Donnerstag, 22. Januar 2015


Like I promised last week, I have started a new series that 'investigates' strategies to use knowledge about the meaning of psychological needs in the context of healthy behaviours.

The first part focuses on ways to evoke basic needs in order to fuel your motivation for the right nutrition.
I admit that this sounds a bit bizarre and abstract, so let me start with the theory behind all this.

Abraham Maslow developed a pyramid that suggests that human beings strive to fulfil basic psychological needs in a certain rank order, starting with physiological needs that are necessary to survive. The assumption is that if the 'lower' more basic needs are fulfilled, the person will strive for 'higher' goals, such as elevating his self-esteem.

This is how this hierarchal pyramid looks like:

In normal circumstances of our society, we can assume that our physiological and safety needs are more or less fulfilled. We live in our own place without immediate jeopardy and we have access to food and water (even here you can take hunger/thirst as a motivation if you feel that only a healthy and nutritious diet is vital for your body and physical well-being, however it is not required to survive), so the focus of the approach I am discussing  is on the three needs love/belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

According to the self-determination theory, the needs that are crucial to engage increased intrinsic motivation are especially autonomy, personal growth (relevant for self-actualization) , experiencing competence (part of the need esteem) contribution to community, acceptance (important for love/belonging).

To give you a more precise understanding of how each single need can consciously be evoked by eating healthily, I will elaborate examples of thought patterns and behaviours that address them and thus may lead to actual motivation.


Have you ever had a hobby that you felt you truly 'owned'? You might have felt pride because you felt with time you developed more abilities and skills.
This was probably because you had potential and talent for it. 
With other things (may it be a certain sport or instrument) you maybe felt you were not progressing although you were practicing a lot.
Luckily, with the right nutrition, what you put 'in' correlates highly with results, so you don't really need a special gift to be 'good' at eating healthily.
All it takes is certain discipline and patience. Of course, there are some people that are blessed with a exceptionally fast metabolism, and it will be slightly easier for them to shed weight.
It is important that you see yourself isolated from other people and stop comparing yourself. After all, you can 'only' be the best version of yourself, and if you put enough time and effort you will see results.
See the healthy lifestyle (I don't like to call it diet because this is often associated with restriction) as a form of a hobby and skill that you are good at. If you see it rationally, it is easy really. You just eat three times a day and include healthy foods. See it as a form of entertainment and enjoyment. It gives you the opportunity to experiment with new foods and to learn cooking (which actually can be a proper hobby!).
And like I said last week, don't focus on the outcome, but enjoy the ride. At all times, even if you have just been doing this for a week, you will feel some sorts of benefits, be it physical (more energy, feeling fuller for longer...) or emotional (excitement of cooking with new foods, stable mood...). 
Feel how these benefits affect your personality (e.g. happier, calmer) , your skills (e.g. cooking different cuisines and hosting dinner parties) and identity (e.g. "I am able to control what I eat." / "I believe in the importance of healthy nutrition.")


See the healthy lifestyle as your personal choice. You eat what you eat because you want it and made the decision, not because you were pressurised or it is expected from society. You are the master of your beliefs and actions and you are passionate about it and stand behind your opinion.
To enhance this aspect, I recommend not sticking to a certain diet plan stricly. Maybe initially when you are still learning about good nutrition this is important, but try to incorporate your own ideas and favourite foods as soon as possible. So you can kind of see it as a 'patchwork approach'. Try to include different recipes and choose these based on what you enjoy eating, after all this is a long-term change.
I recommend looking through different types of cook books and blogs and experiment with what you like. After a while you will feel you have to put less effort and it will come more naturally. Remember to always stay true to yourself and keep your diet interesting for yourself. 
You may even cook old indulgent favourites and look for healthier alternatives. Often even the fact that the meal is homecooked makes it automatically lower in sugar, salt and saturated fat, but you will often find that by replacing certain ingredients, you will barely taste a difference and it may be up to half the fat and calories. (Just google Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara or Vegetarian Lasagna ;) )

With this type of customised diet you will feel that what you buy and eat is your own and that you were actively engaged in the choice.


This psychological need is somewhat related to Personal Growth, in the sense that you acquire a skill or a vast knowledge that makes you an expert, and thus elevates your self-esteem.
Nowadays, there are countless 'diet' books, blogs and articles on healthy nutrition. I generally recommend staying away from one-sided and extreme concepts in books (especially initially) , such as low-carb, the now uber-trendy veganism, Dukan diet, etc.
Choose more holistic approaches that focus on all food groups, because going from an unhealthy diet to entirely restricting certain foods is certainly not healthy and will most likely result in a relapse or complete resignation. 
Pick literature that genuily interests you, because that keeps you motivated and passionate about your health journey.

This depends on your personally preferred approach and style. 
For people who like scientific literature I recommend the book "The Diet Deluison" , which I recently read and was impressed by the fact that every statement was backed up by scientific evidence. 
For somebody with who would prefers the easy-going, fun approach , the book "French Women Don't Get Fat" is a great read and engages the reader on a more personal and casual level and is very entertaining to read. You learn about the right nutrition without even realising it because it is integrated in stories.

I don't read many food blogs ( I am personally for into fashion and lifestyle blogs that sometimes have food-related posts) , but I definitely enjoy the following blogs or websites from time to time:


This definitely sounds a lot more idealistic and far-fetched that it really is in practice. 
Simply use your acquired knowledge and newly accomplished skills to help your near and dears (family or partner) to develop a healthier and better lifestyle.
They will be simply motivated by the fact that they see the benefits of these changes in you, and you inspire them. Of course there will be some that are very resistant to change, but I promise you that it is very rewarding to see after seemingly ages of convincing and talking to no avail, (I definitely annoy everyone with my obsession to eat mountains of vegetables and fruits ;) ) you suddenly see a small change  in their behaviour as well, so all your selfless efforts had an impact on them after all.
Of course it is impossible to make a pizza and candy addict into a health nut over night, but don't stop to try to inspire others (without being patronising of course!). It always makes me happy when people tell me they have integrated useful tips I gave them into their daily lives, and they made a significant and positive impact on their well-being and health.
It will motivate you to stay this healthy role model that others take their inspiration and motivation from.


I added connectivity as part of a social need, because acceptance often implies a wrong approach for motivation that is extrinsic. This is the case if you for example lose weight because you think you will be more popular or attractive with others.
I am , on the other hand, talking about the sense of acceptance and connection you experience when you engage with other people who have similar beliefs, goals and aspirations, in this case eating healthily.
This can be achieved by cooking healthy meals together, supporting each other by giving advise, or just talking about their journey and experiences. This creates a strong emotional bond and adresses human the psychological needs love and belonging.
If your family, friends or partner don't engage in changing their lifestyle, you can find social support systems online in various communities, and if you prefer a more personal interaction face to face, there are funded support groups for weight loss in every city.
The main aspect of this need is probably the feeling of being part of a community, which is achieved by a strong group identity and connection among its members. 
Everyone feels more accountable and responsible for their actions, and they associate their positive health changes with being accepted and being part of a social support system.

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