Applying Maslow’s Theory to Mindful Eating

Applying Maslow’s Theory to Mindful Eating

Why do you eat the way you eat?

Make better food choices by understanding your motivational needs behind your food choices. Knowing why you eat the way you do might be helpful in your making better choices

According to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, humans are generally motivated by the following 5 tiers of needs. It is also believed that the bottom level needs to be somewhat satisfied or met before one can move onto the next level.

 Traditionally, this theory used to be applicable to how food is generally consumed.

But now? Not so much, or at least not so in Singapore*

*Instead of calling it 1st world issues, I would like to see as changing times and current affairs. I believe in constant evolution and moving forward; There will be more progression and more movement as change is the only constant.

There is no number after 1; Calling yourself 1st world is akin to putting a stopper on growth.

The 5 considerations are:

Biological & Physical – Eating for Hunger & Survival

Primitively, this is how food was consumed. We eat because we are hungry, we eat for the energetic effects of foods, we eat to survive and live.

Economics & Sustainability – Affordability, Accessibility & Convenience

Because it is there, because it is easy, because it is within reach. Eating out of convenience & accessibility, or perhaps affordability. Eating because the food was obtained through a discount or promotional deal.

Friends, Family & Connections – Family, Get togethers & Gatherings

Banter chatter, inclusion, a sense of belonging. You eat because your mum made it, your granny cooked it, because it is exactly what everyone else is doing. More often than we realize, we eat because we don’t want to feel left out, and we crave for that connectivity amongst the group.

Esteem, Respect, Status & Recognition – Social Influence, Business Obligations

Eating to prove a point. Indulging to show that they can, relishing to prove that one is able, obligating to maintain status quo and perception. Feeding not just your physical body but more importantly, your ego.

Self Actualization, achievement of personal goals – Goal Achievement & Purposeful eating

For the greater good, health goals, an appreciation of cuisine sophistry, or perhaps even, the divine power. This includes eating for aesthetical reasons, moral beliefs and also health sustenance.

Because of knowledge & education, the decision-making process has become more sophisticated. We are informatively empowered to push through physical discomfort & mental stress in pursuit of strategic long-term goals.


Example 1. Fasting/ Intermittent Fasting has grew to become a popular trend in the recent years. Essentially supported by growing number of medical studies to show that the act of fasting is healthy and potentially acts as a healing tool for various health conditions.

Quite often, hunger is still prevalent in an individual when they fast. However, they still choose to fast because they recognize the medically proven benefits of not eating. The fundamental level of biological & physical need is then ignored and skipped.    

Example 2. Dinner gathering with family & friends – Ever so often, we feel the obligation to eat the same food as our peers in order to fit in or to maintain a certain social connection. More so when it is inconvenient or awkward to express your “unique” eating habit/diet. Whether you are hungry or not, if it is something you can afford or not, these are just additional factors that will serve to influence your choice. They are parallel considerations rather that “level up” factors, depending on your circumstance or nature.   

In this diagram, the biological & physical need is still presented as the base level because it is, afterall, the basis of food consumption. When all is stripped bare, it is the most primitive and instinctive need amongst all.

The other 3 factors are viewed as parallel considerations, subjected to situational conditions & differing personalities.   

Top level of self actualization is the acknowledgement & combination of these factors to serve your greater goal.

These are the 5 main reasons of food consumption. Sometimes it is the main reason, and yet it also most likely that they co-exist. And (in my idealistic opinion) it is the most POWERFUL, when all 5 boxes are checked.

Maslow (1970) estimated that only 2% of the people would reach the state of self-actualization - I think he might have raised the number if he saw the accessibility & availability of information these days.

From a curated sample size of 18 people (including Abraham Lincoln & Albert Einstein) He identified 15 common traits of Self-Actualizers as the following: 

  1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty
  2. Accept themselves and others for what they are
  3. Spontaneous in thought and action
  4. Problem-centred (not self-centred)
  5. Unusual sense of humour
  6. Able to look at life objectively
  7. Highly creative
  8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional
  9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity
  10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience
  11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people
  12. Peak experiences
  13. Need for privacy
  14. Democratic attitudes
  15. Strong moral/ethical standards

Now apply these characteristics into the kind of ‘eater/ consumer’ you are..

Do you think you are a mindful eater – a self actualizer?


Embrace Self Actualization Mindful Eating. It is SAME.  




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