Welcome to my Fuel Cycle page! This page holds EVERYTHING you need to complete a successful Trim Healthy Mama Fuel Cycle.
What is a Fuel Cycle?
A Fuel Cycle is a short period (1 week or 2 weeks) where you focus on specific fuel sources for each meal. There are a few rules about what you can or cannot have on a Fuel Cycle (there’s a rule sheet included below).
While a Fuel Cycle (or FC for short) is just eating the Trim Healthy Mama way, it is a bit more strict than the everyday regular freestyling that THM typically embraces. This is necessary to give your metabolism a jolt.
Who is a Fuel Cycle for?
A Fuel Cycle is for people who…
- …have been doing the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle for a while. I’m talking 3 months or more here. It is NOT for newbies or renewbies.
- …are following the THM plan completely and correctly. If you’re indulging in cheats on a regular basis or if you are doing the plan at all incorrectly, then a Fuel Cycle is NOT for you.
- …have hit a plateau for 1 or more months. This means your weight has stopped steadily dropping (has remained approximately the same within a half pound or so).
Step 1: Fuel Cycle Readiness
Before diving into a fuel cycle, you need to determine whether or not you’re authentically ready for one.
To figure out if a Fuel Cycle is best for you at this point in time, please read over the Weight Loss Stalls section below then perform the Fuel Cycle Readiness quiz.
Weight Loss Stalls By Trim Healthy Mama--Shared with Permission
Prior to beginning a Fuel Cycle, please read over the Weight Loss Stalls section below. To navigate through each section, click on the numbered tabs.
Weight Loss Stalls
Did you know that reaching a weight loss plateau could actually be a good thing? Sometimes it’s our body’s way of resetting itself after having lost weight. It’s a way to play “catch-up” and readjust itself.
Be aware that whenever you are losing weight, it never happens at a consistent pace. There is usually a very frustrating rhythm that goes more like: little drop, big drop, no drop, no drop, no drop, medium drop, little drop, big drop, no drop, and so forth. Your body will naturally pause after each loss of about 20 pounds. Let it regroup. Try not to get mad or sad and want too much too soon. That mindset leads to defeatism where you may be tempted to go back to your old ways rather than being patient and staying the course. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 123
We all lose weight at a different pace. There is no cookie cutter ideal on how much we should lose in any certain amount of time. We also know that losing weight too fast can lead to dangerous health complications. It’s important to let weight loss come naturally and sometimes this includes a time of plateau. Understand that it is your body’s way of taking care of itself. Our long term goal is not just weight loss, it’s establishing healthy eating patterns that will allow us to transition from a weight loss journey into a lifelong journey of health and overall well-being.
Check Your Thyroid & Insulin
One of the first things to check when weight is ultra-stubborn is thyroid and insulin levels. Be sure to read the pages on hormones (pp. 216-221 “Check Your Hormones” section of the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book) if you are suspicious of low thyroid or high insulin which may indicate Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Weight management will be extremely difficult until these sorts of issues are treated. If you have entered menopause or had surgery to remove any of your reproductive organs, you will experience hormonal decline. Losing your sex hormones also makes weight loss a lot more difficult. It is a good idea for you to have blood tests taken and find a doctor that can help you get back to more youthful hormone levels.
If you don’t have any underlying health issues which could be preventing you from losing weight and your thyroid and other hormones are in working order, it might be helpful to re-evaluate some other areas in your THM journey.
Are you eating enough?
Too low calorie intake for too long and your body will start holding onto its body fat rather than shedding. Survival mode kicks in and your body won’t want to burn through any calories you eat. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 106
Constantly limiting calories to a set number will lower your metabolism and affect your leptin and ghrelin hormones. Leptin is a master hormone in the body that controls hunger and feelings of satiety (feeling full). Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. Produced by the stomach, its job is to send a message that you need to eat. These hormones are crucial to this healthy way of living.
Don’t develop a “dieter’s mentality” that believes that we must restrict our food intake in order to see weight loss results. THM does not promote calorie deprivation, but it also does not promote abusing calories either.
Yes, calories count, but if we’re naturally changing up our fuels, we don’t need to be bothered with constantly counting them. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 125
Our plan is about changing up fats, carbs, and calories, not diminishing them to a constant low state. Each day on plan will be naturally different from others. —Trim Healthy Mama, pp. 591-592
Are you remembering to center each meal type around protein?
Protein helps regulate our insulin. Insulin’s most important job is the task of clearing elevated sugar from your blood. Protein needs to be at the core of all meals to help prevent sugar spikes and to help increase the hormone glucagon, which breaks down stored fat for use as fuel by cells. Insulin and glucagon partner together to help keep blood glucose levels balanced, which is very important to the weight loss process.
Are you keeping three hours between meals?
Spacing meals or snacks every three to four hours is a well-balanced approach… —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 118
Everyone will find their own balance and have to figure out the best spacing between their meals. We do want to remind you that eating every two hours or less will interfere with the fuel metabolism of the last meal. Often times when we think we’re hungry, we just need to hydrate.
Drink some water or sip on a THM sipper. If you find that doesn’t satisfy you, then enjoy an FP snack to hold you over until your next meal. if you are nursing or pregnant, the three to four hour mark may truly be too long to wait. You may need to eat at the two-hour mark, but this is different than grazing all day.
Are you switching between S and E?
We really can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. Trim Healthy Mama is not a low fat or low carb lifestyle. We are a carbohydrate conscious lifestyle. There’s no need to track calories, fats, or carbs as that takes away from our food freedom and ability to enjoy our journey. It’s best to listen to your body and enjoy the health benefits of each food type. Please do not limit yourself to only one fuel. Each fuel plays a very important role in nourishing our bodies. The magic of alternating these meal types is how your metabolism becomes a furnace. So, let’s see if tweaking some of our meals can allow us to rev up our metabolism and get us over this weight loss hump! We’ll examine each fuel type and remind ourselves of the setbacks that can occur when we lean too heavily on them.
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The S Meal–Are you overdoing nuts, cheese, and cream?
These healthy fats nourish our endocrine system and deter cravings so satiety kicks in. The S fuel is a very healthy option! However, many ladies find themselves relying too heavily on these rich, creamy foods. We don’t want to deprive you of them in any way! But, we do want you to realize that some of these satisfying foods need to be treated with a bit of respect.
We’ve already spoken about what can happen when we reduce our calorie intake and don’t eat enough, but we also need to be very careful about not over-indulging when it comes to some of our favorite, calorie dense treats.
Be mindful that constantly eating high calorie fats may be too much if you have challenging pounds to lose. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 592
Slight calorie change ups can stimulate our metabolism and ward off weight loss plateaus.
Staying on S meals only, which are naturally higher in calories due to fats, is another metabolism dead end. Continual S meals for weeks, months, and years on end can be calorie abuse! There is only so much high calorie food the body can take before it says, ‘Yeah, this is good food, all this cream, peanut butter, red meat, and butter, but I don’t care how low carb it is, you’re stuffing it down my throat every meal so I’ve decided not to burn it up in retaliation…so there!’ The fact that fats are higher in calories is not a bad thing. Don’t get us wrong, we love fats and creamy foods and want you to enjoy plenty of them. But, always remember with calories at any constant, high or low, your very smart body will catch on. Constantly counting calories to keep them low, or the opposite approach of calorie abuse by eating constant fat-laden meals are polar extremes. There’s no balance in either place. We wisely and happily meet in the middle by keeping to our mantra of ‘never adapt!’ —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 124
Nuts and seeds are enjoyable—whether eating them by the handful for a quick snack or using them in the form of butter and flour in a wonderfully, satisfying dessert. However, we need to remember that they are high calorie foods and can often be overdone to the point that they can cause a weight loss stall. Skinny Chocolate has slimming effects, but after adding in the calories with nuts, peanut butter, and coconut, we’ve not made “Skinny Chocolate,” instead we’ve made “Heavy Clusters.” It’s totally fine to enjoy this scrumptious treat every once in a while, but let’s remember to keep our calories changing, even in our S meals.
Franken foods are wonderful, convenience items for our Drive Thru Sues. But, unfortunately, they do not always have optimal ingredients. Often ladies will replace salad and other non-starchy vegetables with low-carb tortillas and pitas.
If you are eating too many store-bought low carb tortillas, breads, pasta, protein bars, ice cream, candy, etc., this could be your cause of halting weight loss. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 430
Also, be sure to check your store bought dressings and condiments for any hidden sugars (greater than 2 grams per serving) that could be contributing to your stall.
Cream, cream cheese, cheese, and other dairy products are usually fine, in moderation. But if you’ve found you have a sluggish metabolism or you’re experiencing a weight loss stall, it might be good to cut them a bit and see if that tweaking will help nudge the scale.
Are you including enough non-starchy veggies in your S meals? Don’t forget about your veggies just because you now get to eat lots of desserts. Load up on leafy greens, there is no limit to them.
Non-starchy veggies are low enough in carbs that they will not cause much of a blodd sugar rise. This is important since we don’t want blood sugar to be the chief fuel in an S meal. It is fat’s turn to “burn, baby burn!” If you allow your blood sugar to teigger high enough from starches and sugars in a meal, there’s no stopping it. The fat in that meal will stick to your belly and hips rather than fuel your body. Hence, these non-starchy veggies are the ticket to healthfully round out your S meals without causing fat storage. Instead, your own body fat will start to melt. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 67
There are some vegetables we’ve chosen to leave in the S list of foods, but we do need to be careful not to overdo them as they are closer to being considered a medium starch. Onions, tomatoes, and green peas need to be eaten in moderation. We recommend butternut and acorn squash to be kept to about ½ cup. Many ladies will use corn and carrots (in garnish amounts) inside an S setting, and that’s acceptable, just be careful not to overdo it.
The E Meal—Are you gorging on carbs? Or, having them at all?
Your body is crying out for healthy carbs and long-term weight loss depends upon them! E meals are designed to give us pep and offer our bodies glucose as our primary fuel source. Going low carb for too long is about the best way to break down your metabolism. E meals ensure a healthy metabolism, nourish our thyroid, and help boost serotonin levels. Serotonin is involved in the regulation of many functions including sleep, appetite, and mood.
E meals allow for many carb choices, but none of those choices are refined or processed, and the carbs will give you energy without the later crash. Like S meals, they must be centered around a protein course, but this protein source will be leaner so that more carbs can be consumed without weight gain. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 77
Is your E meal protein lean? We’ve already spoken about the important of protein centered meals, but we’d like to especially emphasize the importance of protein in our E meals. It must be leaner than our S protein choices so that more carbs can be consumed without weight gain and/or creating an unintentional Crossover effect.
Page 87 lists our lean meat options, be sure to take note that our meat protein needs to be 96-99% fat free. If we’re using ground meat and it’s not 96-99% fat free, we can brown, drain, and rinse it well under hot water. We could then use it (up to 5 ounces) in our E meal without the risk of “crossing over.”
Is fat sitting in the back seat? Since carbs are taking more of the front seat position in our E meals, we need to be sure that we avoid a head-on collision that occurs with high carbs and high fats together. Fat will not play a key role in our E meals, but it does have some importance.
Naked carbs (those that have been stripped of all fat) cause faster sugar spikes. Protein slows this down, as does a little bit of fat. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 80
So, don’t be afraid to add a bit of fat to your carb source—a teaspoon of butter to your bakes sweet potato, a teaspoon of coconut oil stirred into your brown rice or oatmeal, or a small handful (about 5 grams) or chopped nuts in your Waldorf Cottage Cheese Salad. This small bit of fat will help you blunt any potential insulin spike.
Are you “gorging” on carbs? We don’t want you to do a bunch of carb counting as it takes away from your happiness. But, be sure you’re keeping grains, fruit, and sweet potatoes to palm-size portions that will naturally keep you around 45 grams of carbs. The only way to be sure your body will burn glucose, and then burn some body fat, is to be sure the starches are kept to medium amounts. The portions in the E list of foods are safe helping sizes to keep you from having to think too much about it.
Are you feeling hungry soon after your E meal? Consider this:
The only likely reason you would feel hungry an hour after a meal or snack, is if it was not protein-centered and you overdid the carbs. Remember, overdoing carbs causes excessive hunger. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 593
If you’re still hungry after an E meal, try this tip: blend ½ scoop THM Pristine Whey Protein Powder with a cup of unsweetened almond milk and ½ teaspoon Sweet Blend (or a doonk of THM stevia). It will give you extra filling mileage. You can also make this chocolate flavored by using the Chocolate powder instead.
Be sure to stay away from refined cars, store-bough cereals (that are not “on plan”), and breads that are not true sourdough or sprouted. You’ll want to be careful of overeating fruits that are high glycemic such as bananas, pineapple, watermelon, and mangoes. Popcorn shouldn’t be a daily treat.
The FP Meal—Fuel Pull meals swiftly shed excess weight.
They are faster fat shedders than your reliable S and E meals, but must not be abused and used too liberally. Included too often, they will harm your long term doable approach rather than help. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 102
Fuel Pulls really shine as desserts and snacks, but they can also play a part as meals for some people with stubborn weight. Fuel Pull desserts like our pudding and Tummy Tucking Ice Cream take first place in the Dessert Chapter in Trim Healthy Mama because they are light, yet filling. If you are eating heavy S desserts too often after S meals, your body may not be able to handle all that fuel. Try replacing cheesecake for dessert with other lighter options in the Dessert chapter like Cottage Berry Whip or ½ of an FP style Fat Stripping Frappa. Enjoy the cheesecake for an afternoon snack or even for an occasional breakfast so you don’t feel deprived.
We cannot tell you how often you will need to use Fuel Pulls as full meals since your body and your weight loss journey will be unique. But, we do insist on putting a limit on their frequency to keep you safe and your metabolism from slowing down. Even for very tough weight loss cases, make sure that you keep at least half of all your meals, per week, made up of the basic S and E core of the our plan.
Are you close to goal weight?
Stalling out, before hitting goal weight, can be quite normal for some. We know you want to see that number, but be wise and don’t push too hard. Pushing too hard tends to slow the metabolism. Trying not to focus on a number, at the end of the weight loss aspect of your journey, is the best approach. You’ll see that number, it just may not be anytime soon. It might be best for your body to take those last few pounds really, really slowly so you can keep your metabolism around for the long haul. Maybe even include a few Crossovers now and then so you keep that metabolism revved and then do more Deep S meals versus Heavy S meals. Your body is still making changes, even though it might not be on the scale. As always, concentract on the “healthy” and let the “trim” come naturally.
Are you making things too complicated?
We all love indulgent meals! We all love our creamy desserts because they are such a special treat! We take pride in the fact that we can have our cake and eat it too—for breakfast! However, THM is so much more than creamy desserts and cheesy everything. Most of us, when we first start the plan, will include these in our daily fare. They help us find our “food freedon” groove. That’s perfectly fine! Over time on plan, the craving for heavy fats and indulgent desserts starts to wane. Everyone is different when it comes to heavy S desserts like cheesecake or desserts made with almond flour, etc. We all need to assess our own reaction to them.
Enjoy Deep S meals. If you haven’t yet learned about Deep S, the Higher Learning chapter (chapter 11) of the Plan book teaches you that it is a little more low carb that regular S meals and focuses on purity of fats. Whereas Heavy S usually involves fats like cheeses, nuts, or cream…Deep S meals consist of simple fats, proteins, and limited carbohydrates. Lots of leafy, green vegetables are encouraged.
The best way to lose weight is to eat basic, whole foods. The most powerful weight loss meals are very simple, like salmon and salad with an olive oil dressing for S. In fact, any protein source, whether leftover chicken, fish, even fried eggs over a bed of greens with an olive oil and vinegar dressing is an excellent slimming lunch or dinner. The hot protein cooked in some fat is hearty and satisfying and the lettuce underneath fills you up and offers a lot of for-to-mouth satisfaction. Maybe you’ve been trying to get too facny and need to go back to simple meals like these and see what happens on the scale. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 431
Is it time for a fuel cycle?
In fairness to those who have been doing everything right and are still struggling, don’t beat yourself up. Some people are more insulin resistant than others. Some have body types that are more prone to holding onto weight. Hang in there! We have some ways to pull you out of the ditch. —Trim Healthy Mama, p. 102
If, after tweaking your free-styling, you find yourself still struggling with stubborn weight…you might need some structure to help you get the scale moving more. Be sure to read Chapter 24 in the Plan book. The Fuel Cycle will actively shift among all three different metabolic pathways. This will help to re-awaken your metabolism in a deeper, stimulating way and help you get over the weight loss stall hump!
Please complete the quiz below to determine if you’re ready for a Fuel Cycle.
Fuel Pull Readiness Quiz
Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you begin a Fuel Cycle.
Step 2: Fuel Cycle Homework Assignments
If you’re ready to do a Fuel Cycle, do the following reading and listening to get fully prepared.
Step 3: Fuel Cycle Cheat Sheets
If you’re ready to do a Fuel Cycle, download and print the Fuel Cycle Rules sheet and the 1 Week or 2 Week blank Fuel Cycle Menu Planner.