Eating For Life: I NEED vs I WANT.


Eating is life, literally and figuratively!

If we don’t eat, we will die! But it is also so much a part of who we are. Food brings us together around the dinner table or braai to share laughs and make memories. We eat to celebrate, we eat when we mourn; we eat when we’re happy and we eat when we’re sad. And there is nothing wrong with this! The enjoyment of food is a wonderful part of being human!

Because food is so much a part of our everyday life, we tend to forget that food is first and foremost about sustaining life! So the lines between NEED and WANT have become blurred. We convince ourselves we need food when in actual fact, most of the time, we only want food. Being able to discern between NEED and WANT, in that moment when your urges to eat that slab of milk chocolate are overwhelming you, is an essential skill in weight management and developing good health.

Bringing your feelings, surroundings, circumstance, and coping mechanisms into consciousness is a key factor in gaining control. The best way to do this is to NAME them. Write them down! Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can confront the challenges head on and develop a killer strategy to beat them! Here are some things to practice:



In those times of intense cravings or feeling like you NEED the chocolate, the hamburger, or the bowl of chips, write down:

How you feel, in that moment:

Physically: Are you restless, light headed, stomach rumbling?

Emotionally: Happy, sad, anxious, excited…

Thoughts: ‘One chip wont hurt’ or ‘I will start my diet tomorrow, I’ve already blown it…’

describe it! Don’t judge it, or judge yourself, just feel it, and describe it.




Where are you? What’s around you? Are you out shopping, are you at a braai or sitting at home watching TV? Do the people around you push you to have one more beer…?

An awareness of your surroundings helps you prepare in advance, for example, if you know you’re going shopping, make sure you eat something healthy before you go. That 10 meter ‘walk of shame’ to the till, when you are surrounded by every delicious temptation known to man and it takes every ounce of strength to resist picking up your favorite chocolate for the road, is going to feel like 10 km if you’re hungry!




What circumstances led to you ‘needing’ the chocolate? Did you have a stressful day at work? Perhaps you had a fight with your mother or you missed a deadline?

Name the circumstances leading up to the feeling of need.




Write down what has worked for you in the past, to calm your mind, ease your cravings and bring you to the conscious realisation that your NEED for food is actually just a WANT, and that you are in control?

Ultimately, this is about reaching a state of mind in which, if you want something, you feel empowered to make the decision to have it or not. You don’t have to deprive yourself and there is no reason why you shouldn’t have what you want. But that decision should be coming from a place of empowerment and control, and not an overwhelming urge or sense of need. This takes time and practice, and by naming and noticing, you will develop the skills to make healthy choices your default setting!





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