Eu­reka!

How to bring on your weight-loss “aha” mo­ment

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Karen Asp

Over the past nine years, Women’s Health has doc­u­mented women’s weight-loss jour­neys in our “You Lose, You Win” col­umn. And while each story is com­plex and per­sonal, one com­mon thread weaves through all of them: a eu­reka mo­ment. The sci­en­tific world has long been fa­mil­iar with these “aha” in­sights, but re­searchers are newly see­ing them as piv­otal cat­a­lysts for los­ing weight. “In terms of health, it has to do with re­al­is­ing a be­hav­iour change fits with your life goals,” says psy­chol­o­gist Dr El­liot Berk­man. That, he says, jolts peo­ple into ac­tion. So, are the odds of hav­ing one of these in­spo bursts akin to those of win­ning the Power­ball? Hap­pily, nope. By un­der­stand­ing what hap­pens in your brain dur­ing a mo­ment when ev­ery­thing clicks, and adopt­ing a few key habits, you can ac­tu­ally set the stage to spur one on. How does it work? First, a peek in­side your mind. While it may seem as if they pop up from nowhere, your brain has ac­tu­ally been let­ting these re­al­i­sa­tions sim­mer in your un­con­scious un­til “it de­cides that it has enough in­for­ma­tion to bring one to your aware­ness,” says Dr Michael Shadlen, a pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­science at Columbia Univer­sity. About a sec­ond be­fore you have the in­sight, your brain es­sen­tially “blinks” to re­duce vis­ual dis­trac­tions and “you start fo­cus­ing in­wardly,” ex­plains Dr John Kounios, psy­chol­o­gist and co-au­thor of The Eu­reka Fac­tor. Then, when the epiphany hits, as ev­i­denced in Kounios’s stud­ies of peo­ple solv­ing puz­zles, a flurry of ac­tiv­ity in the tem­po­ral lobes helps you see a con­nec­tion be­tween pre­vi­ously un­re­lated (con­sciously, any­way) ideas, which then bub­bles up into your aware­ness. For in­stance, you might see a baby’s pram, which makes you think of the fam­ily you want to have, which con­nects to thoughts about how much eas­ier get­ting preg­nant would be if you lost ex­tra ki­los, which makes you want to start get­ting health­ier ASAP so you can get what you re­ally want.

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