Regulars and Shorts

Body, Mind & Wellness

By Lucy Beale

The defining moment: The power for positive change lies in honoring those flashes of insight.

by Lucy Beale

What was your defining moment-that moment when you had the “ah-ha” that caused you to change your thinking about health and wellness? Those are important moments to return to if and when you veer off track.

Here are some examples: A friend realized he couldn’t keep up with his grandchildren when playing touch football with them. This prompted him to start an exercise program and lose some weight so he could enjoy precious time with them.

Another friend had ignored his diabetes and weight gain until he suffered a heart attack in his mid-50s. After being air-lifted to the hospital, and having a stent installed, he returned home to recover and revise his eating plan and start taking his medication. Later he began a walking exercise program.

An older woman who was depressed and “couldn’t take it anymore” wanted to end her life. Her plan was to run hard and long until she had a heart attack and died right there on the pavement. Her plan didn’t work on her first try. She survived the vigorous run. The next day, she went out to run again, and then again the next day, each day surviving. Those lovely endorphins built up in her brain and changed her attitude, lifted her depression and ultimately, saved her life. She lived for many years after that while enjoying her daily runs. This is a true story.

Over 25 years ago, I had tried every diet plan and gimmick available with no long-term success and with weakening resolve until I read an ad in the Denver Post announcing a workshop that read something like: You can be thin if you think you’re thin. That sounded so much more simple, painless and doable than counting calories or stepping on the scale. That one ad and the workshop changed my life, and then my career plans. Who ever thought I’d write one book, let alone 12? Certainly not my high school English teacher. For that matter, who ever thought I’d lose 50 pounds and keep it off for decades? Certainly not me.

It may require serious pondering to recall your defining moment, but it’s worth taking the time to find it. It’s your treasure. That emotional moment trumps intellectual knowledge, doctor’s recommendations or mother’s counsel.

Eating healthfully is a good idea. Yeah, yeah. But the converts to eating more vegetables and fruit and moderate amounts of lean protein don’t stick with it if they don’t gain more than intellectual gratification. Their “ah-ha” moments often occur when they realize that a chronic health nuisance improves or that they have more uplifted moods or more energy.

Sometimes a person ignores the ah-ha moment. One client had found significant relief from the symptoms of fibromyalgia while attending a yoga class in the evenings. After she stopped attending, she asked for a recommendation of a nutritional supplement or such to make her feel better again. Whoa! If yoga worked before, it would work again. It’s a whole body healing method and a whole body treat. She said she just didn’t want to take the time or bother to go to class. It sure is easy to forget the benefits of wellness activities when we let other things take top priority.

You and I live in a virtual national park. Within a couple minutes of our homes is designated wilderness area. It costs virtually nothing to go hiking and very little to go snowshoeing. Purchase snowshoes and poles once, and they’ll serve you well for years. And fortunately for many of us, neither snowshoeing or hiking require skill.

While recently hiking in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I had a major ah-ha moment: The day-to-day burdens and concerns of life can’t cross wilderness boundaries. But you can. Ever notice? Whenever you want to get away from it all, take a couple minutes, drive a couple miles up one of our gorgeous canyons and cross the boundary. I find playtime, stillness, and those precious moments of eternity. Let me know what you find.

A couple more personal ah-ha’s: When I heard about the glycemic index 10 years ago, it made sense. (See last month’s column, “That’s Why They Call It Beer Belly.”) To test the theory, I started eating low glycemic liberally. (“Liberally” means I still eat my treat foods, just more carefully.) When I noticed that my waist was getting smaller and my tummy flatter, I realized that the system works. Avoiding white and fluffy starches became no longer an experiment, but a commitment. I had learned that middle age spread is not inevitable.

My ongoing love affair with Pilates exercise is similar. Twelve years ago I signed up for a Reformer class. (The Reformer is the classic Pilates equipment.) My first class was delicious-ah-ha! Today, I still take classes at one of the Salt Lake County recreation centers, follow along with at-home DVDs, and use my home Reformer to stay in shape. Aahhh!

What if you haven’t had a defining moment and your commitment to wellness, exercise, or weight management waivers? Keep doing what you know works for wellness and weight management. Get to the gym, eat low-glycemic, stretch, do lots of active recreation. Laugh lots. Explore new types of exercise, eating and thinking.

One afternoon my husband came home from the funeral service of a colleague who died of a heart attack. He announced to his family that he wasn’t going to spend the entire rest of his life working. Instead they would start hiking on weekends. That was his defining moment. Mine came the next weekend. We took a paltry hike for about a half mile. That was all the farther my body and lungs could go. I was miserable with every step. But as were driving home, those delicious endorphins kicked in and I loved the world, I loved hiking, I insisted we go the next weekend. I still clamor to hike or snowshoe every weekend. Rain, shine or snow.

Please write to me about your defining moments. I’d love to read about them.

Lucy Beale is a regular contributor to CATALYST. Her newest books are “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Glycemic Index Weight Loss,” and its cookbook companion, coauthored with Joan Clark-werner. Lucy lives in Sandy, Utah.;


This article was originally published on April 30, 2009.