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