How to Find Your Root Needs: Unearthing the Heart of Food Urges & Cravings


Up until this point in the Feel-Good System, during Phase I: Plan of Attack, you’ve charted your goals and discovered the crucial role that Root Needs play in the battle. I know this is heavy, painful stuff, but that’s what war is. And it’s worth the struggle, worth fighting for, because once you have a firm grasp of the psychological underbelly of food, you will be better able to wield the weapons of of practical healthy eating tactics, which will be the focus of Phase II: Attack & Assert, which will begin two posts from now. So as we delve deeper into the psyche just two more times, don’t be afraid of the pain. Embrace it, knowing that every each step brings you closer to victory.

How exactly do you find your Root Need, be it Ongoing or Immediate, physical, emotional, or psychological? What questions do you ask, and then what do you do once you find the answers? In this post I will give some practical suggestions on how you can hone in on your specific Root Needs, and the next post will give you an idea of what to do next.

Three Steps to Find Your On-Going Root Need:

1. Ask Yourself Probing Questions about the Urge
-Try to ask yourself questions that will uncover the possibly deeper issue beneath your urge or craving.
-Try to avoid easy yes-no questions, and instead dig a little deeper with questions like:
a) What do I want to get from this?
b) How do I want this to make me feel? Happy? Loved? Deserving?
c) Will I feel the same, or different if I give in to to the urge? Will it actually satisfy, or will the unexpressed want continue to plague me, ravenous and insatiable?
d) Last time I gave in to an urge like this, did it make me feel better, or worse?
e) What is something else I can do, non-food related, that could make me feel better instead?

2. Respond to Your Questions with Specific, Honest Answers
-You already know all the answers. Now you just need to admit them to yourself. And sometimes that’s the scariest part.
-Try to answer your questions exactly and in depth.
-Your answers may be different depending on what your story is and how you’re feeling, but just to give you an idea of what the process might sound like, I’ve substituted a few hypothetical answers. This is the type of deep, honest communication you want to establish with yourself.
a) What do I want to get from this? I want to feel comforted, less alone.
b) How do I want this to make me feel? I want to feel loved, satisfied, whole. I want to feel like there’s not a gaping hole in my heart.
c) Will I feel the same, or different if I give in to to the urge? Will it actually satisfy? Giving in to the urge won’t actually make me feel better, because all I really want right now is a hug. Eating that cake will just make me feel more frustrated, because I’ll still be alone, but then I’ll be alone AND bloated, which will probably make me just eat more.
d) Last time I gave in to an urge like this, did it make me feel better, or worse? Last time I gave in to the urge, it distracted me momentarily, but then it made me feel even worse, and I went on to eat everything else in the kitchen. It was really bad, and I swore I’d never do it again. That was yesterday.
e) What is something else I can do, non-food related, that could make me feel better instead? I should call my best friend. I want to talk to someone. I hate being home alone. She’ll be able to tell me something good, while giving in to the urge will just make me disgusted with myself.

3. Listen to your Inner Dialogue for Clues
-If you’re finding it difficult to get to the heart of the issue, listening in on your subconscious may help. What are you telling yourself? Is it something that can lead you to the Root Need?
-If your inner dialogue sounds something like this:
You might as well just dive into those chips. You’ve got no one to look nice for anyway.
-Maybe your urge is wrapped up in hurt from a past relationship, from feeling alone or vulnerable.
You know you’re going to give in eventually—it’s in your nature—so might as well just eat the poutine now while it’s hot.
-Maybe your Root Need lies in self-worth. Maybe you feel inadequate or helpless.
-You’re not going to feel better, no matter what, so might as well eat the last bit of cake.
-Maybe something big is happening in your life, an uncomfortable change, an unfinished conflict with someone else that you haven’t dealt with.
-These roots must be addressed, because the food alone will never improve the situation. Try and understand—really understand with your heart, not just with your head—Giving in to the urge won’t fix the problem. But there is hope. The next post will focus on how to deal with the problem, now that you’ve finally acknowledged it.

How to Find Your Immediate Root Need
Sometimes, try as you might, you won’t be able to find some deep, psychological reason as to why your hand keeps reaching for the chip bowl. There may be no long, drawn out story about how you feel hopeless that you will ever find true love, or that you are still being haunted by an incident from seventeen years ago. Sometimes you’re just tired. Or stressed. Or maybe you just really want a donut. And that’s okay.
-Immediate Needs often have to do with the immediate circumstances and situation. So take a moment and think about your life. Are you stressed with exams? Low on sleep? Are things rough at work? Play detective and see if you can find a pattern that could explain your cravings and urges.

As you begin to become more familiar with your Root Needs, how they are manifested, and what they feel like, you will be better equipped to give yourself what you actually need, instead of what you think you want. You will be able to understand that polishing that piece of cake in the fridge will hurt you, not help you, that deciding not to snack will empower, not deprive you. The next post will explore how to deal with some big issues that you may discover when you uncover your On-Going Root Need, and how to allow yourself to feel and respond to your Immediate Need.

Take heart in the fact that this gritty, psychological phase of the system is almost over. It is almost time to move on, to start fighting and making progress. It is almost time for war.


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