Breakfast isn’t the most important meal

So I’ve been reading this book, the Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung, and it’s rocking my world. In his book, he exposes the crap that most people believe surrounding weight gain. The idea that obesity is a result of poor lifestyle is just false. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that and don’t let anybody ever tell you that eating less and exercising more is your simple solution.

This post is in response to one of his mind boggling myth busters that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around, but alas, I do have some thoughts on. Just so you know, he is a proponent of intermittent fast – something I wrote and researched on a while back here. Spoiler: it’s not a terrible diet, but it’s not for everyone, either.

But before I begin, I want to ask you a few questions, regardless of your weight:

  • Where did you eat your last meal? Snack?
  • Do you eat three meals per day? If you don’t, which meal are you most likely to skip?
  • How many of those meals do you eat at an actual table meant for consuming food?
  • When you are sitting in front of the television, do you feel the urge to grab a snack? What about your computer?
  • The last time you went to the movie theater, did you get popcorn, candy, and/or a drink?
  • The last time you went to a social gathering that was not during a meal time, was food involved? If there was food, would the event still have been relevant without the food? or would it have felt like something was missing?
  • The last time you had a big project or something to study for, did you complete it with a snack by your side?
  • Of the last three times you went somewhere, how many of those were you eating while driving?

These questions aren’t meant to make you feel bad about your habits but really just to get you thinking about how little eating takes place in the setting of a meal at a table and how much we eat on the run these days. Chances are when you were a child, it wasn’t like this. For some of you, the Great Depression forced you to eat frugally, three meals per day, nothing more, nothing less. And no wasting. Maybe you even felt this during the recession just ten years ago to some degree. You may have cherished those times at the table. For some of you, it’s just what you did as a family – breakfast and dinner at the table together to start and end your day. I remember for me, we simply weren’t allowed to eat in the living room unless it was a special occasion. We always stopped for lunch and ate at the restaurant and it was unheard of to eat in the car while my mother ran errands. She made time to stop and sit down. I never really liked going with my mom to run her errands, but those are actually really special memories I have from growing up. Taking time to enjoy food with loved ones is really special. It’s why it’s such a social centerpiece for us.

How many places have you eaten today so far? It’s only 12:45 p.m. and I’ve already consumed something in four different places myself, none of which were an actual table meant for eating. I bet you can say something similar.

Fung postulates that the real marker of obesity is insulin resistance caused by a persistence influx of insulin in the body. Some quick science for you – insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas necessary for the body to move blood sugar into our cells to be used as energy or stored for fat for later use. Our blood sugar spikes when we eat carbohydrates or during a fasting state because our liver releases it to keep us from feeling like crap. Problem is, when our bodies have persistently too much of something, we become tolerant, or resistant to it. Compare it to a drug tolerance – if you take antibiotics too much and too often, they aren’t going to work and eventually you become antibiotic resistant. That’s not a good thing is it? Insulin has it’s own special way of laying fat on you, especially in your mid section. In other words, insulin is a fat storage hormone.

When we are conditioned to eat everywhere we plant ourselves, we become conditioned to eat all the time. Add in the fact that every diet you’ve ever learned about teaches you to eat every three hours to keep your metabolism running efficiently, you’ve now created an environment perfect for persistent insulin excretion. Most people only spend about six hours of their day truly fasting, which is during sleep (unless you happen to wake up and have a midnight snack). It’s perfectly normal nowadays to eat a bedtime snack of high carbs (i.e. insulin loving foods like chips, popcorn or cookies) and wake up to a sugary high carb breakfast (such as pancakes, pop tarts, doughnuts, waffles, bagels, cereal, toast, or even oatmeal.)

So what’s the solution here? Skip breakfast? Cut out carbs? Stop snacking? Yes. Kind of.

  1. Go ahead and eat breakfast, but don’t stress about eating it the second you get up. Breakfast is defined as breaking the fast, regardless of time. I’ve always advised to eat within the first two hours of waking up. But truth be told, when I really thought about it – I myself don’t eat until about three hours after I wake up. I’m usually not hungry until then because I much prefer my coffee first. And I’ve not gained weight after years of doing it this way.
  2. Choose wisely for breakfast. At least 20-30 grams of protein, add a healthy source of fat, and if you must add the carbs, go for fruits and vegetables rather than the normal processed junky carbs that encompass our familiar breakfast foods. Some of my favorites include 1/2 cup cottage cheese with fresh peaches, deli cheese roll-ups using ham or turkey and avocado with a side of melon, apple slices with nut butter and greek yogurt, or 1/2 cup mixed nuts or trail mix and fresh fruit. For twenty-five complete ideas sent to your inbox, click here.
  3. Set a rule for yourself that you only eat at a table meant for meals. Normally I’m not a proponent for “rules” but we all need boundaries when it comes to our weak points. So yes, I’m suggesting that for breakfast, you make time to sit at your kitchen table to eat. I’m insisting you actually take a break for lunch and find a picnic table, sit in your work café, go inside instead of the drive through (if you must choose fast food), or sit at your kitchen table to eat lunch even if you are home alone. And most importantly, I’m encouraging you to sit together as a family for dinner time. Right now, it may be your habit to grab a bag of chips or something to crunch on when you sit at the computer or head for the couch to watch television. But over time, that habit will fade as you retrain your brain to be okay with nothing to chew on in front of a screen. Test yourself – next time you feel tempted to snack, ask yourself when the last time you had a meal was. If it was two to three hours ago and you have no physical signs of hunger such as stomach growling, shakiness, or a headache, then it is only head hunger. In other words, it’s habitual hunger and you don’t really need it. Not even raw veggies. Find something else to do with your hands – lift weights, knit something, play cards, play a game on your phone, paint rocks (this IS a thing and happens to be my personal favorite!). Any new hobby will do.

I know this is some very unconventional thinking here. Heck, it even goes against some of my past blog posts! But here’s the thing, people aren’t losing weight successfully with the conventional methods of eat less calories, exercise more, eat whole grains, cut portion size, or any of that other garbage. So I try to stay open minded about things and above all else, I want you to understand that your weight struggles are way more complicated than most sources have probably told you.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded women 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

Drink coffee and eat cheese to lower your diabetes risk?

It’s no secret that obesity is an epidemic in the United States and many other developed countries. Because of that, comorbid conditions that are related to extra weight are on the rise. Of particular interest is Type 2 Diabetes, a condition where your body cannot use insulin properly to regulate your blood sugar levels, causing hyperglycemia (aka high blood sugar.)

A quick science lesson to understand what’s going on in someone who has diabetes: insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is necessary to move glucose (sugar) molecules into our body’s cells for energy. Every cell in the body requires glucose to function. If those glucose molecules are hanging out in the blood stream, they aren’t doing their job and instead, are creating problems like blurred vision, excessive hunger/thirst and fatigue because the body is essentially acting like you haven’t eaten. Chronically high blood sugars lead to heart disease, kidney failure, and permanent nerve damage. No organ can function correctly in a thick, syrupy-like bloodstream.

This is why prevention and management of diabetes is so important. It can absolutely be diet controlled and I’ve witnessed many individuals be able to get off of their diabetes meds with enough weight loss and diet modifications. It’s possible. But always better to not have it to begin with since diabetes is not curable. Note, I’m only referring to Type 2 diabetes here. Type 1 is genetic, usually diagnosed in childhood, and happens when the pancreas produces no insulin at all. It is unrelated to lifestyle factors. 

So what foods increase your risk? Let’s start there since more than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and 86 million are living with pre-diabetes. Many of those unaware. Some risk factors like age, genetics, race, and family history are out of our control. However, one thing we can do is choose what we put on our plates. Emerging research has some interesting results on just exactly what to choose and what to ditch.

Foods that increase risk:

  • refined/processed carbohydrates such as crackers, cereal, white bread, cookies, snack cakes, chips, pastries, etc. Interestingly, those marketed as “low-fat, fat-free, and low carb” are also linked to an increased diabetes risk. Why? Because they are still processed!
  • red meat (according to this study “red meat” included beef, pork, and lamb)
  • processed red meat (think bacon, hot dogs, sausage, salami, bologna, etc)
  • sugary drinks like fruit juice with added sugars, soda, fruit punch, lemonade, sweet tea, etc

Foods that have a neutral effect (at least for now):

  • butter
  • poultry (according to the research, the evidence is not clear if it increases or decreases risk)
  • 100% fruit juice without added sugars
  • eggs (can we all just agree it’s okay to eat eggs already?)
  • fish (although may decrease risk in some Asian populations)

Foods that decrease risk:

  • green leafy, vegetables
  • nuts
  • whole grains (unrefined, with the bran still intact)
  • monounsaturated fats (such as avocados, nut butters, mixed nuts)
  • high-fat dairy products (cheese, cream, whole milk, kefir, yogurt) *you read that right, check it out here
  • coffee (add some cream! who else is getting excited? It’s true, really I’m not lying to justify my addiction.)
  • tea
  • alcohol (2 drink limit for men, 1-1.5 drink limit for women, but no need to start if you don’t) *you read that right, too

Much of the research cited is from food frequency questionnaires on large scale studies. As you may know from my previous posts, this method of data collection is not the most reliable, but it’s difficult to control human behavior, especially when it comes to diet over a long period of time. Either way, I think these lists of food gives us some valuable insight on what we can control in our own life.

Lastly, remember that your diabetes risk increases after the age of 45, exercising less than three times per week, being overweight, and having a family history of diabetes. 

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

When the angry mirror reflects pale

The first line of a poem I wrote when I was fifteen. Elbow deep into an eating disorder.

When I was fourteen years old, I overhead a well meaning neighbor tell my dad that his daughters “were getting a little round around the middle” and that maybe he should have them do some outside chores. Fourteen year old girls are already self-conscious. Make that very self-conscious about their looks. That neighbor didn’t cause anything, but they did affirm what that insecure teenage girl was hoping not to be true.

She’s fat. She’s not good enough. What she sees in the magazines are not at all what she sees in the mirror. Everything is out of her control. Except what she puts in her mouth. Nobody can tell her what to put in her mouth.

I remember over the next several weeks devising a very restrictive weight loss diet for myself. I wasn’t down with a “round” middle. I think I was an aspiring dietitian from the start, before I knew anything about meal planning. Just be thankful you weren’t a client of mine when I was fourteen!

Over the next 3 months, I lost about forty pounds. Of note, I have a twin sister and we had always been a similar weight up until this point. It happened so fast my family didn’t catch on until I was fully holding myself prisoner to my thoughts. It was pretty evident to everyone at school, all of our family members, and all of our friends. Aside from the whispers I could hear, no one said a word to me. And I was okay with that. Confronting people with hard stuff is hard.

Some of you are telling yourself similar things, too.

“That food is off limits for you. Eat it and you will surely gain five pounds overnight.” You have safe foods and if you go off plan, you are going to pay in self loathing guilt trips.

“Your day is determined by the number on the scale. Lose weight, you can relax,” (at least until breakfast). “If you gain weight, you will need to punish yourself with twenty extra minutes on the treadmill.”

“Wear that outfit because it hides your body.”

For someone with an eating disorder, multiply those thoughts times 100 and circulate them 24/7. The panic that sets in when food is presented that’s off limits, the fear of being caught exercising late at night to work off those extra calories, constantly hiding the anguish under baggy clothes, and the depression are enough to make life unliveable. People with anorexia do get to a  point where they know they shouldn’t lose anymore weight, but the fear of gaining even a pound is so strong that they’d rather continue to disappear.

I’ve been asked many times in my life why I became a Dietitian. I’ve never told the truth. This is my story. In three months, I turned my teenage years upside down along with my family’s and took over three years to recover from with the help of a Dietitian, a Psychiatrist, and God whom I didn’t even know at the time.

He’s always there to help you even if you pay Him no attention. Seek Him and allow yourself to rest on His strength.

Many of you have similar struggles. You aren’t good enough, you hate your body and you punish yourself for it on a daily basis. I may not know what it’s like to be overweight, but I know this struggle. I know it well. I apologize for keeping it to myself all of these years. If I’m going to be of any help to those of you that follow me so faithfully, you need to know my heart and why I really do what I do.

I’ll leave you with my high school poem, a place I happily won’t go back to, but still understand.


When the angry mirror reflected pale,

She mended my shattered heart;

Told me that if I just listened,

My disturbances would dissolve.

She didn’t tell me the payment

Would be much more than I could carry-

The heavy weight on my soul

Replaced by another, much heavier.

I thrived to her golden rules:

Hunger pains do not hurt,

Protruding bones are attractive,

Sacrifice everything to vanish.

She told me a lie:

I would be dominant when I disappeared.

I didn’t know it was

She who stretched the infuriated mirage;

She shackled me to her deceptions,

She became me.

My anorexia and myself.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LD

So you wanna lose 50+ pounds in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does a Dietitian buy at the grocery store to eat?

I get asked this question a lot. And I will admit, it’s an annoying one. But I decided to go a head and answer it, because people wanna know. So here it is.

Let’s begin with some basic staples:

  • REAL butter. No fake stuff like margarine (what IS that stuff, anyway? ewww)
  • 1% milk. Only one person in my family drinks it. That is my 3 year old who would prefer to live on it if I let him. (I’m working on it and I never claimed to be a pediatric Dietitian, mmmmk?)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken strips because they are easy to cook with and versatile
  • 3lbs 85% lean ground turkey because it is versatile and cheaper to buy in that quantity (ground turkey breast is dry and flavorless)
  • Vanilla soy milk. Because I would flavor my coffee with more sugar than coffee if I used anything else. (no, I don’t use the unsweetened kind for my coffee, yuck. Just yuck.)
  • Extra Virgin Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil for cooking (new love, doesn’t break down like olive oil does when cooked)
  • Shredded cheese. Because it’s versatile and everything is better with cheese.
  • Sliced cheese. See above.
  • Stick cheese. See above, insert at snack time.
  • Nitrite and Nitrate free deli meat. For lunches. Emphasize the nitrate free versions. Unless you prefer to knowingly up your risk of cancer.
  • Nitrite and Nitrate free bacon.
  • Fruit snacks. See the comment about pediatric dietitian. mmmk?
  • Protein bars with <10g sugar and >10g protein for those moments when you need to eat but the threenager decided to draw on the walls with your expensive mascara and the first grader decided to fake an illness before school (true story.)
  • Eggs. Great nutritional value for any meal of the day.
  • Lollipops. Because sometimes bribery is necessary when you’re a momtreprenuer with a threenager who stays at home.
  • Plastic ware, paper plates, paper bowls. Because life is too short to be doing dishes.
  • Wine. See above.

What you DON’T see and why.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables because we have a weekly farm bag delivered straight to our doorstep. Cheaper, fresher alternative and I highly recommend it!
  • 5 sets of BOGO pasta. I’m still using up what I bought when I was suckered in last time. Lesson learned. Insert other items as they apply to you.People who stock up at discount stores eat up to 48 percent more.
  • Me going through any bulk food store. Buying in bulk = eating in  bulk. It’s a proven fact people eat more when they buy larger quantities.
  • 100 calorie pack snacks. They have zero nutritional value and I’d rather eat a real cookie.
  • A cake, pie, etc unless there is  a REASON for it (i.e. birthday, holiday).
  • Majority of the cooking spices because I prefer to cook with high quality essential oils (contact me directly if you want more information on that)
  • Gluten free products. Because no one in my household has celiac disease or known gluten intolerance. End of story.

This is not an all-inclusive list. In fact it’s a very basic list that doesn’t include what mood I’m in or budget I’m trying to follow that week. But hopefully you get the point. I shop like many other people, moms, and fellow dietitian friends.