Surviving holiday weight gain without driving yourself crazy

Thanksgiving has come and gone with the holidays in full effect now. I’ll admit, I’m one of those people that really love this time of year. There are lots of special things we get to enjoy right now- Christmas music, holiday decorations and lights, winter clothes, and of course seasonal food. I know some of you may be feeling a bit anxious about holiday weight gain though. Especially if you’ve experienced it in previous years past. To give you a better handle on it, I’ve put together some simple tips that I believe will help you out. This year, I want you to think about making it easier for yourself without making it the center of your life. The holidays are about family, friends, gratitude, and should be an exciting time. Frankly, it’s not a great time to go on a new diet. I’m a huge fan of mindlessly losing or maintaining your weight, especially during a time of year when many are mindlessly (and effortlessly!) gaining weight.

  1. How much weight do you normally gain this time of year? Do you actually gain any? According to a study published in 2000 on 195 people in the U.S., the average weight a person actually gains between Thanksgiving and New Years is only about a pound. Although many of us perceive it to be more like five to ten or more. The real problem, however, is that it doesn’t typically come off, whatever you gain. So it just ends up being an additional pound each year compounding on top of the previous year. Now if you know you put on more, say eight to ten pounds….is it realistic to say that this year you are going to actually lose five pounds? What would be different? I’m going to challenge you to think differently and set an unconventional goal that you will gain only a fraction of what you normally gain. For example, if your typical M.O. is to put on ten pounds over the holidays, how about make it a goal this go around to only put on four pounds? If you fall in the average one or two pound weight gainers population, then maybe you can focus on maintaining your weight. Does that make sense? I hope so.
  2. When you are at a holiday party, stand at least slightly more than arms length from the buffet or food table. Ever notice where people like to socialize? People want to stand around the food because it’s where the action is. The problem is you’re going to mindlessly eat for possibly hours if you do that, consuming hundreds of extra calories that you didn’t mean to. This seems like a very simple concept because it is.
  3. Choose wisely on the first trip to the buffet. In a Cornell study, it was found that we tend to serve ourselves the most on that first plate. So, if you know that, choose the lowest calorie foods to put on your plate first. You can always go for a second round to get the richer foods such as dips, cheesy casseroles, and desserts. This way, you are filling up on salads, fruit and veggie platters, and lean proteins while saving yourself up to thousands of calories simply by switching up the order in which you served yourself. Think of it in terms of volume – a creamy pasta dish will have hundreds more calories per cup than a cup of salad with low fat vinaigrette dressing.
  4. Take smaller sips and bites. On a normal everyday basis you may eat like you’re trying to win a race. But at holiday parties, it’s about socializing and enjoying those moments spent with loved ones. I get it, sometimes it’s more stressful than enjoyable during holidays with family. But the foods we eat are also meant to be savored and enjoyed this time of year. They’re special around the holidays, are they not? You will feel more satisfied on less if you choose to eat and drink slower.
  5. Manage your emotions. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that this time of year can bring up unwelcome emotions such as depression, anxiety, and even anger. If you have a tendency to stress eat this is particularly troublesome for you to manage your weight effectively. I have many past posts addressing this topic that work just as well during the holiday season as they do throughout the year. Remember that if hunger is not the problem, food is not going to solve it. This time of year especially is when we have to be intentional about separating food and our emotions:

Make food about food and emotion about emotion.

Here’s a few quick questions for you though: Why are you sad? Is there someone you can talk to? Are you just stressed because you’ve over-scheduled yourself? Has Christmas shopping overstretched your budget? What things can you address and actually do something about? And what things do you need to let go of?  Most importantly, what are your priorities? I learned a few years ago that when I am clear on my key priorities, it becomes easier to filter my decisions through them. For example, I may be asked to participate in three different “secret santa” gift exchanges, but if one of my key priorities is to manage my budget so that I am able to pay off past debts, the decision to decline the invitations becomes very clear. If I’m asked to volunteer to help with a holiday event but it’s during a time I’ve set aside to spend quality time with my children and they are a key priority for me, the decision to say no is not as difficult and the potential stress of broken promises to anyone is avoided.

Even if you choose just to use one of these, I think it will really change your outcome when you get to January 1. Imagine how it will feel making that resolution and not feeling like you are starting ten steps behind!

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

My recovery from procrastination and perfectionism

Here we are again. Looking at the same weights I’ve owned for probably fifteen years. Back to the lowest numbers. Again. Another epiphany that I need to pick them up and use them to feel better, look better, have more energy, and everything in between.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I own everything from three pounds to ten pounds and then all of the resistance bands too. I work up to lifting and pulling the hardest strengths until something happens and I get out of the routine. For months. Years even.

This time it was a doctor’s appointment. I’ve had chronic pain issues since my first born was a year old. It stems from migraines, which I’ve had since my earliest memories, but the term “chronic” came into play seven years ago. Before then, I was pretty active – running half marathons, participating in power yoga several days a week, and pretty committed to cardiovascular exercise on a daily basis. We all know how it is though, life gets busy after kids, work, and compounding responsibilities and then there is no more time to fit in self care. Until you have no choice.

That’s where I’m at. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. You need to do something, but you’re not sure where to start because the only time you remember feeling your best was when you actually had the time and energy to do the things you know you should be doing. Problem is, you have neither now. Life is different and you don’t know where to start.

If you are like me then you probably have a tendency to push yourself until you just can’t anymore. You have multiple responsibilities and if something is going to go, it’s probably exercising and eating healthy. Until you’re crashing and sitting in a doctor’s office or your bed wondering how you ended up that way. You’ve heard the airplane analogy, so you know you’re supposed to put your oxygen mask on first, but you haven’t. Until you’re forced to. Read on. This is for you.

Here are a few strategies I’ve learned along the way that I believe will help you (like they do for me, when I implement them):

  1. The days of perfection are over. Did you know procrastination is the most common form of perfectionism? We hold off until “just the right time” to get started until we are pushed with our backs against the wall. And then we use the excuse” if i had more time, I would of had better results.” Ironic, huh? Remember this, moving forward in imperfection is ALWAYS better than not moving forward at all.
  2. Decide the goals you are working towards and write them down. With pen and paper. It’s a psychological thing when we do this that scientifically makes it more likely we will follow through with our goals (even more so than typing them.) And include realistic deadlines to avoid procrastination. Be sure to break your larger goals down to smaller, more manageable ones.
  3. Plan ahead in a realistic manner. Go ahead and pick out the days you plan to exercise. What meals you’re going to have. Grocery shop for the week. And then realize it may all go down the tubes anyway. Refer to #1. You may have decided to wake up thirty minutes early every morning to get in some exercise, but there will be days that you oversleep the alarm clock anyway. So what? You can always settle for a fifteen minute walk on your lunch break at work instead. Something is better than nothing.
  4. Go tell someone. I know that being accountable is no fun. It means you’re being really real about it this time. Pick someone that will actually hold you accountable though. Not just someone that will be a cheerleader and pat you on the back when you had a bad day. We all need that, but even more so, we need someone that isn’t afraid to call us out when we aren’t doing what we said we’d do. Your word is your integrity.
  5. Avoid catastrophizing. This is perhaps the biggest tip that has helped me over the years. It means you are using your energy productively rather than by viewing things worse than they actually are. Believe me, I know when situations look dire that it’s tempting to set giant goals that you know would turn your life completely around for the better. Unfortunately that usually leads to failure or procrastination and ultimately, more defeat. If you want to lose 100 pounds, break it down into ten pound increments. If you want to be fit enough to run a half marathon, pick one scheduled six months or more from now and get to training, one mile at a time.

We are nearly eight weeks away from the holidays. What is it that you’ve been procrastinating on? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. If you are up to beginning this journey with me starting Monday, October 2, head over here for the details and how to join my support group where we will be having weekly live chats and goal setting sessions.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

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

Could you go 30 days without sugar?

We just finished a 30 day no sugar challenge in my online community. The results were pretty amazing. Weight loss plateaus were broken, shopping habits were changed, and more importantly, carbohydrates were no longer demonized.

What do I mean by this?

In the beginning, there was some confusion about what was okay and what was not. The challenge was meant to be a simple one – no added sugars of any kind (including honey, table sugar – white, brown, etc, agave, maple syrup) and no refined or processed carbohydrates. The first one was pretty easy to grasp. The second category was more difficult because, in the dieting world, we become conditioned to categorizing foods into two groups: carbohydrates (bad) and everything else (good).

It was a fun learning process. This was the list of disallowed foods in addition to added sugars: 
-chips/french fries (anything that’s made from a potato but isn’t an actual potato)
-pretzels
-cookies/brownies
-sweetened coffee creamer
-candy
-crackers
-cake/snack cakes/snack bars
-white pasta (whole grain is fine, couscous which is a tiny form of pasta is also good, quinoa also good)
-white breads and buns (whole grains are fine)
-white bagels and english muffins
-white waffles (there are very few whole grain waffle varieties available)

-white rice (again, whole grain/wild is good)-most cereals (oats/oatmeal and whole grain cereals like oat bran are fine)-ice cream/sherbet/popsicles (try frozen fruit)

The learning process began when we found snack items, like granola bars and cereal, that listed the initial ingredient as “whole grain” and other ingredients that were natural and whole. They were allowed. It was also okay to eat white potatoes and corn – because, HELLO! These are real food! Nothing processed there!

I know what you may be thinking, why no honey? Because that’s what everyone else was thinking, too. It’s got beneficial health properties so why wasn’t it included? But as my friend and fellow challenger said, “we are trying to get rid of the sugar monster!” And when consumed, honey is still converted into sugar, still tastes sweet, and still activates that addiction that is sparked in most of us to keep eating more. That was the whole point of this challenge. To stop the powerful addiction that is sugar. I talk about this more in a previous post – if you ever wondered if it’s a real thing, it is.

 The other thing you may have noticed is that this was the only thing that was changed for the entire 30 days and RESULTS HAPPENED.  I did that on purpose. Oftentimes, it seems like there are more decisions that need to happen to make a real difference. Why didn’t the challenge include choosing more lean means, cutting out fried foods, or eating more fruits and veggies? While all of that stuff is important to a healthy diet, I don’t think as many would have stuck it out if they had to change it all in the 30 days.

 Pick one thing to change and surprise yourself at how consistent you are and what kind of results you get because of it.

For their specific results and testimonies, head over here and check it out!

P.S. The challenge in our group is over. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a go. We’d love to have and support you if you’re game! Go ahead and join my free online support group here.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

How to end weight cycling (and beat that plateau!)

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced yo yo dieting, or more technically referred to as “weight cycling.” Simply put, dieting to successfully lose a significant amount of weight in a fairly short amount of time followed by weight regain and often additional pounds.

Have you ever wondered just how many times you can repeat this process before your body has had enough? Or if it’s even a healthy thing to do? Sure, you know that extra weight isn’t a good thing, but you also know that regaining large amounts of weight isn’t, either. And why bother going on a diet if you know the end result will be a number on the scale much higher than when you started? But what other choice do you have?

Eventually there will be a quitting point for your body. You’ve probably already noticed with each dieting attempt it’s becoming more difficult to lose weight – you don’t lose as much or lose it as fast. And no, regaining large amounts of extra weight is not very good for your body at all, it increases your fat to lean tissue ratio and in recent studies, it’s tough on your cardiovascular system, too.

When you lose weight, it’s inevitable that you will lose some of your muscles mass. This equates to a slower metabolism in the long run since fat burns a lot less calories at rest than muscle does (and as a wild guess here, I’m assuming you aren’t hitting the gym when you’ve stopped following your diet, so your muscle gets replaced with fat when you start regaining the weight.) So in this case, it would have been better for you to have never tried losing weight in the first place.

The fact is, statistically 90% of dieters who lose weight WITHOUT bariatric surgery will regain their weight loss within the following year. Discouraging, I know. But some of this starts with having realistic weight loss expectations to begin with. So let’s start there.

A realistic rate of weight loss is, on average, 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. If you weigh closer to 300 pounds or more, than it’s 1% of your body weight weekly (so 3 pounds a week, 4 for 400 pounds, etc.) And most will begin to see a weight loss plateau around a 5-10% weight loss. What does this mean? It means you will begin to see a dramatic slowing in weight loss results or even a complete halt sometime between there. Those who have more to lose (if you are over 300 pounds to start with) may not see this plateau until you’ve lost closer to 20% of your initial weight. But rest assured, it’s coming.

What do you do when that happens? Realize that your efforts to lose weight worked and that your body is responding in the way that it should.  And then accept that you may only see the scale drop by a pound or so per month for a while instead of per week like you are used to. Unfortunately, this is when most people begin to get frustrated and feel like what they are doing is no longer working and so they throw in the towel. That’s a dangerous place to be because you are at high risk to regain the weight to begin with. Your body is in a bit of a metabolic mess and very prone to weight gain because it has not had time to adjust to the new, lower weight you. Throwing in the towel on healthy eating habits and exercise is the worst thing you can do. Instead, do these four things and you will end the yo yo cycle while continuing to see results:

1. Consider lowering your carbohydrate intake to 130 grams per day if you are not already following a low carb diet.

2. Be sure you are consuming plenty of protein at all of your meals – 30 grams is the magic number for most.

3. Exercise a minimum of 45 minutes daily. This is the absolute minimum requirement as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine for prevention of weight regain. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)

4. Be sure you are drinking a minimum of 8-10 cups of water per day.

Lastly, if you are doing the above things and you can’t get out of it, try keeping track of your food intake for a few days using an online record keeping system like sparkpeople or myfitnesspal (both free and easy to use) to get an objective take on what you are consuming. I once worked with a woman who swore up and down she was only consuming 1200 calories per day. When she finally decided to track it, she was mortified to find out she was actually consuming 2400 per day. That’s twice as much!

You can also consider a weight loss aid, such as an appetite suppressant. I talk about your options in a previous post here, available through your doctor and natural options that you can contact me about if interested in learning more.

Once you understand that this is a lifelong effort, you will begin to understand that there is no such thing as going “on” a diet (because that means eventually you are going “off” a diet) but rather, changing your lifestyle.

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

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

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

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

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

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

Here are some possible reasons:

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

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

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

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

So how can you apply this to your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Stressful words for moms: cleaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sundays: church and day of rest

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

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

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

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

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

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

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.