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Every human has 5 basic emotional needs and they matter on your journey to ending emotional eating and finding food freedom. Here's why: when your emotional needs aren't met, you go into fight or flight mode. Stay there long enough and it can lead to adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, sleep disruption, and increased food cravings - all things that make healing your relationship with food much more difficult.


5 Basic Emotional Needs

You've probably heard about Maslow's hierarchy of needs for survival, yes? Well, this is similar to that, but focused on emotional needs. 

Let's take a peak into the brain to really understand what you need to feel "safe" on an emotional level (based on the work of David Rock).

All humans (so, yes, you 🙂 ) need a sense of:

  • Status: feeling good about your position/importance in life
  • Certainty: having some predictability in what lies ahead
  • Autonomy: feeling like you have some choice and control in your life
  • Relatedness: feeling connection and safety with others
  • Fairness: feeling that decisions and actions are fair

When any of these things are threatened, the brain and body respond in a similar way to when physical needs or safety are threatened  - cortisol increases in our body, our ability to focus and concentrate decreases, our heart rate goes up, and we experience more uncomfortable emotions (amongst plenty of other things).

Feeling edgy?

If you feel like your nerves are on over-drive lately, this may provide a bit of explanation. Forget ANY of these things feeling threatened. How about ALL of these?

Holy smokes. With everything that is going on in the world right now, it's really no wonder your emotional well-being might be feeling like it's being tested to its limits!

The good news is, you don't have to wait until things return to "normal" (is that even a thing anymore??) to start feeling a little better. 

Sure - there are many things in the world that are completely outside of your control. The key is to focus on places where you do have control and where these needs ARE being met instead of on where they aren't. 

This is easier said than done, but believe me, the results are worth it. 

Ways to meet your emotional needs

Ready to take your emotional needs into your own hands?

To create a sense of: 

  • StatusCelebrate your accomplishments! Give yourself a little high-five for a few things each day. You may also want to limit time spent on social media if scrolling leads to comparing yourself to others.
  • Certainty: Create a daily schedule for yourself and/or for the family; and pay attention to the things that have remained consistent inside of all the change around you.
  • Autonomy: Embrace your creativity and try something new or ask for a little leeway at work to tackle a project on your own. Make at least one decision every day without anyone else's input.
  • Relatedness: Check in with a friend, meet for socially-distanced coffee, schedule a Zoom date. Do something that helps you to feel part of something outside yourself.
  • Fairness: Communicate!! A lot of the time, a perception of unfairness is based on assumptions. We can reduce this by getting more info. Also, seek to understand how decisions were made before deciding they were unfair.

Taking these off auto-pilot (because let's be real - these needs aren't being met without a little effort right now, amiright??) and hopping back into the driver's seat can create a greater sense of security, well-being, and ease, which in turn leads to the opportunity for rest, recovery, and more positive emotional experiences. Yea!

Emotional well-being

Emotional well-being is one of my 3 pillars for ending emotional eating and healing your relationship with food. When we can bring our emotions back into balance, we gain more control over our appetite and cravings.

This model by David Rock (called the SCARF model) is just one way to broaden your perspective and gain more awareness around your basic emotional needs. When you are ready to take a deep dive into your emotional well-being and learn how to really harness it on your journey to food freedom, let's chat. You'll be amazed at what's possible when you truly understand the "emotional" in "emotional eating."

Book a free discovery call with me HERE!

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