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SBA Blog - Lita

Now What?

June 16, 2021

Now that Scale Back Alabama has ended, you may be feeling a little lost without a program or “rules” to follow. Many of us are drawn to meal plans and diet programs because we feel like we need someone (or something) to tell us what to do and how to “be healthy.”

While it’s tempting to want to take the “guesswork” out of it, the truth is, health is a personal journey that looks different for everyone.

Having the flexibility to set your own goals by identifying what matters most to you has been the foundation of this year’s program. I want to encourage you to continue that mindset and empower you to make choices that best serve you in your health journey. Here are a few tips that may help:

1. Adjust your expectations

We may not spend a lot of time thinking about it, but diet culture is all around us. It tells us we have to be a certain shape or size to be worthy of love and belonging. Diet culture teaches us that there is a “right” body – which means all other bodies are “wrong.” We try diets, powders, and magic potions that are supposed to be the answer. But, who do we blame when they fail? Ourselves.

The truth is, you may never get back to the size you were in high school or the size you were before you had the baby (or babies). That’s hard. It’s not the answer I want to hear, either. But, we’re not in high school anymore, and some of our bodies have grown entire humans. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of our bodies. But, I believe we can take better care of them when we meet ourselves where we are.

2. Practice kindness towards yourself

How we talk to (and about) ourselves matters. We tend to be our own worst critics. We scroll social media and feel like we don’t measure up. We’re not thin enough or polished enough. Our house isn’t big enough, clean enough, nice enough.

Why are we comparing our “real” with someone else’s highlight “reel?” I encourage you to start to notice when you’re beating yourself up and STOP. It takes practice but we can reframe how we treat ourselves. We can learn to give ourselves the grace and kindness we extend to those we love.

(Julie and I talked about this in an episode of her podcast, Shame Free Eating, called The Naked Truth with Lita)

3. Focus on the things that really matter

Have you ever found yourself skipping special events or dinner invitations with friends because you’re afraid of falling off your diet? Many of us have gone on diet plans that isolate us from others. (You can’t see me but I’m raising both of my hands). When you get down to it, does it really matter what size your jeans are if it means depriving yourself of time with friends and family, dessert, and peace of mind around food? What could you enjoy if you stopped giving so much time, attention, and mental energy to food?

Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of our bodies or make healthy choices, but when we start viewing foods as strictly good vs. bad, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble. We can relax and enjoy life while making healthy choices around food and physical activity. The key is flexibility, not perfection. Drink water because it’s hydrating. Eat fruits and vegetables that you like because they fuel your body and add color, texture, and variety to your meals. Be physically active in ways that feel good to you – go for a walk, or a bike ride, sign up for a 5K, play tennis with a friend. Nutrition and physical activity should serve our lives, not become our lives.

My favorite part about Scale Back Alabama is the focus on learning to make choices that serve you and your personal health each day.

Thank you for taking this virtual journey with us in 2021. We can’t wait to see you next year!

What is Self Care?

June 1, 2021

You jump (or drag yourself) out of bed in the morning. Maybe you pour a cup of coffee out of necessity. You rush around getting yourself and everyone in your house ready for the day. Maybe that involves getting off to work and school, or maybe that looks more like Zoom meetings and distance learning. You cook, you clean, you chauffer, you teach, you work. You go and do and take care of everyone around you.

But, what about you? Who’s taking care of you?

What comes to mind when you hear the term “self-care”?

Bubble baths? Pedicures?

To me, “self-care” sounded selfish and expensive. I wasn’t sure how spending a ton of extra money on myself, or sitting in a bathtub, was going to help me feel better. It took a little time for me to wrap my head around what self-care really is.

Practicing self-care means identifying what your needs are, and then taking steps to meet them. While there are basic things we all need, there’s no one size fits all guide to self-care because we all need different things at different times. The key is checking in with yourself and figuring out what you need.

Practicing self-care means treating yourself like someone you love.

As someone who consistently puts the needs of others before my own, this can be hard to do! I tend to focus so much on the needs of other people, that I forget that my needs matter, too.

Would I want someone I love rushing around feeling frazzled? Would I tell someone I love that they’ll just have to deal with not getting enough sleep, not having time to do any of the things they enjoy, not saying “no” to things they really don’t want to do because someone may get mad?

Of course not!

So, why do I expect these things from myself?

So many of us go out of our way for the people we love and then feel resentful and overextended when our own needs aren’t being met.

If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking something like “I do so much for everyone else, but no one does the same for me,” it’s time to check in with yourself and see what needs you have that aren’t being met. And, most importantly, take steps to meet them yourself instead of waiting on someone else to do it.

For example, if you recognize that you’re feeling really tired, what you need might be more sleep. You can practice self-care by going to bed earlier to ensure you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep.

Sounds easy right? Just go to bed earlier!

But, I’m guessing what’s really holding you back is how to actually do this when it feels like the weight of the world, or at least your family, depends on your ability to just keep going and going and going…

Let me stop you right there. You’re not the Energizer Bunny.

But, you do sort of run on batteries. It’s just that they’re rechargeable batteries and self-care is the power source.

When you start putting time and energy into taking care of yourself, you may have to adjust your expectations by identifying what really matters.

Maybe it matters that the dishes get washed after dinner, but picking up the toys could wait. When you identify what really matters, you can let go of the things that don’t and get on to taking care of your needs.

Give yourself permission to slow down, unwind, plug in, and recharge by practicing self-care.

Because, the truth is, if you’re not taking care of you, no one is.

And you know what? You’re worth taking care of!

For more ideas and information on self-care, check out Jenna Le’s blog post, Self-Care During COVID-19, and this article in Psychology Today, titled Self Care 101.

For more information on identifying what matters, check out Kendra’s Lazy Genius Collective.

The Naked Truth: This is Hard

May 10, 2021

This blog post will focus a lot on parenting (and Brené Brown, apparently).. But, even if you don’t have kids, stick with me! Hopefully, there’s something here for you, too!

If you have kids, maybe you’ll agree that they are simultaneously the best and the worst.

A four-year-old can send you over the moon with a hug and a whispered “You’re the best Mommy, ever.” Then, bring you to your knees by asking why your belly is “so big” while you’re in your most physically and emotionally vulnerable state: naked.

There I was, a 30-something mom of two, who’s always been self-conscious about her weight/body, standing in front of a wide-eyed, precious girl that I love more than life itself. I felt the sting of that question wash over me as I stood there totally (literally!) exposed. As I internally gathered myself, and picked my jaw, and my heart, up off the floor, a few things ran through my mind:

  1. What kind of person walks in on someone getting undressed and asks something like that?!
  2. Well… a tiny person does… She has no context for this question. This is like asking someone why their hair is brown or their dress is pink.
  3. She didn’t ask this question to hurt my feelings.
  4. My feelings are hurt because of my shame about my body.
  5. I don’t want to pass this body shame on to her.

As the shock of being emotionally assaulted by my preschooler slowly subsided, I took a deep breath and grabbed a towel. I attempted to channel my inner Brené Brown by choosing “courage over comfort,” and I fumbled through a response that sounded something like this:

“Well, baby, every ‘body’ is different, and that’s ok! Some people have little bellies, and some people have big bellies. Some people are tall, and some people are short. Mommy has blue eyes and you have green eyes. We’re all different and that’s a good thing.”

She seemed satisfied with that, and thankfully, she has the attention span of a four-year-old, so she moved on to the next thing quickly.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the kind of parent I want to be and the message I want my babies to grow up with.

I have realized that it’s not possible to give my children a message of self-love and acceptance if I can’t extend those things to myself. I can’t teach my daughters that their worthiness isn’t defined by pounds or inches if that’s how I’m measuring my own. I can’t give them the inner strength to be confident in their own skin if I can barely stand being in my own. I know there will be more hard questions like this one in our future, which is why I’m working on getting comfortable with being vulnerable.

If I’ve learned one thing about parenting, it’s that I have no idea what I’m doing.

Parenting is hard. Having someone’s childhood in your hands is a lot of responsibility, and I sometimes wonder how many of my mistakes and shortcomings my children will talk about in future therapy sessions. Let’s be realistic. The answer probably isn’t zero.

But, I’ve also learned that parenting can be a wonderful gift of self-discovery if you let it. Parenting forces you to peel back all your protective layers and really look at yourself and why you feel, think, say, and do the things you do. Parenting will expose all the little vulnerable pieces of yourself that you hide from the world… unfortunately you can’t hide them from your children.

Had I responded differently by letting my shame take the driver’s seat, my four-year-old would have learned from that one interaction that talking about bodies is off-limits. That having a “big” belly is something to be ashamed of, and avoided at all costs. If I continued to send that message to her over time, we might be headed for trouble.

But, thanks to a little bit of humility and a lot of time spent listening to Brené Brown discuss her research on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, I was able to acknowledge and accept the shame I felt and not pass it on.

How do I know I didn’t pass it on? Well, I’m glad you asked.

We’ve had a few follow-up scenarios where my daughter will come over to me and ask when her belly will be “big” like mine.

Yep. It stings every time. But, maybe it’s like exposure therapy at this point…?

As many things as I’m destined to get wrong, there’s one thing that I REALLY want to get right, and that is to teach my daughters that they are enough just as they are. More than anything, I want them to grow up with a strong sense of self-worth and belonging. I don’t want them to feel like they have to hustle for acceptance by losing weight or being a certain shape or size.

And you know what? I really want that for myself, and for you, too!

Check out Lita’s interview about this blog post over on the Shame Free Eating Podcast

Redefining Success

March 25, 2021

I have A LOT of expectations about how things should go and (especially) how other people should act. When I really stop to think about it, mostly these expectations get in my way and lead to disappointment. Usually, when I find myself getting upset about something, I can trace it back to an unmet expectation.

Weight loss is a great example of this. Many of us expect that if we do the “right” things, we’ll lose weight and finally feel confident and proud of our bodies. Unfortunately, as you may have already figured out through your own trial and error, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

You know that feeling you get when you’ve been really “good” all week, but when you step on the scale, it hasn’t budged? I know that feeling all too well – the moment when expectations turn into disappointment.

I’ve found that this is the moment when I’m most likely to do one of two things. I either give up completely OR I get really strict and obsessive to try and force weight loss to occur. But, I’ve come to realize that both of these options are self-defeating. If I give up, I’m not doing things that I know are good for me, like eating enough fruits and vegetables, drinking water, and being physically active. If I get really strict, I tend to restrict what I allow myself to eat and drink and force myself to engage in physical activity that feels a lot more like punishment than anything else. By clinging to the expected outcome, in this case, weight loss, I’m giving my power away.

But, I’ve finally realized that these aren’t the only two options. There’s a third option that never seemed to occur to me.

Are you ready for this? It’s going to blow your mind!

No, it’s not. You totally see it coming – I can change my expectations!

I finally realized that it is possible to do all the “right” things and still not lose weight.

I know it isn’t the answer you (or I) want to hear. I know it feels disappointing that you may never get back to your high school or pre-baby weight. Some people do, and that’s great! But, if you find that you’re struggling to lose weight and keep it off, I want to assure you that you’re not alone. And there’s nothing wrong with you. More than 90% of people who lose weight eventually gain it all back – usually with a little extra. I don’t want to discourage you from adopting a healthier lifestyle. I just want to assure you that you can pursue health in a way that may or may not lead to weight loss.

Don’t let the number on the scale determine your success. Whether weight loss is the outcome or not, adopting healthy behaviors IS good for us and will improve our health. We may not be able to control the outcome, but we can control our input, and THAT is where our power lies.

This year, during Scale Back Alabama, I encourage you to join me in working toward adopting healthier lifestyles by focusing on what we can control: our behaviors.

I’ll be setting the following goals for myself:

  • Drinking 64 oz. of water 5 or more days each week
  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep 5 or more nights each week
  • Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 or more days each week
What about you? What 3 goals are you planning to work on? How are you adjusting your expectations to serve your health and wellness journey?

You ARE NOT What You Eat

February 4, 2020

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 to join me! So what does this mean?

  • It means not comparing ourselves to others. Every “body” is different, and that’s ok!
  • It means letting go of unrealistic expectations and giving ourselves the grace to be human and eat the foods we enjoy, without shame or guilt. No foods are off limits when you focus on balance instead of elimination.
  • It means changing our mindset from calorie restrictions and food deprivation to one that views food and physical activity as ways to fuel our bodies and celebrate all the amazing things they can do. Because when we do this, we’re finally able to get off the merry-go-round of restricting and overeating.

It may feel uncomfortable at first. We’re conditioned early on to find fault with our bodies rather than celebrate them. We are so accustomed to hearing those around us point out their own flaws (and sometimes the flaws of others), that it almost feels wrong to focus on all the things right with our bodies. You know that part in the movie “Mean Girls” where Regina, Gretchen, and Karen are standing in front of the mirror listing all the things they hate about their bodies? And then they turn to Cady and expect her to do the same? Since she didn’t have a traditional childhood she doesn’t have a list in her head of all the things she dislikes about herself and instead says “I have really bad breath in the morning.” Well, as weird as it is to take life advice from “Mean Girls,” how great would it be if WE didn’t have a running tally of flaws that we could rattle off at any moment? It would be so FETCH! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Let me be the first to tell you, love, kindness, and friendship are not measured in pounds or inches, and neither is your worth! I want you to see yourself the way I see you, beautiful and worthy of love!

lita.jpgLita Chatham, MS, RDN, LD

Registered Dietitian

Lita is a registered dietitian, mama, and public health advocate. She believes that eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated and that strict rules and rigid diets do more harm than good. Lita is passionate about sharing a common-sense approach to healthy eating and encouraging everyone to reject false and misleading nutrition claims – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Lita believes that changing our mindset to one that eliminates blame, shame, and guilt in relation to body size/weight is the first step in ensuring future generations develop healthy relationships with food and their bodies. She believes that kids are like sponges and should soak up messages of self-love and acceptance from the adults in their lives, not be bombarded with weight-centric messages.

Lita is a graduate of the University of Montevallo and the University of Southern Mississippi and was selected as the 2019 Emerging Dietetic Leader of the Year by the Alabama Dietetics Association. She is an active member in several professional organizations including the Alabama Obesity Task Force, Alabama Dietetics Association, Montgomery District Dietetics Association, and the End Child Hunger in Alabama Task Force.

Page last updated: February 2, 2024