Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from psychology class? You may have forgotten most of what you learned in that class but you still remember the visual of the pyramid with food listed at the base. Along with water and sleep, food is a necessary part of the foundation upon which to build a full and productive life. Without a solid foundation, you learned you couldn’t move on to higher levels of security, belonging and HAPPINESS.
You may have never given Maslow’s Hierarchy another thought after the final. You may have never actually stopped to think about what it really means to satisfy those base needs.
Just because you have access to plenty of food and water doesn’t mean you give your body what it actually needs. Sometimes you skip meals, not always on purpose. Sometimes you eat as though there will be no food tomorrow. Some days you may not drink any water, surviving on your morning coffee and an evening glass of wine (or two).
To be your best self, you don’t need another diet. You need to learn to listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Until I decided to be the experiment, I did not realize I wasn’t truly listening to my body’s needs. Only when someone started asking me some tough questioning about my eating habits did I come to understand that I‘ve been holding on to a fear of hunger.
While I’ve been using Precision Nutrition (PN) principles for a long time with my clients, I started working the updated curriculum myself last year. I wanted to experience it before I rolled it out to my clients. I had to know exactly what my team was getting. I wanted to be prepared for anything that might not mesh with my Middle Ground philosophy. (Did I mention I have trust issues, too?)
Not only did I find myself saying AMEN to many of the lessons, I also found myself questioning my own “good habits” and facing my fear of hunger.
I am afraid of hunger because it means low blood sugar. (FYI…I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since I was 10.) Low blood sugar means I have to eat when I don’t want to eat. It means I may not be able to do what I want to do. I hate the lack of control. I hate the shaky and sweaty feeling that wakes me in the middle of the night or sneaks up on me mid-way through a client session. I never leave the house without food because what if my blood sugar goes low? I eat as a defense against hunger and low blood sugar not because I am actually feeling hungry.
I am afraid of letting go of a routine that keeps me safe from hunger. I blame that on years of insulin injections with peaks and valleys behind my control and my Upholder nature. I have an insulin pump now, which allows me more freedom. Yet I still cling to a rigid mealtime schedule meant to avoid the lows. When the PN lessons pushed me to rethink why I was eating, I found myself panicking about pushing lunch past noon or not eating my usual evening snack. It was so uncomfortable to not eat a planned snack or leave some food on my plate. But the world didn’t end; no one died. Most of the time my blood sugar was just fine.
I’m facing my fears. I’m pushing through the mental discomfort and learning to let be okay with feeling a little hungry. I’m letting my body (mostly) be the signal of not just when to eat but what I eat. It’s both uncomfortable and liberating to change my mind (and meal plan) about a side of baby carrots because I’m satisfied without them. It’s a new exercise in mindfulness to listen to my basic needs at the meal vs. what my brain thinks my diabetes might require of me later.
I thought my experience was going to be a simple review of the material. Instead, it was a great reminder that we are all works in progress. I am proudly watching my clients tackle their tough issues, rebuild their relationship with food AND lose fat in the process.We still talk about things like portion size and how to balance the plate. But we’re also learning;
How hunger isn’t an emergency.
How to call out the RESISTANCE.
How to Notice and Name, not Judge and Blame.
How to make complete, wise and loving choices.
They are finding their middle ground, learning to trust their body and finding some peace with food and themselves.
Have you really thought about what your body needs? Are you dealing with a fear of hunger or a complicated relationship with food (or water or sleep)?
Of course, it’s not perfection. Perfection is a lie; we just need to focus on progress. I keep glucose tablets on hand for those lows but I am feeling less shameful about having to eat them. I’m letting go of feeling like I failed because I didn’t stop the low. I just work to accept that this is what my body needs right now. I take care of the basic need and move on.
I know you want to stop thinking about food all the time too. I know you have bigger and better things to worry about and the higher goals that you aspire to achieve. Find your confidence with food again, repair the relationship and then you can move on.