How do I fit alcohol in during the holidays?

Can you believe it? It’s November and the holidays are just around the corner again. I am confident that many of you will have a plan this year and will stick to that plan well. But have you given any thought to alcohol?

Alcohol does a few things – of course it adds a gazillion calories, often unaccounted for. But more importantly, it lowers your inhibitions. So you know those Christmas cookies you swore you would limit to just one? Yeah, you need some self control to stick to that plan and alcohol is going to lower your ability to do that. Double whammy.

I get it. The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of us. Let’s face it, alcohol may be present at just the right time – that work party you didn’t really want to go to in the first place. Or that family gathering that usually ends up in some sort of nonsense argument that you’d rather not be a part of. Or yet again, you go home after a shopping trip you spent way too much money on and now you’re not sure how the electric bill is gonna get paid. Stress. Alcohol, like food, is a quick fix. But only temporary and ineffective long term.

Here are some tips to keep it real and sane this season:

  1. Incorporate alcohol into your plan if you usually indulge. One or two drinks max and then switch to a calorie free seltzer water. Social drinking can also get the best of us. If you continue to drink in a wine glass, but keep it alcohol free, you may surprise yourself how you really don’t notice. And if you don’t usually drink, well don’t start now!
  2. Be aware of calories. Light beer, non-dessert white wines, and liquor in calorie free or low calorie mixers are the lowest options. Dark beers, dessert wines, and fancy drinks can contain up to 800 calories a pop (mudslides, egg nog and rum, margaritas, etc). Know your serving sizes too. Once drink = 12 ounces beer, 4-6 ounces wine, 1 ounce liquor = 100 calories roughly
  3. Destress in other ways. Start with the source of your stress.
    • Lack of time? Find time weekly to do something fun or enjoyable. This may be off your normal routine since the holidays generally keep us busy. Whatever that is for you, just ten minutes of meditation, a few minutes set aside for daily devotions, reading a book, or getting your nails done can make a huge difference mentally.
    • Lack money? Trying a secret santa gift exchange among your extended family, cutting down on the amount of presents you normally buy your friends/family, and simply following a gift budget can all help. Try shopping ahead of time to space it out. It’s only early November and if we’d all start our gift shopping now, it would cut down on a lot of financial stress and keep us from battling the crowds later on. As Dave Ramsey says, Christmas is the same day every year, yet we all act like it’s a surprise emergency!
    • Exercise. We all know this helps with stress yet this will be the first to go when time is slim. Make it a priority this year to walk even if only 20-30 minutes a day. It will help you sleep better and handle any unknowns that come your way better. If you normally do your exercise in the evening, you may have to switch it up and do it in the morning during the holidays with a busier schedule. If you normally take the weekends off, you may need to go ahead and walk on the weekends to make up for missed time on the weekdays. Bottom line, be flexible when your schedule calls for it.
    • In the moment, try aromatherapy. When we are stuck in traffic or at the family dinner and a fight breaks out, it’s tempting to handle stress poorly. But don’t underestimate the power of aromatherapy from essential oils. Personal favorites include wild orange, lavender, and grounding blend. A drop or two can be worn on a diffuser necklace or rubbed between the palms of your hands and inhaled for a quick shot to the limbic brain – the center that controls our emotions.

Let me know what your strategy is going to be this holiday season. Do you have something to add or do you plan do use one of these tips?

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

Back to school tips for a healthy family (and your sanity!)

This is a crazy time of year. Lazy days of summer are over and routines are back in full force. I relish the summer because of slow mornings and relaxed evenings without homework. Movie nights any night we want, lunch at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and leisurely mid-week breakfasts are over.

I once read that August is kinda like the Sunday of the year. It represents a new start and recommitment to improving what hasn’t worked in the previous months. Some of you may have children transitioning into middle or high school this year and if you’re like me, you might have a child just entering the school world. Change is here! But that doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’re drowning in after school sports schedules, reading logs, and math homework that you live on pizza and fast food for the next 9 months.

Tips for maintaining sanity and a healthy family during the school year:

  1. Pre-make freezer meals. These can be precooked or not. I’ve done both. If you decide to precook I recommend making enough for at least two meals – one for that evening and one to freeze. It’s much easier to make two at once while you already have the stuff out. Raw meats can be put in large freezer bags with chopped veggies and sauces then frozen for later cooking (baked, pressure or slow cooked.)
  2. Plan ahead. Duh. You’ll have a routine. You’re gonna know when football practice is and when the games are. There’s gonna be late nights that cooking isn’t going to happen. Will those nights be the night you save Monday’s leftovers for? Or the night you decide your family will eat out? It’s okay to eat out 1-2 times a week. It’s not okay to just decide you’re gonna be a fast food family every night during the week.
  3. Plan quick meals. Thirty minute meals sound great. But let’s face it, sometimes that’s too long when it’s late and you’ve got starving kids whining at you. Some of my favorite fifteen minute meals to make include: cheese omelets with fruit and whole wheat toast, deli sandwiches and salad, salad (using pre-made salad bags) with pre-cooked chicken, deli meat, or canned tuna, etc. Nothing wrong with a protein shake or protein bar and yogurt/fruit either. Not all kids will enjoy that last option so I may boil them a hot dog and add raw veggies with ranch if that’s what I go for. Just be flexible! Meals are probably not always going to be your traditional family style meat and two sides.
  4. Establish a bed time and routine. I’ve been guilty in the past about not doing this. You know what happens? There isn’t one and every night turns into a circus, ending with sweat and tears. (I’m not talking about my kids!)  If you don’t want this to happen, decide now when bed time will be and then reverse engineer. That’s will determine what time dinner is going to be. It’s not always going to work out perfectly, but establishing this will make life much easier for you and help you make decisions about what responsibilities and activities you participate later on in the school year.
  5. Take a good multivitamin. Yes, I’m advising your whole family do this. It’s important to fill in the nutritional gaps with a high quality vitamin. This can really help with immunity, focus, and sleep quality. Germs and common childhood illnesses are frequent throughout the school year! Lessen your chances with this simple step. I’d love to tell you if you eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy, and whole grains that you’ll be set. But I’m not that confident in today’s food supply or our ability to consistently eat a perfect diet in today’s busy lifestyle. If you would like recommendations for brands, feel free to contact me. Not all are created equal.
  6. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. And make them convenient to eat. This means they are cut up, washed, and stored in clear containers in the front of the refrigerator. Consider storing apples, oranges, and bananas in a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. Research shows that this really increases the chances they will be consumed by your family first and more often throughout the week. These will make for much healthier after school snacks over the bag of chips in the pantry! We eat what’s convenient.
  7. If you plan to pre-pack lunches, try to make them for 2-3 days ahead of time. Again, when you’ve got the stuff out already, it saves time. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches last up to three days without going soggy. I’ve tested it myself. And be okay with allowing your kids to eat at school some of the time. I learned a while ago that it’s not healthy for me to be up all hours losing sleep in the kitchen trying to pack everyone the perfect lunch.
  8. Grocery shop once a week. Pick a day and time you’re gonna do it consistently. If possible, not a weekend day in the afternoon. This is the busiest and most stressful time and it will take you the longest. Make a list before you go and get it done. No food in the kitchen = no meals made at home. Some grocery stores are now offering curb side pick up. Do your shopping online, they get it together for you, and you just pick it up at the door. Genius! I have a previous post  if you need help with budgeting.
  9. Eat breakfast. As moms, we are pretty good about making sure our children eat a healthy breakfast before rushing off to school. And then we get to work or go on about our day and never get beyond the cup of coffee for ourselves. Don’t do that. Everyone needs breakfast to maintain a healthy weight, perform better, focus throughout the day, and to prevent unhealthy snacking. While you’re making your children breakfast, take the extra two minutes to make yourself one too. If that’s really a no go, consider a meal replacement. I offer insights and suggestions here. Popular kid’s breakfast options include peanut butter on waffles, peanut butter and jelly (I like uncrustables for a fast fix), oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, cereal and milk with strawberries or bananas, cheese omelet with fruit, cinnamon raisin toast and a banana, yogurt and cheerios, hard boiled eggs and toast.
  10. Be flexible. The biggest reason people fail at their health goals is because they get stuck in the mentality that their plans needs to be perfect. As soon as something unexpected happens (a child failed their test, you get asked to volunteer for the halloween party, you get a flat tire on the way to school, etc), they throw in the towel. I call this “Plan A,” perfectionism, which really only happens 5% of the time. Plan B is your reality, so flexibility is key because these things are going to come up, 90% of the time. That’s just life. What’s the other 5%? Plan C….reserved for those days when you’re probably gonna stay home, order a pizza, and call it a day. Luckily they only happen occasionally!

    Most important thing is, you make a plan, allow for flexibility, fall off course sometimes, and consistently get back on track. 

Good luck this year, I wish you a year of success and fun filled memories!

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

Ok fine, I’m grateful!

How would you spend your days if it was up to you?
No work. No kids. No responsibilities. Just fun.
Not long ago I used to dream of that. Almost daily when I was stuck in an office with no windows and no break. On spring days like today when it’s cool enough to comfortably wear jeans but sunny enough to wear a t-shirt and leave the sweater at home, I’d catch a glimpse out a window and feel regret that I’d chosen my career path. I was jealous of the mothers that were able to stay at home with their kids and spend days like this at the park. But I didn’t know something. I didn’t know some of them were jealous of me. Sure I was missing out on the sunshine but I was also skipping on out on the frustration.

Today I’m in their shoes. And I’m so grateful for it. But I just wanted to take my son to enjoy the spring weather over lunch at the park. We really needed to get out of the damn house. A year ago I just wanted to get home after a long day. After wrestling socks and shoes on, we drove up to McDonald’s. I’m sick of McDonald’s but it’s cheap and it’s one thing I know my four year old will eat without fail. It’s also right in front of the park we frequent. After waiting in line at the drive through for what seemed like an eternity, we got our food and landed a spot at one of the two benches at said park.

It’s an event to get set up. The bench is in the shade and on a day like this one it’s too chilly and my son doesn’t want to wear his jacket. So we move and opt for the sunny area on the side walk and set up again. Two minutes later, my son needs to go pee. At this park, there is one bathroom and it happens to be on the other side of the park. He can’t hold it. We pack up and at the speed of a sloth he is trailing behind me while I am loaded up with both our lunches, jackets, and sodas. I’m now sweating.

The restrooms look like something straight out of the movie, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the women’s restroom is locked. The men’s restroom stall is occupied. We know this because the man’s phone is ringing with a country song ringtone horror movies are made of. I grab my son and decide we are safer finding a tree. After about five minutes of wandering the park, we are back at the original horror scene, now unoccupied. Apparently this park is hopping today and I’d rather not get kicked out by security for allowing my son to pee on public property.

Finally we can eat. My son is pouting because in spite of the fifteen kids his age playing, he’s upset his big brother is still at school. Ten minutes later, he needs to go poop. We aren’t reliving the country song scene nor is he sitting on that nasty metal pot they call a toilet. So back to McDonald’s we go. Can I just say that whoever invented those hand dryers didn’t have kids?

When we get back in the car, I resolve that it’s time to go home. Except my son is upset because he hasn’t played yet. Fine. We’ll go back. It’s nice outside afterall. I start to pull out, promising myself to relax. Then I hear it. The sound of red soda pouring out into the back seat of my car. Another item invented by a non parent that I stupidly agreed to allow my child to have for a moment of peace. I lose it. He’s crying because his drink is gone.

Now here I am back at the park living to tell you mommas that we all get frustrated. Both at work and at home with our kids. We want it to be better on the other side because it gives us something to long for. But in reality we just need to be grateful. That’s annoying sometimes I know. Was I grateful while wiping bright red soda off my four year old’s legs? Hell no. Was I grateful in the past when my boss asked me to stay late and teach a class I wasn’t planning on? Not at all. But it’s all a season and God has a plan for it.

I’m blessed that I can make an income from home now. I don’t miss a thing I don’t want to in my children’s lives (and sometimes I don’t miss things I’d rather!)

Let me know in the comments what you are grateful today for, now matter how small. And if you are interested in learning more about what I do, feel free to contact me at

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Anxious eating & why it’s the worst!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

Why is it that when we are stressed, we make the WORST choices for our health?

Think about the last time you were stressed or anxious. Are you proud of the way you handled it? Did you choose to eat great? Did you do something good for yourself? I believe that this is what really holds us back the most when it comes to making the right choices daily and treating our body like it’s the only one you’re ever gonna get. You know it is, right?

What if you were able to obtain your dream car tomorrow? A Ferrari? A Corvette? Would you put diesel fuel in it? Of course not. And cars depreciate in value no matter what.

Our bodies are with us until the end. Yet we insist on consuming less than quality food. Why? Stress. Instant gratification. Lack of cream

Now I could tell you to exercise or eat carrots when you’re stressed. But how many times have you actually done that? And if you attempted it, did it work? And what about when it’s 10:30 at night and all you wanna do is let Mr. Ben and Jerry comfort you while you watch a movie on the Lifetime channel? (okay, maybe you’ve never done that 😉 )

So what are you really going to do so that you can start making positive daily choices that make a difference? For starters, forget willpower and start with skill-power. Willpower is an exhaustible resource and I am telling you now that if you are going to operate on sheer willpower you will lose.

Practically, start with your home, or desk drawer, or regular driving route. Clean out your pantry of the trigger foods that don’t do you any justice. You know, those foods that you really can’t stop eating until the bag is empty, no matter how many servings are in there. You can lie to yourself all you want about how you will have self control this time and make the bag last longer. But you will lose. These are foods that are highly addicting and contain fat, sugar and/or salt. It’s easy to say no once in the grocery store than to have to say no every time you go in your own kitchen. It can become your own war-zone.

So make it a rule for yourself that if there is a certain food you have a love-hate relationship with, that you will set boundaries around it.

1. You will eat it only when you are not emotional
2. You will eat it only in the presence of others

We consume things for convenience. For example, you probably have a piece of fruit or vegetable growing mold in your fridge right now. I know I do. Why? Because we can’t just pull it out of the fridge and eat it. What I suggest to do, is to wash and cut them up when you bring them home. Put them in front of your refrigerator in clear containers, where you can see them easily. You will be more likely to cook or snack on them before they become a science experiment.

Lastly, think about taking the “6 Cs” out of your diet. What are those? You might hate me. Crackers, cookies, candy, cake, chips & cereal. Why? Because they are refined carbohydrates with no nutritional value and leave you hungry. Great for instant gratification, terrible for lasting energy and satisfaction. Mostly likely a trigger food.

Instead, choose something high in fiber and/or protein. Think celery and nut butter, fresh fruit and low fat cheese, greek yogurt and berries, 2 hard boiled eggs, carrots and celery with hummus, etc.

Make the choice today and then grab a giant garbage bag. Time for some spring cleaning in your kitchen!

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, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

Something happened. These aren’t crabby patties. Or eggplant patties.

I promised I would report back how my attempt at eggplant patties turned out. Let’s just say they were supposed to look like this: 

Eggplant Patties

And they ended up looking like this: crabby pattys

To get my children to at least taste them, I told them they were “Sponge Bob’s” beloved “crabby patties.” They believed that as much as my husband and I believed they looked like that first picture. But guess what? We all ate them. Because they tasted GOOD. Well, not my three year old, Declan. But that’s normal. It coulda been served straight from Sponge Bob himself and I still don’t think he woulda ate them. I don’t claim to be a pediatric dietitian. I’m just a mom trying to get her kids to like real food. But that’s another post for another day.

I’m gonna go on a tangent here and ask, why do we all try so hard to look like that proverbial eggplant patty only to come out feeling like the ones all flat and messed up? I know some of you reading this today are looking for the answer to reaching successful weight loss because you know that’s my specialty and you can’t tell me the last time you weren’t either losing or regaining weight. You probably have three or more clothing sizes in your closet to accommodate the stages.

Get off the vacillating pendulum. Do it today. I promise you, I have seen it hundreds of times and you may be one of them. You have dieted your way to your current weight. It’s the highest weight you’ve ever been. Who is your middle of the pendulum, rationale-minded person? You know, the person that doesn’t have to follow a restrictive diet only to get fed up and swing the other way and regain it all back? Then start over when the jeans get too tight again? Let me help you find her. Let me help you find him. The middle person isn’t picture perfect. That’s what this blog is really about. Taking small steps, one at a time, and really REALLY sticking with them.

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