legal or permissible. Any comments supportive of the above-named groups will be immediately deleted.)
AR is not an organization I want to give any financial support to, even in the most roundabout way. I won’t link to AR here, but encourage you to do your own research about this organization and what they stand for.
A few places to start:
The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption – a shocking chronicle of abuses perpetrated by evangelicals in the area of international adoption. Don’t want to buy the book? Read this discussion.
Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement’s Adoption Obsession – this expose (and the book linked above) mentions Serene Allison, co-author of Trim Healthy Mama.
Trim Healthy Mama: Is It a Cult?
Because I was raised in a cult, I spent years educating myself on high-control groups and undue influence. Coercive control exists on a continuum, from constructive and healthy to destructive and unhealthy. Just because a group has rules, for example, doesn’t make them a cult.
However, THM shares some features of a high-control group. The many rules, the exclusive jargon, the moralistic talk of foods being “naughty” or “cheat” meals, the intimations that fatness is sinful, the shame felt by people who leave it – it’s legalistic in tone.
The first THM rule book was extreme. The sisters wrote another without all the fundamentalist stuff. Check out the Amazon reviews to see what I mean. Honorable mention for off-the-charts cringe: The section called “Semen- Gotta Love It!“. I’ve had 7 babies and I’m no prude, but that brought up a mental image I didn’t need to have about your “husbandly owner”. And no dear reader, I’m not making this stuff up.
One of the hallmarks of a high-control group?
The leaders must never be criticized.
When I asked for more information about the sisters’ adoption debacle in a THM forum, I was shamed and verbally attacked. Never mind the evidence, our savior leaders are flawless. Everything negative about THM or the sisters on the internet is lies, according to devotees. Now drink your KoolAid, I mean Good Girl Moonshine, or else.
Did you know that if you wear rose-colored glasses, you can’t see red flags?
How I Maintain a Healthy Weight Without Trim Healthy Mama
That will be a topic for another post! This one’s long enough. Meanwhile, I think I’ll enjoy a donut.
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