During my pregnancy, I gained over 50 pounds.
Six months later, I’ve lost all of it, and my weight is still going down. I’ve tried a lot of diets since high school, and it has always seemed that no matter what I do, the extra pounds cling for dear life. That is, until I found one simple trick for healthy eating that has the pounds sliding off like butter…which I get to eat a lot of.
And no, it’s not Keto.
In this post, I’ll share:
- My weight gain during pregnancy, and why it wasn’t healthy,
- Some fuzzy, underexposed, and generally scary pictures to give you a frame of reference,
- Diets I’ve tried in the past that haven’t worked, or haven’t been healthy,
- What I changed in my eating postpartum that finally started melting the pounds,
- An example of what I might eat in a day,
- The foods that I stopped buying, even for my husband,
- The resources you can use to get results,
- Some common questions you might have about this weight loss plan.
How I’m Losing the Weight Postpartum
My Pregnancy Weight Gain
How did it happen?
To give you an idea of what my life looked like around the time I got pregnant, my husband and I were renting a basement without easy access to a kitchen, and my work schedule was split between afternoon shifts on weekdays and overnight shifts on weekends. Needless to say, my sleep was inconsistent and my eating, not the most nutritious. So before my pregnancy even started, I was already gaining weight.
Thankfully, right before I got pregnant, we moved into our first apartment (with a kitchen!), but my work schedule did not leave me much time for healthy cooking. Once I was pregnant, I was so hungry all the time, and I did not have morning sickness to mitigate my appetite.
From this new apartment, my to-work commute took two hours one way (thanks, DC rush hour), and I worked 10+ hour shifts. My time at home was so limited that I barely had time to both sleep and shower before having to leave again. The meals I packed were frequently built on pasta or rice, since they were quick to cook, and I found myself having an extra meal due to the increased length of my “days.”
The amount of carbs and frequency of my meals combined with my pregnant body’s natural desire to store extra fuel caused the number on the scale to shoot up much too quickly.
The Grand Total
Not understanding just how impactful over-consumption of carbohydrates can be, I was a baffled by my weight gain. At my twenty week prenatal appointment, I had already gained the maximum recommended amount (around 30-35 lbs).
The doctor I saw at my next appointment marched into the exam room and almost without introduction, started in on my weight.
“Just between you and me, are you sure about what you weighed before getting pregnant?” I didn’t know exactly because I don’t own a scale, but based on past experience, I told her I was pretty sure within five pounds.
“Well then did you go crazy?”
I was completely taken aback by this barrage. I had known I was gaining weight too quickly, but I accepted it as a side effect of pregnancy. From that point forward, though, I was thoroughly self conscious of my weight and size.
My husband took a job in addition to attending law school full time so that I could be home for my third trimester to rest and start preparing for a baby. Having a “normal” schedule for the first time in a year was such a relief.
Even so, I kept gaining weight, and I didn’t know how to stop it. I hated seeing myself in pictures, and the combination of weight gain and thyroid swelling made my jaw all but disappear. In August, I hit my record high, and nearly died when I saw the doctor’s scale.
One hundred and eighty nine pounds…plus several ounces.
Had I drank one of the mini water bottles in the waiting room, I’d have tipped 190. I was so mortified and so ashamed. I decided that I would NOT gain any more weight, especially since my due date was only one month away. By the grace of God (and the normal progression of pregnancy), my weight started to decline slightly.
At my final forty week appointment, I was down six pounds. Since my peak weight in August, I’ve lost more than fifty pounds. Before I tell you how I’m losing the weight postpartum, I want to mention some of the diets and fads I’ve tried in the past that just haven’t worked for me.
Diets I’ve Tried Before
Since about the time I was ten years old, I started becoming aware of my weight. I was never significantly overweight or obese, but the older I got, the more I felt awkward and bulky around the other, slimmer girls.
Going into high school as an ugly duckling, I decided I had to do something to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I was able to lose a few pounds, but never came anywhere near my goal weight or size.
“The Military Diet“
One of the first ‘lose-weight-fast’ diets I found online was the “Military Diet.” It was a strange amalgamation of random foods, including vanilla ice cream, that together were supposed to stimulate weight loss. The online sources promised as much as ten pounds lost over the course of three days. While I did lose about five pounds the first time I tried it, subsequent attempts did not yield the same results.
Generally “Eating Healthier”
As I became more aware of my day to day eating habits, I tried to make a conscious attempt to consume more of the things I considered “healthy,” and less of the things that were “unhealthy.” While I didn’t gain wait, I also didn’t lose any.
Calorie Restrictive Diets
On and off throughout the end of high school and first couple of years of college, I tried dramatically restricting calories.
I was frustrated that ‘healthy eating’ didn’t seem to get me any closer to my ideal figure, and many of the girls around me were able to eat whatever they wanted (or appeared to) and still stay much smaller than I was.
Some weeks I ate less than 600 calories a day.
It was always a contest with myself to see if I could rack up fewer calories than the day before. (Also worth noting is that during this time, I was spending around 10-15 hours at the gym every week on both cardio and weight training.) I checked the nutrition labels on everything, and tried to avoid foods without labels since I couldn’t know the exact number of calories I was consuming.
I didn’t lose a single pound.
The Elimination Diet
Going into my senior year of college, I saw a nutritionist as a last ditch attempt to figure out some gastrointestinal problems. He put me on an elimination diet which basically restricted my food choices to meat, non-starchy vegetables, and berries. Literally; I am not exaggerating.
I lost over fifteen pounds in three weeks, but that sort of eating plan was not sustainable long term. The shift was so dramatic that when I tried on the strapless wedding dress I had just bought several weeks before, I had to hold it up or it would have slid down to my waist.
In line with the elimination diet, I had to reintroduce foods gradually over time, and once I did, the number on the scale began to creep back up. By my wedding, the dress fit again.
The Trim Healthy Mama Plan
At the very end of my pregnancy, I learned about the Trim Healthy Mama plan. I was nervous about starting a weight loss plan while still pregnant, so my goal was to just get through the last few weeks and jump right in once my baby was born.
Before getting too far ahead of myself, let me explain what the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan is.
What is Trim Healthy Mama?
Trim Healthy Mama (THM from here on out) is not a diet; as cliche as it might sound, it is a lifestyle from which your food choices stem.
You don’t have to cut out entire groups of food.
You can still enjoy your chocolate and ice cream.
In fact, you can have cake for breakfast. Yep, you read that right.
There’s no calorie counting. No macro tracking. You can eat until you’re full– it’s encouraged! In addition, mamas who are “on plan” enjoy dozens of other amazing health benefits, some of which I’ll touch on later. If you haven’t heard of THM before, this might sound crazy to you, like it’s too good to be true.
Surely, if all of that is true, you must have to drink some expensive magical root powder extract potion three and a half times a day and sprinkle it on top of your brownies to make the calories evaporate, right? Not even.
The reality is, you can adopt the THM plan today without buying a single special ingredient.
No matter your budget, family size, kitchen capabilities, cooking skills, you can be a Trim Healthy Mama. You can even eat at McDonald’s.
Here’s the secret I’ve been looking for my whole grown life.
How It Works
This is not meant to be an “Ultimate Guide to Starting Trim Healthy Mama” sort of post. At the end, I’ll refer you to some other resources if it sounds like something you want to explore. However, I do want to give you enough information in this post that you understand the general idea, enough to decide if you are interested in pursuing it.
It’s so simple, it’ll blow your mind.
If you have weight to lose, don’t tandem fuel.
What does that mean? On the THM plan, you separate your carbs and your fats. Basically, every meal starts with a solid foundation of protein, and then you choose to add EITHER fat or carbs. The reason? You can find a detailed explanation in Trim Healthy Mama Plan, but I’ll do my best to introduce it briefly.
I am not a nutritionist, biologist, doctor, or any other kind of medical professional, so please forgive me if I don’t explain it perfectly.
Your body uses insulin as the vehicle to fuel your cells. When you eat carbs, you raise your blood sugar, and your body releases insulin to transport this fuel from your blood to your muscles.
If you eat a high about of carbs, your muscles are busy and can’t accept everything your insulin brings them, so instead, your insulin is diverted to your fat cells.
Fat cells are greedy little devils and will gladly accept anything brought their way.
The healthy fats you eat are digested in a slower and more economic way, but if your muscles are still working on processing your carbs, the insulin will have no choice but to store this fuel as fat as well. No bueno.
Thus, even if you’re eating a “healthy” diet, you might not lose weight.
To avoid storing extra fuel, a primary focus of the THM plan is to manage your blood sugar and prevent insulin spikes.
Because of this, there are a couple of ingredients we want to reduce, or ideally, eliminate. Those are: sugar and white/refined flour. We want to choose non-starchy vegetables and low-glycemic fruits.
I’m not 100% perfect, but I have found this an easy plan to commit to and stick with.
My Success with THM
Getting Started “On-Plan”
I didn’t fully embrace the THM plan until a few weeks after Carrots was born.
I had tried to base meals off of the “no tandem fueling” idea, but my main focus at the beginning was staying alive while nursing around the clock. I don’t have a scale, so I don’t know exactly where my weight was at between my baby’s birth and when I started THM, but I felt like the weight was eeking off so slowly.
Interestingly, I’ve learned that slow weight loss is preferable while nursing because a lot of toxins are stored in our fat, so as we burn fat, we release those toxins, and we don’t want to share with Baby through breastmilk.
Besides that, THM doesn’t promise fast weight loss. It isn’t a fad diet, and healthy weight changes take time.
Despite the slower weight loss, I started noticing the benefits of steady blood sugar levels right away. During my pregnancy and the first few weeks postpartum, I was very stressed and anxious.
Before Carrots was born, I worried that postpartum depression would pose serious issues for me. I was normally moody and crabby, and I had a hard time even wanting to leave my apartment. Right away after going on plan, I started to notice a significant change in my mood and stress levels.
I’m very happy and thankful to be able to say that I never even caught a glimpse of postpartum depression, and I do attribute that in part to THM.
Balancing your blood sugar also helps regulate your hormones, and what is a significant contributor to postpartum depression? The wild shifts in hormones following childbirth.
At my six week postpartum checkup, my weight was 168. Twenty-one pounds down from August might seem like a lot, but before Carrots was born, I’d already dropped several pounds of water weight, and giving birth was probably an automatic ten+ pound shed. So I hadn’t really lost much, but that’s fine.
Every week, I was able to bring more clothes from my pre-baby wardrobe back into my life. I had no idea how my weight was tracking, but the way my clothes fit was changing dramatically, and I used a tape measure to monitor tangible progress.
Finally Something Tangible
To date, I have lost about five inches (!!) from the widest point around my rump, which is where most of my pregnancy cake–er, vegetables–got stored.
And it feels. So. Good.
That day you finally fit (I mean fit comfortably) back into your smallest pair of pre-baby pants is a day that gets recorded in history.
Six months from the time my baby was born, I’m back to my pre-baby size/weight, give or take some loose skin and stretch marks.
But I’m not done yet! THM is something I could (and probably will) maintain for the rest of my life. Now that I’m my old size again, I can finally pursue my goal weight, something that never seemed attainable without starving or depriving myself of my favorite foods.
What I Eat in a Normal Day of THM
A filling and satisfying meal can be very subjective from person to person. Someone might tell you they ‘pig out all day long’ and their meals are ‘huge,’ yet when you see them eat, they’re nibbling rabbit food.
But when I tell you I eat, I mean that I EAT.
A normal day of eating for me might look like this:
- Pre-breakfast: Trimmaccino (like bulletproof coffee)
- Breakfast: Chocolate brownie cake with any remaining trimmaccino
- Mid-morning snack: A ginormous (and I mean HUUUGE, like over a quart) “milkshake”
- Lunch: A big bowl of cinnamon-raisin oatmeal
- Afternoon snack: Chocolatey-peanutbuttery truffles rolled in “sugar,” and maybe another trimmaccino
- Dinner: Hearty lasagna with oven roasted garlicky Brussels sprouts
- Dessert: A fudgey cream-cheese mug brownie
And during the day I’ll probably sip 1-2 quarts of sweet iced oolong tea.
I’m a real fatty at heart.
My Biggest Challenge
I will say one of the most daunting aspects of THM for me was forsaking sugar/high-glycemic sweeteners and embracing natural sweeteners like stevia.
I always hated stevia, and it was going to crush my soul if I had to taste nasty stevia blends in everything I wanted sweet.
The first day I tried one of the on-plan sweeteners in my coffee, I said to my husband, “Uh oh…I don’t know if I can do this.”
But I gave it a shot anyway, and truthfully, your tastes do change. It only took a few days for me, and I couldn’t taste the stevia AT ALL anymore. It just tastes like the regular sweetness from sugar now.
One interesting side effect of going mostly sugar free is that when I do eat something with real sugar, it tastes sooooo overpoweringly sweet. Even the essential oil cough drops I have started to taste like candy.
It’s crazy; you don’t realize just how desensitized you become to the amount of sugar in things because there’s so much of it in everything. You also stop craving it, which makes it easier not to cheat. But I digress.
The Easier Aspects
The beauty of THM is that it’s already a well established community with a low-glycemic blood balancing alternative recipe to every food you love. You don’t have to give up anything, not even pizza and ice cream.
Now I’m not going to lie to you and say that low-glycemic pizza tastes exactly like a Dominos thick crust loaded up with the works. It doesn’t, and that takes a bit of adjustment. But it is good enough that it will keep you satisfied while losing weight.
And to be perfectly frank, is adjusting to stevia really more difficult than living every day with excess weight?
Is accepting a slightly different version of a food you love worse than looking in the mirror and feeling disappointed with yourself?
Personally, I’d say it’s a no-brainer. Any compromises I’ve had to make are minuscule in comparison to the benefits I’ve garnered on the plan.
It’s All About Food Freedom
Now, the Trim Healthy Mama founders Serene and Pearl have confessed to scraping the toppings off of pizza onto salad, and I say that is too much.
Such an act is sacrilege and I will never defile pizza in such a way.
If I am in a setting where everyone around me is enjoying insulin-spiking waistline-destroying pizza and I don’t want to sit by sucking on an okra smoothie, I will eat a daggone off-plan piece of pizza, and by golly if I don’t go back for cheesy breadsticks and seconds.
The whole point of THM is food freedom, and if I can’t make the conscious, informed decision to occasionally indulge in off-plan pizza or ice cream or doughnuts, it defeats the purpose. I know if I eat pizza, I’ll feel crummy and bloated, but within three hours, I’ll be back on-plan and within a day or two, be feeling good again.
Foods I No Longer Buy
Munchies and Nummies
Everyone has their own version of munchies and nummies, but for me, it’s just about anything with a good crunch, sweet or salty.
No matter how much I love THM and am dedicated to managing my blood sugar, if I have munchies and nummies in my house, I will eat them.
Self-control at a party or event is one thing. I can say no to someone else’s food, but if I have to choose between cheese-its and even something as simple as cooking an egg, I’m licking salty cheese powder off my fingers nine out of ten times.
Besides easy-to-grab snacky foods, I’ve also stopped purchasing any foods I know I can’t resist: boxed cake and brownie mixes, take-and-bake pizzas, ice cream, you get the idea.
Some foods that my husband enjoys aren’t a problem for me, like bread and pancake mix, but I know my weaknesses. Rather than making myself miserable or going crazy looking at my favorite foods without being able to eat them, I just don’t buy them.
Sneaky Fruits and Veggies
Our whole lives we grow up being told to eat more fruits and vegetables, an apple a day blah blah blah.
As adults, though, some of that produce can really trip us up and do more to stunt our weight loss than help.
Those are high glycemic, starchy fruits like apples, bananas, peaches, oranges, pineapples, mangos, and vegetables like potatoes and corn…these foods are high in fructose and hit our blood like a thick slice of cake.
Our insulin responds much the same way as if we were downing spoonfuls of white sugar, which means you might actually be storing your “healthy” smoothies and fruit salads as fat.
(Remember a few years ago when people went crazy with “vegan” forty banana smoothies and actually ended up gaining like thirty pounds? Yeah, that’s why.)
Once you reach goal weight, these foods can be reintroduced in moderation, but for now, they don’t help me, so I don’t buy them.
A Side Note: My husband is very supportive because being a trim healthy mama has made me more pleasant to be around and he appreciates my desire to be look good and take care of myself. However, it’s not my place to tell my husband what he can and can’t eat, so if he’s really craving a food or drink that would sabotage my progress, I won’t stop him. But, it will not stay in my kitchen taunting me all day long; it goes straight to work with him.
How to Get Started with Trim Healthy Mama
You can get started following the Trim Healthy Mama plan without spending a single cent.
You can find their books at your library, look up recipes online, read THM blogs, and cook strictly “no special ingredient” recipes. However, if you do have the flexibility to put a little bit of money into getting started, this is what I would recommend, and in my opinion, is the best way to achieve results with the THM plan.
1. Get Your Hands on the Plan
See if your library has a copy of either “Trim Healthy Mama Plan” or “Trim Healthy Mama” as you research and test the water. If you decide to stick with the plan, you’ll want to order your own copy for reference.
2. Test Out Some Easy Recipes
Check your library for the official cookbooks: Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook and Trim Healthy Table. They’re nice to own, but you certainly don’t have to.
Pinterest and the Googles are chock full of THM recipes and tips. My favorite unofficial resource is Briana Thomas. Don’t tell Serene and Pearl, but starting out, I actually preferred Briana’s recipes to the official THM stuff because her’s were simpler and required fewer special ingredients. (She also has two beautiful cookbooks, Necessary Food and Convenient Food, but you can find all of her recipes on her blog.)
3. Replace Your Sweeteners
If there’s any special ingredient I recommend starting with right off the bat, it’s an on-plan sweetener. Gentle Sweet is the closest THM blend to sugar in taste, so it can ease your transition from sugar to natural sweeteners as your tastes change.
Once you adjust to the taste of stevia, or if you don’t mind it to begin with, Pure Stevia Extract is the most economical option since you use it by the thirty-second of a teaspoon. I live on this stuff, and like I said, I don’t taste the stevia anymore.
4. Subscribe to the “Poddy”
The Poddy is the official THM podcast. Serene and Pearl are a hoot to listen to, and besides being uplifted and entertained, you’ll learn a ton about the plan from listening.
5. Remove Your Worst Temptations
Either finish eating them or send them to work with hubby. However you do it, get them out of your kitchen and don’t replace them. Don’t go easy; you know yourself. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be good and just not eat something. At the least, it’s not worth the mental agony.
6. Get Your Partner’s Support
While my husband was never negative or derogatory, I know he was not thrilled at my weight gain, nor did he want the extra pounds to remain a permanent fixture on my frame. He did not love me any less as I was, but he was supportive of my desire to feel good again, especially since he knew how gaining weight had impacted my own confidence and overall health.
While my husband misses having regular take-and-bake pizzas and box-mix brownies, he loves having his wife back. When I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t act like myself. And because Trim Healthy Mama is about food freedom, we can cook modified versions of our favorite foods together, and sometimes even just indulge in the regular stuff.
Without telling him, I made him a trim healthy birthday cake, and he loved it. He kept commenting on how rich it was! My commitment to the plan means that a lot of the time, he ends up eating healthier, too, sometimes none the wiser. And when he really, really wants something off plan, we either make the decision to enjoy it together, or he enjoys it privately.
Q: Can I stay “on plan” while pregnant or nursing?
Absolutely! The THM Plan has specific guidelines to ensuring you’re eating a proper balance of foods to support your milk supply and/or the needs of a preborn baby. It is very doable, and the calories burned while nursing can give you an extra boost!
I have been on-plan while breastfeeding for the past six months, and will undoubtedly continue on plan during my next pregnancy. In fact, I can’t wait to see how an on-plan pregnancy compares to my first.
Q: Is this another diet fad?
No, and far from it. THM promotes a change in lifestyle that focuses on food freedom and balancing blood sugar. I have been able to stick to the THM plan even while breastfeeding with a new baby, and have always been full and satisfied. The THM way of eating is simple enough that anyone can hold to it long term.
Q: Do I have to buy a lot of special ingredients? Is it expensive?
THM can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be. I can’t afford to use a lot of special ingredients every single day, so I have to be selective about which THM recipes I put on my weekly menu. I have prioritized natural on-plan sweeteners, and asked for other ingredients as birthday and Christmas gifts.
On the flip side, if you have the flexibility in your budget, the special ingredients really add a lot to the plan and allow you to make some amazingly tasty and nutritious dishes. I was turned off by the number of “optional” special ingredients at first, but I have come around to realize they are a fantastic resource. The ingredients are worth the expense once they fit into your budget, but the plan is very doable without them.
Q: Is it complicated?
Similar to the last answer, THM can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be.
I tend to like simple recipes I can commit to memory and whip up in minutes on a whim. With a baby, I don’t have time to spend a zillion hours chopping and measuring ingredients and then waiting for them to cook. You can remain on-plan without following a single recipe, or if you’re someone who especially enjoys cooking, the THM community has delicious, involved recipes that taste like anything but diet food.
Q: Do I have to count calories?
Striving for food freedom, the plan doesn’t require counting of any kind. You want to keep a general idea of the clock so you know when you can switch fuel types, and there are general guidelines, such as how many grams of fat or carbs should be permitted in each fuel type, but they are not strict rules. Once I’ve checked a label at the grocery store and know what works on-plan, I hardly ever have to worry about numbers at all. The best part is, there’s NO calorie counting.
Truthfully, I have no clue how many calories I eat in a day.
Q: What will I feed the rest of my family?
As long as your family doesn’t balk too much at the idea of eating “healthy,” they can eat on plan with you. Minor modifications (which you can find in the THM Plan) ensure your kids and hubby aren’t losing weight unnecessarily, but there’s no reason to be eating completely separate meals. In fact, the THM cookbooks are written on the assumption that you are using these recipes to feed a family.
Q: Is THM a keto or low carb plan?
No, definitely not. Your fat-focused meals will be low carb, but on plan you also eat meals that are carb-focused. Carbohydrates are very important for many of our bodies critical systems, like our thyroid and adrenals, and so are necessary to eat in healthy amounts. A low-carb diet is not ideal for long term health or sustainability, and THM is a plan you can maintain long term.
Q: How quickly will I lose weight?
Obviously, that depends on you and your body. THM doesn’t promise any weight loss in the first month, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have any. The commonly quoted safe amount of “two pounds per week” is probably a safe bet, and though it doesn’t sound like much, it does add up quickly.
My frustration has been that I gained the weight much more quickly than I’ve been able to lose it, but that was kind of my own fault, now wasn’t it?
What I did in the past was not healthy for my body, but if I were to lose weight too quickly or by faddish/unsustainable methods, that wouldn’t be healthy either, would it?
By the way, my mom has been on-plan part time, and she just hit the lowest weight she’s been in years. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!
Q: Is it vegetarian/vegan friendly?
The short answer is yes. Anyone can figure out how to separate their carbs and fats. However, the THM cookbook recipes use meat and dairy quite a lot, so you may want to preview a library copy to determine how much value the official cookbooks would have for you before purchasing.
The Last Thing I Want You to Know About Postpartum Weight Loss
I am not here to try and ‘sell’ you Trim Healthy Mama. Rather, I can’t help but share it with you because it has been such a life-altering game-changer for me. I have so much more I could write about how the Trim Healthy Mama plan has benefited me, but I’ll wrap things up for now.
You have the basic idea of how I’m losing the baby weight postpartum, and if you think THM sounds like something you’re interested in trying, I’ll let Serene and Pearl take it from here.
Whether your pregnancy weight gain fell within the normal or excessive range, losing weight should be healthy, manageable, and sustainable long term.
Your pre-baby body won’t come back overnight, but your old size is attainable. Personally, I don’t want my “pre-baby body” back; I want to be even better! Having a baby changed my body, sure, but I know I can make it even healthier than it was before.
No matter what you weigh, that number does not detract from what an amazing mama you are unless you let it.
My husband reminds me that I ate a lot of cake and doughnut holes during my pregnancy! What kinds of cravings get you into trouble? Tell me about them in the comments!
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