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  • My FLTF Experience – You CAN Do This

    Margaret Wertheim M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

    Margaret Wertheim, MS RD LDN

    Here at Pulling Down the Moon, we are launching our new weight loss program entitled First Line Therapy for Fertility (FLTF). I couldn’t be more excited about this program, and in preparation I’ve been doing the program myself. I’m not trying to lose weight, but simply following the eating plan with a goal of maintaining my weight. First let me tell you a little bit more about how the program works, and then I’ll fill you in on my experience.

    Once you enroll in FLTF, you will come in for an initial consultation with me in Chicago or with Laura in Rockville. During that consultation we’ll review your goals, medical and fertility history and current diet in detail. We will also take your weight, measure your waist and hip circumference and your body composition using near infrared or NIR. The NIR measurement will tell us what percent of your body is fat versus lean body mass, which means muscle, bone and everything else that isn’t fat. It will also give us your BMR or basal metabolic rate, which tells us how many calories your burn at rest. That number will be adjusted based on your activity level to a calorie amount to promote weight loss. Don’t worry, that’s where our attention to calories begins and ends. There will be absolutely no calorie counting in this program. Instead after we calculate your calorie goal, we’ll translate that into a certain number of servings from each of the different food groups. We’ll come up with a meal pattern that works for you. It’s entirely customizable and tailored to you.

    So back to my experience.  I’ve been on a weight maintenance FLTF plan for about 4 weeks now and I feel great! I am a Nutritionist who walks the talk, and I’ve always been a great vegetable eater, but FLTF took even me to a whole new level.  Here’s what I’ve noticed while on the FLTF plan:

    1. I have more energy and never feel tired after eating. You know that carb coma fatigue you feel after a large meal of pasta or pizza, where all you want to do is veg out on the couch. You won’t feel that at all during the FLTF program. The reason is your blood sugar is going to remain so well-regulated that your energy will be steady. The majority of your carbs will mostly be coming from fruits, vegetables and beans with very limited grains and dairy. You will also always pair carbs with protein, which slows the absorption of sugar (created by the breakdown of carbs) into your bloodstream and prevents blood sugar peaks and valleys. The peaks and valleys are what leave you feeling really good 15 minutes after eating candy and tired, cranky, and searching for the next sugar fix after that. Don’t be scared off by limiting your grains and dairy. You can do it, and I’m going to help you.

    2. Not eating sweets isn’t as hard as you may think. This plan has no sweets in it. Many weight loss programs promote jelly beans, “skinny” frozen desserts or other low-fat or sugar-free sweets. Instead I’m going to ask you to pretty strictly limit your sweets, but you’ll have fruit as well as sweet-tasting low glycemic index protein shakes to satisfy that sweet tooth. It may be hard to limit sweets at first, but it will get better. Once you cut out those sweets, the cravings will gradually disappear and you’ll be so excited about how great you feel and look, you won’t want to go back.

    4. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables than ever : We are all constantly being told to eat more fruits and vegetables to improve our overall health and prevent disease. When it comes to cancer prevention, the recommendation from the American Cancer Society is at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily. I bet that while doing FLTF you will not only meet with recommendation, but go well above and beyond.

    Let’s take a look at what I ate yesterday  – oatmeal, full-fat yogurt, walnuts, grassfed beef, tomato sauce, spaghetti squash, cannellini beans, kale, garlic, apple, almond butter, grapes, lentil soup, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, blueberries. This day was jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants! Let’s see how I did with eating a variety of different colors – red (grapes, apple skin, tomato sauce), orange/yellow (spaghetti squash, butternut squash, carrots in my lentil soup), green (kale, Brussels sprouts), blue (blueberries), white (cannellini beans, onions, garlic), brown (lentils, mushrooms, almond butter).

    Here’s something that’s very important. Much of this may sound hard. I’m going to ask you to limit some pretty common foods, but I will tell you to always remember the 80/20 rule. What you do 80% of the time is what really matters. The other 20% is less important. Here’s an example: I’ve been doing FLTF, and I went to my sister’s house for dinner, and she was serving homemade pizza. Pizza has 2 things that I’m limiting -grains and dairy. What did I do? I ate the pizza, and I enjoyed it. I loaded up on veggies on the side. I’d been sticking to the plan most of the rest of the time, so it’s fine. In the beginning, it’s best to stick to the plan as closely as possible for maximum benefit, but there will always be meals that you can’t control. One meal is not going to make or break anything.

    Because I’ve done and continue to do this program, I know the challenges and I’ll be able to give you recipes and tips to guide you through. I know you can be successful and you’ll have my support as well as the support of the other program participants.  The program costs $210 and includes a one-on-one session with a Registered Dietitian and seven group follow-up sessions.

    FLTF launches in Chicago and Rockville on May 1 st , so call 312-321-0004 (Chicago) or 301-610-7755 to get more information or to sign up. Can’t wait to meet you and guide you through this exciting journey.


  • Pregnancy Passport: Relaxed Mommies Make Healthier Babies

    by Beth Heller, MS RYT

    As I’ve said before, it took me seven years and five pregnancies to get two kids.  So, while pregnancy was a joyful time for me on some levels, it was also a time of stress and sleepless anxiety.  In fact my business partner Tami will often joke that my pregnancies were some of the most stressful times of her life.  Honestly, though, without yoga, massage and acupuncture I think I would have bitten my fingernails to the quick waiting for Jackson and Calvin to arrive safely.  What I didn’t know then was that seeking relief for anxiety through holistic means was also good for my boys.  A growing body of clinical evidence now suggests that prenatal stress, depression and/or anxiety is linked to adverse health outcomes for both moms and babies including preterm birth, preeclampsia and even future risk of chronic disease and obesity (1).

    Women, especially women who have struggled to conceive, may feel guilty about experiencing anxious emotions during this “blissful” time.   Yet preparing for a new baby, no matter how hard one had to work to get it, can be stressful.  Changes in the body during pregnancy, including the strains of a growing belly  and nighttime muscle cramps, can also disrupt sleep, which increases stress.  Rather than worry about worrying, we suggest you take the bull by the horns and enjoy a 360 degree self-care program during pregnancy.  And honestly, it will never again be as easy to justify self-care like acupuncture, massage and yoga as it is when your efforts are a “double-dip” – good for mom and great for baby.

    Here are several strategies for decreasing maternal stress and improving overall well-being during pregnancy:

    1.   Get acupuncture.  A 2010 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that acupuncture treatment alleviated symptoms of stress and depression in pregnant women and women experiencing infertility (2, 3).  Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective at managing morning sickness, back and pelvic pain and labor pain.    Make sure, however, that you see a practitioner who is experienced in treating pregnancy.

    2.   Do prenatal yoga.  Compared to controls, women who did prenatal yoga experienced significant reductions in physical pain from baseline to postintervention compared with women in the third trimester whose pain increased.  Women in the yoga group  showed greater reductions in perceived stress and trait anxiety in their third trimester than women from the control group (4)  The same women also experienced better sleep and less wakefulness (5).

    3.   Get prenatal massage.   Research shows that women who received prenatal massage reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased, which decreased excessive fetal activity; the rate of baby prematurity was also lower (6).

    4.   Seek expert prenatal nutrition counseling.  There are specific nutritional strategies for managing weight gain, avoiding conditions like Gestational Diabetes and Pre-eclampsia and improving digestion (less heartburn, avoid constipation).   At Pulling Down the Moon we target our prenatal nutrition consults based on trimester.

    Our Prenatal Passport is an excellent way to surround yourself with support and expert prenatal wellness care.  The Prenatal Passport includes your Initial Acupuncture Consultation, one Pregnancy Massage and a two-session Prenatal Nutrition Package as well as a free 3-session package of our “Divine” Prenatal Yoga class visits for just $372.00 – (Divine yoga currently available in Chicago only) which represents a savings of almost $150!  The Prenatal Passport also make a great gift.  Gift certificates are available at our online store  


    1.   Entringer S et al.  Prenatal stress and developmental programming of human health and disease risk: concepts and integration of empirical findings.  Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2010 Dec;17(6):507-16.

    2.   Smith CA. 1.  SMith The effect of acupuncture on psychosocial outcomes for women experiencing infertility.  J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Oct;17(10):923-30. Epub 2011 Oct 6 .

    3.   Manber et al. Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy:  a randomized controlled trial.  Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Mar;115(3):511-20.  

    4.   Beddoe AE et al.  The effects of mindfulness-based yoga during pregnancy on maternal psychological and physical distress.  J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2009 May-Jun;38(3):310-9.

    5.   Beddoe AE et al. Effects of mindful yoga on sleep in pregnant women:  a pilot study. Biol Res Nurs. 2010 Apr;11(4):363-70.

    6.  Field, T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage therapy.  Expert Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology , 5, 177-181.

  • Make Your Whole Year’s Plans in the Spring

    Cathleen McCauley L.M.T.

    By Cathy McCauley, LMT, NCTMB

    Spring has officially sprung and a multitude of signs show the season is upon us. Take a walk through your neighborhood and you see crocuses blooming and green buds taking shape. The earth is fertile and bursting with life.

    With spring here, it’s the time for rejuvenation and cleansing. The longer days bring a renewed boost of energy. With spring, you receive the opportunity to release any stagnation that has accumulated during the winter and start fresh in mind and body. You can look ahead and make plans for the coming year.

    A Chinese proverb says, “Make your whole year’s plans in the spring, and your day’s plans early in the morning.”  The proverb comes from the fact that farmers sow their seeds in early spring to ensure a good harvest and highlights the importance of being proactive.  Applying this concept to fertility, you can see the importance of starting early in taking care of your reproductive health. When you begin to pay attention to your bodies’ rhythms, cycles, signs and symptoms, your chances can increase in creating a fertile environment.

    If you haven’t been as proactive about fertility as you’d like, spring is the perfect time to make plans for the future. It might be time to talk to your doctor about a fertility blood work up to determine what’s really going on with your hormones. You could make an appointment with a nutritionist to overhaul your eating habits to be more fertility friendly or take a yoga class to learn some breathing and relaxation techniques for stress reduction.

    Click here to learn about the Fertility Awareness Check-Up available from Fertility Centers of Illinois for just $90

    Also, the concept of spring cleaning our bodies can become an important ritual. You need to clear out the toxins and rejuvenate any stagnate energy in the body to boost immunity and increase fertility health. Since spring is the time for new beginnings, it’s a good opportunity to experience something new. Acupuncture helps balance the energy in the body and stabilize the organs and bodily functions. Reiki, a gentle form of vibrational energy healing, helps restore harmony in the body, mind and soul and clears emotional blockages. Fertility massage focuses on opening up the abdominal and reproductive organs to promote the immune system and assist in blood flow. Massage also greatly reduces tension and helps you feel great.

    In the spring, people begin to feel better as the temperatures increase, the sunlight shines and the world turns green. Pour some of that warmth and light into your reproductive health to invigorate and rejuvenate your personal fertility journey.

    We’re here to guide you along your path and hope to see you soon!

  • Fertility Foods for April: What’s in Season?

    by Beth Heller MS, RYT

    Seasonality is a concept that went out of vogue with the advent of super-stores and refrigerated shipping.  I remember seasonality from my childhood growing up in Michigan when I could guess the month from the fruit my mom placed on the breakfast table.  If she served cantaloupe or watermelon I could put money on the fact that school was out for the summer.  Oranges and grapefruit were winter fruits, which we would occasionally pack home with us from our winter break trips to Florida for a sunny treat on short winter days.  Berries were an early summer thing, although Michigan raspberries were available through October if the weather was warm…and if there was homemade apple sauce on the table it was late September.  Ditto vegetables.  We simply didn’t eat tomatoes when they weren’t growing in our garden.  And when summer ended and the garden turned brown there was squash – lots of it – to be stored for stews and soups during the cold winter months.

    But as I got older, stores got bigger.  Suddenly cantaloupe was available in January…pale, crunchy cantaloupe but cantaloupe.  Tomatoes, too, and disturbingly large red apples began to appear.  My mom got a job and had less time for gardening.  So the food on our table changed.

    I often wonder how much of our obesity, infertility and chronic health problems arise from the simple fact that we’ve allen out of rhythm with our food source.  For optimal health and fertility, traditional medical teachings recommend eating seasonally and locally.  In keeping with the ancient belief that we are healthier and happier when our bodies are in tune with the cycles of nature, it follows we should eat foods that grow in our geographical area while they are in season.  Traditional systems teach that foods and people in the same geographical area have “similar energy.”  This may be true in the sense that plants and the people living as neighbors share the same weather, air, soil and “roots.”  Whether indigenous or adoptive species, plants that thrive in particular areas are there because they are well-suited and have established harmony with their surroundings.  When we eat foods that exist in harmony with our surroundings, it’s believed we take some of that harmony into our own bodies.

    So, what’s “in” for April?  The light flavors of spring are in right now and are full of fertility-supporting nutrients.  Many stores now state the origin of their produce so for an added bonus choose fruits and vegetables grown nearby.  Seasonal spring choices contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.  Since many conditions that cause infertility – PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids and poor egg quality – are associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, increasing your intake of these fruits and veg are a great idea!

    • Arugula – looks and acts like a green but is classified as a cruciferous vegetable and may help healthy hormone metabolism. Arugula is also lower in oxalates, chemicals in leafy greens like spinach, which interfere with calcium absorption.  You can stir a handful of arugula into a delicious Spring Minestrone soup for a delicious satisfying meal.
    • Artichokes – an excellent source of Vitamin C and believed by some cultures to be an aphrodisiac.
    • Asparagus -great source of potassium,  vitamin A and folate and is naturally low in sodium.  Also believed to be an aphrodisiac…
    • Beets – contain betelains, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.  Eat beets lightly steamed or grate them raw into salads to because the benefits of betelains are thought to diminish with heat.
    • Leeks – while not as extensively studied as its cousin garlic, leeks are an allium vegetable and have many of the same beneficial sulfur-containing compounds as garlic.
    • Morel mushrooms – a great source of the antioxidant compound selenium.  Morels have also been studied for their natural blood sugar balancing action.
    • Strawberries (if you live in the South) – strawberries are a fertility superfood filled with antioxidant vitamins and lignins, fiber that has been shown to lower cholesterol.  Lignins are also a favorite food of beneficial gut bacteria and has been called a “pre-biotic” because it promotes a healthy intestinal flora.
    Where possible, of course, choose organic.   Experiment and share your results with us.