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Alexandra MacKillop is a food scientist, author, and primary healthcare provider at a holistic clinic near Chicago, IL. She is passionate about helping women cultivate lifestyle behaviors that honor both God and their bodies through a non-diet approach to nutrition. In addition to clinical practice, she writes about her experiences with faith, food, and medicine on her blog, AlexandraMacKillop.com. She has published and released a devotional titled Faith, Food, Freedom for women who struggle with body image and dieting, and is in the process of writing her first book, which will be released by the publisher in spring of 2021. Her work has also appeared on both Christian and Nutrition blogs such as (in)courage and Naughty Nutrition, as well as language and scientific journals such as Claritas Journal of Language and Culture and The Purdue Journal of Undergraduate Research. Alexandra is as committed to her faith as she is to studying science, and she seeks to unite these two areas of her life by caring for others at the intersection of food and faith.
I mean seriously...⠀ ⠀ Let's re-frame our idea of what is and isn't okay when it comes to food, health, wellness, exercise, our bodies, self-care...⠀ ⠀ Because frankly, who gets to decide these things anyway? Last time I checked, there was no moral code book that says food is the end-all-be-all of our lives, and unless we do it perfectly, we're doomed. (Diet culture likes to think it has this power, but it doesn't really. Humans made all of it up.)⠀ ⠀ Today's blog post (LINK IN BIO) is all about how there's no such thing as perfect self-care, and why it's important that we afford ourselves grace. Head over to AlexandraMacKillop.com to check it out.⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀
If you’d have asked me 10 years ago what I thought it meant to “take care of myself,” I would’ve said something along the lines of clean eating, exercising every day, maintaining a certain body weight, and keeping an appealing outward appearance…i.e. wearing makeup and nice clothes. Self-care for me on those days means taking a few extra steps to avoid extended periods outside, or maybe taking a few extra minutes to have a hot bath rather than a quick shower. If I’m really running low on sleep, I might prioritize an extra hour of slumber rather than meal prepping my breakfast and lunch, choosing to get takeout or fast food on days that I work. Even if a certain food causes me a little GI upset, like milk for example, I prioritize my mental/emotional sense of food freedom above temporary physical symptoms much of the time.
It's not all about the calories...⠀ ⠀ Satisfaction is probably the number one thing that transformed my relationship with food. I used to believe eating was all about fullness....or avoiding fullness. ("Don't eat past a 6 or 7, or else!!!!" -Diet Culture)⠀ ⠀ But trying to eat low calorie foods just made me binge eat. Whether I was shoveling sugar-free, dairy-free, fat-free, low-calorie brownies into my mouth, or had completely given up and was eating a whole tray of Betty Crocker, dieting just moved me farther away from my goals. ⠀ ⠀ Eating for satisfaction is the only thing that helped be actually be able to stop eating once I'd started.⠀ ⠀
In the same way that I felt compelled to check running off my list before doing anything else that day, I felt guilty eating unless I’d accrued what I felt was a ‘sufficient’ calorie deficit in order to ‘earn’ the food. When you’ve spent years or decades with exercise so tightly knit into your views towards food and your body, it can seem extremely difficult to separate those things, viewing them independently rather than building your value, identity, and worth upon the food you eat, the workouts you complete, and the size/shape of your body. I don’t force myself to work out when my body is telling my it’s time to rest, and I’ve learned how to recognize when I need to get up and move around in order to feel at my best. During that time, I had the realization that if I was struggling with an eating disorder, I would have felt the need to exercise above and beyond my normal because of the extra time.
A friendly introduction for those of you who are new here! ⠀ ⠀ Hi & welcome! My name is Alexandra MacKillop. I'm a functional medicine doctor, food scientist, author, wife, Christian...I'm a lot of things, but I'm not a carrot. (Update: You are NOT what you eat!)⠀ ⠀ That might not be surprising to you, but for about 7 years of my life, I believed that my health (and worth/identity) all boiled down to what I ate and how much I exercised. I struggled with an eating disorder as a teenager, and recovery has since taught me a lot about what it really means to have a positive sense of well-being. ⠀ ⠀ My food philosophy now is based on intuitive eating and health at every size. I no longer turn up my nose at the dessert menu at restaurants only to binge eat ice cream from my freezer at midnight. One of my personal and professional goals is to help as many women as I can reconcile their relationship with food and exercise as I did, because the freedom of that changed my life. I've written a book about these topics, called Fulfilled, which is currently available for pre-order. (Link in bio!)⠀ ⠀ My experiences on both sides of the wellness spectrum inspired me to become a doctor, and today I work as a primary care provider with a natural focus (i.e. functional medicine doctor) at an integrative clinic near Chicago. I love what I do and feel so blessed to be where I am in my career.⠀ ⠀ As a Christian, I believe that God loves each and every one of us, and he made our bodies (fearfully & wonderfully...Psalm 139:14) for a purpose that is far greater than trying to fit into a certain pant size. ⠀ ⠀ All that being said, I'd like to get to know YOU! Leave a comment with a fun fact about yourself below. 👇🏼 ⠀
Please note: When referring to hormonal contraceptives, birth control pills or “the pill” in this post, I am referencing medications containing both estrogen and progesterone analogs (estradiol and progestin). So in lieu of completely eliminating your period, the pill shuts off the “main event” of your cycle, aka ovulation, while setting up a carefully curated hormonal environment that mimics a healthy period. Blood Clots: A widely known fact in the medical community that is seldom talked about in a clinical setting is that oral contraceptives containing estrogen or estrogen analogs increase the risk of blood clots forming, even in otherwise healthy women with no underlying conditions. These chronic stress exposures alter the metabolism of lipids and carbohydrates in the body, raising blood cholesterol and triglycerides and increasing risk of chronic disease, especially heart disease in women.
If you can't eat your favorite food without feeling sick, that's a problem...⠀ ⠀ Diet culture makes it seem like the healthiest people are the ones who are super strict about what, when, and how much they eat. Folks who say things like, "I just don't feel well when I eat sugar" are esteemed as having a strong will power or "so much self control," etc. But let's be honest...the human body was designed to be able to process sugar. If we CAN'T eat something sweet without it making us ill, that's not a sign of health...it's the opposite.⠀ ⠀ If foods are making you bloated, it's not the food's problem. There's something going on with your health and you need to see a doctor.⠀ ⠀ ⠀
While I’d previously thought I was doing a pretty good job of living with contentment amid my circumstances, it became abundantly clear that that feeling of contentment was actually dependent on my circumstances. While I preferred, like anyone, for life to flow smoothly, the trials and challenges this summer brought highlighted an important area of my life that needed work. Finding contentment in any and every situation means even in job loss, even through financial disaster, even in death of a loved one, even when plans fail and life feels out-of-control…circumstances faced by many of us throughout the COVID pandemic. I most certainly can’t say that I’ve learned the secret of contentment in all circumstances, as evidenced by the way COVID derailed me.
Food and exercise aren't supposed to take over your life...⠀ ⠀ Today's blog post is all about keeping exercise in a balanced place in your life. [Link in bio]⠀ ⠀ My whole schedule used to revolve around my workouts. It was like my life was on hold until I checked off a certain number of miles, minutes, or burned calories from my list. I thought I was doing the right thing, but it felt 100% awful. Nowadays, things are the other way around....my workouts fit into my life rather than my life fitting into my workout schedule.⠀ ⠀ What about you?⠀ ⠀ ⠀ P.S. thank you to @dietitiananna for this reminder!
You asked, I answered...⠀ ⠀ Probably the number one question I get regarding women's health relates to birth control pills in some way: how they work, what the health risks are, what I think of them, and what I'd recommend instead. ⠀ ⠀ My answers to all these questions (and more) are on the blog today. Check out AlexandraMacKillop.com or click the link in my bio.⠀ ⠀ ⠀