By Natalie, Contributing Writer
Sporting a hefty 619 pages, Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett is one of the newer healthy eating reads on the block, having been released in August of 2012. You might benefit from reading this book IF you:
- Struggle with your weight
- Have a hard time sticking to a diet
- Lack energy
- Are still learning about healthy eating and nutrition
- Want to learn a bit about the science behind food - in an easy-to-understand format
- Want to find out about (and avoid) some diet extremes that can lead to poor overall health
Why the Weight?
"Basic Physiology 101: Any extra padding around the waistline is related to an excess of carbs, creating a problem with the hormone insulin." (pg. 5)
The basic premise of the book in a nutshell:
"Never include large amounts of both fats and carbs in the same meal unless you are trying to gain or maintain weight." (pg. 64)
After introducing the reader to a raw food purist, a farming meat-and-potatoes gal, a fast food eater, and a whole grains fanatic, the authors explain how every one of these diets cause long term health damage by having the same effect on the hormone insulin.
The PLAN is to stabilize blood sugar by establishing a healthy cycle of eating that includes two basic types of meals:
- Satisfying: uses fats for fuel and will include animal proteins, butter, oils, cheeses, nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables and berries. A typical "satisfying" meal might include a salad with dressing and cheese, baked chicken, and roasted veggies tossed with butter.
- Energizing: uses glucose for fuel and will include animal protein and moderate amounts of starch from foods like beans, whole grains, root vegetables and fruits. A typical "energizing" meal might include whole grain pancakes topped with blueberries, maple syrup, and 0% Greek yogurt.
Children and those who are underweight or simply maintaining weight can (and should) mix both fats and glucose in the same meals. But for those who want to break the cycle of sugar spikes and insulin imbalance that are at the root of weight gain and other health issues, the idea is to take turns eating satisfying and energizing meals throughout the week.
Things I Like About Trim Healthy Mama
1. The authors explain the science behind weight gain, lack of energy, hormone imbalances, infertility and other related health issues in a thorough, easy-to- understand way. I was vaguely familiar with some of what they shared, but a few light bulbs turned on while I was reading.
2. "The Plan" is not rigid. It is customizable using normal food on a normal budget. I love the long-term approach to healthy eating that includes all the food groups.
3. They give a gazillion practical examples of how to make it work. (619 pages, remember?)
4. These gals are transparent about their past mistakes. I enjoyed reading about their adventures as younger women following nutritional rabbit trails riddled with error. It is probable that the honest sharing of their experiences will help other women avoid the same mistakes.
5. They include oodles of recipes covering dinners, lunches, breakfasts, desserts, breads, condiments, beverages, cultured recipes, sides, and crock pot favorites.
6. The reader will learn from practical chapters on saving money, exercise (LOVED this chapter), sex, balancing hormones, and skin care, along with Frequently Asked Questions.
7. I enjoyed the fact that the authors have two different personalities and food philosophies. I could relate to Pearl the most as I tend to be loosy goosy with “rules” in the kitchen, wanting to truly enjoy cooking and eating to the fullest, even if that means breaking rules here and there. The book is full of shaded boxes in which the authors banter back and forth with one another on different nutrition issues. They also use these boxes to share extra tips and inside peeks to their “real lives.” It’s loads of fun to read.
Things I Didn't Like
- Their recipes (overall). I love good food, and I like to think I'm a fairly decent cook. I wasn't really impressed with their recipes, but they do make it easy to figure out how to tweak your own recipes to make them healthier.
- I didn't like being told that when I go to a Mexican restaurant, I can't have chips. And when I go to an Italian restaurant, I have to bring my own Dreamfield's noodles. I didn't like being told that I couldn't eat bananas or baked potatoes.
Oh wait. They didn't tell me I couldn't do those things. They just suggested that if I wanted to lose weight and balance my hormones because I was all whacked out - these are some things I COULD do. You know. If I wanted to.
Well, I don't. In fact, I ate a banana ten minutes ago just to be able to write that.
- All authors but One are fallible.
- Don't get all your information from one source. (Not talking about the Bible here.)
- Chew the meat; spit out the bones.
My Favorite Chapters
- Foundation Foods--where they share several basic foods that are key to good health, including why they are important, how to include them in your diet, and where to find them. I was able to easily include some of those foods into our diet just by throwing them into our daily smoothies.
- Exercise--where they cover the latest research as well as the physiological benefits of various types of exercise routines. I discovered I am tragically ignorant in this area.
A Few Practical Changes in My Own Life
- More protein-rich breakfasts (eggs, cheeses and protein shakes) replacing our typical grain-based breakfast.
- Sprouted bread instead of regular whole wheat. The rest of the family will not switch, but that's OK. With the encouragement of this book, I've decided to make some personal changes that don't include them.
- Stevia to sweeten my coffee and fruit smoothies. (See my article on sweeteners for more information about the kind of stevia they recommend.)
- More wild-caught fish for dinner.
- Adding hemp seed, chia seed and whey protein to our daily kefir smoothies. (I've always thrown in raw coconut oil - another ingredient they recommend.)
- Using coconut sap sugar instead of white sugar in my baking.
- Added a stretching and exercise routine to my life that is totally doable with my busy schedule and lots of Littles.
Is the Book Worth the $35 Price Tag?
In a word, yes. I learned more from this book than I've learned from a dozen other similar books in the past ten years. Sure, there are a few things that I might not agree with completely, but in my opinion the book holds up its end of the bargain in providing the reader with a wealth of updated information as well as motivation to change.