How to safely use your plastic water bottles

In the aftermath of the hurricane, this topic has come up again. In my household, we have twelve gallons of water stocked up in the laundry room as I type this. Normally, I don’t drink out of plastic, partly for environmental reasons and partly for health concerns. In my house, you will see only stainless steel and glass cups or bottles. To my knowledge, there is no convenient way to stock up on water in the event of an impending power outage other than the plastic options we currently have. So, if you’re like me and have lots leftover, what’s the deal?

First, a lesson on chemicals found in plastic. There are three main ones of concern. First is polycarbonate, a monomer made of bisphenol A, or BPA, which has a recycling code of “7” on the bottom of the bottle.  You’ve probably heard of it, especially if you’ve had children recently. Most all baby bottles and cups are sold with a label “BPA-free,” although the research is a big mixed on it’s safety. BPA has been linked to certain types of cancers and reproductive issues as well as increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. However, it is generally recognized as safe by most manufacturers if consumed in normal amounts (very small). Interestingly, this scientific review does give some compelling evidence of the research that there is in fact some cause for concern, stating:

“there are now over 125 published studies funded by government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health documenting that BPA has a wide range of significant effects including structural and neurochemical changes throughout the brain associated with behavioral changes, such as hyperactivity, learning deficits, increased aggression, and increased likelihood of drug dependency; abnormalities in sperm production in males and oocytes in females; disruption of hormone production and fertility in both males and females; immune disorders, increased growth rate; and early sexual maturation. Most of the small number of studies funded by government agencies that report no significant effects of BPA used one model animal (the CD-SD rat) that after being subjected to selective breeding for over 1000 generations has become extremely insensitive to any estrogenic chemical or drug.”

Luckily, you won’t see it much because of the negative view it has in the public eye (rightfully so.)

The second one is polyvinyl chloride or PVC which has a recycling code of “3.” You probably won’t see it much on the bottom of your water bottles because it’s known carcinogenic properties. A basic building block of polyvinyl chloride is chlorine (duh.) Unfortunately, chlorine production releases dioxins into the environment. This is not good. It’s used mostly to make vinyl-like plastic as a flame retardant (aka binders, shower curtains, children’s lunch-boxes, vinyl flooring, crib mattresses, yoga mats, it’s everywhere.)

Now for the third one, the one that you want to pay attention to, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which has a recycling code of “1.” The one has been approved globally for safe usage, including the Food and Drug Administration. There is some concern that it may leach a substance called antimony into the food or drink it is holding, which is a known carcinogen and may cause menstrual irregularities and even miscarriages in women when exposed in high levels due to occupational hazards. So far is there is no known scientific evidence supporting that exposure levels in food or drink would be high enough to cause the same issues. However, this study did find that under extreme conditions of worst case scenarios (including high temperatures), antimony does leach into water at levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s daily intake recommendations. I did a quick look through my pantry and found several food items with the number 1 on the bottom including honey, salad dressing, and peanut butter.

Now on to my suggestions for keeping it safe:

  1. Avoid the temptation of reusing those plastic bottles and jugs. I know they look so clean and reusable (there was only water in them after all!). But the more you use it, the more likely the chemicals in the plastic will start to leach into your drinking water. This is especially true once you start washing them in hot water (no putting them in the dishwasher!). If the bottle is marked with a “1”  or “7” on the bottom, it likely contains BPA or PET and why risk it?
  2. Don’t store them in the garage. I know, if you stocked up on a ton, it can be difficult to find a reasonable place to store it all. But in the south, it’s still pretty hot here and temperatures are rising into the 90s. Heat breaks the plastic down and that increases the risk of the chemicals leaching into the water. This holds true if you left a water bottle in your car for a bit.
  3. Aside from chemicals, don’t create a science experiment. I took a look at our water jugs and fortunately, ours have the number “2” on the bottom, which are actually pretty safe. However, I still do not plan to refill them because of the risk of bacterial growth. Now that the jug is opened and air has been allowed in, that moist environment is ideal for bacteria to start growing.  Even if you washed them, over time the water just sitting there with air exposure is going to create an environment for invisible bacteria to start growing. Don’t risk it.
  4. Consider essential oils. One main reason I drink only out of stainless steel or glass is because I add a drop or two of citrus essential oil to every glass of water I consume and because of the purity, it will degrade any plastic I add it to. For the reasons stated above, I’d prefer not to consume those chemicals! Aside from that, there are several health benefits to adding citrus to drinking water. Lemon, for example, contains three main constituents, called limonene, β-pinene, γ-terpinene, which have a positive effect on mood, the immune system, and digestion. It’s also great for cleansing the body and surfaces (ya know, in case a bacteria or germ happens to sneak into my water bottle – makes me feel better!)
  5. In summary, stock up enough water to have one gallon per person per number of expected days of no running water and recycle when you’re done to save the environment. For my family of four, we got twelve gallons for three expected days and then filled up both of our bath tubs to flush the toilets and get clean. Luckily, we didn’t need it all and will now be prepared for next time!

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

Foods that naturally boost your metabolism

First off, let’s start with a little background because most people who struggle with their weight are tempted to blame their metabolism for the difficulty they are experiencing. If you have a longstanding history of weight cycling, aka yo yo dieting, a slow metabolism may very well be your problem – for the purposes of this post, that is what the main focus will be. So what happens to your metabolism when you weight cycle, aka “yo yo” diet?

1. First, you lose a lot of fat mass (good thing) but a lot of muscle mass too (unavoidable with rapid weight loss, not a good thing)
2. If it was not a sustainable diet (often it’s not), then the weight piles back on at lightning speed, but this time it is all mostly replaced with fat mass.
3. Fat burns less calories than muscle = your metabolism tanks. Next time you try to diet, it doesn’t come off as easily or fast.
4. Over time, chronic dieters find themselves with a slower and slower metabolism because they keep losing muscle and replacing it with fat. It’s a viscous cycle that eventually makes it almost impossible for weight loss success to occur.

Fear not, if this all sounds too familiar and you think you are in this situation, I’ve done a little research for you and found some promising ways to boost your metabolism, naturally.

  • Tomato juice: in a 2015 study published by the NIH, menopausal women aged 40-60 who consumed 200 ml unsalted tomato juice twice daily experienced an increased in resting energy expenditure (REE) by an average of 400 calories
    Bottom line: drink 200 milliliters twice a day (about 6 ounces twice a day). Hey, it’s not gonna hurt anything.
  • Cinnamon: in a 2012 study published by the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, one group of individuals took cinnamon supplements every day, while the other group took a placebo. After 8 weeks, the cinnamon group lost more weight and body fat than the group taking the placebo.
    Bottom line: add cinnamon to your food or try the pure essential oil for a more concentrated version. Contact me if you are interested in learning more about brands I trust and recommend. remember, supplements are not regulated and therefore, may not be free of contaminants.
  • Coffee: most studies with caffeine in doses of about 100mg per day (6 ounces of coffee) showed an increased calorie burn between 75 and 110 calories for the entire day. There are other sources of caffeine, but coffee is a calorie free source that actually contains some antioxidants.
    Bottom line: have some caffeine before exercise to maximize the calorie burring effects if you are going to try this one. Hey, I love coffee, why  not?
  • Grapefruit: A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2006 showed that obese patients who consumed 8 oz of grapefruit juice or 1/2 of a grapefruit before each meal lost about 3.5 lbs after 12 weeks, without making any other changes to their diets. Participants in the study who consumed a grapefruit capsule before meals also lost weight — but just 2.2 pounds over the 12 weeks. The placebo group did not lose weight.
    Bottom line: drink 8 ounces grapefruit juice, eat 1/2 grapefruit daily, or take a grapefruit capsule with meals (I recommend with 2-3 drops pure essential oil in each one, contact me for recommended brands)
  • Lean Protein: Eggs, chicken, fish, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, turkey
    The “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is the energy we use to digest food into small, absorbable components. Protein burns more calories to digest than carbs & fats. It also takes longer to digest, keeping you fuller longer.
    Bottom line: include 30 grams protein at meals, 8-10 grams of protein at snacks, and eat every 3-5 hours
  • Ginger: promotes digestion and stimulates metabolism, which leads to increased calorie burning. In animal studies, it increased metabolisms by 20%. In human studies, most herbal supplements taken internally increase metabolic rates by 2 to 5% tops. Every little bit helps! In a small, but very interesting pilot study, it was shown to enhance the thermic effect of food and increase the feeling of fullness after a meal. Bottom line: add it to your foods (we aren’t animals); you could also try the pure essential oil for a more concentrated source. If youve never cooked with essential oils, visit my previous post here.

What about appetite suppressants?

There are a few medical options that can help. I’ve talked them in the past along with habits that can help. In the spirit of natural options, here are some effective options I found in  my research:

  • Peppermint Oil: in its food grade, it is used often in the candy and dental industries (seems like an oxymoron, huh?). There is a reason for those after dinner mints! Because of the strong smell, it has an appetite suppressing effect in its purity. Try brushing your teeth after dinner, chewing mint gum while cooking, or diffusing peppermint essential oil to take advantage of this benefit.
  • Water: dehydration often leads to excessive hunger and even sugar cravings, especially chronic dehydration. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. Add citrus for flavor and extra cleansing benefits. My personal favorite is pure lemon essential oil. Better yet, add fresh squeezed grapefruit juice or grapefruit essential oil.
  • Capsaicin: as in chili peppers. Ever notice you eat less when you have an extra spicy dish? This is why. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, of course.

Let me know what you try and feel free to reach out to me if you are interested in learning more about incorporating essential oils into your weight management routine.

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

Foods that stop bloating

You know that feeling. There’s no real reason for your weight to have tipped the scale, but you can’t button your favorite pair of shorts. It’s a fat pants kinda day with a blousy blouse to cover up what you’re feeling looks bit like a pot belly. What if you could eat your way to a thinner stomach and get rid of that bloated feeling? You actually can.

First, it helps to understand why this happens. And it happens to everyone. Often women more so because of hormones. (You probably knew that though!) Pre-menopausal women often feel bloated at varying times of the month with bloating and fluid retention being two common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Another reason may be because of dietary habits, either eating too much or too little fiber. Too much fiber, especially if the body is not used to it, can cause excess gas. Too little fiber can cause constipation. It can also happen if you eat foods that are particularly gas forming such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, dried fruit, asparagus, brussel sprouts, artichokes, onions, radishes, cauliflower and fatty or fried foods. The goal is to aim for 25-30 grams of fiber daily, I’ll talk about what that looks like since the typical American diet contains around 10 grams.

A big reason, however, is due to emotional stress. We often give too little credit to the impact that this can have on our physical health. In fact, it is estimated that 25 to 45 million people in the U.S. are affected with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and 2 in 3 of those are women. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is characterized by diarrhea alternating with constipation worsened by stress.

The last one I am going to include here is small bowel bacterial overgrowth. I talk about the importance of probiotics in my recent post here because it can definitely help combat this condition. I’ve seen this mostly in people who have had a recent gastrointestinal surgery and those taking antibiotics for prolonged periods of time.

So now for the good stuff, what foods can you eat to prevent this from happening? Because nobody has time to be feeling bloating and gross.

  • Cayenne pepper: it’s a natural laxative because it stimulates the digestive enzymes to get moving.
  • Ginger: old remedy for soothing stomach discomfort, haven’t we all had ginger ale at some point in our lives for a stomach upset? Sadly, most ginger ales don’t contain any real ginger at all. You are better off boiling and straining some fresh ginger or adding a drop of pure ginger essential oil into some tea or hot water.
  • Fennel: inhibits muscle spasms which calms down symptoms of IBS. Cook your next meal with some of the fresh herb or take 1-2 drops of the pure essential oil in a capsule.
  • Peppermint: similar to fennel, the menthol in peppermint relaxes your muscles and allows you to release any pent up gas or flatulence. Because if you are struggling with reflux, this may aggravate it because it also relaxes the sphincter at the end of the esophagus causing stomach acid to revert back up in those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD.) Make peppermint tea by adding fresh mint leaves or a drop of peppermint essential oil to a cup of hot black tea. The hot water can also help get things moving along, especially helpful for constipation. Avoid chewing peppermint gum as this can make gas worse since gum may cause you to swallow air.
  • Lemon: acts as a natural diuretic and helps if you are retaining excess fluid. Squeeze some fresh lemons or add a drop of pure lemon essential oil into your water. Avoid drinking your water out of a straw since that can cause you to swallow excess air and make bloating worse.
  • Berries: they are 85 to 95% water, making them great for reducing bloat. They are also an excellent source of soluble fiber, a type of fiber that dissolves in water and one that many of us don’t get enough of in our diets. In order to promote bowel regularity and prevent bloating, we need plenty of this along with insoluble fiber, the kind that does not dissolve in water (so think apple skin and celery.)
  • Watermelon: it’s high in water, making it a natural diuretic to remove excess fluid retention. Also great source of soluble fiber like the berries.
  • Probiotic containing foods: such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha or add a good supplement to your daily regimen (more on that here).

I’ve given you many ideas that offer additional health properties beyond reducing bloat. That’s one of the many great things about choosing natural options for improving your health. If you are interested in learning more about the essential oil options I mentioned, feel free to reach out to me at one of the links below.

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

Don’t believe everything you read

I don’t know about you, but it makes me a bit aggravated that we have to comb through piles of research articles to understand what’s in our food supply these days. I’m supposed to be a nutrition expert and even I get confused. I can tell you dietitians are confused too, because they buy in to a lot of the junk out there – and here’s the thing: most of it is opinion based. For instance, if you keep up with the latest nutrition trends, you likely heard about coconut oil recently and how the American Heart Association has deemed it “unhealthy.” They’ve gone as far to say that we should eliminate it from our diets in order to keep our LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) at bay. In fact, many of the dietitians (not all) in the circles I run in support this stance. Why? Because “holistic” health is unpopular in a science-based community. I’ve experienced the ridicule directly. Sometimes it’s easier to just believe what the big governing bodies say than to go against the grain. The research is there for functional and homeopathic medicine, but it’s not popular in western medicine.

I’ve been there. I was employed by one of the most well known research-based teaching hospitals in the world for nearly ten years. Going against traditional medicine and what a doctor says isn’t very popular. But we need to think for ourselves sometimes, especially if we are going to call ourselves nutrition experts. Because they don’t have time to talk to people about their patients’ diets. It’s not their thing. Their thing is sick people. We are the ones who have a chance to talk to the well and we are blowing it.

Now let me be very clear. I am NOT one of those people that live in fear of the government’s conspiracy against the people. I am NOT one of those people that believe all big Pharma is out “to get us” nor do I believe doctors or researchers have the cure for cancer and they’re just all hiding it from us to stay rich. I’ve looked into the eyes of a doctor right before and right after he’s had to tell a patient they have cancer and their hope for a long future is shattered. Believe me when I say – being rich was not on that doctor’s mind. But I do believe when it comes to making money, the business of pharmaceuticals as well as food manufacturing is alive and well. But that’s for an entirely different conversation.

So let’s get to the subject of the American Heart Association’s so called “review” of the research. They picked four publications to focus on. By now you’ve probably read some rebuttals on the subject as have I. But as a dietitian, I feel it’s my responsibility to write my own evaluation on the subject and properly educate the public. So let’s start with the facts. The press and the AHA have spotlighted coconut oil as being the evil one yet has failed to mention that coconut oil was not the source of saturated fat in their core studies completed over 50 years ago (side note: I was taught to sick within this decade when reviewing research.) I’ve read it twice just to be sure. The saturated fat sources put to the chopping block come from dairy and animal fats in said studies. Those just aren’t the same thing. At the end, coconut oil gets it’s own section, and based off of seven studies they cherry picked, they concluded that coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol in the same way as animal and dairy fats and thus, conclude that it should be eliminated from our diets. They do admit these studies did not examine coconut oil’s direct effects on CVD. It was also noted to raise HDL cholesterol and lowered the LDL:HDL ratio, however (both good things.) I’ll just leave a recent study right here published at the end of 2015.

If the AHA is going to advise against using coconut oil, why didn’t they recommend we eliminate dairy or meat from our diet? I mean, there was more evidence in their review on those two if you ask me. Now I’m not a vegan and I’ve discussed this diet in another post. But there are a lot of good things to be said about going vegan. But then again, the AHA are proponents of the DASH diet, so there’s that. And as you will see later, although they deny conflicts of interest, that remains questionable. They give honorable mention to the mediterranean diet as well, which I also highly recommend. This one is high in monounsaturated fat and those folks tend to have lower rates of heart disease.

Lastly, the underlying theme of this article was that polyunsaturated fats, more specifically omega-6 fats, will save the day. I’m not sure I buy that. It has been known from previous, more current research that eating a higher proportion of omega-6 (found in soybean oil) to omega-3 (found mostly in flax seed, walnuts, and fish) fat has a negative effect on heart health. I do, however, believe that lowering animal fat will decrease LDL cholesterol, which their studies in this review did show.

Scroll down to the very end of this review, not the post everyone’s reading about how unhealthy coconut oil is, but the actual published paper they are referring to. It was funded by eleven pharmaceutical companies including: Amarin, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Merck, Pfizer, Regeneron/Sano, Takeda, Akcea/ Ionis, and Dr. Reddy. And it was also funded by several others including Esai (energy research and consulting firm), California Walnut Commission (Certified by the AHA, proponents of the DASH and Mediterranean diets), Ag Canada and Canola Oil Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Seafood Nutrition Partnership, TerraVia (algae oil high in monounsaturated fat, low in saturated fat), and Avocado Nutrition Science Advisors. Need I say more? I think I’m done here.

So what is coconut oil good for anyway?

  1. Oil pulling: the practice of swishing it around like mouthwash for about 10-20 minutes for oral hygiene purposes. In one study in particular, after just fourteen days there was a reduction in plaque forming bacteria, even as good as using chlorhexidine with distilled water. In a second study, oil pulling reduced plaque and gingivitis markers after just seven days and continued after thirty days.
  2. Weight loss aid: because it contains medium chain triglycerides, it has been found to decrease waist circumference after four weeks in subjects, particularly men. It has also shown a slight increase in metabolism, however this has only been a temporary effect which is why I don’t generally recommend it for that purpose.
  3. Antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties: this makes it great for fighting common skin infections and issues like acne, athlete’s foot, candida, even cellulitis.
  4. Moisturizer: again, great for healing dry, irritated skin and related conditions like eczema or diaper rash. It can even be used as a sunscreen, blocking 20% of UV rays.
  5. Anti-inflammatory: studies have shown it may help reduce this symptom of oxidative stress.
  6. Easily digestible energy source that won’t raise blood sugar levels: medium chain triglycerides are the easiest for our bodies to metabolize and thus, are used by the body quickly.
  7. Carrier oil: as an essential oil lover myself, some of them are considered “hot” and are better if mixed with a carrier and will actually be absorbed better because it holds them to the skin longer rather than the essential oil evaporating quickly. The possibilities are endless if using coconut oil since it already acts as a natural moisturizer and anti-fungal. Add essential oils and all of their various health benefits, you can have anything from bug repellents to sleep creams to extra strength anti-fungal creams and more.

These are just to name a few. Coconut oil has a high smoke point, which makes it easier to cook with than other oils like olive oil. It adds a variety of flavor to foods that need a twist. As with anything, no need to go overboard, if you are wanting the health benefits of consuming it, two tablespoons a day is plenty but anything less is probably not enough. And go for organic, extra virgin. The other stuff is highly processed and health benefits are stripped.

As you may have noticed, I’ve included a ton of links to evidenced-based research in this post. I believe in providing sound advice, I really do. Some of the stuff I’ve talk about has been referred to as “quackery,” but that’s just silly. I understand research and have participated in a few studies myself. It IS possible to have a respect for both sides. So now that we’ve cleared all that up, let me know in the comments what your favorite way to use coconut oil is!

P.S. Interested in some weight loss hacks? The event is over, but the replay is still up on Facebook!

P.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

What’s the deal with appetite suppressants?

Let’s talk about hunger and specifically, appetite suppressants. There are quite a few on the market today – that require prescriptions and are approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).  And let’s face it, with weight loss, increased hunger often becomes a fact of life. I talk about why this is in a previous post here. You may have seen over the counter options at your local drug store. In my opinion, there are too many available that have actually gone through the necessary testing and research and have been around for a while to just blindly pick up something off a shelf that could be sawdust for all you know. Don’t do it.

As a weight loss expert, I want to assure you that I’m not against using weight loss aids for help. Not at all.  That might surprise you, but I know the physiology you’re up against when the body’s natural defense mechanisms kick in. Having said that, I’m not a doctor and this is a decision only you and your doctor can make because they aren’t appropriate for everyone. But I am writing this post because I want to give you some facts on what’s available and remove some of the stigma that’s associated with getting medical help for weight loss.

Like I said, there are several FDA-approved options on the market that all primarily do one thing – they suppress your appetite. The most widely used options are phentermine (brand name Adipex) and diethlypropion (brand name Tenuate)- both central nervous system stimulants. There is a newer one (brand name Qysmia) that combines phentermine with the anticonvulsant, topiramate, thought to lessen the occurrence of creating a tolerance as with using phentermine alone. And then there is locarserin HCL (brand name Belviq), that reduces appetite by specifically activating brain receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that triggers feelings of satiety and satisfaction.

In my opinion, they are most helpful for maintaining weight already lost and/or giving you an extra “push” once you’ve already started to succeed with weight loss and hit a plateau. That’s right, helpful for MAINTAINING lost weight, not actively LOSING weight. If you have ever successfully lost weight, you may have noticed the hardest part was actually keeping it off. One of the main reasons for this is increased hunger is caused by a natural increase in the hormone, ghrelin, which is naturally stimulated by weight loss. It’s designed to “protect” you from starvation.

Not everyone can take these medications and not everyone can tolerate their side effects – they can cause increased heart rate, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, etc. And you can’t take them forever because eventually you will build up a tolerance and they will become less effective over time. Unfortunately for many, this can  mean weight regain long term. The biggest obstacle I have seen with patients and clients, however, is lack of insurance coverage and/or the ability to get a willing doctor to prescribe them in the first place. Although I have seen coverage improve since “Obesity” was recognized as an actual chronic disease in 2013 by the American Medical Association.

So what do you do? And what do you do if you simply aren’t comfortable with the idea? Here are some tried and true tips that I find myself repeating often:

  • Avoid allowing more than five hours between meals and/or snacks.
  • Include 30 grams of protein at each meal and 10-15 grams protein at each snack (you will most likely need to increase your breakfast protein and decrease your dinner protein). I give you ideas of what this looks like in this previous post.
  • Consume minimum 80-100 ounces water daily (closer to half your body weight (pounds) of water in ounces is preferable, but go for this minimum).
  • Include plenty of fiber at each meal – half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. More fiber and water packed foods means more volume and less calories. Most people consume <10 grams of fiber daily when the recommended amount is at least 25 grams. Chances are you have a long way to go, too.

A final thought, consider natural appetite suppressants. Grapefruit, peppermint, and lemon all come to mind and are great for adding to your water for flavoring. The best part? They can be used at the start of your weight loss journey and during the weight maintenance phase long term – without worries of developing a tolerance. Effectiveness doesn’t wear off in nature.

Hopefully I’ve helped you relax a little bit on this topic if it’s something you’ve considered but were afraid to ask about or I’ve give you something to think about if you haven’t. Whatever you decide, you’ve got options!

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

 

Anxious eating & why it’s the worst!

I used to think I wasn’t an emotional eater. That I couldn’t understand the concept of eating when you’re sad, lonely, angry, overly stressed, or even bored. Until I found myself devouring a bag of m&ms down into my anxious stomach.

Anxiety. Most of us feel it at some time or another. It’s our body’s healthy response to imminent danger. Except when there is none. And then we’re just sitting there fearing the world around us but we really don’t know what is making us want to jump out of our own skin. So why food? It’s a distraction. And a damn good one at that.

Anxiety is really uncomfortable. Our world gives us so many reasons to feel it more often than not. The symptoms range from a flipping stomach, mild or severe headache, pounding heart, shaky hands, sweating, inability to focus, crying, irrational fear. None of these symptoms are easy to sit in. And multiply them by ten during an anxiety attack. The most common reason for ER visits in the U.S. is due to chest pain, which is often caused by anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks from unsuspecting individuals that think they are having a heart attack. I believe this is why many people fall into drug and alcohol addiction or otherwise. Escaping it consumes the thoughts of an anxious person.

And then there’s food. High carbohydrate, high fat, sugary food to be exact. Why? Because it triggers a dopamine response similar to narcotic-like drugs that lessens the anxiety. But, exactly like a drug, over time the brain becomes less stimulated by the food and needs more to experience the same effect. This is why people can feel like they’re addicted to sugar. In a sense, they are.

How can you get rid of it without becoming addicted to an unhealthy habit? I was taught by a psychologist that the best way was to ride it out. Sounds crazy right? But in reality, an anxiety attack isn’t going to kill you like a heart attack and it WILL eventually end. The fear that leads to the unhealthy habit to make it end NOW is that it will NEVER end. But rest assured, most anxiety attacks end in an average of 10 minutes.

What about that nagging, everyday anxiety that many of us feel until we’re elbow deep into a bag of potato chips? Personally, I’ve found listening to music, prayer, and deep breaths with citrus essential oils to be most helpful. If you don’t have citrus essential oils, a fresh cut orange, lemon, or grapefruit will do. Studies have indicated that most adults take shallow breathes from our sternum. However, as children, we start out taking deep, slow breathes from our abdomens – about six per minute. This is how we are naturally built. But as we age and life happens, we take quicker, shorter breaths that feed less oxygen into our nervous systems. No wonder stress has such a damaging physical effect on our bodies!

For other types of emotions I’ve recommended journaling. For the anxious person this isn’t always realistic due to the inability to focus. So try simpler tasks like coloring, painting, and going for a short walk. Thing is, as I’ve said in my previous posts on the subject of emotional eating, you won’t know what works until you give it a shot. We all know eating works. But if you’re reading my posts, I’m guessing you want to get away from that.

Let me know in the comments what you discover works for you, whether in this post or not and let’s help each other!

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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

You don’t have to eat 3 meals a day

There. I said it.

And I’ll admit, I used to tell people quite opposite when I was working full-time and had the schedule that was conducive to eating three squares a day. Wake up, coffee, eat on the way to work. Lunch break at 12:30pm. Go home cook dinner for the fam. Repeat.

But now I work from home and I struggle to have a schedule that repeats itself daily. And I struggle to take the ten minutes to prepare a meal even though I have more than enough time to do it now.

But life happens and meals aren’t always at the top of my list of priorities. I have a four year old who colors on the walls & floors with permanent marker, paints the tile with toothpaste, scatters cereal in places cereal shouldn’t be scattered, and pulls all of the stuffing out of pillows for fun. A ten minute meal might as well be ten minutes to my own version of the movie, “Home Alone” on steroids.

So what DO I recommend to avoid eating the kitchen pantry by dinnertime because I skipped lunch trying to tame the wild monkey that I call my four year old son? Here’s my short list:

  1. Eat something high in protein (>15 grams) every three to five hours. Go more than five hours without a food rich in protein and you’re likely going to be ready to eat a football player under the table.
  2. Eat within two hours of waking up. Breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day. Skip breakfast and the whole day is going to fall apart. So set yourself up for success and start with 30 grams of protein. Think two eggs and a greek yogurt, a three egg white omelet with cheese, a high quality protein shake (I recommend Core Power, Premier Protein, dōTERRA Trim Shake), or cottage cheese with peaches and a handful of nuts.
  3. Drink your water. I’ll never stop saying this. Preferably half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces. I give lots of advice in previous posts on how to make this work in your life.

So in summary, include lots of protein and eat every three hours. Life isn’t perfect and neither will your meals be. If you can eat three meals per day with planned snacks, by all means, please do. If not, don’t beat yourself up – relax, you’re living your Plan B life, which happens 90% of the time. And that’s still a success!

Need individual help to discover your Plan B life? Contact me today to set up an individual consult for a plan specifically designed to fit you and your lifestyle!

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

So you wanna lose 50+ pounds in 2017

Are you overwhelmed already just thinking about it? I don’t doubt it. Our brains are not wired to think in one huge “mountain” like that. There is good reason children’s classes are set up in block scheduling, allowing them to change subjects every hour or so. The human mind simply does not have the capacity to focus on one thing for extended periods of time, even if it is something we love.

New Years resolutions can bring a lot of hope, though. Hope for 12 months of better decisions, financial opportunities, physical improvements, and time investments. And we often imagine 12 months of unrealistic expectations with very little planning involved. For more information on New Years resolution, see my previous post.

But I wanna talk to those of you specifically that want to lose quite a bit of weight and stick to the plan longer than January 12th this go around. Those of you that, this time next year, wanna be relishing in your success while gleefully trying on a new winter ensemble several sizes smaller than what you are wearing right now. The only resolution you have for 2018 is to get out more and maintain your fantastic weight.

So listen up, here are a few tips to start thinking about NOW. Yes, before Christmas and before January 1 rolls around. That is not the time to start deciding you are doing this for realz this time.

  1. Make a plan. What kind of cooking tools do you need? Is your kitchen in working order or have you kept Chic-fil-a in business for the past 6 months? When will you plan your meals? Do you need to find some new recipes? Do you need to join/rejoin weight watchers? Are you going to follow a diet plan or something else? Are you going to hire a dietitian or heath coach? When will you allow for your “trigger foods,” if at all? How/when do you plan to grocery shop? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Do you need a gym membership? Where? Do you need an accountability partner? Who? Do you need a new lunch box? Or just a new lunch spot? How will you reward yourself with non-food related incentives when you’ve hit milestones?
  2. Increase you water intake. Please do this NOW. Most adults are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it because they are just used to the crappy feeling. But it’s not normal to be fatigued, excessively hungry, and/or crave sweets. All of these are signs of dehydration. How much water do you need? Half your body weight (pounds) in ounces. For example, a 200lb person will need to consume 100 ounces of water per day (there are 8 ounces in 1 cup, therefore, roughly 12 cups of water or 6 bottles). Start increasing it now so you aren’t dealing with this when you’re trying to decrease your food intake.
  3. Figure out your goal for weight loss and then break it down into smaller goals so you don’t go fleeing when it’s “go time”. I recommend 5-10 pound increments followed by a non-food reward system to celebrate. There needs to be a prize at the end of each achievement, especially for those first 10-20 pounds when the weight loss may not be all that noticeable (depending on where you’re starting from). And believe it or not, the same will happen for the last 10 pounds or so. Think of it like a new haircut. Everyone notices and showers you with compliments for a few days and then it ends. They get used to it and you don’t hear a word again as your hair continues to slowly grow back out.

If you are interested in learning more about my take on weight loss in the New Year using natural and holistic options, click here to join my FREE online class on December 29th for 48 hours only.