THM Q and A

I did a THM Q and A post last year, and it was fun to hear from my readers, and answer their questions about Trim Healthy Mama, and eating a lower glycemic lifestyle. Last week, I asked you guys what questions you’d like for me to answer, and you had some great ones for me. Let’s get to it!

Only One of Us Needs to Lose Weight

Shelley asks: “I’m a newbie to THM, and still have much to learn about the THM system. I don’t actually need to lose weight; however, my dear hubby does have a few lbs to shed as well as some cholesterol and bp issues that need attention. He’s in support of my THM efforts on his behalf…thankfully. I guess my question is, how do I practice/ create a diet for someone else?? As much as I like to eat healthy, it’s very hard to be THM strict when it’s not for me!

A: First, you’ll need to get the basics of the plan down, and I think you’ll find that there isn’t much strictness required on your part if you’re already familiar with basic healthy eating principles.

It’s pretty simple to adjust things for one person to lose and the other to maintain. What works well for me is to create meals that are S and E for those who are looking to lose, but add in side dishes or toppings that cross over the other family members who are maintaining or still growing. For instance, an E breakfast can be crossed over by being generous with the butter on pancakes and cream in your coffee. He can have a tsp of whipped butter to keep him in E mode.

Make sense? :) Once you get the meal/food types down, it really is simple to make it work for other family members to either lose or gain depending on how they dress their plate. The Taco Salad Venn diagram in this post may be a help in seeing how easy it is to create meals of all different types just by varying your side dishes and toppings.

Sweetener Issues

Deb asks, “What can you do if you cannot use the sweeteners that are recommended?” and
Heather K asks: “What do you bake with if you just can’t do the sugar alcohols? (my body does not react well to them) I am okay with stevia, but not with baking- it is not bulky enough and has a weird aftertaste to me in baked goods. Thanks!!”

A. First of all, *great job* in identifying that your body does not handle the sugar alcohols or stevia well. It’s SO important to pay close attention to how your body handles foods. Some people have issues with non-glycemic sweeteners that lower the blood sugar.

If you cannot tolerate any of the non-caloric sweeteners or sugar alcohols, you will need to experiment with using natural sweeteners like unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana (up to half in an E setting), and possibly small amounts of low glycemic sweeteners like coconut sugars or raw honey. Lo Han or Monk fruit extract may be another one to try out. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the carb amounts…it will be challenging to have anything sweet incorporated into an S setting. I would also avoid sweetening drinks as liquid sugars are going to metabolize too quickly.

Using natural sugars is nothing to be afraid of though. Some women choose to do THM this way from the start, and you can still have success, though your losses may be slower. What’s most important is that you’re making sweetener choices in the best interest of your overall health.

As far as baking without sugar alcohols, try an inulin based sweetener like the Wholesome Sweeteners brand of organic stevia and inulin. You can find it here in my THM Amazon affiliate store. Outside of that, try recipes that use mashed bananas or unsweetened applesauce to add sweetness, and just use stevia to give it a gentle boost.

Taming the Carb Monster

Jennifer B. asks: “What are some good ways to help with the sugar and carb detox when you first start!”

A. I found that I did SO much better if I was intentional about having one full E meal per day. That gave my body access to healthy carbs, so I was not as prone to craving the unhealthy ones. Fruit is your friend! :) Women who work out, or who are nursing or pregnant may need MORE than one carb serving per day to support their active metabolisms.

Another thing that helped me was to identify the carbs that I craved most, and find a great THM friendly recipe that was really close. I used to LOVE iced coffee, and finding a good THM alternative was super helpful. I could enjoy a treat that was supporting my goals instead of feeling guilty.

Help with Helpers

Robin asks: I’ve seen posts about helpers- S helpers, E helpers. This makes it complicated for me. Is there a simple way to understand these?

A. Hi Robin! There actually is a very simple way to get a handle on this. First, an E helper is fiction…it doesn’t exist. I have seen people talk about them too, and it’s bad information from a blogger who is making stuff up taking major liberties with describing how she does the plan. Just ignore the E helper stuff. :)

So now we’re down to S helpers. Let’s talk about when and why you’d use an S helper: if you love your S meals, but need a boost of carbs…say you need some energy and focus for the morning- you would be able to create an S helper meal by adding up to 20 grams of carbs to your S meal. Ladies who work out hard, or are nursing or pregnant, or those who just do better with more carbs can use S helpers to round out their carb needs for the day.

Here’s how easy it is to create S helpers: your S breakfast of bacon and eggs would get one piece of sprouted bread with butter and jam. The carbs from the bread and jam would turn your S meal into an S helper meal. If you wanted to turn your S lunch roll up into an S helper, add half of an apple or a cutie orange. Voila.

Easy peasy!

Time for Breakfast?

Emily asks: “How soon do you have to eat after getting up in the morning?”

A. There is not a set time, but I can tell you from personal experience for myself that if I’m not hungry until 10:30 or 11, my metabolism is in a major stall pattern. If you’re not a morning person, try eating a light E + protein breakfast and doing a brisk 20-30 minute walk in the morning, as well as eating every 3 hours for a few days to give your metabolism a kick in the right direction. Set a timer if you have trouble remembering to eat. Eating regularly keeps the metabolic fire burning. :)

Hair Loss?

Kristina says: “I’m concerned with all the hair loss posts I read on THM board, is this a nutritional deficiency because of the plan?”

A. Hair loss is definitely cause for concern-I also experienced hair loss while on plan. But I am almost positive that mine was related to my other health issues. With something like hair loss, I don’t know that you can pin it to any one issue. It’s actually a pretty common problem among women of all ages and is often not related to weight loss at all, although it can be. Nutritional deficiency, thyroid, going too low carb, losing too quickly, hormone imbalance, and being postpartum can all contribute to or be possible reasons for hair loss or thinning.

I know lots and lots of ladies who have not lost hair while on plan. Once I got my health issues straightened out, my hair has grown back in nicely. Twice. If you are experiencing hair loss or health issues, I’d encourage you to seek some professional support in looking for underlying issues.

If you’ve already got thinner hair and are wanting to avoid hair loss it would be a smart idea to intentionally lose slowly, to incorporate liver support herbs, to have at *least* one full E meal per day, to support a healthy fast metabolism by eating regularly, and to work with a health care provider to look out for any underlying health issues.

Crossing Guard

Lisa asks: “What does a typical day looks like for you now that you are at a weight that needs maintained? Once you reached a healthy weight, how did you begin to incorporate more helpers and crossovers? On another personal note, do you find that you can eat say…homemade plain yogurt and not worry about making it “Greek” or can you have maple syrup, white potatoes, raw milk, or other things like that in moderation without getting back into “old mindsets or territories” weight wise or craving wise? Maybe you have other things that you like to have on occasion, but I just listed some of my indulgences:). I’m five pounds from my “goal”, but find myself not as strict on these things already. How does it look going forward? Thanks so much!

Carrie asks: “Hey, Gwen! How do we successfully ease back into occasional crossovers when at goal weight, how often, and which are best, and any that we should completely avoid? Obviously sweets are out, but I’m scared and reluctant to incorporate!! Do we have to cross back over??

A. No need to be scared to start incorporating crossovers…they are a healthy part of the plan. :) I know the “Don’t cross fuels!” message was drilled into my brain too while I was in weight loss mode. But now that you’re at your goal weight, crossing fuels is a healthy way to maintain your weight.

What I do may or may not apply to you, but I usually eat at least 2 meals a day in either S or E mode when I’m doing maintenance, and then I cross over for one or two meals. I used S helpers regularly while still losing, and still do.

I did get a lot more relaxed in what I was comfortable with after I was at goal weight, but I did stick to Greek yogurt just because I liked it. I also love “real” milk and will occasionally have a glass. But I don’t find that I crave those things.

If it’s a food that I really love, I may have a small serving. But I ask myself “does this really taste as good as I remember?” If it doesn’t taste good, it’s not worth cheating with. :) I’m a person that can just eat one or two french fries and be happy with that, but your mileage may vary.

One thing that I’ve found that works great for me is that if I *really* want something, I find the limit that I can be really happy with enjoying it. Instead of having a baked potato, I enjoy baked potato pizza. MAN it’s good…I’d rather eat that than a whole potato anyway, and I’m only having a few slices of a potato. In the same way, I can enjoy a little maple syrup mixed in with my stevia syrup. It adds the flavor but not the full punch of carbs.

I would encourage you to see how your body does with adding in the occasional crossover even if you’re not at goal weight. I enjoyed occasional crossovers even while in weight loss mode, and sometimes they would give my body a little metabolism boost that caused me to break a stall.

More THM Q & A Resources

I had several other questions that were on the topic of stalled weight loss. I wrote about stalling here.

Several of you had great questions about allergies and substitutions. The BEST place to find those answers is over in the THM Allergen Free group. These ladies are food GURUs, and the files section is a gold mine of info.


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  1. Jill says

    Thanks Gwen your tips are sooo helpful. I have asked on other forums, but they are so large they get lost in the shuffle. I work out daily. I try to have an E snack prior to my workout, with a decent amount of protein for my lunch. Where should I go to find out how to incorporate my workouts. I feel I should be making more progress than I am. I work out usually 5 days a week (some cardio, some strength) with some early morning 15 minute cardio or high intensity training mixed in. I don’t know if I should be eating more in general or eating more carbs or just following the plan. I have been 100% on plan since September and have lost 10 lbs. I have been stalled for at least 10 weeks. I am just finishing up a 2 week fuel cycle to see if I get rolling again. I have 10 lbs to goal, so I do realize these last lbs will be slower, but do feel with all my exercise efforts the weight should come off more quickly. I am 39, 5’8 and my scale says 145….dr office is 150. I am waiting til after the fuel cycle to weigh, so I don’t know if it has been a success or not. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks Gwen. I LOVE your blog.

    • says

      Hi Jill, I am not an exercise girl, so anything I could tell you would come right out of the chapter on exercise in the book. :) I’m 5’8″ too and I was super happy with my body at 145, so I never tried to go lower than that. But I know that body composition and distribution (fat vs muscle) is going to make that look different on ladies who are all the same height.

      My guess is that you’d need more than FC meals to keep your metabolism fueled. Re-read that exercise chapter and I’d also pay attention to your hunger and cravings. They can tell you a lot about the state of your metabolism. :)

  2. Amy says

    I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why do you not have the actual THM sweetners in your affiliate linked store? The reason I asked, is I just purchased some & would like to know if there are any issues/concerns with the product before I open it. Thank you in advance.


  3. says

    This is great to show beginners for future reference. :) I love your new site design Gwen! <3 :) It's amazing. I hope you keep blogging about THM and eventually start up another recipe link-up like Trim Healthy Tuesdays. :) I'm a young Trim Healthy Girl who is trying to get her own THM food blog figured out. I'm not good at techy stuff, and I don't know website/blog language! lol Any tips would be very much appreciated.
    ~God Bless~

  4. says

    Hey Gwen! I’m so thankful you posted this. I know this is going to help a lot of newbies and even ones that have been on plan for a while. I would love to share this with my readers in a post that links them back to you for the content. I have put one together and scheduled it for Tuesday, if that is ok. Thanks for all you do for us THMers!

    Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out. It will go live Tuesday at 4am. Thanks!…nswers-thm-faq/

  5. Andrea Smith says

    This information is AMAZING! Love the tip on firing the metabolism. I’m going to try the timer thing. I guess what I’m missing now is good E meals, although I do a lot of fruit+protein for snacks. I’m going to have to find some good GF E meal go-tos. I’ve had a couple of serious flops that really turn me off of E meals. I’d rather do crossovers! But this sounds like E meals are something I need to get more serious with.

    • says

      Absolutely! A great chili recipe, and taco salad with refried beans are both GREAT ways to get your good carbs in. And fruit…I’m a BIG fan of fruit. :)

    • says

      Do you mean in the book? Or on my website? I can try to help. :) For the book, they don’t really specify because you may have a smaller serving as a side dish or a whole serving as a meal. So it can really vary. And they didn’t start out with the intention of counting anything. They wanted it to be more organic and natural for people. The Facebook Beginners group may also be a help to you.

  6. says

    A friend told me to check Trim Healthy Mama out so I went on the Facebook Page and did. I don’t understand your weight loss system.
    What I’m looking for right now, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cream Cheese Cookies or Bars. Do y’all have a recipe?

  7. Lorraine says

    Gwen your advise and page are so very helpful THANK you! I need you help, since I started I have been so very tired, I have always been a morning person but I am finding myself rolling over and sleeping until mid morning it’s so not like me. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Hi Lorraine,
      Hmmm…the easiest option to try is to swap around your carb levels and up them a bit to find a good balance. And make sure you’re hydrating and have a healthy electrolyte balance. If you’re not seeing improvement, then you will probably want to pursue some medical testing, including a full thyroid panel and cortisol testing. <3

  8. Angie says

    I am just overwhelmed with THM. I still do not understand the basic concept of the S and E meals. I understand that one is high in fat and the other is high in carb count, I understand that you need to eat a S meal or E meal but I do not understand how to make my own S and E meals. I feel a little frustrated. I lieterally have pages of notes I have took, highlighted in the book and still cannot understand how to determine what is what. Please HELP!

    • says

      Hi Angie,
      I get it…I was VERY frustrated at first too, because it was all so foreign to me. Two things that might help you. Have you checked out my Quick Start Guide? I have outlined a very simplified study guide to help you make sense (with page numbers for the fill in the blanks!) :) Also, this post shows how I take one meal concept (taco salad) and create a meal with each THM type using the ingredient choices. There is a fun visual chart that many people have said was very, very helpful for them in getting the concept. Hope that helps!

  9. LaNette says


    Hello! I am one of the facilitators of a local (unofficial) THM group. I am wondering if you mind if I use your THM Q & A graphic for our next q & a event?


    • says

      Hi Lanette! I’d be happy for you to use it, especially if you’d link to my Q&A posts. I’d also be happy to add additional Q&A posts if you guys come up with additional topics that would be useful for that series. :) It’s about time I do another one.