Trim Healthy Mama. Is This Diet For You?

Local experts praise new diet method

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Emily Kyle, registered dietitian, owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester.
Emily Kyle, registered dietitian, owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester.

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve likely heard of Trim Healthy Mama ( from the book “Trim Healthy Mama Plan” by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. Also known as THM, it’s an eating plan that offers both pros and cons, according to area health experts.

Not just for mamas, the eating plan basically involves nixing white flour, white sugar, unhealthful fats and artificial sweeteners; never eating carbohydrates and fat sources in the same meal; and eating every three hours. Those following the plan also choose for most of their carbohydrate intake fruit, vegetables or, occasionally, low glycemic index bread, such as sourdough bread.

Emily Kyle, registered dietitian, owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester and public relations chairwoman for the Genesee Dietetic Association, said that the emphasis on fruits and vegetables makes THM overall pretty healthful.

“While each individual results will greatly vary, any diet that has a major focus on consuming health-promoting fruits and vegetables while eliminating or reducing less beneficial foods like sugar, will likely help an individual to achieve better health while potentially losing weight,” she said.

Short-term and yo-yo dieting can lead to weight gain, as individuals return to the old habits that caused weight gain. Kyle views THM’s “lifestyle” promotion as likely more effective, providing they stick with it.

“Patients are able to adhere to the program longer, making the ability to see real change more likely,” she said.

But she added that the rigidity of the plan may make it difficult to follow, particularly eating every three hours. That aspect may be hard for very busy people, as well as not consuming fats and carbohydrates in the same meal.

“This could be potentially difficult for someone who is not able to spend a large amount of time carefully planning and predicting their meals ahead of time,” she said.

Heather Carrera, certified nutrition specialist at the integrative practice of Lesley James, MD, in Rochester, also felt impressed by the healthful aspects of THM, including the emphasis of healthful carbohydrates sources and mindful eating.

She cautioned that people with complex issues involving gut health, inflammation or hormone issues may not be able to follow THM.

THM’s insistence on eating fat and carbohydrates separately is something with which she disagrees.

“That is one of the things that slows down the absorption of sugars from carbohydrates,” she said. “I say, always pair a carbohydrate with protein and healthy fat. It slows down the absorption. I was never taught that separating carbs from protein has any evidence of helping people lose weight. Fat helps you say satiated and full and aids with the absorption of some vitamins.”

Many THM recipes listed online are dessert recipes, or ones geared to replace now-forbidden foods. Since they’re trying to improve dishes that include things like white flour, they often call for more obscure and expensive ingredients.

Carrera said that this may cause some people to decide they can live without the temptation; however, others may just cave in and go for the forbidden dessert or tempting baked good.

She also thinks that losing weight doesn’t have to be complicated.

“This diet may make it more complicated,” Carrera said. “You don’t have to do elaborate bread recipes. You could choose to not have bread. Most THM recipes are replacements for cravings, but I think it’s better to replace things with healthful foods and train your taste to crave healthful foods.”

She said that many people can lose weight successfully by eating whole, healthful foods in modest portions, staying active, sleeping well and enjoying the occasional treat (preferably homemade with healthful ingredients, “but if it’s not, it’s OK if you’re a generally healthy person,” Carrera said).

Marie Bieber, registered dietitian practicing in Rochester, liked the aspect that the plan recommends eating every three hours, a technique that may help keep the metabolism up and prevent overeating when famished.

“Make good choices, like carrots and hummus,” she said. “If you graze and never feel hungry, or if you reach for pretzels, crackers or chips, that won’t work.”

She also acknowledged that lower carbohydrate diets improves metabolic markers with weight loss.

But the massive restrictions of the plan threw up a red flag to her. Many people aren’t willing to completely stop eating favorite foods or to vastly modify dishes to make them acceptable to the plan.

“Focusing on what you can’t have isn’t the best option,” she said. “If you have a dessert, have one you’ll truly like, not a fake dessert. If people have a fake dessert, that’s when they will have too much.”