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Scale Back Alabama Blog

This year, we are excited to bring you the Scale Back Alabama Blog – featuring tips and advice from some of the health professionals who make Scale Back Alabama possible each year. We will be adding new blog posts each week during the ten-week challenge.

Fueling Your Active Life

As a D-I distance runner in college, I found nutrition to be really important to how I felt and performed at races. I often struggled to eat well, and because of my experiences I believe that our weaknesses can be turned into strengths and used to help others. I hope that this post will help you along the way to meeting your own goals and living a fulfilling life. Every single one of us has “performance” goals, just like athletes have times they want to beat or championships they want to win. Some of my main goals in life are loving the people around me well and helping others to feel healthy and confident. I find that exercise and diet can be helpful allies to us on our way to reaching these goals – I know that they have been for me! Self-care, exercise, nutrition, and even hydration are simple tools that help us make the most of what we’ve been given and lead satisfying, fulfilling, and inspiring lives. Especially now, in these stressful times of dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19. It’s important to me to make time for self-care – when I do, I always show up better for others. That often looks for me like grocery shopping once a week, taking the time to eat three balanced meals each day, and waking up an hour earlier to drink coffee, read my bible, and work out each morning. I also love a short lunch break walk – that’s something so easy to do that makes me feel good immediately! Journaling is another good one – it’s great... read more

Self-Care During COVID-19

School closings. Working from home. Empty toilet paper aisles. Social distancing. I think we all know what these things have in common. The coronavirus has taken the world by storm, and it’s been life altering to all of us in some degree. I am sobered by the news of elderly who are unable to get groceries or see their families, employees who have been laid off, parents searching for childcare so they can go to work, and the growing number of COVID-19 victims each day. I realize I don’t know or understand even half of the pain and loss being suffered by so many, and I don’t claim to have any answers. All I can truly offer is my own experience, be there for others as I am able, and pray. It is certainly easy to get lost amidst all the chaos, uncertainty, fear, and negativity. In times of crisis, self-care can feel like the least important thing on the list. However, I discovered the hard way just how quickly I hit rock bottom when I let go of self-care.  Practicing daily self-care has become a lifeline for keeping my hope and spirit intact. And isn’t hope what our world needs most right now? We are better equipped to serve and share hope with others when we take good care of ourselves. The following are a few self-care practices that have helped me stay grounded. Set boundaries with news and social media. This has been a game-changer for me ya’ll. Turn the TV off. I know it’s hard, I know it feels safer to know every single detailed update... read more

Mind Over Meals

Growing up in a household with 4 adults and 5 other kids was interesting.  We all lived with my grandmother, Momma Mary, and she cooked every day.  We had plenty of food to eat, but getting healthy foods, without additions, was a whole other story. Momma Mary was a true, old school, soul food cook.  She cooked plenty of peas and greens from the garden (both with a hefty load of salt poor or fat back), and buttermilk cornbread (often with a heavy heaping of lard).  She also often cooked chicken (mostly fried), that she so gracefully brought in from the yard, and pork that had previously resided up the hill in the pen….and we ate it without putting much thought into it. It was her labor of love…and we loved eating it!! Little did I know; those formative years were the beginnings of my relationship with food. When I went to college, I continued to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it.  I never paid attention to calories, how I felt when I ate, what triggered me to eat, or what the food really looked like (not even as I studied to become a dietitian 🤦).  I just ate…mindlessly. Luckily, I was still benefitting from being a cheerleader in middle and high school.  I continued to be active in college by taking classes, like jazz dance, that forced me to move. The last few years, leading up to turning 50, have proven to be quite a different story! I find that I can’t eat the same way I did in the past, plus I’m not nearly as... read more

A Cruel Cruel Villian

They call it the thief of joy. It’s a creeping, sneaking, dirty little snake, sifting into the dark corners of your mind when you least expect it. It starts as a tickle, then an itch, then a full on throbbing headache. It whispers lies to your soul. “You’re not good enough, why even bother?” “You’ll never be able to do this. You’re nothing but a failure.” “If only you were as smart as them, you would have gotten the job.” These lies that feel like truth and cut us to the deepest places of our cores. Those whispers of poison that slice our heart strings like knives. Comparison. It is a cruel, cruel villain. It will keep you running on a treadmill of despair. It will stop you in your tracks. It will indeed, steal your joy. Although malicious, comparison isn’t the most creative of beasts. It tends to attack the same places again and again. For me, I find comparison attacks my values. For example, I value relationships and creativity, and these are the areas where I compare myself the most. We don’t tend to compare ourselves in areas that we don’t really value. The same comparison that steals our joy can also steal our confidence in who we are and what we’re doing. We all offer valuable gifts in this world, but comparison convinces us that everyone else has something better to give. When we compare, we lose sight of who we are and become less passionate and purposeful in pursuing our values because we feel insecure. Comparison’s main agenda is to trick us into doubting our... read more

Take an Inclusive Fitness Break

Take an inclusive fitness break. By the sound of that, I bet you’re hoping my words of encouragement are to literally take a break from your hard work and physical activity regimen. While it can be a great idea to take breaks from fitness to prevent wearing yourself down, that’s not quite what I’m talking about here. Taking an inclusive fitness break means finding more time in your day to squeeze some movement in and avoiding lengthy sedentary periods of time. Studies show that the more time you spend staying still, the greater your risk of health problems, like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, or heart problems for example. Did you know that just a two-minute fitness break every 30 minutes can help prevent or delay certain diseases? That’s all! The break does not have to be long or vigorous – the key is to just move. No matter where you are throughout your day, finding time to fit in some type of fitness does not have to be daunting. Set a timer for yourself to move in some way every 30 minutes. Not only will you gain some active minutes but I bet you will also feel more mentally prepared and energized. Below are some ideas you can do to get moving inclusively in various locations: Get moving while you watch TV or videos: When a commercial comes on during your show, do arm circles. Do tricep dips on the edge of the couch. Use resistance bands or lift cans of food. Ride a stationary bike or crank a hand cycle. Get moving at work: Take a phone call or meeting away from your... read more

The Best Strategy for Sticking With Exercise

We’re all familiar with it. The new year brings high hopes that “This will be the year! This is the year I will stick with exercise and lose weight, look my best, improve my health, (fill in the blank).” Yet we are also familiar with the dreary statistic that most people fail at this—around 80% of us, to be exact. So if high motivation is not the key to achieving our exercise goals, what is? Well, it just so happens that researchers have asked the same question and have spent a great deal of study trying to answer this question. They’ve found a number of methods that help—having workout buddies, exercising in the morning, making exercise convenient, and having a plan B, just to name a few. But there is one thing that may stand out above the rest. The single most important strategy for sticking with exercise is… Enjoy what you’re doing. It sounds simple enough, but let’s elaborate a bit, especially for those who say they hate exercise. Most of us know that exercise has a huge number of benefits. In fact, exercise is often called “the best medicine,” or the closest thing we know to being a “magic pill” or “fountain of youth.” But knowing all of those things doesn’t necessarily make it work for us. So let’s focus on experiencing how exercise makes you feel. When someone consistently does exercise they enjoy at the appropriate intensity, they usually find that they experience the following benefits very quickly: Better sleep More energy Better stress relief Better moods Who doesn’t want those benefits, right? So once you’ve... read more

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Did you know that if we all ate and exercised the exact same way, we would still all look completely different? This is something I’ve had to remind not only my patients but myself when it comes to maintaining positive body image while trying to lose weight. In my 10+ years as a dietitian, I have worked with patients who have decided to pursue a weight loss journey for a variety of reasons. However, regardless of the reason, maintaining a positive body image through the experience is important. One of my most favorite Health at Every Size (HAES) dietitians, Cara Harbstreet, often shares this: “When you think about the way you eat or exercise, ask yourself, ‘Am I doing this because I love my body, or hate my body?” If we’re eating or exercising a certain way from a place of hate for our body, we’re likely to see our interventions as a negative experience such as depriving ourselves of certain foods, cutting out entire food groups, or eating at a very low calorie level. In regards to exercise, we may see physical activity as punishment and not think to choose a type of exercise or activity that seems pleasurable. On the flip side, when we’re coming from a place of love for our body and overall body positivity, we may choose new dietary habits that focus on all the things we’re interested in adding more of to our diet, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more home-cooked meals with our family, or thoughtfully drinking more water because we’re aware of its benefits to our body. Our physical activity... read more

Finding Your Why – How I Motivate Myself to Exercise

Have you ever stopped what you’re doing and said to yourself, “I can’t wait to work out and get paralyzed by lactic acid?” Me either! But I do have a laundry list of “motivators” that push me from the couch to the track, elliptical machine or walking path. In no particular order, here are some of the “whys” to help me bust a move… Science! There are tons of research that link exercise to a better, longer life. When I have an active lifestyle and a smart diet, I am reducing my risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and a whole lot of other things I’d like to avoid. My mom used to tell me, “It’s better to avoid a heart attack than try to recover from one!” She was right… as always. Spirituality! My body is a divine gift. Failing to take good care of it is the equivalent of squandering a present that God gave me. In the film, “The Ten Commandments” some members of the tribes of Israel are freed from Pharaoh’s bondage, only to squander the gift and worship idols. When I’m exercising, I’m not wasting His gift. Gratitude! In college, my stomach would fill with butterflies each afternoon as I dreaded the upcoming track team workout. I still get anxiety if a trip to the track is in my near future. But during the workout, I think about people who are physically challenged and would give anything in the world to be in my place. One day, age will prevent me being able to vigorously work out. I am grateful... read more

You ARE NOT What You Eat

Adopting an all or nothing mindset of good and bad foods can feel really motivating at first. You start strong, on a Monday, of course. You swear you’re never touching a carbohydrate again. “Bye-bye dessert. It’s been a good run.” In the beginning, you might feel pretty empowered. You’re sticking to your plan, making the right choices. You must be a good or healthy person because those are the only foods you eat now. You may feel like you’ve started a new lifestyle; you’ll be able to keep this up forever. But, there comes a time when that initial burst of motivation wears off and you eat one of those bad foods you’ve sworn off. Chances are, you’re feeling pretty lousy at this point. If eating healthy food makes you a healthy person, what does eating bad food make you? Now that you’ve officially blown your diet, you might as well finish off the rest of that box of thin mints and start over tomorrow (or next Monday)… right? This is how we get stuck in a cycle of shame. We deprive ourselves of the foods we enjoy and then we feel ashamed when we can’t maintain a rigid diet long-term. We feel like we’re failing, when in fact, the unrealistic diet expectations have failed us. I’m using “we,” because I’ve been there, too! As a dietitian, my perspective and understanding of a healthy lifestyle has changed quite a bit from where I started. These days I’m focusing a lot more on behaviors and a lot less on the numbers on the scale, and I want to invite you... read more

The Next Right Thing

I get stuck when I look too far ahead. My mind comes up with wonderful ideas, dreams, plans, and goals of lovely things that I hope to achieve. I make lists, collect resources, and even tell others about my magnificent ideas. The problem is when I try to get started. I know where I want to end up, but the gap between that place and where I stand today feels like a marathon that I don’t have the time or energy to race. I stand at the starting line, gazing ahead into the distance, wishing I had superpowers to zoom ahead to the finish. Whoosh! Pow! “And she wins the gold!! Unbelievable!!” Then I remember life’s not a comic book, and I’m not Wonder Woman, and unfortunately I’m just going to have to run the race or get out. And so oftentimes, I do get out, grabbing a sad consolation prize as I leave my goals in the dust. For many, achieving health goals can feel a lot like that marathon. We picture where we want to be, but the distance between now and the finish line seems insurmountable. Health becomes a fantasy that only the most disciplined can achieve. So many of us don’t even try. Or, we look for “superpowers” in the form of fad diets and restrictive regimes. These “powers” might work for a while, only to be sabotaged by Grandma Betty’s decadent chocolate pie that leaves us on the couch moaning, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Our bodies can’t function with long-term restriction. We decide we’ve failed and leave the race, all... read more