Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stevia is safe - OR ELSE!

As I knew it would, my review of the latest and greatest dieting craze, Trim Healthy Mama, has drawn the attention of many readers. I was just surprised how quickly it touched off an online firestorm, all because I dared point out flaws in the holy cow of "natural" sweeteners, stevia - while repeatedly making it clear that the principles behind the plan itself work exceptionally well, and can be followed without the use of stevia or the other plan-approved sweeteners.


Unlike the authors of the book, and the THM admins on Facebook, I have so far posted every comment, and have every intention to continue to do so. The vast majority of comments confirmed what my post was about: the program works, but stevia causes miscarriage and/or infertility. This is as sad as it is true.

My post ignited a firestorm on the main THM Facebook group the same day I posted it, when someone I do not know shared a link to it there.



When this was first posted, I happened to be stuck in the waiting room at my OB's office, surfing Facebook. I texted my husband and asked him to take a screen shot, because I knew it would soon be deleted. No gift of prophecy necessary - it's par for the course on any THM board.





Things quickly started to crash and burn after that, with post after post getting yanked from the board, other ladies expressing their anger over this, and many more yet going on there and pledging their undying support for the authors and the admins, who "work so hard." I guess working hard at something automatically makes it immune from failure. 




I have since been banned from all THM groups, in spite of the fact that I have repeatedly said the program works well, that I follow the program myself (minus the suggested Frankenfoods), that I did not post anything on their board that violates their rules, or any other such thing. I was banned because I dared share my experiences with stevia on my own, personal blog, which is not connected to THM in any way, shape, or form. It's kind of like when teachers get fired because they post on Facebook in support of traditional marriage. 



Here is my big beef with Pearl and Serene, the authors of the Trim Healthy Mama book: They have failed to do their due diligence in pointing out possible harmful effects of stevia. 

In fact, not only have they failed to do so, but they are making a concerted, aggressive attempt to never allow this issue to surface. 

The three defenses they have used to date are:

(1) They do not wish to "sow seeds of fear" in their members. This reasoning has been stated again and again. In other words, it might worry people - and unnecessarily so, in the minds of these self-proclaimed, infallible nutritional experts and scientists. By very definition, this would completely PRECLUDE them from being able to shed any light on the stevia controversy. Remember, they are trying to stay away from every "seed" of fear.

(2) They are trying to avoid all "drama" and "negativity" on their boards. Well, that is very sweet of them indeed, and a point I can certainly sympathize with. The only problem is, some issues, unpleasant though they may be, MUST be brought to light to prevent greater harm. I guess there is no entirely positive way in which to tell someone they are wrong, and attempt to correct them.

(3) They have already covered this subject extensively, so much so that all their members are more than well aware of the issue. In other words, people who keep questioning the safety of stevia are kicking a dead horse, tying up the board, boring other members, and somehow unduly burdening the FB group admins by doing so. Of course, point (3) completely flies in the face of points (1) and (2), but don't let that bother you. Also, the vast majority of THM followers are NOT aware of this, at all. If they are, they most likely did NOT hear it on any public THM outlet. Which is why, when the topic briefly surfaces before being shut down, people start following the thread, react with "what? is this true? I have never heard this before," and the like. I, for one, was completely unaware of any possible dangers of stevia, until someone outside the THM world brought it to my attention.

There are also many controversies surrounding the safety of vaccines, pharmaceuticals, water fluoridation, and other things the government deems not just perfectly safe, but actually health-promoting. Yet, in the interest of informed consent, all these come with more warnings than the THM authors are willing to give about stevia. They are so sure of its completely unverified safety as relating to human reproduction that in spite of their Biblical beliefs and pro-life position, they are willing to make the decision for all their followers to just shut up already and use stevia, because they said so. Disagree, even on your own website, and the boot you will get.

If the program works equally well with natural sweeteners that the Bible has nothing but good to say about (and it does), why be so adamant that everyone conform to a questionable new sweetener that many have misgivings about? Why aggressively go after and silence those who want to use the program, with their own tweaks to it? Must one also eat fat-free Redi-Whip, Dreamfields pasta and denatured whey protein for the program to work? (blech!) No, of course not, and the authors claim no such thing. They are only adamant about defending stevia. Why? Because they falsely believe it to be an integral part of their plan (it's not), so throwing it out would mean having to majorly overhaul their program. Not to mention that they are working on selling their own brand of stevia (ouch).  

Truly, the love of money IS the root of all evil. There is no reason whatsoever to ban any discourse on stevia, and to silence those who attribute their miscarriages and/or infertility to it, while the authors then go on to claim that they have never yet met anyone that put the blame on stevia. They may not have met them personally - but they have heard from scores and scores, and gone on silence them in an attempt to cover up any connection. This is just nefarious, which is why I am going to make such information available on my blog, and actually open the topic up to discourse.




Yes, it is indeed a tedious and time-consuming job to keep deleting all those pesky negative threads that ask about a connection between stevia and miscarriage. They are so common, one could almost make a full-time job of it. You know, because it is absolutely not founded in reality. Or, one could simply allow civil discourse, and for people to walk away having come to their own conclusions.

To claim that the admins do not have time to deal with these sort of topics is simply not true - they don't need to deal with them. Surely, THM readers could just have a thread discussing this without needing someone to hold their hands and play moderator. That would actually be less work for these poor time-constrained martyrs for the cause of public health and trim waistlines. There are plenty of ladies on there who will defend stevia, provide links to all the studies that supposedly support them in this belief, etc. If THM followers en masse will be scared and horrified to hear about a possible connection between stevia and miscarriage, maybe there is truth in it? Or maybe it's such an important topic that we should not be silencing it, as it is raised almost daily? Maybe some of us who call ourselves Christians would choose to err on the side of caution when it comes to the lives of our children, except that this information is intentionally being hidden from us?

Furthermore, to say that the authors have already repeatedly made all this information available is a lie. The book barely touches on it, in passing. I had to search up and down in it to find their brief reference to the safety concerns surrounding stevia, and that in spite of the fact that I own an electronic copy and could search for "stevia" specifically.



We are told that the main THM group on FB has a list of documents, which specifically answer these questions that are being raised repeatedly.


Let's see how that holds up:

(1) The Facebook group is a "closed" group. As such, one must be accepted to join.

(2) As of yesterday, their documents page contained 91 (!) articles. 

(3) After those looking into THM have joined a closed group and waded through 91 articles, they may stumble across the 1 (!!!) that addresses the concerns many have with stevia. I had a hard time finding this article yesterday, in spite of the fact that I knew what I was looking for, and where to find it. Of course, why would someone new to THM be looking for it in the first place, since the book never makes a point to warn them about potential controversies regarding stevia, but rather assures readers that all is fine and dandy.

Please also note that no threads relating to topics covered in the 90 other articles ever get deleted from public discussion, no matter how repetitive they are.

There is one reason, and one alone, why this topic is strictly banned on any official THM page: they don't like it. They want it to go away.

Any reasonable person knows that investigating a matter, and opening it up for discussion, brings MORE light to an issue. If stevia is safe, then investigating its safety will only confirm that. The authors have heard from enough women like myself to know that there is one reason why this issue keeps persistently popping up: it may be true. Even if it isn't, people may feel more comfortable to forgo using stevia, because they are more comfortable erring on the side of caution. And wouldn't that be terrible! They may not buy the book, or their new line of stevia. Let's keep people in the dark, so they will continue to buy our stuff. If we worry them, they might not do so.

This makes me sick, because we are talking about more than just money here. We are talking about the lives of the unborn, and the health of their mothers. The authors should be honest and repent. Instead, they are flustered and defensive, because people bringing this topic up touches a nerve. All I am asking is that they put a big, huge, visible disclaimer on their program that says that some ladies have implicated stevia in their miscarriage and/or infertility, and that there are no available scientific studies establishing the safety of stevia as relating to human reproduction. They have failed to do so, and are refusing to correct this.

In the meantime, I will put myself out there as one that at least brings light to the controversy, allowing people to make their own decisions that they can morally feel most comfortable with.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recent happenings

We have been busy celebrating two birthdays in February (more on those in separate posts), as well as Stephen's one-and-a-half birthday in January. 18 months is the only half-birthday we celebrate with a special cake/cupcake, and even then only when I remember.


  I just adore his eyelashes - they are very long and curved

 



 Stephen really looks like my oldest brother in this one

The kids are all growing much too fast. It's hard to believe we will have a TEEN in our house this fall, when Solomon turns 13.

Isaac has had a particularly bad year with allergies this year because we have had no rain in months. I think Becky, too, may be suffering from the same, as she was our only other child coughing.Thankfully, we are slowly coming out of that time of the year, and the kids are over the night-time coughing.
 
We have been plugging away at school work, hoping to finish up by late April, but I don't think that's going to happen at this rate.With the weather so nice, and me feeling better, we have also made time for field trips and special outings just about every single week.

Paint-your-own pottery

 Lunch after going to the Arizona Science Center

 At a birthday party at McCormick Stillman Railroad Park




The little girls have been too busy playing hair salon and having tea parties to get much of their "school work" done.  Isaac is really good about helping them with brewing up the tea, and carefully washing and packing up their dishes when the party is over. He also enjoys having an "excuse" to whip up a batch of cookies for them (and of course, the rest of the kids including himself). I worry that they may never learn calculus, but I guess at least they will be good at fixing hair and having parties? JUST KIDDING! They are just enjoying being little and being able to learn through play.


Church is always exciting, but especially so recently. We have had a lot of out-of-town visitors, as well as new families joining our church. It is always wonderful to get to meet some of the many people who listen online, face to face. This time of year, they typically hail from cold places such as New England and Canada - hm, I wonder why? Maybe it's the wonderful weather we are currently enjoying? :)

This kids argue over who gets to sit next to this little dude each time


We broke our attendance records two Sunday mornings in a row in the last couple of weeks. Which means that just as the service dismisses, I ring a really loud, brass ship bell at the back of the auditorium, which is the signal to everyone that we have broken a new record, and there will be ice-cream for all after the service.
 
 I know you're wondering - no, I did not do the artwork! (bwahaha!)


As you may guess, this whole idea was my brain child. We started it about two years ago, and it's been fun. We keep the freezer stocked with ice cream at all times, to be prepared when it happens. One of the  upticks of being the pastor's wife: since I'm the one doing the shopping, we skip the gallon tubs on non-dairy nastiness known as Wal-Mart ice-cream so commonly used at large gatherings, and only serve the good stuff.


What are you doing this time of year to overcome the midyear homeschool slump?

Monday, February 24, 2014

My review of Trim Healthy Mama (THM) - The good, the bad, and the ugly

The good: The concept of separating carbs and fats for weight loss is effective, sustainable, and healthy.

The bad: The Frankensweeteners and stevia recommended as "natural" sugar alternatives can cause serious harm, including miscarriage and infertility.

The ugly: The authors of the book and those running the THM  boards on Facebook and elsewhere do not want this information to become public.

Read on below for an in-depth review of the book, the concept behind it, its potential pitfalls, and how to actually make it work AND be healthy doing so.



Maybe you have heard about the latest "rage" in weight loss - the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) book by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. The book came out about 18 months ago, and has gained popularity especially over the past year. So much so, that Amazon regularly sells out of it completely. 

The good:

Most weight loss plans follow one of the following ideas: 

(1) Reduce overall caloric intake. This causes the metabolism to slow down, stalling weight loss. It is also hard to sustain, as the human body is not programmed to run on empty for extended periods of time. People struggling with weight in the first place likely will not have the will power to consume less calories than they are needing for months or even years to reach their goal weight. It's easy to fall off the wagon, and yo-yo dieting ensues.

(2) Cut out fats. Eating healthy fats is CRUCIAL not only for overall health, hormone balance, and brain function, but it is also an integral part of losing weight. People do not get fat from eating healthy fats. In fact, quite the contrary is true. Of course, modern, altered "fats" such as margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and other denatured products are very unhealthy, but they should not be allowed to give fats in general a bad name.

(3) Cut out carbohydrates. While an over-consumption of simple carbs is the main culprit behind excess weight, carbs should not be cut out from the diet entirely. "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Lord's prayer should put that issue to bed for good. Again, as with fats, there is a huge difference between healthy carbs, and those that are, indeed, destructive to good health.

The basic weight loss concept underlying the Trim Healthy Mama book falls into none of the above categories. The authors recognize that healthy, traditional fats play a crucial part in achieving and maintaining healthy weight, and do a good job of explaining this. Likewise, they do not advocate for "low carb" or "paleo/primal" diets, because they know that carbs play an important role in fueling our bodies. 

They then go on to explain quite nicely how our bodies respond to both types of primary fuel - carbs and fats - and how the metabolizing of them interferes with one another. 

Their conclusion for weight loss, in a nutshell, is this: do not consume fats and carbs in the same meal. To be more specific, a fat-fueled meal (called an "S" meal in the book for "satisfying") should contain no more than 10 g of net carbs, while a carb-fueled meal (called an "E" meal for "energizing") should contain no more than 5 g of fat. 

Furthermore, not just any carbs and fats are plan approved. Denatured Frankenfats are out, while butter is promoted (rightfully so). Simple carbs, even in "healthy" forms such as juice, are not "on plan" - only complex carbs that have been properly prepared through soaking and/or sprouting and/or sourdough fermentation are allowed. 

Some others have criticized the program, saying it is incompatible with a whole foods lifestyle, but I have to disagree on that point. The plan can be as packed with whole foods as one wants it to be. Remember, the only critical underlying premise is not to mix carbs and fats in the same meal. One could easily make their own sourdough or sprouted bread, make their own almond milk, etc. Likewise, instead of using egg whites from a carton, one could simply separate their own, homegrown eggs, and use the yolks in another meal. There is nothing inherently "denatured" to the program itself, though some of the foods that are recommended or included in the recipes call for weird ingredients, such as "defatted peanut flour" or a highly processed type of whey protein. There is absolutely no need to choose those particular recipes. 

For the vast majority of people, even if they decide to use some of the stranger ingredients suggested, the "on plan" foods will still be a great improvement from the standard American diet. In fact, even just cutting out liquid carbs and other simple starches like pasta will do wonders for their waistline.

As far as the recipes in the book go - they are a good starting point for getting ideas, but taste-wise, they are mostly "meh" at best. The THM Pinterest page, however, is packed with wonderful recipe ideas from all over the web, as are numerous other websites such as Gwen's Nest.

Should you buy the book? Maybe. If you have never read "Nourishing Traditions," or books such as "Eat Fat, Lose Fat" that debunk modern food myths, Trim Healthy Mama will help teach you about nutrition. 

However, please be warned not to jump into the program both feet first until you read the rest of this post.

The bad:

I have already mentioned that some of the ingredient suggestions are a little fad-ish, but whatever - they are not integral to the program at all.

My one, big, huge, main problem with the THM program is with the supposedly healthy and safe sweeteners that are "on plan". While the authors correctly speak out against artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, aspartame, etc., they then go on to allow only two types of sweeteners for the THM plan:

(1) Hydrogenated sugar alcohols, i.e. xylitol and erythritol. These are about as healthy and natural as their names suggest. Their safety (or rather lack thereof) has already been covered in other articles readily available online, such as Natural News, Crunchy Betty, and The Healthy Home Economist. So for the sake of time, I will just point my readers to those resources readily available online.

(2) Stevia. This singular ingredient is really what is giving me a bad taste for the whole program, and why I am reluctant to recommend it to anyone without going into a big speech explaining why the on plan sweeteners are to be avoided, and how to substitute for them.

Before I go off on stevia specifically, I would like to address the problems associated with any zero-calorie sweetener, no matter how "natural" it claims to be, or even may be. From aspartame to stevia, and everything in between, sweet foods that are not accompanied by actual carbohydrates wreak havoc on human metabolism. Our bodies are programmed to expect carb-based fuels when we taste something sweet. Accordingly, the body prepares for this by releasing insulin, and getting ready to metabolize the incoming fuel. Which may never come, if we are really just downing a diet soda, or coffee sweetened with stevia. Again, this topic has been covered by others extensively, such as on Empowered Sustenance. It is a well-known fact that sugar-free foods cause weight gain, as evidenced by overweight people everywhere guzzling diet sodas.

But back to stevia. It's an herb, so it's natural, which automatically means it's healthy, right? WRONG. Arsenic is a natural substance, too. As are many other poisons, venoms, and toxins.

Stevia, like a number of other herbs, has traditionally been known to cause infertility in both men and women. So much so, that women in South America (where this plant grows) were known to drink it as tea as a form of birth control. 

But unfortunately, it doesn't end there. The reality is, that stevia, like a number of other herbs, can and does act as an abortifacient, or an "implantation preventer." I recently blogged about herbs of this type in my post "Sarah, the Healthy Home Abortionist." If one believes that life begins at conception (as we do), use of such herbs during the reproductive years of a woman's life should be out of the question. 

Will every pregnancy end in miscarriage if you use stevia? No. Will stevia cause all women to become infertile? No. Some women are affected by herbs more than others. In fact, ironically, the healthier you are going into it, the more effectively your body will respond to herbs. Some women are affected more than others specifically by stevia because of the fact that it is in the ragweed family. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, chances are stevia will affect you worse than those who do not suffer from these allergies. Since we cannot know exactly how it affects each of us individually, we should just stay away from it altogether, rather than playing Russian roulette with the lives of our unborn. Just because your cycles are starting on time, does not mean you didn't have a "silent" miscarriage due to the damage done to your hormone levels (an aspect well explained in the article on Empowered Sustenance), and thus your reproductive system, by stevia.

Another common, negative side effect of stevia stems from the fact that it lowers blood pressure. While this may be great for those suffering from hypertension, people with naturally low blood pressure such as myself may find that stevia lowers their blood pressure to the point where they experience headaches, start seeing black spots, have tunnel vision, or even black out. This in spite of the book's claim that: 

(Page 184)

The ugly:

I really was not looking forward to writing this part, but feel it has become necessary because of the growing popularity of the THM program. 

Time and again, the question comes up in various THM groups on Facebook of whether or not the plan-approved sweeteners are really safe. These type of discussions are always, without exception, quickly dismissed along the lines of "Yes, they are, and it's all covered in xyz the spot"


The fact of the matter is that the THM book only very briefly touches on the safety concerns regarding stevia, in a total of 2 paragraphs. The only source they point their readers to verify the safety of stevia is the website www.stevia.net - I am certain there is nothing partial on that site, right? By that same token, why not go to www.splenda.com and read all about how healthy and beneficial their artificial sweetener is, complete with "scientific studies" to prove their point. 


(page 183 and 184)

I have talked to a number of women who directly blame stevia for their inability to become pregnant, or for a miscarriage - myself being one of them. The authors' above claim to the contrary is either not true, or they are simply shutting these women down before giving them a chance to explain their point. 

The question specifically of whether or not stevia causes miscarriage is shut down and deleted from any public discussion almost immediately. Even on threads where members specifically ask, "Is this safe? What are everyone's experiences?" other members are not allowed to weigh in with any advice that contradicts the "stevia is safe" dogma, not even if they accompany it with saying something along the lines of "the plan is great, it works if you use raw honey or maple syrup, but I, too, do not feel that stevia is safe, and think it may be to blame for infertility or miscarriage." One of the administrators, who deleted all my comments on the thread (all of which repeatedly stated that the program itself is great, and effective, but that stevia should be avoided), wrote to tell me that: 

I will not allow any other posts like the ones I've removed to stay up on the board, because it plants unnecessary and unfounded seeds of fear in the minds of other ladies.

Hm, where have I heard that lingo before... Oh, that's right, it's the same line the pro-GMO companies use. "We can't label foods as containing GMOs, because it will unnecessarily frighten consumers." I guess the THM administrators do not think their readers are smart enough to be presented with both sides of an issue, and come to a conclusion for themselves. If stevia is so safe and harmless, there is nothing to fear. If I told you bananas cause infertility and miscarriage, the National Banana Board would at best get a laugh out of me, but certainly not go on a crusade to shut down all such claims by anyone. If doubts need to be hidden and scrubbed in a concerted effort to silence them, maybe there is a reason they keep "persistently popping up," as the authors themselves put it. Maybe, just maybe, there is truth in it? 

The same administrator also told me: 
The allegations you're making against the use of stevia are so far as I can tell based simply on anecdotal evidence alone.  
Anecdotal - maybe. Sort of like the author declaring stevia as safe because both herself, as well as other ladies she knows, became pregnant while using stevia. People also become pregnant while taking birth control pills, or having IUDs in place, both of which are much stronger and more effective than stevia. All scientific research starts out with anecdotal indications for or against an issue, which is what then motivates a closer examination by way of a study. Seeing as we live in a society that by and large heavily promotes birth control, and does not think that life begins at conception, I do not think that there are any laboratories, universities, or research labs interested in spending time and money to find out just how stevia affects the uterine lining, and what percentage of women will suffer a "silent abortion," in a country where thousands of babies are consciously aborted every single day. This information is hard to come by for birth control pills, whose express purpose is the prevention and interruption of pregnancy - how much more so for an herb that few people care at all about?

The truth of the matter is that there is virtually no research available on how stevia affects fertility and the female reproductive system, either negatively or positively. We are, therefore, forced to come to a decision based on anecdotal evidence, rather than to simply assume it's safe. Shouldn't the burden of proof be on them to show that stevia does NOT negatively impact fertility, and cause miscarriage? There are only two publicly available studies that investigate the effects of stevia on fertility, and both came to the conclusion that it reduces fertility.

To be fair, I would like to mention that there are a number of women who follow the THM plan, lose large amounts of weight, overcome PCOS, and as a result, are able to become pregnant. Clearly, not all women miscarry every pregnancy if consuming any amount of stevia. Like I said, for the majority of women, overcoming their addiction to simple carbs, and adding healthy fats to the diet, will greatly improve their overall health. But this does not negate the fact that stevia is still harmful. It's just the least of a severely overweight person's health problems.

From my own anecdotal evidence, I used stevia very sparingly (every few days in small amounts) for about 4 or 5 weeks, before discontinuing its use because it was making my blood pressure drop dangerously low, to the point where I was on the verge of passing out every time I used stevia. In spite of my very minimal consumption of it, I suffered TWO early miscarriages in two consecutive cycles, once while still using stevia, and the second shortly after discontinuing it. I know miscarriages are common and occur for a number of reasons, but in all our married years (13 and counting), we had only suffered two other miscarriages, and one of those was caused by recently having come off birth control pills. It was not until the second miscarriage that I started to put the puzzle pieces together, mostly due to other people pointing out their "ancedotal" connection of stevia and miscarriage.

I have since talked to many other women who reported being unable to become pregnant while consuming any amount of stevia, no matter how small, and who got pregnant immediately after discontinuing it. The THM group on Facebook for pregnant and nursing moms is replete with stories of moms who report having a miscarriage, many of them habitually. One time, 5 of the 6 posts at the top of the wall were about a mom just having had a miscarriage while "on plan," which presumably involves stevia. While I am not at all claiming that all these are caused by stevia, or that the mothers are to blame, it definitely should give us pause. True, among a group of people who generally embrace fertility and large families, there will inevitably be more miscarriages, simply because there will be more pregnancies - but even accounting for that, the THM boards seem to have an abnormally high rate of miscarriage.This has been pointed out time and again by other people, not just me - but like mine, their comments always get deleted.

Why would the authors want to hide this controversy? In a word, because it's inconvenient. It would fly in the face of their religious belief that life begins at conception, so they would be forced to deal with it if it were true. Not being able to use stevia would make it much more complicated to explain and implement their plan. Just as there is a difference between good fats and bad, there is a world of difference between real, raw honey, and the stuff sold at grocery stores. Furthermore, it would be hard to come up with scrumptious, fat-laden desserts that only use minimal amounts of sweets (carbs). Stevia allows sugar-addicted American palates to "have their cake and eat it, too"

Their highly popular book, that they put so much time and work into, would need to be majorly revised, which may kill it altogether.

Plus, the authors are in the process of releasing their own line of stevia sweeteners. 

Ignorance is bliss in their situation. What they don't know CAN hurt them, and the ladies they lead on to believe that stevia is safe.

To click here to read "4 Reasons Why I'm not a Trim, Healthy Mama" by the Nourishing Herbalist. Lots of interesting info in that post, too.


The healthy alternative: real, whole, low-glycemic sweeteners in moderate amounts

Like I said at the beginning of this post, the basic underlying concept of separating carbs and fats is very effective. I have recommended the program to a number of people, all of which have seen great success with it, whether or not they use only plan-approved sweeteners. 

My recommendation is to use raw honey or grade B maple syrup for all E meals, and in moderate amounts (up to 1 tsp per serving) for S meals. This will not interfere with the effectiveness of the program at all, and you will be able to successfully and relatively painlessly lose weight following these basic principles. The biggest challenge are desserts - they need to be S to be tasty and decadent as one would expect a dessert to be, but that means they cannot contain too much honey or the meal will be carb-laden. Making S treats only occasionally (as in, every few days), even if they contain more than the 1 tsp of honey I recommend, will not throw you off plan. Also, your palate will adjust to needing less and less sweetness the more the sugar addiction is broken. Or, switch to E desserts, which are harder to find recipes for, but can be just as tasty.

I myself am currently on the program, not with the goal of losing weight, but maintaining my current weight for the rest of this pregnancy. When we found out I was expecting twins, I was told to gain 50-70 lbs. I typically gain about 25-30, so this was a shocker, but I followed the advice because our smaller baby was only getting a fraction of the food I was eating due to his poor cord insertion. Well, when he passed away at 20 weeks, I had already gained 40 lbs. There really is no need for me to gain any more. In fact, I find that when I follow the program, I end up eating way more calories than when I'm off plan, simply because being on plan makes my metabolism run in high gear, so I know baby is getting enough even though I am not gaining (as also evidenced by his excellent growth and health based on ultrasound exams). Actually, if I stay on program all day, every day, I quickly lose weight even while pregnant, and that while using raw honey and grade B maple syrup whenever I like. So every few days, I have to get off program and consume meals that contain both carbs and fats, even simple carbs, just to stay with my goal of maintaining rather than losing.

Another tweak that I have made while pregnant is to continue drinking fresh, whole, raw milk, which is always "off plan." Milk contains large amounts of lactose (which is a type of sugar, and therefore a carb), as well as fat. As such, it is by definition not compatible with the THM plan. However, not only does raw milk have a low glycemic index, I think that drinking it is important because I am pregnant, and milk is crucial for growing babies. My own "rule" for using milk and still losing weight is to use 1/2 cup or less for S meals, or count it as an E food if I have more than 1/2 cup. I also do not consume more than 1 cup at a time. Following these guidelines, like I said, has not stood in the way of weight loss for me. When I am not expecting, I do not drink fresh milk, but rather make my own kefir from raw milk. That way, all the benefits of drinking raw milk are preserved, while the lactose has been removed by way of fermentation. For people with digestive issues, drinking soured milk (i.e. kefir) rather than fresh milk is a much better option, anyway. 

In conclusion, the plan works. In fact, it works very well, it works fast, and going from being "on plan" to just a regular, whole foods diet (NOT the standard American diet) that contains both fats and carbs in the same meal will not make you regain the lost weight, but rather just maintain your current weight. You will be able to have bacon and eggs for breakfast one day, oatmeal the next, and all sorts of other satisfying foods that will keep you from feeling hungry or deprived. As such, it is the near perfect diet plan - just so long you stay away from the at best questionable "on plan" sweeteners. Your palate may need to adjust to not craving sweets and simple carbs all the time, but eventually, if the weight loss is going to be permanent, this is a necessary component anyway. 

Please do weigh in below with your experiences on the program, with the issues surrounding the sweeteners I mentioned, or anything else that would be valuable to this discussion. 

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Edited to add: Please see my follow-up post on this topic, "Stevia is safe - OR ELSE!"



Saturday, February 22, 2014

An update - finally!

Today marks 29 weeks of pregnancy. Things have continued to be uneventful. At our last appointment with the specialist, they did an echocardiogram on the baby. Everything was perfect, and we were actually released from their care until we need to come back for a final, routine checkup around week 36 or 37 just to make sure everything is still looking good. In the meanwhile, I will continue seeing both an OB, as well as my midwife, for the regular prenatal appointments.


Something that had been weighing heavily on my mind was arranging the burial of the deceased twin. My husband had repeatedly offered to take care of this for me, but I declined - it really was something I wanted to plan and figure out myself, even though I didn't enjoy the actual process of doing so. This past week, I finally was able to get everything set up and planned, and it has given me great peace of mind to know that this aspect has now been taken care of.

I am feeling as comfortable and rested as can be expected at this stage. The weather here has been nice, which is a welcome change from my last pregnancy, when I was pregnant during several of the hot summer months. I do need more sleep at night than usual, close to 8 hours instead of my typical 6. Not having those couple of quiet hours to myself late each night and early every morning has really been cutting into my "me time" majorly. I just can't seem to get caught up on most things, especially blogging :) However, I have a couple of blog posts that just need to be wrapped up, and hope to be able to publish them shortly.