Does intermittent fasting have health benefits?

Sigh….I know! I know! It’s confusing. Every other week, a new diet approach. Keto. Vegan. Paleo. Here we go again. Bottom line is, there is no one diet fits all and part of what I do for you is give you the most up to date research available. Intermittent fasting is a new buzz phrase going around the internet health circles and to my surprise, there is no shortage of research surrounding this method of meal planning. It has definitely sparked curiosity amongst the science and health communities, particularly about its effects on obesity, insulin resistance, sleep cycles, and fat metabolism.

First, what exactly does intermittent fasting mean? Well, it’s what it sounds like….most commonly it involves a period of 2 days per week, every week, of no food whatsoever. However, some alternate days of fasting where every other day they eat and drink what they want and the opposite days they consume zero calories. And then there are some methods that specify time periods of each day where food is allowed and food is not. Usually you are allowed calorie-free fluids, but that’s it. The theory is that our body needs a “break” from food on a regular basis to produce health benefits. But what does the research actually say? These are the questions I’m going to attempt to answer.

1. Does it help with weight loss? This is really the million dollar question in my mind. I preach not to go more than 5-6 hours without eating because, after all, it actually slows your metabolism down and our bodies are designed to hoard calories when we don’t eat. Think of your body as if it were a car: food to the body is like gas is to a car. Without it, the body has no energy to move, which means the body is like a car that has run out of gas, parked on the side of the road….no fuel, nothing to burn. I’ve worked with so many clients who did not start losing weight until they started eating more often. Most drastic example I can think of is a woman who weighed more than 500 pounds and consumed only one meal per day that probably totaled to about 800 calories. She could not, for anything, lose weight. A month later, after eating double the calories, three meals a day with some snacks in between, she LOST weight. But that’s just my story, let’s look at some scientific studies.

In this small study of sixteen non-obese individuals, they lost an average of 2.5% of their starting weight after twenty-two days, so just three weeks, of alternate day fasting. However, they were HUNGRY. And that hunger never subsided. Do you think they kept at it after the study? A 5’5″ woman is technically overweight, but not obese, at 165 pounds….so if you lost four pounds in three weeks and you were starving, would you keep it at? Or find another diet, like the keto diet that is known to reduce hunger? It should be noted however that fat oxidation was increased during the study period, which means they were losing mostly fat mass and not muscle mass, this is a really good thing considering you want to keep your muscle mass when losing weight. These people did not maintain their losses, regrettably.

Here is a review highlighting several studies on alternate day fasting and comparing them to normal, calorie restricted diets (you know, the traditional method of weight loss you’ve probably tried a gazillion times.) They concluded that indeed, fasting is superior to producing weight loss and particularly, loss of fat mass. Pretty neat, huh? I’ve talked about the importance of this for preserving your metabolic rate in the past.

This last study compared individuals following an alternate day fast vs. combining it with exercise vs. exercise alone vs. a control group. These particular subjects were allowed a controlled, prepared meal that was provided for them around lunch time on the fast days. The meal was restricted to 450 calories and otherwise, calorie free beverages only. Feed days they could eat what they wanted, but they were given dietary counseling by a dietitian. Sounds pretty good, right? You may guess by now that the combo and alternate day fast group lost the most weight after twelve weeks at six and three kilograms (13.2 and 6.6 pounds), respectively. Again, most of the weight they lost was fat mass, not muscle. Awesome, right? It needs to be pointed out here though that they measured body fat using bio-impedance, which I’m not a fan of for accuracy….it’s the same kind you might use on your bathroom scale. Regardless, people are apparently losing the good kinda weight with intermittent fasting.

2. Does intermittent fasting improves insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes risk? I found lots about this one, too. The caution here if you have type 2 diabetes is that if you are taking medications that lower your blood sugar intentionally, many of the medications will not work without food OR they will work too well and cause hypoglycemia. So I’m going to begin this with an up front warning that what I’m about to say is not to be started without speaking to your doctor first if you are taking medications for diabetes. Okay?

In this pilot study (so just preliminary) on ten obese individuals, they experienced a reduction in their weight, body mass index, and fasting blood sugars after only two weeks. They fasted daily and only ate during a window of about six hours during mid-afternoon. Apparently they didn’t gorge themselves, because the article did say there was a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake measured from pictures they were required to take of all meals and food they consumed (talk about accountability!). At two weeks, this study really wasn’t long enough to say much, but six out of the ten said they would do it again.

In this study done on a small group twenty-four obese male war veterans, they did not see a significant change in fasting blood glucose or fasting lipids after six months of intermittent fasting (two nonconsecutive days a week.) Interestingly enough, their systolic blood pressures lowered and they did lose an average of twelve pounds…pretty good!

Lastly, in this review of several studies on the effects of intermittent fasting and insulin resistance, primarily reduction of type 2 diabetes risk, they concluded that the findings are showing promise for the use of alternate day fasting as an alternative to the traditional calorie restricted diets, but more research is required before solid conclusions can be reached.  I perused some of their reference articles and the theme seems to be that the results are more profound in mice than humans so far. There was another review I thought gave some really good insight and from what I gather, if you are going to try intermittent fasting for the purposes of improving your blood sugars and/or insulin resistance, focus on fasting during the evening times specifically. 

3. Does intermittent fasting help you sleep better? I bring this one up because we know that poor sleep habits lead to weight gain. So wouldn’t it be cool if there was a diet that could help you sleep better? I found two studies that looked at this. The first one was on eight volunteers who honored Ramadan, a religious period of fasting between dawn and sunset celebrated by the Islamic culture. They measured their melatonin levels via blood tests at baseline, during, and after. Unfortunately, they did not find any differences related to fasting. However, in this study, eight overweight individuals self reported better sleep when participating in time restricted fasting (food allowed <12 hours daily) for sixteen weeks. Subjective measurements are not usually as reliable, but these people obviously felt more refreshed waking up.

So what’s the verdict? Would you participate in fasting for a day or two per week or pick several hours each day to fast based on the evidence available? Seems like the information is promising, but the studies are small and preliminary. As for me, I’m not sure if I’m personally jumping on this bandwagon quite yet knowing there are other diets that are much easier to follow than this one.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free online support group here.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

5 Excuses why we don’t exercise (and how to bust through them)

We all have that one friend who loves to exercise. They swear by it and if they miss a day, everyone knows about it because they claim to feel terrible. You wanna be like them. Well maybe not just like them, but you want to at least want to exercise.But as of this post, you can’t remember the last time you actually did exercise. I’m gonna help you out and just lay all of the most common excuses for why exercise is so easy to justify not doing and then tell you why they are totally false. Sound good? If you read on, you may no longer use these excuses. Fair warning.

Excuse #1: I don’t have enough time. Well join the club. I’m gonna give you a little eye-opener though – think of the last really good book you read. Like, Hunger Games/Fifty Shades Trilogy good (whatever you thing is). How long did it take you to read all 3 books? Be honest. How did you make the time? Stay up all night? Make the kids cook their own dinner? Skip a tv show or two? Here’s the deal- we make time for what we want. It comes down to priorities. I’m not telling you to stop scrolling on Facebook (although we all could probably benefit from less time spent there), but I am telling you to evaluate how you spend your time if this is the excuse you hold near and dear.

Tips to bust through it: Wear a pedometer. I highly recommend the Omron HJ325. It doesn’t cost much and is one of the more accurate step counters I have used it for years. Could be a FitBit if you want to get more fancy and track your heart rate, sleep quality, and time. Exercise is great, but it’s more about being physically active throughout the day. I talk about step goals here. Break it up if you are really that strapped for time. Say, two to three fifteen walk breaks daily instead of one 45 minute walk around the neighborhood. Most of us can find an extra ten or fifteen minutes here and there throughout our day where we are wasting time and could be walking. Step counters make you more aware of how you can fit in “accidental” activity as well (i.e. stairs, parking farther away, walking allll the way over to your colleague’s cubicle instead of sending an email, etc). If you need to sneak in resistance training, keep a set of hand weights by your couch to do while watching television, bring resistance bands to work and learn exercises that are easy to do between phone calls. Multitask!

Excuse #2: I’m exhausted. I get it. I have two kids, church commitments, a part-time job, and I own a business. My day usually starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends around 10:30 p.m. I’m sure you have lots of your own stuff that wears you out. Thing is, being exhausted is often a symptom of physical inactivity. Ouch. Energetic people are in motion.

Tips to bust through it: If you need to get up and go first thing when you wake up, before you have time to talk yourself out of it, then put your shoes by the door and clothes by the bathroom sink where you go to brush your teeth. Make it a habit. When I used to work full time, I would bring my clothes with me to work and go for a long walk or run in the neighborhood behind our building before I got in the car to go home. I knew myself and once I got in the door, not only would the day catch up, but the evening responsibilities would swallow me up too. Other days I would take two or three short walk breaks to total 20-30 minutes a day just to stay awake! Working at a desk job with no windows will zap your energy alone.

Excuse #3: I hurt too much. This is possibly one of the more difficult challenges to bust through. Little known fact: I’m a chronic pain sufferer myself. So again, I get it. Here’s what I know about chronic pain – the more you sit around and think about it, the worse it gets. The less you move, the worse it gets. If you have pain, it is MORE of a reason to move, NOT less. If you’re complaining because of common post exercise muscle soreness, well that’s supposed to happen and it’s a good thing. If you work muscles that aren’t used to moving, they’re naturally gonna revolt on you. Over time, this won’t happen so much as you get stronger. To some degree, you always want to feel some soreness as a sign that you are challenging yourself a bit, but not to a point that it’s painful.

Tips to bust through it: Modify. Not everyone was meant to run cross country or train for triathlons. That’s okay. In fact, one of the best exercises you can do is walk. If you are going for general health, thirty minutes most days is the goal. If you are aiming to lose and maintain weight loss, you’ll need to go for 45-60 minutes most days. If you have an injury that keeps you from walking that much, try bicycling, swimming, or even seeing a physical therapist if you need to. Point is, you can always find something that will work for you if you seek and ask for help. In the long run, you may even experience less pain. Win-win!

Excuse #4: I really don’t like to exercise. This is my favorite! Saying this is like saying “I don’t like food, so I won’t eat.” There are just way too many choices to say that kind of statement. What you are really saying is “I don’t have any reason not to exercise, I just don’t want to.” Sorry, this just isn’t an excuse.

Tips to bust through it: Be willing to try new things. Walking sound boring? Get a partner to pass the time. Try group classes. Change it up and alternate activities. If you like sports, remember that counts as activity, so find a local team that meets for fun. Is the gym intimidating? Go during off hours when not many people are there. You could always skip the gym altogether and stay home and do videos on YouTube, purchase exercise DVDs, or walk outdoors. There are just too many options to try to say you don’t like any of it.

Excuse #5: It’s too hot, too cold, raining, snowing outside. It’s always one of these things outside. Where I live, we get about two weeks of Fall weather (so, when it’s none of those things), another two weeks of semi-cold, and the other 48 weeks are hot and/or raining. So this excuse can be made a lot.

Tips to bust through it: Go early before the elements kick in. Go later in the evening after the sun has gone down. When it’s colder, go mid-day when the sun is at peak. If it’s raining or during the summer when temperatures reach heat-stroke warning highs, be flexible and go indoors. I’ve given you lots of options already of what to do inside. Some gyms offer month to month memberships. If you live by a mall, most of them open early enough before the shops so that you can go walking inside. Don’t worry about looking silly, everyone else is in there doing the same thing!

This just about covers the main excuses for why people don’t exercise. I’ve used them all. You’ve probably used some, too. In addition to the tips I’ve given you to bust through them, I’ve also been able to lessen my pain and increase my energy by using the right vitamins and nutritional supplements. So many of us walk around with vague symptoms like fatigue, achy joints, and daily headaches and don’t realized it can be linked to a simple nutrient deficiency. Our food supply and many of the vitamins on the market today are stripped of the vital nutrients our bodies need to feel our best. If you’d like to know more about the brand I use and trust, feel free to contact me.

So tell me, are you ready to bust through these excuses? If you are, you may want some accountability. I’m beginning a 30 day Fitness Challenge on Monday, July 17, to take us through the rest of summer. If you want in, click here to join and for directions to get in.

P.S. If you’ve been looking for support, you’ve come to the right place, request to join my online support group for all things nutrition and weight loss support.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Keto diet- is it everything and more?

Several weeks ago, I began a diet review series and I did a brief synopsis of the Keto Diet. I admit it wasn’t very thorough and because I keep seeing it pop up and another friend starting it, another friend losing weight with it, and another person swearing by it for their increased energy, I’m gonna do a more thorough review here. I especially see my friends in the holistic communities doing it- and it’s spreading faster than the Whole 30 diet once was.

Is this the newest fad that will be replaced by something better in a couple of years? Or is it here to stay and in several years we are going to see evidenced based research popping up at how it’s the best diet that we never knew existed and if we just figured out how healthy fat was for us earlier, maybe we wouldn’t be seeing the rise of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and other related diseases that we do today?

Well, let’s start with what it even is. Roughly 70-75% fats (you read right), 5-10% carbohydrate, and 20-25% protein. As you can see this is not your normal low carb diet that typically replaces the missing carbs with protein. It’s all about the fat. Why? Because the purpose of this diet is to put your body into ketosis, aka a fat burning machine. Just to give you a little science lesson here, our bodies preferred source of fuel is glucose (what carbs are converted to after we eat them). Now if you are eating a diet high in carbs, that is what you will burn first for energy. And everything requires energy in our bodies to function properly, including our brains. When the body runs out of glucose (will happen if you aren’t eating very many carbs), the liver is great at producing a back up, called ketones. Ketones come from broken down fat. Make sense?

So why do people do this? I dunno about you, but while a high fat diet sounds pretty fun to me, a diet made of mostly fat doesn’t. But there are lots of anecdotal reports of promising results when one follows this kind of diet. I’ll start with two that have evidenced-based research backing the claims up (because you know me, that’s what I’m about.)

Note: it was very difficult for me to find any studies published prior to 2017 (soooo….6 months ago) that called a ketogenic diet low carb high fat. Be aware of that because any other “ketogenic” diet before that in the research was defined as “low carb, high protein.” There is a huge difference and that’s not what we are talking about here. I worked with patients and personally participated in 2 published studies on very low calorie high protein, low carb diets for 7 years.

Weight loss: this article  published in 2013 reviewed 12 different studies and found in 1415 subjects, the average weight loss after 6 months on a high fat, low carb diet was 2 pounds vs. 1.6 pounds for those following a low fat diet. After a 6 month follow up it was difficult to assess because compliance was not so great and they consumed more carbs than allowed. Another study published in 2009 was done for a full year on 106 obese individuals and compared weight loss of those on a keto diet vs a low fat, high carb diet. They found that their average weight loss was the same between groups, both losing an average of 30 pounds. Pretty good, but neither diet was superior to the other. It just showed that following a reduced calorie diet yields weight loss.

I will add here that I’ve always said, I’ve failed at what I do if I helped you lose weight but you regained it all back. I don’t think we know enough about this diet for the purposes of weight loss to know if it’s not just another yo yo plan. Sorry.

Lipid levels: In the same 2013 review, they analyzed 1258 subjects and found their triglycerides decreased significantly, and their HDL levels increased significantly. Both good things. I like that and the amount of subjects is enough to say it’s valid.

Other indicators of Metabolic Syndrome: The 2013 review noted there was no significant difference between treatment groups in changes in systolic blood pressure (11 trials), fasting blood glucose (eight trials), insulin (six trials), HbA1c – average blood glucose over three months (four trials) and C-reactive protein (four trials).

Athletic performance: In this 2017 review, they concluded that long-term low carb, high fat diets appear to be safe and may even improve several metabolic risk factors for chronic diseases in the general population. They may even provide a promising way to help control body weight and fat mass while maintaining lean body mass in athletes who are participating in sports like tae kwan do, wrestling, lightweight rowing, cycling, and running. Additionally, there is some emerging evidence that a keto diet could improve the performance in ultra-endurance sports as well as those sports with repeated high intensity activities. If you aren’t an athlete, this could still be a good thing if you’re hitting up the gym and wanna try out that new cycling class.

Focus and Mood: this has been one result that many believers love the most. And why I believe they stick with it. Who wouldn’t when you feel great, you’re losing weight, and you’re better able to focus? Who doesn’t need that? Here’s what the available research says: in a 2009 study, they found that after 8 weeks, those following both low carb, high fat diet and a low fat diet had significant improvements in their mood and cognitive functions. However, after a year, the low carb, high fat diet returned to their baseline mood and cognitive functions while those on the low-fat diet continued with their marked improvements. You read that right. The low-fat diet group continued with the better mood, NOT the keto group. This study here in 1998 reported similar results on women eating a high carb diet. I’m just the messenger, don’t hate me! Now, I’m not recommending you go eat a bunch of carbs to feel better. Okay?

Here’s the thing, the concept of following a keto diet for weight loss is fairly new in the research world. So you’re not gonna find a whole lot out there to prove it does a whole lot for health yet. You will find a bunch out there to show the benefits of what it does for those with epilepsy unresponsive to medication. It works.

And don’t expect overnight results. It takes time for the body to adapt to ketogenesis. Some sources I’ve read say two weeks, others say up to a couple of months – assuming you don’t go off plan, not even once. So no cheat days allowed. This diet is for the type A strict meal planning types. Those who are willing to keep a food record and count their carbs, fats, and proteins will do best.

I’m a weight loss expert. And here’s what I know about long term, sustainable weight loss. It’s hard. Like, really hard. If you’re looking for a study that proves ANY diet to work and be the ending answer to our obesity epidemic, well good luck. You will surely find that one person who followed a high carb diet and lost 167 pounds and now has kept it off for 13 years. There’s gonna be that person following the Atkins diet since it’s introduction to the dieting world and it’s changed their life forever. And then there’s the rest of the dieting world still looking for what works for them. I did not find anything that said following the ketogenic diet was harmful, not even long term. In fact, quite opposite. So if you wanna try it because you know someone or more than a few someones who are following it and now they look and feel great and you think it’s something that could help you, well let me know! I’m always looking to be inspired by someone’s dieting success story.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Why you need to do more than just go to the gym

Have you ever gotten on a gym kick and decided you were gettin’ that membership, signing up for that personal trainer, and committing to going daily? And then after a week or two got on the scale expecting to see the pounds just melt off? I mean, you’ve been working your tail off and you can barely open a pickle jar these days because your arms hurt so bad. It’s only fair that the scale should be at least ten pounds down. At least.

But that’s not what happens. In fact, you gained weight.

Your personal trainer tells you some line about muscle gains. But deep down you know it’s unlikely. You hurt but not enough to justify two pounds of muscle in seven days for God’s sake. So why did this happen?

Here are some possible reasons:

  1. You didn’t change your diet to coincide with this newfound lease on exercise. And more often than not, people increase their caloric intake because naturally, you feel hungrier with the extra calorie burn and you eat to match that hunger. Or, feelings of “earning” that extra slice of pizza creep in- I mean seriously, your personal trainer was pretty hard on you today.
  2. You did change your diet, but you’ve cut your calories way too low and now your body has gone into starvation mode (i.e. storage factory for calories because you’re burning them and cutting them and your metabolism doesn’t know what to do with that.) Side note: this is usually not the case, but it’s worth mentioning for anyone who has cut their calories <1000. Our bodies are better at protection from famine than we given it credit for.
  3. You’ve increased your carb intake either with protein shakes from the gym’s ultra fancy smoothie bar or any extra post-work out snack full of carbs and now your body is storing it all with water because that’s what carbs cozy up with and leave you feeling bloated.
  4. The most likely cause: you’ve given yourself permission to sit on the couch for the rest of the day and you aren’t living a physically active lifestyle. Did you know people who live a physically active lifestyle are actually healthier than those who just go to the gym and do nothing else? Were gyms even a “thing” for non-athletes twenty or thirty years ago?

So let’s talk about getting physically active. Because prior to the computer age, desk jobs weren’t so common. But now that we are spending most of our lives sitting down, at a computer, we have to be more aware of what many health professionals call “the sitting disease.” If you are spending seven hours or more sitting (watching television, reading a book/newspaper, playing/working on your phone or tablet, or at your computer), you are at risk. Recent studies have suggested that is is just as bad for our health as smoking. Smoking!!

Let’s be clear – being physically active is not the same as exercise. And this can be good news for those of us that don’t particularly care for planned exercise. A study done at Mayo Clinic compared something they called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) between self proclaimed “couch potatoes”  and people who were more physically active. NEAT includes activities like laughing, fidgeting, standing, walking, and talking. Both sets of groups wore underwear that measured their every move, day and night.

What they found was that the people who were able to turn on their NEAT did NOT gain fat when they were overfed by 1000 calories daily. People who didn’t turn on their NEAT gained TEN TIMES more fat. Can you believe that??

So how can you apply this to your life?

I suggest getting yourself a good pedometer so that you can track your daily steps. I really like the Omron HJ325. You will quickly find that you probably walk less than 3000 steps per day and that’s not good. It’s easier than you think to increase this though. Just ten minutes at a time is enough to count as a walking activity. So, plan for three, ten minute walks a day and you are doing the same thing as if you decided to do a thirty minute walk all at once. But, you are more likely to stay consistent with this routine.

Why? Because let’s say you always walk for thirty minutes after work. Inevitably something is going to happen after work every so often – you get a flat tire, the kids have a ball game, you’re too tired, you get caught at work late, etc. However, if you split it up, you still at least got twenty minutes in and you’re only out those ten minutes after work. Make sense? So commit to splitting it up. The other benefit of this is, most of us won’t have to get on any special work out clothes or take a shower after a ten minute walk.

So how many steps are enough? Your first goal will be to work your way up to 5000 to get out of the sedentary zone. Then, keeping in mind if you have been a total couch potato, work yourself up without beating yourself up using the below chart. Another way to look at is, if the amount of steps you are walking is meeting your weight goals (i.e. you are maintaining or losing), then it’s enough. If it’s not (so, you’re gaining weight), well then you need to add steps or cut back on your calorie intake.

Also, think of your typical day now. Are there times when you could be standing rather than sitting? For example, could you move that piece of exercise equipment that is holding up your clothes to a place in front of your tv? Could you stand while taking phone calls at work instead of sitting? Can you take the stairs rather than an elevator? Park a little further away? This stuff adds up.

Whether you like going to the gym or not, it’s important to remember that it’s about our lifestyle as a whole when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance. Set some daily goals starting now and you’ll be surprised how far you can go over the next six months.

P.S. If you’ve been looking for support, you’ve come to the right place, request to join my online support group for all things nutrition and weight loss support.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Ketogenic and the Whole 30 Diets – Yay or Nay?

I’ve recently started a series on some of the more popular diets right now to hopefully take the guess work out of whether or not you should consider them. For this week, I’m gonna focus on the Ketogenic diet and the Whole 30 diet.

Ketogenic diet: a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet – usually three to four grams of fat per gram of carbohydrate and protein combined coming from heavy whipping cream, butter, mayonnaise, and oils. Why it is used: it helps to control seizures in some people with epilepsy and should be prescribed by a physician and carefully monitored by a dietitian. This is not just a low carb diet like the Atkins.  It is supposed to produce ketones in the body (hence the name), which are formed when the body uses fat for its source of energy. Normally our body uses carbohydrate as its primary energy source. In normal circumstances, the bare minimum I ever recommend is 100 to 130 grams of carbohydrate. This diet includes minimum carbs, often under ten grams per day, to force the body to use fat for energy.

Pros: in those with intractable seizures meaning, non responsive to medications, it can greatly reduce their frequency and severity of seizures. It can cause rapid weight loss, but a ketogenic diet in the true sense is going to do anything but. Also, prolonged ketosis is not a natural state that the human body functions well in (which I will explain below in the “cons” section.) Having said that, it can be life saving and changing for those merely surviving one seizure to the next.

Cons: since the body is designed to use carbohydrates for energy, expect to feel pretty sluggish. Our primary food sources of carbohydrate include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy. So you can expect constipation as well. If you aren’t constipated, you may have diarrhea due to the high fat content or, if you’re really lucky, alternating. Other issues related to a high fat diet include reflux, nausea, vomitting, and kidney stones. In addition, it’s not very nutritionally balanced and even mineral absorption issues can occur causing hair loss, weakened bones, muscle cramps, acute pancreatitis, impaired focus and memory (the brain needs sugar), high cholesterol, increased inflammation, depressed mood, and even menstrual irregularities. Sounds fun, right?

Whole 30 diet: this diet claims that food, primarily grains, sugar, alcohol, and legumes, are the root of all your health ailments. I see this one daily in the health circles I run in. Most people that follow this are doing so because they want to feel better. Nothing wrong with that. It’s temporary and the closest thing I can compare it to is an elimination diet I put people on who are allergic to multiple foods and they aren’t sure which one(s) are the culprit. The theory is after thirty-one days, you will know right away which food is the cause of your health problems because you feel terrible once you reintroduce it back into your diet. While I agree we could all go without sugar and alcohol and be better off for it, I have never met a person who has allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, or chronic knee pain because they eat mini wheats for breakfast and legumes at dinner time. Sorry, but I’ve been a dietitian for a while now and I’ve never seen nor read any validated research backing this up. Having said that, I’m all for a diet that advocates eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and advocates cooking more and eating less processed food.

Pros: it’s an overall very healthy diet that eliminates sugar and refined, processed food – all of which we eat too much of. It’s also high in fiber and protein, two things I’m a big fan of in any diet.

Cons: while I love the idea of getting people to cook more and eat more whole foods, zero eating out and zero convenience food options is going to make this difficult for many in our fast paced society. This diet is only for the motivated individual who can really dedicate themselves to focusing on their food for the month. I’m not really excited about the idea that it’s a temporary diet – going on a diet just means you plan to go off a diet. But hey, if you truly feel better, it could be the beginning of something great, right?

So there ya have it. Two more diets for you. If you are totally in love with either of these diets, I’m only offering my insight and opinions. None of this is meant to hurt feelings of any die hard fans. If you would like to learn more about a specific diet, let me know in the comments section.

Also, if you’d like more information on the diet that I do recommend and how I’ve helped others lose 30-80lbs following simple steps, contact me here.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Stressful words for moms: cleaning

As the caretaker of the household we have a lot of responsibilities.  Keep a clean home, feed everyone nutritious meals, help with homework, referee between arguing children, monitor screen time, bath small children, change diapers, read bedtime stories, pay bills and set a joyful example through it all. If you work outside the home you’re juggling the challenges of employment while doing these things in the time leftover of your day, but by no means are you off the hook from any of it. If you work in your home, in some ways you get less slack for either and should do both better with your “extra” time. If you don’t work well you likely experience zero slack because your “job” doesn’t exist at all.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be addressing some of the most stressful words that keep moms on their toes and attempt to offer strategies to make them a little bit easier to hear.

But first, can we all just take a moment of silence for the moms who are pregnant with their first and have no real clue what’s coming? And for the moms juggling a full time job while giving away half their paychecks to the daycare center? And for the moms juggling work at home with a child unplugging their computer and asking for a snack every five seconds? And the longest one for the woman who decided to devote all of her self to caring for her family?

Y’all, it’s all hard. I’ve been in every situation described. The last one I only lasted 22 weeks which was maternity leave, of which I was practically tossing my second child at the daycare like a football I was so ready to re-enter the world of working adults.

When I asked fellow moms what stressed them out the most, the top answers were keeping a clean home, laundry, daycare costs, dinner, and sick days. For the purpose of keeping this post shorter than a novel, I’m going to focus on keeping a clean home and how I’ve managed to do it imperfectly.

1. Use bins, crates, boxes, etc. My kids have so. Many. Toys. To keep my house from looking like their rooms threw up all over the place, we turned the formal dining room into a playroom. In it, there is a 3 shelf system with bins for toys, a storage chest, and a plastic 3-drawer unit. I also keep an extra crate in the living room for stray toys. Both kids beds have built-in drawers underneath as well.

2. Make it a habit to declutter. My life got easier when I started throwing out broken toys and donating clothes, toys, and other items we’ve been saving for a rainy day. A good question to ask is “have we used it in the last 6 months and will we miss it in the next 6 months?” If this process is overdue for you, take it one room a weekend and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is.

3. Break it up and follow a daily schedule so that you don’t have to waste your weekend cleaning the house. What does this look like? You may have seen some floating around online. I’ve tweaked some of my favorite to fit my specific needs to look something like this:

Monday: Clean the bathroom sinks and countertops, more if needed but I loathe scrubbing tubs and showers so hubby usually does this.

Tues
ay: Grocery shopping and planning meals (because I can take my 4 year old to the church Moms Day Out and do this child-free)

Wednesday: Clean kitchen countertops (usually this means I’m decluttering the mail). Empty all trash cans (Thursday is garbage day.)

Thursday: During the spring and summer months, this is lawn day for hubby. I dust (once every 1-2 months), vacuum and mop the inside (mopping every other week).

Fridays: Clean the rabbit cage. I know most of you reading this may not have a rabbit, but if you have routine pet care, this might apply. Anything I didn’t do during the week because I rarely follow this schedule to a tee. Usually fold 1-2 loads of laundry that have piled
up.

Saturdays: laundry (some folding, not all of it) family day

Sundays: church and day of rest

Everyday: We all pick up toys for about 15 minutes before bedtime, I fold a load of laundry 2-3 times a week because it’s never-ending and I can’t remember the last time it was all caught up. And about a year ago, I started making it a point to make the bed every morning.

4. Make sure your home smells good. Everyone’s home has a certain “smell.” I live with 3 boys, a dog, and a rabbit. I’m not confident the “smell” in our home is always good. The thing is, those of us who live there don’t smell it because our noses are accustomed to it. I don’t want guests to be turned off, so I diffuse essential oils r
egularly. Be aware of this. Even the cleanest home could have a dirty feel if it has a “smell” to it.

5. Use natural cleaners. At surface, this may sound like more time, more effort, more money. It’s actually less of all of those things. Most importantly though, my young children can help and when they get silly and start spraying themselves (or each other), I can let them and they still get the job done. No harm done in a little vinegar, water, and tea tree oil shot to the face, after all. My four year old especially enjoys helping. Is it imperfect? Absolutely. Does it get done? Absolutely.

6. Clean as you go. When I take out crafts for the kids, cook, do some unusual project, or whatever the case may be, it really does take stress off if I’m not lazy about it and get it cleaned up as it’s happening. Nobody likes cleaning up a giant mess after the fun is all over.

Lastly, notice how I said I’m doing this imperfectly. It’s all what I strive to do. And sometimes I’m so wrapped up in whatever fun that we’re having that I do find myself cleaning up a giant mess at the end. I never foll
w that schedule every week the way I made it. But you should know that schedule is what I had laid out for myself when I was working full time out of my home and what I still try to follow now that I’m working in my home. I thought I would have a sparkling house when I walked away from my job a year ago. What I found was more guilt in the beginning because it never was. I have a tiny human who needs me. Constantly. When I get extra time (which isn’t a whole lot- right now I’m at McDonald’s to get this done while he’s occupied with their indoor playground), I’m working on my business. It’s a season we are all in. Motherhood is our first job and we do the best we can with everything else. No reason to be guilty about that.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Sugar is an addiction

Duh. I know you know that. At least on some level because you probably are addicted to it yourself. Many of us are.

Once you get that taste for sugar it’s really really hard to untaste it. In recent years studies have confirmed that when somebody eats sugar it lights up the same centers in the brain that make us feel good as if we had just taken a drug like cocaine or heroin. So if you are consuming sugar, then you really are getting a dopamine response which triggers actions in your body that make you feel good, relax you, and leave you wanting more.

But it’s not long-lasting and eventually you’re going to be craving that feeling again.  It feels good. And worse much like somebody who is addicted to a drug, eventually you’re going to require more and more of it to get the same feeling, which has also been suggested in recent studies.

It’s why so many of us can’t quite kick the soda habit. Fun fact: Coca Cola was named after cocaine because at one point it did contain cocaine. That has since been replaced with caffeine (arguably equally as addictive) and high fructose corn syrup. Next time you’re around people between the hours of two and four PM, observe their behavior and probably your own, too. It’s what I like to call the “3 o’clock low”. This is when people start looking for coffee, soda and a snack. The snack is something like chips, cookies, crackers, or something high in carbs and low in protein. Everyone wants/needs a sugar high to make it to dinner time (or at least to clock out time.)

It’s not a secret that this isn’t good for the body. But what do you do about it? It’s possibly the most common and most difficult habit standing in the way of my clients and their health goals.

Eliminate it. That’s right. I said it. Cold turkey. In many addictions, weaning is the way to go because of withdrawal dangers. But not in this case. Even small amounts of sugar prove to keep the brain stimulated and wanting more. Can you really eat just eat one Hershey kiss? One Oreo? Ten potato chips? One doughnut? A one inch square brownie? 1/4 cup m&ms? Five crackers? You get my point.

I love me some coffee. But I’ve learned to have it without sugar. That includes the substitutes too. Why? Because when we have sweet tasting things, we are signaling our brains that a feel good response is coming. Except it doesn’t with zero calorie sweeteners because they don’t illicit the dopamine response. So guess what? You start looking for something that will. We all want to feel good. Especially when stressed, sad, mad, bored, or in pain. And dopamine does the job well.

So ya, cold turkey. Will you magically no longer want to eat sugar anymore? Not quite. Physically, it’s going to take your body about two solid weeks to move on from the cravings. In a rat study done at Princeton, there were withdrawal symptoms including chattering teeth and heightened anxiety which kept them staying in one place rather than exploring as rats normally do.

Emotionally, you’re going to need to find another means to deal with it. Trial and error. Some find emotional peace in journaling. Others in a new hobby (or revisiting an old one). There’s also meditation, talking to trusted friends, taking a walk outside, reading, my favorite – essential oils, and the list goes on. We live in a world with lots of options. Options that aren’t as readily available as food. But they’re there. And not all of them work. That’s why I said trial and error. You will find something that works better than food, without the guilt. Without the calories.

Let me know in the comments what you’re trying. What works, what doesn’t.

P.S. Looking for online support with like minded women? You may be interested in joining my Facebook group for support from women and moms trying to get healthy and lose weight just like you!

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LD

Applying Betty White’s life advice to your weight loss goals

I thought it would be fun to highlight Betty White. I was reading some of her life advice tips and some things that she recommended for having a fulfilling and happy life. Side note: what an awesome thing it is to be somebody that not only turns ninety-five (because that’s always a big deal no matter who you are), but to be somebody who’s ninety-five and to be as alive as she is. To be somebody that people want advice from and to have lived that kind of life where people generally think of you as a great human being. It is just a great accomplishment in general.

She gave some really great advice (and in my Dietitian mind) for how you can make that work right now with your weight loss goals, especially those of you who struggle with emotional eating.

The first one that was notable to me was to stay busy. Busy to her in a good way. She didn’t mean stay busy where it’s all focused on you. Don’t be a busybody out there gossiping, out there making it all about “me me me” and focusing on your problems. What she meant was to be busy in a way where you are focusing on what really interests you in life and indulge yourself in that. Really immerse yourself in your interests and go all out for it. Give your time to what deserves your attention. She used that phrase, “deserves it.” What deserves your indulgence? On a side note, Danielle Laporte’s self-study book, The Firestarter Sessions, goes into excellent detail on what it really means to indulge in the passion that lights you up.

I’m going to be completely blunt here and tell you that when you’re bored, food does not deserve your time. You do not deserve to fill your time up with eating. Indulge yourself in what really lights you up. That’s what you deserve. That’s what Betty White has done with her time. And you can tell by the different things she’s done in her life.

The second one is to get up early. When I think about the people who are consistently active and people that recommend a good time to exercise – it’s always in the morning. Generally speaking the best time to exercise is when you’re going to be consistent at it. But the morning tends to be the best because your kids are sleeping and there’s just not a whole lot going on in the early hours of the morning. She said she gets up at 6:30 am and that’s when she starts her day. You get a lot more done. I think a lot of people just think clearer. If you’ve ever read the book, Miracle Morning – there’s one for network marketers, there’s one for parents, for writers, for salespeople, and there’s one for everybody – there’s a lot to be said about getting up early in the morning. And I have a feeling she probably started her day and still does in such a way that aligns with Miracle Morning.

The last one is to not indulge in regrets. This is where people who are trying to lose weight tend to get stuck in that viscous cycle. Your indulging in the regrets of what you ate, what you didn’t do, failing on that diet, falling of track, and you’re letting yourself stay in it for too long. Indulging in those regrets just keeps you off track. So you end up staying off track for so long that you don’t even know how to get back on track even when you want to.

She gave herself as an example -she’s been married three times. She said “you know what, if I had to do it all over again knowing what I know now, I would have gotten married three times all over again.” She doesn’t indulge in regrets. She doesn’t waste her time focusing on things that don’t deserve her time.

So what is that you’re focusing on, what are you regretting? This is what fuels stress eating. You feel guilty because you ate something that you shouldn’t of eaten, so you eat to make yourself feel better and then you feel guilty even more and then it just becomes another viscous cycle.

To summarize, keep yourself busy by occupying your time with things that light you up. Get up early in the morning – I think we can all agree that it’s before 9 a.m. (often much earlier). And don’t indulge in regrets. Take these tips to heart. I think we can also agree somebody like Betty White knows a thing or two about having a fulfilling life.

Having said all of this, if you have been diligently working at this since the turn of the New Year (or maybe you haven’t) and you’re just plain frustrated right now with your results so far – this may be helpful IF you’re ready to dig in your heels and get to work on it.

Are you? Follow these 10 tips faithfully for the next two weeks (it’s only two weeks) and you will see results – as much as 10-15 lbs gone kinda results.

 

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Why you might be struggling to stay awake

We are so exhausted and always wishing we had more hours, more sleep, more time. But sometimes it’s the food choices we make that cause some of the fatigue. If you are consuming lots of convenience foods – i.e. they come in a package, box, or something that can be ripped open and eaten “as is,” it’s convenient. These foods are often high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, low in protein, low in fiber, and low in nutrients. Translation: they create blood sugar spikes followed by crashes, which cause your energy to crash.

Next time you are dozing off at your computer screen, try these high protein and/or high fiber options instead:

1. Greek yogurt with berries
2. Cottage cheese with berries
3. 2 low-fat cheese sticks and a fresh apple
4. 1/3 cup trail mix made with unsalted nuts and dried fruit
5. Lean deli meat (turkey, ham) rolled up with cheese
6. Greek yogurt dip (plain greek yogurt mixed with 1 tsp seasoning) and raw veggies like carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, cut up bell peppers
7. Peanut butter on celery sticks or apples
8. Hummus with raw veggies
9. Quest protein bar
10. Svelte protein drink

Plan ahead, don’t wait until it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and cookies are calling your name or you now need coffee with extra cream and sugar to make it to 5. Have these on hand and ready and you might be surprised how you will find yourself more sustained without the wide blood sugar fluctuations.

It’s that time of year (again)

In 17 days a large portion of the United States population will be going on their annual diet. In roughly 37 days, at least 50% of those people will be going off of their annual diet. And so the yo-yo begins. What diet are you planning on doing this year? Really, that’s not a trick question or meant to be funny.

Is it a diet you’ve tried before? Or something your dear friend suggested? Do you have a support system this time? Or have you vowed to wear off that word, “diet” and are opting for “lifestyle change” this time because you’ve been down that road enough times to know that diets aren’t working for you.

Imagine if this time next year, your New Years resolution had NOTHING to do with weight loss? Because you stuck with it this year. And succeeded. According to the University of Scranton, 75% of resolutions will be continued through the entire first week of January, but only 46% make it past six months.

Here are 4 tips to make it permanent this time:

  1. Choose an accountability partner that has similar goals. We suck at holding ourselves accountable and make too many excuses to justify not following through on our commitments.
  2. Keep a food journal (I recommend a phone app such as myfitnesspal). When you are aware of it, you are more likely to change it.
  3. Weigh yourself at least once a week, no more than once per day. You can’t make changes when you don’t have any objective measurements. Dust it off. Pick a day and time and stick to it.
  4. Choose 2-3 glaring diet habits you know that if you changed right now, today, would make a difference in your energy levels and/or weight. Usually you already know you drink too much wine, soda or eat too many fried foods, sweets, or chips. Pick 2 or 3 you are willing to eliminate or cut back on.

Note I didn’t mention any diet names. You could choose a diet. Research has suggested when people lose rapid weight in a short amount of time, motivation remains high and thus, they are more likely to stick to their weight loss goals longer. We are creatures of instant results, and nobody wants to deny themselves their favorite foods and spend a bunch of time preplanning meals just for 2 measly pounds lost at the end of a week. That’s just a fact.

For more information on my favorite weight loss plan, go here and scroll down to the New You weight loss kit. It’s my favorite because it is made from all natural ingredients and can be used long term. Which means it not only  helps you lose weight, but also assists you in maintaining the weight once you’ve lost it. And that’s really the hardest part. Feel free to contact me to discuss more and Happy Holidays!