It is a New Year.
We have had our Holiday celebrations with good food and drinks. Now, many of us want to get healthier and slim down. Wasn’t that also last year’s goal? If so, did you accomplish it? If the answer is “yes”, I’d love to hear your success story (firstname.lastname@example.org)! If it was your goal, and you did not accomplish it, you may or may not be motivated to begin working toward it again. However, it is doubtful, because that was last year’s goal and the year’s before and before that… If this describes you, or if this is your first year to make such goal, I do not want you to make the mistake many of us make to get healthier and physically fit.
In case it has not resonated with you yet, dieting alone is not the answer! Research and casual observation of our society shows that restricting ourselves is rarely successful long term. Sadly this often ends with gaining any weight that was lost and more. Why? It is really quite simple. We are not merely bodies with basic needs and instincts to eat, sleep and reproduce. While we do have those needs, we also have more complex needs that do not always “sync” with our basic drives. In weight loss discussions, I hear the same tired refrain: “I know, exercise only contributes 10% to weight loss…90% of it is diet.”
When it comes to physical wellness, weight loss and looking good, we typically think, “diet and exercise.” If so, do not keep those two as your primary focus. You probably focused on them the last time when your attempt did not work (or worked, but did not last). Yes, I am a Fitness Specialist. I work in a gym. I work out a lot and have, perhaps, become obsessed with exercise and nutrition a time too many. Nevertheless, through trial and error, good influences and common sense, I know that they are a very small part of overall success. Especially when applied to well-being, happiness and our ability to become and stay physically fit. You have probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but when was the last time you have given them much thought? Another recent influence, from whom I have received a lot of motivation, is Tony Robbins. He refers to “Six Human Needs”. Either of these philosophies can give us insights to reasons beyond diet and exercise augmenting our basic needs. We can acknowledge all of our other needs we may or may not be fulfilling sufficiently. They may be contributing to our inability to achieve and maintain our physical goals. So, instead of thinking weight loss involves 10% exercise and 90% diet, start thinking that it might include 10% diet and exercise, and 90% emotional well-being.
Here are the two lists I am referring to, and I highly suggest checking out the links I’ve shared, from which I got this information.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
1. Self-actualization: to achieve one’s full potential; creativity
2. Esteem Needs: sense of accomplishment
3. Belongings and Love Needs: intimacy; friendship
4. Physiological Needs: diet, exercise, sleep, water, oxygen
The Six Human Needs, according to Tony Robbins:
Certainty: a survival need to enable comfort in knowing we can avoid pain
Variety: uncertainty; surprises we want
Significance: desiring to be unique, special and needed
Connection & Love
Contribution: to serve a purpose greater than oneself
While Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs demonstrates the importance of mental and emotional well-being, only one-fourth of the needs are physical. Tony Robbins’ list illustrates those three non-physical needs in more depth. I show these to emphasize how important our non-physical needs are when considering our overall needs for well-being. Therefore, when we find ourselves craving more of the physical needs than we physically need, it is important to consider that we might be craving them in attempts to fulfill one of the other needs in which we are lacking.
According to Tony Robbins, whether positive or negative, we become addicted to things that fulfill three or more of The Six Human Needs (https://www.tonyrobbins.com/podcasts/why-we-do-what-we-do/).
I’ll share a few examples.
“Certainty” may include unwillingness to leave a detrimental relationship, continue working a hated job, or refusing to take risks for fear of failure. Maybe you have had a relationship with someone who drains you mentally with negativity. Because it is all you have known for years, the situation may give you security and predictability. Perhaps you do not want to pursue anything that may risk causing unwanted change. The goal, in this case, is to find certainty in things that promote positive certainty, not negative certainty. Try to remember a time you took a risk and proved you were capable of the strength, independence and determination to recover from the hurt. If you cannot think of a time you were successful in taking a risk of uncertainty to gain positive certainty, seek out someone who has.
Desire for “Variety” is both enticing and scary. Variety is capable of making us crave good, bad, pain, comfort, anger, happiness and sadness. Sometimes we get so complacent in an area that provides Certainty that we neglect our need for Variety. We may become addicted to negative or painful experiences because they trigger emotion. It may give us a false sense of connection and love, when we may have otherwise become numb to it. In addition to Variety, “Significance” may allow to experience something unique. We may even get a sense of “Contribution” from suffering while believing we are helping others. Therefore, it is important to examine these needs. Whether they are fulfilled or neglected, continually set new goals to avoid filling them with unhealthy habits.
Eating disorders and exercise obsession may also be negative attempts to satisfy unfulfilled needs. Adhering to strict diet and exercise programs may fulfill Certainty. This may provide a limited sense of control of when other areas of Life may seem out of control. Eating too little or exercising too much may also provide Significance in fulfilling something most people would not do. According to Robbins, eating too much may be an attempt to ignore a deficit in any one of these needs: Certainty, Significance, Connection, Love, Growth, or Contribution. Overeating may also be a response to physical needs, like lack of sleep, hunger, or dehydration. Typically, one or more of these emotional or physical needs are disregard when we overly restrict diet and exercise regimens. These restrictions often results in a struggle with overeating.
These are but a few examples. However, because we are all different, we must assess ourselves to determine which needs may be lacking or we are trying to fill with unhealthy habits. An easy way to assess ourselves when attempting to live a healthier lifestyle is to ask why we want to change for the better. If the reasons are superficial or do not expand beyond selfish desires, the changes are unlikely to fulfill our needs or provide enough motivation to persist. Before planning another diet and fitness routine, assess the needs you may be lacking or filling negatively. Then, think of reasons greater than yourself to succeed. Maybe, your fitness goals are dependent upon filling the deficit in another need…