Food safety tips during and after a power outage

Many of us in Florida are dealing with power outages this hurricane season and that means our refrigerated and freezer items are at risk for developing bacteria.  The question that immediately comes up is, is it safe to eat? Perhaps it’s time for a refresher on a few food safety tips:

  1. Cold (refrigerated) foods should be kept at or below 40ºF. Your appliance will have a temperature setting to tell you where it’s at, but try to avoid opening it as much as possible so you don’t let the cool air out. A closed refrigerator that is full should keep the food cold enough for about four hours.  Once the temp drops below 40ºF, you have a two hour window before the food becomes an ideal environment to grow bacteria.
    • Hopefully you’ve stocked up on ice and coolers to start putting your important items in. Personally, I suggest consuming high risk items prior to reaching above 40º such as eggs, mayonnaise and mayonnaise based products such as tuna/potato/chicken salad and any leftovers.
    • Fruits and vegetables will last much longer than two hours and many are shelf stable, so don’t worry too much about these. An exception would be berries and grapes that tend to spoil quickly. Eat those first.
  2. Frozen items should be kept at or below 0ºF. Again, your freezer should tell you this, but don’t open it more than you have to. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full).
    • It is best to keep the items close together so they keep each other cold. Once it rises above 0ºF, watch it as many of those items will be okay if cooked before reaching above 40ºF. Unfortunately if they go over that 40ºF past two hours, especially frozen meats, it’s time to throw them out. It’s just not worth the risk of getting sick.
    • Remember, you can put some of your refrigerated items in the freezer to keep them under their 40ºF for a longer period of time and you may be able to save them.
    • Having extra ice packs, even dry ice if you can get some, full tupperware of frozen water, and full frozen ice trays stocked in your freezer can help keep the food at ideal temperatures for as long as possible.
  3. Hopefully you stocked up on nonperishables. If you didn’t, there will likely be a next time and might as well plan sooner than later. These are some of my favorites:
    • Quest protein bars
    • Starbucks light double shots (gotta have coffee)
    • Trail mix or mixed nuts or any kind of nuts are great
    • Peanut butter or any kind of nut butter
    • Triscuits (for spreading nut butter on – better than just plain ol’ bread to me)
    • Bananas
    • Tangerines
    • Tomatoes (I could eat these like apples!)
    • Apples
    • Beef jerky
    • Pre-seasoned tuna pouches
    • 3 ounce chicken cans
    • Cracklin oat bran cereal (or granola is good too!)
    • Animal crackers (okay, not most nutritional, but gotta have a crunchy snack!)
    • Dried fruit (I got mini raisin boxes, mangos, and apricots this go around)
    • Pita bread
    • Avocados
    • 1 gallon water per person per day
  4. A sample menu for you using only shelf stable food:
    • Breakfast:
      • Quest bar + tangerine
      • Pita bread with peanut butter and banana sandwich
      • Cracklin oat bran + 1/4 cup dried fruit
      • All to include Starbucks light double shot of course!
    • Lunch/Dinner:
      • Tuna pouch + sliced tomato + 8 triscuits
      • Pita bread + sliced avocado + canned chicken + 10 animal crackers
      • Peanut butter spread on 8 triscuits + mini raisin box
      • Pita bread with peanut butter and banana sandwich + 1/4 cup trail mix
    • Snack tips:
      • No stress eating! This is a stressful time, but it’s not going to make you feel better. I’ve written lots of posts on this in the past explaining why.
      • Stick to the rule of eating every three hours as much as you can. Your meals are possibly going to be smaller, however, so eat to hunger if necessary. High protein, shelf stable snacks include: nuts, trail mix, beef jerky, canned chicken, and tuna pouches. When the power goes out, cheese sticks and yogurt are great to eat up first. I also recommend hard boiling your eggs beforehand so you have snacks and breakfast items to eat while they are still in the correct temperature zones. Remember, you are probably going to have to throw out these highly perishable items anyway- cook them while you can!
  5. What do you do when the power comes back on?
    • Do not, I repeat, do not rely on odor and appearance to determine if a food is safe to eat. You gotta rely on temperatures. Trust me when I say, a food borne illness in the aftermath of a hurricane is not something you want to be dealing with.
    • Throw anything out that has reached above 40ºF for longer than two hours. Period. Especially meats that started to defrost and any frozen items that no longer have ice crystals.
    • If a food has been determined safe to eat and is perishable, such as eggs, meat, etc – be sure to cook it all the way. No rare steak or sunny side up eggs just to be sure.
    • Lastly, when in doubt, just throw it out. You can always replace the food later. Be safe!

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

Dieting hacks: optical illusions & outta sight, outta mind

A lot of what we eat, sizes we choose, and amounts we serve ourselves are just an illusion. What do I mean by this?

Studies have shown that the most popular drink serving size is medium. However, “medium” is varies from restaurant to restaurant. For example, did you know Starbucks has a “short” size? It’s true. But they don’t advertise it because if they did, they know they would sell mostly “tall” drinks instead of “grande” which in most people’s eyes is considered their “medium” size. Why? Because they advertise tall-grande-venti. If they advertised short-tall-grande, we would all want tall. Interesting, huh?

To drive home this point, the first time I went to my local movie theater, I got a medium soda. However, what they considered medium was about 42 ounces!!! I took my kids yesterday and remembered this, so I ordered a “small” 32 ounces. Still gigantic, but imagine how many people are ordering the 42 ounce sodas simply because of the “medium” label? In a gas station, we call those “big gulps.”

I haven’t been to a bar in a long time….make that about 8 years (about the age of my oldest plus 9 months.) But in study found that experienced bartenders will pour about 20% more alcohol into a short glass versus the same size tall glass if not pre-measured while the average person will pour around 30% more. You think restaurants and bars have more tall glasses because of this? Of course they do! Or at least they are required to use their jiggers! Try this concept with your children for fun: show them 1/2 cup candy in a tall glass and a short glass (clear, see through) and give them a choice. They will choose the tall glass even though its the same amount. Why? Because the tall, slender glass looks like more candy.

How can you apply the optical illusion concept to your life?

  1. Use smaller bowls, plates, and cups so that it appears as if you are eating more than you are. As referenced in my last post, those portions will get lost in large plates and it’s been proven over and over, you will eat more if you eat on large serving dishes.
  2. Divide your snacks into smaller portions. The same researcher mentioned above, found that using visual indicators significantly reduces the amount that we eat. Check out this study where just adding a different color every seventh or fourteenth chip resulted in a 250 calorie difference!! It really can be that easy, folks! This is why single serving and 100 calorie packs are so effective! Get yourself some snack-sized plastic baggies and pre-portion out your snacks or before you sit down to watch television with a bag of chips, put a handful in a bowl first so you can see what you are eating. Do not rely on estimates when you are eating directly from the bag. Take that extra step if you are serious about losing weight.
  3. Make it inconvenient to overeat and put foods you should be limiting out of sight. Remove the candy dish off your desk and put it somewhere you can’t see it (like, in the trash. No really, in the pantry). Get the bag of chips off the top of your refrigerator and put it behind closed cabinet doors. Store your leftovers in an opaque container, in the back of your refrigerator (I don’t care if you forget about them, that’s the kind of the point!) And please, stop storing that ice cream in the freezer in case your grandkids come visit! It’s not good for them, either!
  4. Keep healthy foods convenient and visible. Store fresh fruits and vegetables in clear containers, in the front of your refrigerator, already cut up and ready to eat. Purchase cheese sticks already portioned out and make sure they aren’t buried under stuff in the deli drawer. Boil eggs in advance and peel them so that they are ready for a snack when you’re hungry, again stored in a clear container where you can see them. Replace the cookie jar on the counter with a bowl of fresh fruit. Put some single serve trail mix packages on top of your fridge in place of the chips. Need proof this stuff works? Here’s another study for you on how out of sight, out of mind reduces over-eating- office workers ate 5.6 more chocolates each day when dishes were visible but inconvenient, and 2.9 more chocolates when dishes were convenient but not visible. I’m suggesting you do both (make the food inconvenient and invisible), but according to this study, it’s the visibility that really counts.

Even if you pick one or two of these hacks to try, I think you will see some results in your life. Let me know in the comments what you try and how it’s helping you. Remember, it’s not willpower, it’s skill-power. I’m going to keep emphasizing that point because I want you to understand that you have the power within yourself to see the results that you desire.

P.S. Love to eat out but not sure how to fit it in with your health and wellness goals? Get these tips  sent to your inbox and master the dieting hacks even when you’re at restaurants!

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

Diet hacks for eating less and feeling full

Portion control. Do you cringe when you hear that? It’s more like portion distortion. The bigger is better mentality has surfaced everywhere – smart phones, television screens, computer monitors, boobs (yea, I said it), muscles, tires, cars, houses, and on and on.

Here’s the deal….most of us don’t even know what a portion of any food actually is. And when we do find out, it’s laughable. Why is that? Well, because we have become conditioned to super-sized servings. Now, a portion is an actual MEASURED amount. A serving is whatever you put on your plate. They are two very different things. So here’s a little education for you:

1 portion of carbohydrate = 1/2 cup (cooked, plain cereal like oatmeal/grits, potatoes, pasta corn, peas, beans) (80 calories) *rice is an exception at only 1/3 cup per serving

1 portion non starchy vegetable = 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked, but really – unlimited (25 calories)

1 portion fresh fruit = 1 cup raw, 1 cup frozen or 1/2 cup canned (60 calories)

1 portion added fat = 1 teaspoon (oil, butter) (100 calories)

1 portion nut butter or avocado, sour cream = 1 tablespoon (90 calories)

1 portion nuts = 1/4 cup (170 calories)

1 portion dairy (milk, plain yogurt, cottage cheese) = 1 cup (110 calories)

1 portion of lean meat (chicken, fish, pork tenderloin, egg) = 3 ounces  or 1 egg (110 calories)

1 portion of high fat meat (beef, ribs, fatty fish) = 1 1/2 ounces (110 calories)

Note these are all estimates and foods vary A LOT depending on added sugars and fats or lack thereof. So reading labels is important too. But the key here is to understand that you are probably over-eating. For example, in a restaurant, the smallest sirloin is 9 ounces, that’s SIX TIMES as much as a “portion size”. I’m not saying you can only eat 1 1/2 ounces, but calories count and they add up fast if you aren’t paying attention. It’s really no wonder how people gain weight easily when they are eating out frequently.

But it’s not just restaurants to blame. It’s how we cook at home, too. For instance, when you make pasta – do you cook the entire box? Have you ever looked at the label? A pound of pasta is enough to feed sixteen people if you are sticking to the 1/2 cup serving. If you go with the box’s suggested serving of two ounces or 1 cup each, then you are cooking for eight people. I’m guessing you aren’t feeding that many people for dinner on a regular basis though. So how do you deal without feeling hungry all the time?

Here are some tried and true tricks:

  1. Realize this is not willpower. I repeat – NOT willpower. It’s skill-power. So first of all, STOP cooking for an army and start cooking for the number of people having the actual dinner. I once counseled a couple that did this and each lost forty pounds without changing what they were eating. If you really don’t want to do this, then plan for leftovers, but make two pans/pots/casseroles and immediately put one in the freezer or whatever you need to do BEFORE you start eating. Remove that temptation.
  2. Use smaller plates – as in six to eight inch plates. You know those salad plates you have that came with your ten inch dinner plates. Yeah, those ones. In a study done by food scientist and researcher, Brian Wansink, he explored how an optical illusion leads us to make inaccurate estimates of serving size, depending on what size plate they are presented on. The more “white space” around the circle, the smaller it appears and thus, we feel the need to fill the plate to the edges. Same goes with bowls, in another study he conducted at a health and fitness camp, campers who were given larger bowls served and consumed 16% more cereal than those given smaller bowls. Despite the fact that those campers were eating more, they estimated eating 7% less than the group eating from the smaller bowls. Interesting, huh?
  3. Allow a good twenty minutes to finish your first plate before getting seconds. It takes your brain that long to register that you have eaten. Now I do understand that it can be quite annoying to eat slow if you are a naturally fast eater. So I suggest if you zip through your meal in five to ten minutes, then wait for the next ten minutes to pass before you decide if you truly need a second helping. And if you do, go for veggies first since they are the lowest in calories.
  4. Use the plate method and shift the calorie make up on your plate. This goes with the concept of a volumetrics type diet. Notice how vegetables only have twenty-five calories per portion? But the starchy carbohydrates have eighty? And that’s assuming you didn’t load them up with gravy, butter, or other fats. Same with meats, 110 calories per one to two ounces? Fill up half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (so NOT corn/peas/potatoes), a third with high fiber carbohydrates, and the rest with a meat, preferably a lean meat. If it’s breakfast time, fill that half with fruits. Make sense? You are eating more low calorie foods and less high calorie foods, but not sacrificing volume. Another way of looking at is like this: one cup of salad dressing is around 1440 calories, one cup of nuts is 680 calories, one cup of fat free milk is 90 calories and one cup of raw vegetables is 25 calories. In other words, a large plate of pasta is going to be a ton more calories than a plate of salad. Here’s the issue with most of us: usually our plates are half meat (often high fat), half starch, and vegetables as an afterthought or something starchy like corn (at least here in the south!) Personally, I prefer the plate method over measuring my food. I got kids and if I don’t inhale my food, I don’t eat before there’s an explosion of a hot mess in my house. Like many of you I’m sure, I don’t get the luxury of measuring, weighing, and taking my time to eat dinner – so I’m thankful for these hacks that still make it possible to eat well.

Lastly, remember that the above will not work if you arrive to the dinner table starving. The day starts with a healthy breakfast, planned out high protein snacks and a healthy lunch. If you didn’t eat high protein, healthy foods every three to five hours earlier in the day, you can forget about the rest because you will want to eat the refrigerator door by the time you sit down for dinner and a six inch plate will just piss you off. For tips on preplanning meals – head over to this previous post on how to do that.

P.S. Love to eat out but not sure how to fit it in with your health and wellness goals? Get these tips  sent to your inbox and hopefully they will help you out.

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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Email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, 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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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

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.

He actually does allow more than you can handle, so take the manna

This is a difficult time of year for many of us. Financially, emotionally, physically. While the holidays are joyous, they have a tendency to drain much of our resources, too.

It’s a time we naturally reflect on the year. And the years seems to go by faster and faster, don’t they? 2016 was a tough one. For all of us. So much strife and hatred. And then the holidays come and we are reminded of our losses, those we are missing, financial hardships, and it can be downright sad.

I’ll be honest. This year I’ve felt much like one of the Israelites depending on God for my daily manna. There hasn’t been much, if any, leftover to store up for days ahead. Not financially, not physically, not emotionally. For the first time in my life, I became a work at home mom. In many ways, a dream come true. But difficult. And I don’t work on my own schedule like I thought I would. I work on two little boys’ schedule. I am just not used to stopping every ten minutes to pour a drink, fix a snack, change the television channel, clean up a mess, or wipe a butt. It’s downright maddening to take two hours to finish a project that should take fifteen minutes.

Financially, it’s been tough. I absolutely love working from home as a 100% self-employed woman. Making this decision earlier this year, without a doubt, was a calling God placed on my life. At the time, I was sure He was telling me that I would prosper as a momtreprenuer and show the world how amazing I would be as a work at home mom. How I could inspire other moms to do the same. But that wasn’t His plan at all. What He wanted for me was to see how He could could provide for my family’s daily needs even when I had no idea how those needs would be met.

And He’s been faithful. It’s another post for all of the ways He has provided for us. And how I attended my company’s national convention to walk the stage so that I could celebrate hitting a big milestone in my business last September.

Emotionally, we are limited. When times get hard and stressful, we turn to food, alcohol, medications or drugs, shopping, and other ineffective outlets to stuff it down. I know many of my readers struggle in this area, especially emotional eating. In 1 Cor 10:13, the scripture tells us this, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” This scripture is often misunderstood because we assume that means He won’t give us more than we can handle. That’s false. This scripture is referring to being tempted in ways that move us away from dependance on Him. (i.e. eating a jar of nutella after a hard day.) 

So we get blindsided when hardship comes our way because we believed God knew we weren’t strong enough to handle that situation. Truth is, He did know. We are weak in all hardships that come our way. We have to make the choice to accept His provisions and guidance. (i.e. don’t buy that jar of nutella in the first place).

​What I have learned this year and am most thankful for is that even though difficulties may come my way, He is always there paving a path and providing the manna.

Could you use some extra support from like-minded women on a journey to wellness? Click on over here to receive an invitation to join our secret Facebook community!

​If you struggle in the area of emotional eating, I highly recommend Lysa Terkeursts’ book, Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food.

 

 

Why you aren’t thinking before you act

I  know, the title sounds a bit judgmental. But hear me out. I’m going to ask you a few questions and then you can decide if you agree with me or not.

  1. Think about the last time someone asked you to do something or help them with something. Did you say yes or no? And did you answer they way you wanted to?
  2. Think about the last time you were bored. Really bored. Can you remember such a time? How did you handle it? What did you do to fill the space?
  3. When was the last time you unplugged for an entire day? a few hours? one hour? You didn’t look at your phone, computer, the television, it was all turned OFF. Not just on silent, completely off, airplane mode, no internet, nada. And there was no one around but you and your thoughts.

White space. Does that exist anymore? The vast majority of those reading this, myself included, will answer question 1 with a “yes” and then a “no.” They will answer question 2 with a “no”  because the void was filled quickly with mindless activities like scrolling through Facebook, computer games, watching YouTube videos, netflix, or more harmful activities like emotional eating or even drinking alcohol to stuff the emotions that tend to surface during whitespace. Which is why most, if not all, reading this will answer question 3 with a “never.”

This post was inspired by a concept I learned in a book I’m currently reading titled, Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It talks about taking time off or “think weeks.” Did you know some of the most successful people in the world have done this for decades? Even in today’s most socially, electronically connected world? Even during the busiest, highest growth times in their businesses? It’s true. Bill Gates takes two, one week long “think weeks” a year unplugged where even family is banned. It is during those times he gets his ideas and can actually collect his thoughts that have propelled his ongoing success. Others that take similar “think weeks” are Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. Amazing, huh?img_4402

But it isn’t natural. In fact, in a fairly recent study (2014), individuals were given a choice to sit in solitude with their thoughts for 15 minutes or to take a painful electric shock to their ankles to get out of it. An overwhelming majority chose the shock collar (66% of men and 25% of women). Furthermore, the study participants reported having unpleasant experiences when they were alone with themselves regardless if they were allowed to read or allowed access to the internet. It’s no wonder stress eating, alcoholism, and drug addiction are so prevalent. We don’t want to face our emotions. And outside substances do a pretty good short term job at distracting and frankly, stuffing them down and away. I’ve addressed specifically emotional eating in past posts as this is my area of expertise.

The bottom line is, we want human connection with others. But at the same time, it’s good for our well-being to take time to think so that we can healthily co-exist with others.

So, let me know in the comments. Will you be planning a “think week” anytime soon, or at least a “think day?”

For those of you struggling with what to eat and how to balance it all without feeling hungry while steadily losing weight, check out my new meal plan at a limited time only greatly reduced cost right here.

Is sleep deprivation making you gain weight?

I see this most often in shift workers (think healthcare, law enforcement), new parents, chronically stressed and those with other types of chronicimg_3665 illness (it’s difficult to sleep when you have pain or other issues going on in your body.)

Our body is naturally wired for deep, restful (REM) sleep at night, when it’s the darkest. It’s the circadian rhythm. That’s hard to fight when it’s biology. Another issue is schedules are typically thrown off at night. Do you eat normally scheduled meals or exercise on a regular routine when your sleep patterns are thrown off? Most of us don’t. And that favors weight gain.

That deep, REM sleep our body so desperately needs is massively disrupted in the above scenarios. Without enough of it, we experience an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, which favors fat cell growth.There is also an increase in the production of the hormone ghrelin, the one that tells your body to EAT, while a decrease in the production of leptin, the one that tells your body you don’t need to eat anymore. In a fairly recent study, when individuals were deprived of just a few hours of sleep over 5 days, they consumed as much as 300 extra calories per day and gained an average of 2 pounds. That’s a lot! And it was high sugar, high fat carbohydrates they wanted. Ouch!

So what can you do? Try these tips:

  1. Stay in bed, regardless. Read a fictional novel IN BED 30 minutes before your established sleep time. In the beginning, you may be reading until 3 o’clock in the morning but rest assured, your body is receiving 60% of the rest it needs even if you are AWAKE. This time will eventually get earlier and earlier until you can’t even finish the first page. Be aware of electronics and make sure they have a night setting without that back lighting that triggers your brain to stay alert. If you get out of bed, that goes down to 0%. If you start clock watching, tossing and turning, or doing whatever frustrating thing we are all guilty of when we can’t sleep, it’s 0%. Be aware, I said FICTIONAL NOVEL. No self helps here or you will fall asleep thinking about how you need to improve your life and and your wrongdoings. No bueno. Save that for another time.
  2. Establish a night time routine, around one hour before bedtime. Just like we do for children! Get your pjs on, take a nice bath or shower, get your teeth brushed, whatever you need to do to start telling your active brain to SLOW DOWN. No alcohol here, it actually disrupts restful sleep. But a nice cup of decaf tea can help. And please, put the dang phone away! I have been known to stick mine on airplane mode from time to time when I REALLY need to hang it up.
  3. There are natural options to help with sleep. Melatonin is one I’ve tried, although I don’t use often because there are so many on the market and it’s hard to know one from the other. So unfortunately, I can’t speak to brand here. But your doctor may be able to help you out. Valerian root has been talked about in the holistic health world for years, but I do not typically recommend this due to warnings about possible liver damage. My favorite are certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils because they support the body’s natural ability to wind down and promote a restful night’s sleep. Specifically, lavender and vetiver. I diffuse lavender most nights and the restful blend, a blend made with lavender, vetiver, sandalwood, ho wood, and others for my children every night. For more about that, contact me using the links below.

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

You don’t need to make resisting temptation a struggle

Trigger food (n.) a food that one identifies a something they cannot stop eating once they begin. They may identify it as a food that makes them feel better in times of emotional distress or upset. It is high in calories, fat, sugar, and/or salt.

That’s my humble definition. I’m guessing you aren’t disagreeing. And I’m guessing you’ve eaten this “trigger food” of yours within the past month, possibly the last week. Why?

Because life is hard. That’s what many of us tell ourselves. Life is a struggle, take two steps forward, immediately take three steps back. I have to do everything twice to succeed in anything. That’s just the way it is.

Life is hard. So I need comfort. And I need it now. Dear old chips/ice cream/chocolate cookie to the rescue, you never let me down.

15 minutes later….

Life sucks. I have no willpower. Why do I keep doing this. Now not only am I still stuck with the first problem that was causing me distress, but now I feel guilty for the half box of cookies I just stuffed in my face trying to forget about it. Great. This is too hard.

No. No it’s not. I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, Jillian, but you don’t understand, you’re skinny, and for God’s sake, you’re a Dietitian.”

News flash. We all have stress. And most of us suck at dealing with it. So how do we deal in a better, healthier way that actually works?

Behavior change. Before you roll your eyes at me, hear me out. Your kitchen right now is a war zone because you made it that way. But things could change. TODAY. Change it. Keep that stuff out of the house. If you have it in there right now, THROW IT OUT. I know, I know, there are starving children. But it’s not good for them, either! And even so, they won’t ever get to eat it anyway. Instead, donate money if it keeps you up at night. Give unopened boxes to a food bank if you have to. Do whatever it takes and GET RID OF IT. There. I said it. Out of sight, out of mind. Stop forcing yourself to make a choice every single time you open the pantry, the refrigerator, or the freezer. Just stop it.

Next, enjoy your ice cream, pizza, or whatever it is that you identify with as a “trigger food.” But not when you are emotional. Enjoy it for the sake of enjoying food. Yes, food is about food and emotions are about emotions. And recognize that it’s not carrots, apples, or grilled chicken that you want in those times of “need.” Trigger foods are loaded with salt, fat, and/or sugar. Highly addicting substances that the food companies understand will leave you coming back for more. In a fairly recent study done on rats, two groups were compared. One given cocaine and the other sugar repeatedly. Guess which one was more willing to undergo physical pain to get to their addictive substance when deprived of it?

What do we really need when we want comfort? Everyone’s different and I’m no expert inperson-woman-smartphone-calling-large psychology, but I am human. Try these more effective tools and begin to see a transformation in yourself, and your body:

  • Prayer. I believe in God and He’s ready to listen at any hour, any second, any day
  • Journaling. We often need to “vomit” our thoughts on paper and then BURN it. Yes, physically light those nasty thoughts on fire. Get them out of your life.
  • Talk to someone you trust. Venting can be healing. We all need to be heard and loved.
  • Exercise. Just kidding! But really, it can be a great stress relief if it’s part of your regular routine. But I don’t highly recommend this one if you find yourself up at 2am wanting to binge on ice cream while watching the Home Shopping Network, just sayin’.
  • Meditate. I know, you’re thinking you’re gonna focus on what you need to do this afternoon, tonight, tomorrow. The thing that got you here in the first place. The chocolate chip cookie you’re trying to avert your focus off of. But guided meditation, when done right, can be super helpful. Even in five minute spurts. My personal favorite app is by Mayo Clinic.

I’ll be addressing many more in a series over the next several weeks on how we tend to take the hard road in dieting when we could find ourselves in an easy flow, mindlessly losing weight. Yes, you read that right! Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out and receive a free list on some of the most common ways we overeat without even knowing it!