New Year, New Me

P1140303Several of my readers have asked me for a health update after the series I did on my health journey, and since tomorrow marks my one year Trim-aversiary (when I started Trim Healthy Mama), I though this would be the PERFECT time to talk about how much my life has changed this year!

Where I Started

In the fall of 2012, I was a mess health wise.  My life and my labs reflected the same thing: I was out spinning out of control. My hormone panel showed major imbalances.  My blood lipids had only one level in the healthy range, and my cortisol test came back tanked. Which explained why I woke up in the morning already tired.  I was also at the cusp of hitting 200 pounds, and rapidly outgrowing the largest size I’d ever worn.  I was miserable.

Brown family photo

On top of that, I’d had elevated blood calcium for over a year, and I’d just learned that I had a parathyroid tumor that was constantly pumping out a hormone that pulled calcium out of my body stores (teeth/bones, etc.)  This process also shuts down the body’s uptake of calcium, since there is too much in the bloodstream.

parathyroid surgery

Calcium is super great when it’s in the right place in your body, but you DON’T want high levels floating around in your blood, as this causes calcification issues, depression, memory issues, and more.  Calcification includes kidney stones, cataracts, hardening of the arteries…basically your body is stashing the excess calcium in all of the wrong places.  You can read more about my hyperparathyroid story here.

Finding My Way

I was a hot mess.  And then I read a book that changed my life.  On my way back from a family gathering on Dec. 30th, I finished the first third of the Trim Healthy Mama book…the first 200 or so pages prior to the massive recipe section explains the premise and the how behind the eating plan.  It was SUCH a great read…I had one revelation after another and it was like all of the pieces of diet and nutrition that I ever knew were finally clicking into place.  As soon as I hit the recipe section, I decided that I would start this full on as SOON as I got home.

Right after the holiday feasting is a great time to make resolutions about what you’re NOT going to eat next year. :)  Post-holiday bloat had set in, and I was pretty satisfied at that point to not gaze on another piece of fudge for several months…so it was a good time for me to give this my best shot. I was ready to give this an all out effort because I knew I had to make a change for my health.

With my docket of health issues, I was not by any means an ideal candidate for a quick weight loss plan…which works out, because THM isn’t a quick weight loss plan.  But BOY did it work for me!  January 1st was my first full day on THM.

Weight Loss Before and After (1)

This photo was taken on Jan. 3rd, when I’d been on plan for 3 days.

I confess: I just loathe dieting.   Dieting conjurs up all of the mental battles of ‘never having another this or that again’ and tiny portions and food counting.  L.O.A.T.H.E.  However, I also cringe looking at myself in the mirror and in these photos.  I just HAD to make a change.  Plus, this didn’t seem like a ‘diet’ anything close to what I’d done before.  This was a new way of understanding and using food.  It looked do-able and possibly even enjoyable.

Having only ever done one other type of ‘diet’ that involved tracking point values of foods, I knew I’d be in for a learning curve.  THM requires that you understand what’s IN your food as far as fats and carbs, and I was clueless as to which foods provided those two key nutrients.

A really sharp friend of mine had already warned me that THM is “a whole new way of thinking about food.”  She confessed that even though she’s done a lot of different diets, and considered herself a pretty sharp cookie, that this was totally different than other eating plans and does require a few weeks of focusing on getting the S & E meals down.(I’ve since been told that if you have a background in low carb dieting, that the learning curve is not quite as steep.)


My learning curve was about 3 to 4 weeks of re-reading, making cheat sheets, and labeling cartons and containers with a sharpie marker.  I was determined to learn this, and that meant making mistakes and learning from them, and just starting over a few hours later.  Then suddenly, about week 4, it all just ‘clicked’ for me, and I’ve never looked back.


Since my previous diet had been heavily carb-fueled, I started dropping bloat and weight pretty quickly when I cut sugar.  I lost 15 pounds the first month (my before & after photos are here) WOW was that motivating! :)  But seriously…sugar free?  I’ve read about other people doing that but is it really realistic?  Would it even be remotely possible for me to do this long term?   I was nervous.  I knew my old nemesis ‘the craving’ was lurking out there ready to take me down.

By week 3, I found myself in the passenger side of a vehicle that was turning into the Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop with the HOT FRESH NOW light on.  help!  I was so nervous, because I expected myself to respond like I had on previous diets: like a ravenous sugar starved Sasquatch.  Instead, I was amazed by my lack of crave.  In fact, I wasn’t even slightly annoyed or bothered by the other folks around me enjoying their warm doughnuts.  Seriously…somebody pinch me.  I have no idea how that could be me sitting there not angry and craving sugar.  Boy did I love that freedom!


This is what sugar free treats can look like! *SO* delicious! Click the photo for the free recipe.

I was learning to bake and make sweets all over again, since many of the new lower carb ‘flours’ and ‘sugars’ didn’t behave at all like their unhealthy counterparts.  But it was worth it!  I had some flops, but lots of great recipes, and I was able to use my normal family recipes for dinners with very few changes.

I got into a pattern of loss, stall, loss, stall, loss…week after week.  Many other friends would lose steadily each week, but Pearl assured me that this was just part of my body’s healing process and perfectly normal for some people.  I just attributed my stalls to the other health issues I was dealing with and plugged on.

I did begin using  Milk Thistle Extract (affiliate link) to support my liver and gall bladder health.  The liver is *the* major fat metabolism organ, and weight loss and periods of hormone shifts like postpartum and nursing often bring on gall stone attacks and sluggish liver issues.  I’d dealt with a gall stone previously after losing a few pounds and I did NOT want to endure another.

I found that as the months rolled by, my stalls were happening less and less, and they were shorter & shorter.  At about 3 months in, I was losing steadily just like my friends.  And not a peep out of my gall bladder this time thankfully. :)  All of the losses started adding up.  10 pounds, 15…30…40 pounds!  I couldn’t believe it!  After re-assessing my goals, I halted the losses at 50 pounds, and am VERY happy with where my body is today.


Biggest Surprises?

One shocker for me was that even during my stalls, my body would continue to shrink.  I don’t know why or how, but the scales would stay the same and my jeans would start baggin’. So use that tape measure or just use the ‘jean-o-meter’ to watch your progress and don’t get hyper-focused on the scale number.

Another crazy thing is that when I hit my ‘I look and feel good at this weight’ goal that I’d set, my body was significantly smaller than the last time I weighed that amount a decade or more ago.  And I know this because I still had the jeans I had been saving to get back into…they were too big (and too 90’s).  So word to the wise…start saving for a whole new wardrobe if you’re doing THM long term.

Never EVER before in my life have I ever had this much enjoyment *and* control over my body’s weight loss process.  THM taught me how food works with my body.  And boy was my body happy with it! Check out THIS happy surprise…my labs!

lipid comparison 2013

Top: My pre-THM blood lipid panel. YIKES!
Bottom: after THM (and before my surgery)…THAT’S more like it!

I was loving this way of eating.  My energy levels were returning, and I never had any of the ‘I can’t wait to be done with this diet’ type thoughts that had always plagued me in the past.  It was more like, “I can’t imagine NOT eating this way.  Seriously.  And when I get to goal weight, I can enjoy even MORE fun combinations of foods!”


Two big health-challenging events happened for me this year.  The first was a 4 week stretch of MAJOR stress.  I was rear-ended in an accident, and within a 24 hour window had a kidney stone attack that lasted for a week. (I really don’t recommend getting kidney stones if you can help it.)  The evening that I was finally out of pain, we got a call that the insurance company was totaling our vehicle and that we’d need to replace it by the weekend.  Not my most fun month. It was a blur of pain and stress.

I’d read that stress is ‘not good for your health’, and I got a good up close look at how that works.  The stress completely prevented me from losing ANY weight.  I stuck to the plan, because it was familiar and comforting, and I knew it was a good solid foundation for my body as I rode out the crazy weeks. When we finally got everything squared away and back to normal, by body swiftly dumped a total of 4 pounds over 48 hours. The. Craziest. Thing. There was no other explanation than the stress load being lifted.

The other MAJOR event for me was deciding to go ahead and get the surgery to remove the parathyroid tumor.

P1120567 - Copy

I am so happy to announce that I’m fully recovered.  My calcium levels are back to normal, and I’m feeling alive again!  I can focus my mind on not just one task, but sometimes even effectively multi-task!  I can REMEMBER things again without effort!  And I wake up smiling most mornings with the feeling of life and energy in my body that I haven’t had for years.  I feel fully alive again.


Can you see it? It’s *tiny*!

This year has probably been THE most life changing year for me.  I feel like I’ve moved the clock back a decade or two as I round up the hill to the big four-zero.  I’ve shed 50 pounds of weight, and gained a teensy scar on my neck that reminds me each day how thankful I am to have stepped out of that gray fog.  I’ve also forged friendships with so many lovely wonderful ladies over on the Trim Healthy Mama website groups, and have even gotten to meet and work with the wonderful and sweet authors, Serene & Pearl.

My family ended the year with a family vacation that we’d been saving and planning for years…and I’d been secretly dreading for years as well.  We went to Disney World!  Disney is NOT a relaxing vacation, and this time last year, I was truly dreading it.  I knew that I wouldn’t have the energy to enjoy the trip.  But this year, I was able to rumble ALL over Orlando with my family for 5 days straight.  I was on my feet for anywhere from 5-9 hours a day every single day, and we had a BLAST!  I just can’t express how grateful I am to be alive again and able to enjoy activities with my family.

family photo 2013

Next year, I look forward to making more memories with my sweet family, pursuing even better health and tone by adding in exercise to my daily routine, and continuing to work with the lovely ladies of THM that I’ve grown so fond of.  And food…more delicious, energizing, family-pleasing and joy-filled experiences with food await in 2014.

A very, very Happy New Year to each one of you, and I pray that this is a year that’s full of wonderful life changes for you and yours.

And now for LOTS more Trim & Healthy Inspiration…

This is my favorite thing about Tuesdays! I love the creative recipes, the exchange of ideas, meeting new bloggers, hearing inspirational stories and reading all of the comments from you guys. And guess what? Your clicks and comments mean a lot to the bloggers who link up here.

The featured post is the post that received the most clicks from last week, so ‘vote’ away on your favorite posts today, and be sure to leave some comment love for the awesome THM blogging community.


My top 3 picks from last weeks post are:

(click to open them in a new window)

Trim Healthy Tuesdays

Sourdough English Muffins [E]

Trim Healthy Tuesdays


Trim Healthy Tuesdays

Trim and Healthy Christmas Goodies [S]

The post from last week with the most visits is:

Trim Healthy Tuesdays

Top 5 Recipes of 2013


And now for this weeks Trim Healthy Tuesday Posts!

Bloggers: please see updated posting guidelines here.

Thanks so much for joining me on Trim Healthy Tuesdays!

[inlinkz_linkup id=355690 mode=1 pageSize=60]

Bloggers, wanna link up? We want to see your posts! See the little blue “Add Your Link” box just above? CLICK IT if you want to add your Trim Healthy Mama link to this post!
Psst…the Name blank means the name of your recipe or blog post. And you’re welcome, because I’ve already screwed that up nicely myself.
NOTE: Please review the Trim Healthy Tuesday linking guidelines here and be sure to backlink to this post when linking up:



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  1. says

    What a powerful testimony you have Gwen! You have so much to be proud of and grateful for. We as readers have so much to admire you for, which I’m sure we can all agree with that we do. Happy New Year to you!!:)

  2. Nanci Smith says

    It’s wonderful to see your progress over the year. You are a true inspiration to many people. I always send ladies over here when I introduce them to THM. Many blessings and much continued health in the New Year!

  3. theraulersons says

    Hi Gwen, your link for the milk thistle is not working (at least for me it is not 😉 just wanted you to know. Also thank you so much for sharing your journey…I now have some researching to do….very, very interesting! THANK you!

  4. Tracy Rose says

    Hi, thanks for your testimony, it is a real encouragement – it has inspired me to try again. I also started last January with my daughter. Of course, she being younger, got to goal weight very quickly. I lost a little to start with, about 10 pounds, but then it stalled . . . And stalled . . . And stalled. I finally stopped following properly, still followed general guidelines, but included too many crossovers and then lots of extra snacks etc. I gave in completely for the last month over Christmas. I am now heavier than I was last January and feeling very angry with myself. Please pray for me as I restart the journey this New Year.

  5. Jan Cantrell Stamm says

    You forgot to mention….you blogged so many inspiring messages & recipes & have helped so many of us get started on THM…thank you so much for giving of yourself when there must have been times when you thought you couldn’t. I praise God for helping you through this challenging year & restoring you to incredible health! One of the best things about THM that I have observed so far, is how it is drawing more and more gifted people to the program, and they in turn (following the example of Pearl and Serene) are helping others too…so grateful to be a small part of this amazing program helping people restore health.

  6. Collette Stoddard Buffaloe says

    I just tried #10, the Sweet Potato, Apple, Cranberry Crisp. Subbed out fresh sweet potatoes sliced fairly thin since my canned ones were in heavy syrup. And used a little maple extract instead of molasses. It was FANTASTIC! Very yummy!

  7. jennifer says

    I just wanted to tell you thank you for your post about your health issues and trying to get to the bottom of the cause. I have been doing the same thing for months. I have a beautiful 3 year old daughter who wants her mommy tp have energy again to play..doctors just told me that my symptoms are classic fibro and take some cymbalta. I said no thank you. I want to know why and how to fix it. A few weeks ago I found out vitamin d is 15. I did more research and found info on parathyroid. I went and got calcium blookwork today. So hopefully I will have an answer soon. Your posts are very encouraging, to never give up on your health. Thank you.

    • Its_Gwen says

      Praying for you to find the answers…health stuff is so complex at times, because the body is one organism with so many interconnected systems so it can be difficult to drill down to the root cause. Praying for clarity and wisdom for you! Keep fighting for those answers!

  8. LIsa Disselkoen says

    Thank you Gwen! I found your blog in November 2013 and bought the book and started December 1 and am 12 pounds down, slow but I feel so great! Thanks to you directing me to THM. I also am in love with your thin mint shake! Blessings to you and your family!

  9. C Lyons says

    You’re gorgeous Gwen, your family too; vibrant and joyful and I’m so glad for your healing!!! Thank you Gwen for all you share with us; such blessings here & on FB…

  10. Shay Eccles says

    What a story…I am exhausted..laughed, cried, amused, satisfied What a gal….what a “sweetie face” like a flower…thank you……………….

  11. Holly says

    An Ultrasound or a Sestamibi Scan to locate your Parathyroid Gland(s)? I too am a post op para surgery and had a scan to locate mine. Ultrasound wasn’t a viable option. This was a good read, if it were my writings, I’d want someone to tell me to proof read and fix my errors. I personally feel it speaks to credibility. Not meaning to be judgy, it’s just such a good article is worthy of it being at it’s best. Sorry the Boron didn’t work. Such an easy surgery, really. Best of health to you and remember to know your yearly #s- Cal and PTH.

    • says

      Holly, the surgeon I went to has pioneered an ultrasound technology that can locate the glands, and that’s what he used in office. The Sestamibi scans are not recommended by due to the high occurance of false negatives. They can be a useful tool, but they’re not foolproof like testing is.

      I was told (and read on that the risk of recurrence is very, very, very slim. As in they never see a patient twice for this. And my surgeon didn’t recommend follow up labs after the initial one that confirmed the levels in the safe zone again.

      Hope you’re feeling better too! Glad you had a great outcome with your surgery. :)

  12. says

    Where did you go to find a surgeon? I also have elevated calcium levels, and for sure have parathyroid disease (I’ve been diagnosed), but have held off on the surgery. As a singer, I don’t want them messing with my neck, so we’ve just been watching what happens to my calcium levels. Your article, though has made me re-think my decision. I live in rural Missouri, but not far from St. Louis.

    BTW, I always go to natural remedied too, and love Mountain Rose herbs. Glad I found your blog.

    • says

      Hi Yvonne,
      I searched for a parathyroid specialist in the Atlanta area, and found Dr. Parihk. He has developed an ultrasound procedure that’s very effective in pinpointing the gland that’s bad, and does multiple Parathyroid surgeries weekly. He’s very skilled, and did an amazing job on my surgery. I highly recommend him. There are not many surgeons with this specialty, and because of the delicate area and proximity to the thyroid gland, I really wanted someone who knew what they were doing.

    • JP says

      Curious if you found a good surgeon in St. Louis area, which is where I live and appreciate all the info from Gwen.

  13. Elizabeth says

    I am so grateful I came across your blog on pintrest. I read it from front to back in one afternoon. I am 30 years old and have felt something was “off” for several years now. I always thought it was just what happens when you get older and I had 3 young kids that kept me exhausted on a daily. Two years ago we found out that my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and lung cancer, shortly after that while going through the wringer of testing, they determined she also had hyperparathyroidism. That was the very first time I had ever heard of that, let along know what a parathyroid was. I remember talking to my grandma on the phone as she explained to me about the tiny rice size glands and how her body produced too much of the hormone which required her to have surgery. Last year I found out that my aunt (that same grandmother’s daughter) had ended up having the same procedure on her parathyroid as my grandma, and I got to thinking, is this something that can run in the family? I scheduled an appointment with an internal medicine doctor to do a blanket of blood work to make sure everything was looking ok. When she explained to me that she would be checking my thyroid levels, I immediately remember the parathyroid issues that seemed to run in the family. I told her about my grandmother and my aunt and asked if that would be covered under the thyroid testing, I was surprised when she told me no, that was a special test that wasnt done very often, usually only if there were concerns, but considering my family history, she would be happy to add that on. I was satisfied. I did the labs and waited. Several days later I got results. Everything was in the normal range, EXCEPT my PTH level, which was 86. She said, a lot of the times this is caused by a vitamin D deficiency, and without testing my level, put me on a high dose supplement. Skeptical, but trusting my doctor, I did what she said. A month later we tested PHT and viatmin D. PTH came down to 69, just over normal, and vitamin D was in the normal range. My options were to see a endocrinologist or keep on the supplement and see if it continues to go down. I opted to wait it out one more month, hoping for the best. All the while I did the same as you, researched until my head hurt. Another month went by and I did my labs again, not feeling any different, but still hoping something had changed. My PTH shot up to 104, my dr called me right away and said something isnt right, this treatment is not working and I really think that you should see the specialist. So my appointment is booked for about 4 weeks from today to meet with the same doctor my grandma and my aunt saw. I have almost every symptom in the book. The thing that baffles me, is that my calcium level seems to be normal. This is the one and only thing holding me back from believing this may be what I have. I have never broken a bone in my body, yet I have aches and pains all day and night every day. My teeth have been a constant state of deterioration, I actually have had several broken teeth, countless root canals and then last year I finally went in and had 5 broken teeth pulled and now have to use a partial to fill in the gaps. I have headaches, mood swings, insomnia, anxiety, depression, kidney stones, last year I became pregnant and it ended in miscarriage (I read that some 83% of pregnancies end in miscarriage in women with hyperparathyroidism) I am tired all the time, my muscles are tense and tight, my skin is dry and my hair is falling out in handfuls. I really hope that I can find a way to stop all this. I am too young to have all these problems. My kids need me. Reading your story inspired me. It gave me hope. It made me feel like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      Oh, Elizabeth…I’m SO glad you connected the dots! Vitamin D made me feel awful while I was hyperparathyroid, but now that it’s been corrected, I can get my levels back up. <3 Praying for you to get answers and to get your health built back up.

  14. Sharath says

    Hello Gwen, Hope you are at best of your health.
    I have been suffering from chronic fatigue, severe hair loss (non in my family had that at age of 28 guy) and loss in concentration and Acid reflux issues from last 6 years since i was just 22 YO.

    Non of the doctors I visited had a thing in mind about parathyroid problem, until recently one doctor suggested that I have that. I was planing for Boron supplementing through borax, but given that i have these symptoms from more than 6 years now I am suggested to under go removal of that gland.

    I do want t know about how you feel after 2 years post op, hows your blood calcium and PTH level and do you have any medicines even now and how is your hair fall, doctor say it must be reversed in some time post opertaion.

    It was great I saw your blog, I just need a hope I would be recovered soon. Thanks

    • says

      Hi Sharath,
      For me, the surgery corrected my health issues related to the blood calcium. However, I still had symptoms of exhaustion, memory loss, etc. So I opted to pursue a holistic doctor, and found out I had another underlying issue with a gut infection that was causing my symptoms. I’m healthy and well now! You can read more about adrenal fatigue and my doctor here.

  15. Karen Hoyack says

    Wonderful story on your blog! Your symptoms align with my own, although I meet with the surgeon next week to arrange for the removal of my parathyroid tumor. Your wit and energy in your blog are wonderful, and I am very hopeful that my symptoms of fatigue and weight gain improve after the tumor is removed. It has been difficult to find information about young people who have parathyroid tumors, I am 38 years old and probably have had this health issue since my last pregnancy 4 years ago, the symptoms just keep getting worse every week. Thanks for sharing your story with me on your blog, it means the world to me to find someone else ho overcame the same obstacles, and had a positive outcome with the parathyroid surgery.

  16. Allison Clements says

    Gwen, thank you so much for posting about your experience with hyperparathyroid. I have been struggling for nearly 2 years and like you had to change doctors. I have finally “officially” been diagnosed. And looking forward to getting my life back. Thank you for sharing and being an encouragement.

  17. Deb says

    So glad you are well on your way to the journey of renewed health. You may want to be careful
    in alluding to the Parathyroid Center in Tampa in any way that could seem to be an endorsement. I went there for my para surgery and had a nightmare experience. Came out of surgery disabled-VCD and hypopara. My experience with Dr. Norman was inexcusable. I know your reference was tongue in cheek but be glad you had your surgery in Atlanta.


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