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The Hierarchy Of Needs…Where Is Weight Control?

In 1943, the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, came out with a concept called “Hierarchy Of Needs”. Basically, he postulated that humans are subject to behavioral patterns that are based on fulfilling our needs with a certain priority system. From most important to least important:

Level 1: Physiological needs :  According to Maslow, the most essential human needs are the ones that keep us alive, like food, water, shelter and air. Without this basic level of survival, a person can’t be expected to do much in the way of higher thinking or achievement. 

Level 2: Safety needs :  With basic needs fulfilled, the next level of needs moves to safety. These are things like financial security, freedom from fear, stable health and anything that can lend our day-to-day lives a level of predictability and security. 

Level 3: Needs of belonging :  Once basic survival and a modicum of security are established, human needs change a little bit. The third level of the hierarchy includes concepts like friendship, community, love, shared experiences and anything that gives humans a sense of belonging among themselves.

Level 4: Esteem needs :  The top of Maslow’s Hierarchy — the ultimate condition of human opportunity — has to do with self-actualization. But first, humans must fulfill needs of esteem. Esteem, in this sense, refers to a person’s sense of self and their sense of self in relation to others. This level includes things like dignity, personal achievement and maybe even a sense of prestige in a certain area. 

Level 5: Self-actualization needs:  Finally, once a person has all they need to survive, function, and understand their position in the world and their community, they can enter the final portion of the hierarchy. Self-actualization can mean many things, but many of the examples center around a desire to explore, create or expand ones skills. Concepts like beauty, aesthetics and discovery translate into real-world examples like art, learning a new language, refining one’s talents and becoming the best one can be. 

Based on the above, where does weight control fit in? Well, Level 2 states that “stable health” is a component of this level but the last of the hierarchy (Level 5) describes “beauty and aesthetics”.  Also, Level 1, which is the strongest of motivators, describes basic needs such as food.  Harkening back to the prehistoric times, our cave people ancestors could care less about the impact of weight control on cancer, heart disease and other health risks.  When the “kill” was there, basically eat as much as you could.  Part of that psyche has been passed along in our genetic wiring.

The point of today’s entry: We are sort of “wired” to reach for all of the foods/drinks that make us feel good.  Part of the challenge in controlling weight in the long-term is to allow the higher functioning parts of our brains to override the more instinctual parts.  If we could “flip” the hierarchy of needs upside down, then it would be sort of easier to take a pass on those derailing foods and drinks.  Try to flip your “Hierarchy Of Needs” wiring to some extent, focusing on health and aesthetics.

And the top grossing movie in 1943?  Casablanca…Play it Again, Sam.


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