First published in his 1954 book book Motivation and Personality, Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will be able to focus on the higher level needs. At any point in the person's psyche, the pyramid priorities can collapse if basic physical and safety needs are threatened or at risk. We are seeing the effects of that globally with Covid-19.
It is not uncommon for 'emotional eating' to become a thing now as we scan our environment for love and belonging. They don't call it comfort food for nothing.
When any of the lower levels experience a deficit, the mind and body will naturally refocus energy and resources to fill the basic needs before returning to higher values of self-actualization or transcendence. We saw it first as people began hoarding goods to ensure personal or community supply for basic physiological needs like toilet paper and shelf stable pantry foods. Next came the demand for safety supplies like hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, face masks and hygiene products.
After 60+ days of social isolation and stocked supply closets, people are taking a closer look at how the needs for love and belonging are being met with friends, family and intimate partners. In some homes, the isolation has triggered latent PTSD symptoms which exacerbate the proximity problem. A virtual intervention doesn't cut it when harm is imminent and protection is beyond reach.
Society is seeing increased rates of domestic violence as familiarity breeds contempts in homes that relied on outside activities or substances to keep the pressure off. As 14 days became 21 to 30 and then got extended, hope began to diminish for some and desperation set in. We are seeing evidence of that in conspiracy theories and standoffs over policy and politics.
Trying to balance self respect with societal respect can be a challenge in a divided world that wants to hurry up and get over it or get back to normal.
If there is one thing that the last few weeks has taught us during the pandemic crisis, it is that we have no control over most things in our lives. We thought we did. We thought we could control our lives, our jobs and careers, our weight and exercise and what we choose to do everyday.
We now realise that was all an illusion. We have no control over anything right now, except our own reactions to what is going on in this crazy out of control world. And often we can’t even control that, having swings of feelings and emotions from denial to acceptance, anger and frustration to joy and happiness, fear to peace.
We can choose to stay home, or we can choose to ignore the advice and restrictions and pretend that we can continue our lives as they were. For many, denial has been a powerful place where they have stayed stuck in indecision and reluctance to adapt and flow with whatever is happening day by day.
We feel this way with our bodies when we are dieting, we feel as if we can control them by restricting the food we eat, exercising obsessively and trying to punish our bodies into doing things our way. Yet the moment we take our eye off the ball and relax the restrictions, or go on a binge, our bodies tend to revert straight back to their set point and weight. And all feelings of control are banished in an instant, the moment we dive into that packet of chips, or cookies, or whatever that food is for you, as we struggle with the guilt of breaking our diet.
It’s an illusion of control we have, and the moment we stop, or we can’t do it anymore for any reason, it’s out of control immediately. It’s particularly true right now, when we may be limited in what food we can buy at the local store, gyms and sports and closed, we may only be allowed out for brief periods of exercise. We are closeted in our homes with our thoughts and our feelings and in many cases the overwhelming desire to eat and to be comforted in these difficult times.
So what if we gave up that illusion of control and started to love and respect our bodies, to embrace them exactly as they are, and eat for enjoyment and pleasure, and to nourish and cherish our bodies, rather than punishing them into submission? What if we started to listen to our bodies, to what they need right now in the present moment, to let go of the need to control them, just for now, and to lift that burden of always feeling the need to control everything we put in our mouths?
In this crazy coronavirus world, we are all learning to live in an out of control environment and just stay in the present moment and go with the flow, or otherwise we will drive ourselves crazy, just as dieting has made us crazy for years.
There has never been a better time to start on this journey of loving ourselves and loving our bodies. Practice intuitive eating and give up that illusion of control for good.
Intuitive Eating Coach