Vital needs are one of the most important parts of examining your eating habits and practices.  Having a knowledge of what you need from others and your world will give you a greater understanding of who you are and what nurtures you emotionally. Applying this knowledge can enormously lower your stress and frustration levels so you do not use food inappropriately to nurture and soothe yourself.  

Not Meeting Vital Needs

Stress comes from not getting your Vital Needs met.  A sick child or an hour’s commute in traffic could be anyone’s definition of stress.  One Doctor practicing healthy lifestyle perspectives has an hour-long commute and says she likes it because alone time and music are two of her Vital Needs.  She has three small children, and during her drive, she can get those two needs met.  Another person reports they need to give and do for others as their Vital Needs, and she enjoys caring for a sick child at home. 

If you have ever been around someone who snaps your head off, you can bet they are not getting their Vital Needs met.

Meeting Your Needs

Each person is born with seven very high Vital Needs, which don’t change.  Only the ways in which you get them met change.  Your quality of life depends on how well you get your vital needs met.  When you feel angry, frustrated, anxious, sad, and stressed, it is because someone or something in life is thwarting you from getting what you need to feel good – Your Vital Needs.  

Recognizing that a situation or person is not meeting your needs can help you navigate your uncomfortable emotional level.  Knowing what is happening to you enlarges your world and gives you multiple options.  

The following is a list of Vital Needs.  There may be some you don’t see on the list, but be careful adding too many others, as they may only be temporary needs.  

Determine Your Vital Needs

Read the list and select the top seven vital needs that are unique to you.  If more than seven sound like you, rank them on a scale of 1 – 10 to determine your top seven primary needs.   Consider asking your family members to score their needs to help you be sensitive to what is important to them and help them get their emotional needs met.  

  1. Personal Time – time to do your own thing.  This means pursuing a hobby, watching TV, going fishing, reading, shopping, or being involved with an activity unique to you.  This is needed on a daily basis, or your week is stressful.  Ideas:  Get up earlier than those you live with and have an hour alone before everyone else wakes up.  Pack your lunch and eat outside under a tree, or leave work and walk at a mall before you go home.  
  1. Need to give and do for others – family, community, or church.  Ideas:  Volunteer at a church or synagogue, hospital, or retirement home; be a room mother or cook for someone who is ill.
  2. Recognition for achievement – from work, family, or community.  Ideas – Realize it’s okay to ask for the strokes you need.  “I worked hard to finish the proposal in time; did it help?”  Choose a job that allows you to get recognition.
  1. Movement – the daily need for walking, sports, exercise, or shopping.  Ideas:  Walk around your office building before you nibble.  Use a treadmill, take walks, walk the mall, play golf, or go shopping.
  1. Sleep – your day does not go right unless you have a certain amount of sleep.  Ideas:  Take short naps, don’t obligate yourself to activities that take you away from sleep, and negotiate with your partner for the amount of sleep you need.  
  1. Approval and Acceptance – from co-workers, family, or friends.  Ideas:  Realize you like to pass ideas by others whom you know and can best talk with.  
  1. Order and Closure – dislike of open-ended situations, tasks, affairs, projects, or goals.  You have a need for predictable completion dates for achievable daily goals.  A cluttered house or office makes you “crazy.” Ideas:  Plan your day and do not overschedule so you can complete your day’s objectives.  Clean your desk or workspace or kitchen before you start your work.  Prioritize your tasks.  Ask for help getting things done.  Know your limits, and don’t take on too much.
  1. Time Alone – a daily time for reflection and thought while alone.  Ideas:  Get up before others in your household to have time alone.  Have lunch without co-workers or browse the mall or take a walk.
  1. Territory – an area of physical space that is your very own.  Ideas:  Have a space at home that others know not to disturb.  Arrange your office to have an area of your own that others cannot easily enter. 
  1. Financial Security – Income and outgo are always to be in balance.  You always want there to be a surplus.  Ideas:  Balance your checkbook, keep a savings account, and maintain a job that provides steady income (versus commission).  Buy used vehicles instead of new ones.
  1. Being with people – the high need for relationships. Ideas:  Have a job that puts you with other people, or join a group, club, or organization that lets you socialize.
  1. Anticipation – looking forward to something, such as taking a trip or seeing friends or family.  The anticipation gives enjoyment more than the doing.  Ideas:  Plan lunch or dinner dates with people.  Plan trips and get into making the schedule, researching places to see or activities to do while away.
  1. Competition – with self, others, or in sports.  High need for a challenge.  Ideas:  Play bridge, watch or participate in competitive sports, challenge yourself with how much you can accomplish, or raise your level of expertise in an area.
  1. Learning something new – acquiring new information is stimulating and exciting. Ideas:  Read, watch the news or learning channels on TV, attend lectures, return to school, or subscribe to periodicals.
  1. Listening to music – through mechanical means or by playing an instrument.  Ideas:  Listen to the Radio, go to concerts, learn to play a new instrument.
  1. Having a project – being creatively involved with ideas for yourself, your home, or your community provides a feeling of accomplishment.  Ideas:  Always have a project going: sewing, yard work, woodworking, gardening, writing, painting, remodeling, etc.
  1. Touching – physical contact with others.  Ideas:  Ask for hugs, get a massage, volunteer in a nursery, get a pet.
  1. Variety of experiences – the need for something new and different.  High need for change in surroundings, job responsibilities, or projects.  Ideas:  Rearrange furniture, wear many hats in your job, change jobs, take trips, or take a class or learn a new skill.
  1. Structured time – schedule and routine are always important.  Uncomfortable when your time becomes unstructured.  Ideas:  Own a calendar planner and use it.  Schedule your work and playtime.  Realize you will have less stress Monday through Friday because these days are generally more structured.  On weekends, structure your time more.  If you are a parent, you generally love the school year but struggle with the summer.  (Oftentimes #19 marries #20).
  1. Unstructured time – do not like the pressure of meeting schedules or having set routines to follow.  Generally more creative and love to go with the flow.  Ideas:  Realize that you will feel more stressed with eating Monday through Friday.  Try to be in a job where schedule and routine are unimportant.  Realize the world runs on schedules and give yourself permission not to become stressed out.  If you are a parent, you love the summer.
  1. One-on-One Attention – the desire for relationships to be one-on-one.  It may feel stressful when in groups where one-on-one is not available.  Generally marries a person who loves interacting in groups.  Ideas:  Realize you are uncomfortable with groups and find one other person with whom to talk.  Go to lunch with one other person.  Work in environments that do not call for a lot of group interaction.
  1. Group Relationships – need for interaction with groups or teams rather than just one individual.  Generally marries a one-on-one person. Ideas:  Have lunch with a group, work on projects with teams, or join organizations.
  1. Empathy – High need for people important to you or people around you to know what and the depth of those feelings. Ideas:  Recognize that you will become irritated when others don’t pick up on your feelings and let you talk about them.  Learn who will listen to you and who offers an understanding viewpoint.  
  1. Humor – the need to laugh.  Ideas:  Listen to the audio of comedians, watch humorous TV shows and movies, or be around the people who make you laugh.
  1. Spirituality – the need to pursue beliefs through meditation or fellowship with like-minded individuals.  Ideas:  Join scripture study groups, prayer groups, etc.  Volunteer at your place of worship and plan quiet time for spiritual reflection.

Why Vital Needs Are Important

The number of Vital Needs that are met through your job can determine how much you enjoy it.

Remember, this is your list and will provide you with the quality of life you want.  If these needs are not met, you might have turned to food or sweets as a substitute for the fulfillment these needs met could provide.

Getting your needs met does not have to take time away from your family, co-workers, or your lifestyle responsibilities.  You will become more of a whole person as you respond to your own needs and the needs of others.

Reminder – do not use food as a substitute for your vital needs. 


Did you know that overeating can sometimes result from unmet Vital Needs?  Everyone has vital needs, and if they aren’t met, we can sometimes resort to overeating, overspending, and overindulging in something that isn’t healthy. 

If you have trouble in these areas, you might consider evaluating to make sure you are being satisfied in the area of your own Vital Needs.

Sign up below to receive the Vital Needs document to help you identify your top seven vital needs and how you can use this information to eat healthier, spend more responsibly and still walk in joy and peace.

Vital Needs Assessment

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