Last week, while doing a book interview with the author of “The Cure for Everything,” something happened. I had an ‘a-ha’ moment that made me realize one of my unhealthy habits: I was eating too much.
I wasn’t eating terrible. I wasn’t eating unhealthy; just too much. And I was justifying it with exercise. But all it took was for Timothy Caulfield to say, “We just don’t need that many calories.”
Cue: light bulb. I had a mental switch that made me realize more exercise isn’t the answer, eating wisely and thoughtfully is.
You’ve heard about the mental struggles weight loss and healthy living can bring. More often than not, those mental and emotional realizations are half the battle in having breakthrougs that lead to finally achieving a healthy lifestyle.
One such moment took place for personal trainer Stephanie Mansour when she got to college and dove into an absolute eating free-for-all. Having no regular sports activity and a deep love for food, Stephanie – founder of Step it Up personal training – found herself overeating often as a result of not being mentally connected to her body. These habits led her to develop intense anxiety, sleeping problems and migraines, all three of which required medication.
But something changed after she started an aerobics TV show at her college and began practicing yoga once a week. It was then, she said, that she started to accept herself and her body. “This was a gradual process – the connection of how I felt mentally and how I felt physically,” she said. “The mind-body connection ‘a-ha’ took about a year, and then it stuck. I wanted to do things that felt good for me, physically and mentally.”
Being a successful personal trainer, Stephanie has seen many success stories. One of her favorite examples of a mental switch is when one of her female clients went into a coffee shop and noticed a cookie in the pastry case. So she bought it and after having three bites, realized she didn’t even like it. And what’s more, she realized it was five hours past lunch and that she was actually hungry, which is why the cookie looked good in the first place.
“These ‘a-ha’ moments when my clients connect their minds with their body are very exciting for me and for them,” she said. “They are are the most important aspect of a person’s journey to health.”
A Birthday Turnaround
For former Biggest Loser contestant Courtney Crozier, the mental switch came on a very poignant birthday: her 21st. And it all happened in what she recalls as a split second.
“I was out with my family and friends and I should have been having a good time, but I wasn’t,” she said. “I knew it had to be because of my weight and because I was uncomfortable. I told myself right then and there that I was not going to let my weight affect me anymore.”
That day was September 18, 2009, and it marked the first day of her journey. Courtney started looking into healthy lifestyles online and figured out what would work for her. “I got more and more excited about it and that’s how my mind got more and more conditioned to the lifestyle I live now. If you don’t change your mind, nothing will change. That moment was the single most important moment in my life because I finally realized it wasn’t a diet, but this was forever.”
Now, Courtney says she lives life one choice at a time because that’s how her mind is conditioned to work. And if she makes a mistake and overindulges or skips a workout, she doesn’t dwell on it, but instead learns from it and moves on.
The Scale That Changed it All
John Thompson has lost almost 200 pounds in the last two years, and while he credits that accomplishment to much hard work and dedication, he also notes the mental breakthroughs as playing a huge part in his success.
“The mental switch moment was when I weighed at my job physical and was told I couldn’t be weighed on their regular scale due to my shear weight, but the nurse estimated I weighed 400 pounds…That number stuck in my head” he said. “I knew I had to do some thing right then and there or I would be dead in 10-20 years from health problems stemming from being obese.
John was completely overwhelmed at first so he started with small changes like not eating fast food, ditching soda, switching to brown rice instead of white, and getting food temptations out of the house. He even started playing The Biggest Loser game on Wii fit to get his fitness on track.
And after just on year, all of those little changes added up to a 100-pound weight loss. Now, more than two years later, John weights 210 pounds – 190 pounds less than his former self. And to think, it all started that day in the doctor’s office when something clicked, and he decided he didn’t want to be that unhappy person anymore.
How to Make the Shift
Sharing stories like these are not just inspiring for people who may be facing serious weight loss challenges, but also for people who are struggling with just one area of their diet or exercise routine. Sometimes, it’s the step back from the bigger picture to focus instead on the day-by-day choices. Other times it’s that one motivational quote or story someone shares that changes everything. Whatever it takes, we know there’s power in that brief moment when the mind and body finally connect.
While mental switches and ‘a-ha’ moments may seem illusive and unreachable at times, they happen more often than not. And I find that those seeking healthy change will eventually find those mental breakthroughs they’re looking for at just the right time. It may come when they’re least expecting it, but the most encouraging part is that it’s often all it takes to completely change a person’s life for the better.
Did you have a mental switch? Share it with us. Share it with a friend, or anyone. It may just be the encouragement someone needs to finally reach the healthy breaking point in their life.
June 21st, 2012