Weeks ago, I tweeted “Don’t let the arrggghh’s outweigh the aha’s”- and I’ve been thinking about “aha moments” ever since. “Aha” moments are not the same as “Eureka” moments. “Eureka” is about a new discovery, the solution to a problem, an amazing surprise. I define “aha” moments as those moments of self- awareness or self- realization when a mundane occurrence or thought suddenly has new meaning or new significance. I seem to get these more and more often, maybe because I am continuing to work on my own awareness and ability to be present, or maybe because I am always open to learning something new, even if it is painfully about myself!
My “Aha” moments may seem silly, coming from a personal trainer, but as I said above, it’s not that I didn’t know them, it’s just they have new significance for me now. I want to share them with you so that maybe you won’t wait as long as I did to figure it out!
Aha #1 – You can’t undo bad nutrition with exercise- no matter your age. This is because bad nutrition is a habit- a life choice- and when exercise comes and goes, as it will, all you are left with is bad nutrition. And, as we age, those ‘funny” eating patterns of our younger years become the cause of our later weight gain. I can’t tell you how many of my clients exclaim “I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted! I used to be so skinny! What happened to me?” What happened to them was that they ate whatever they wanted. What a shock! In order to be healthy and look healthy, healthy nutrition is not an option- it’s a must. This is why we must teach our kids to eat well as early as possible. It needs to be an ingrained habit.
Aha #2 – Managing your calorie intake based on your exercise/activity habits is essential, otherwise weight gain can escalate rapidly. I often under-exercise on days I also eat the most- a double whammy. Think about weekends- time to relax and go out to dinner, right? No exercise, then lots of food! Double whammy. If you are planning on a dinner out, also plan an intense exercise session, or vice versa. I have certain days I work out harder than others- I know what days they are, and I plan my dinners out on those days. Just being aware of your exercise and eating overview will help maintain your weight.
Aha #3 – It’s not Ok to eat junk food. Not in the way most of us eat it- too much, too often, and rarely for actual hunger. Mostly, we eat junk food when distracted (think movies, sports, TV, at a meeting) for comfort, and as an emotional filler. If we really sat and slowly ate the Doritos, Oreos or fried cheese sticks, we’d either be grossed out, or eat only 1. But we don’t. We eat them furtively and without thought to health impact. I really believe that processed foods are a major source of obesity and poor health. If there was one piece of advice I’d give regarding the secrets to health and weight maintenance- don’t eat junk food.
Aha #4 – I have to eat a lot less to maintain my weight, let alone lose weight. This is a bummer. Even with lots of vigorous weight training and high daily activity, I am aging, and my metabolism is slowing down. It’s really taken me awhile to come to this realization, but I am accepting it and starting to slowly get back to where I want to be. Knowing what you take in and how much you take in is essential for weight/fat loss and weight maintenance. Food logs are a huge piece of the discovery and learning of this knowledge. If you are fearful of doing a food log, then you most likely do have an issue with food. How can you improve anything if you don’t have baseline data? Food logs are data ( See below- #5), don’t take them personally.
Aha #5 – You must weigh yourself frequently to maintain weight or lose weight. Both in research studies and in my practice, those people who weighed themselves frequently lose more weight and maintain weight loss better than those who don’t weigh themselves. For years, I have recommended clients weigh themselves frequently, as long as it does not create unhealthy eating patterns or exercise habits in response. Many people have a fear of the scale, and so they avoid weighing themselves. I try to remind people that the scale just gives us data. What’s important is what you do with it, not what the actual number is. Of course, getting on the scale after periods of over eating can be painful, but not knowing is even worse. It’s putting your head in the sand. We already do that too much anyway when it comes to nutrition. And really, we know the scale is not who we are, right? We know that many women and men are beautiful and sexy and weigh a lot, and there are also many women and men who are under weight and miserable. So- be logical. It’s just data, not a statement on your life.