Most of us have heard of Freud’s Personality Theory of the ID, the Ego and the Super Ego. If you’re not familiar with the theory, it talks about how we have 3 parts to our personality. We have the part that tells us what we should do, we have the part that tells what we shouldn’t do and then the mediator in between, trying to figure which one is the right decision.
Let’s get a little more in depth so we can understand how the mind works according to this theory, which may give us insight into why we make certain decisions when it comes to our health and fitness goals.
The Id is the instinctual part of our brain that wants nothing, but to survive. This part of the personality wants to be comfortable no matter the consequences. The Id demands satisfaction immediately. This is present from birth and explains why babies will cry and cry until they get what they want.
Then we have the Ego. The ego as most of us understand it, is all about us. Egoism. Forget about that for a moment. Ego as it relates to Freud’s theory is about the dealing with reality. Where the Id wants what it wants, NOW , the Ego works to delay that instant gratification and find a way to meet its needs by a mean that is socially acceptable.
Lastly, we have the Superego. This is our sense of right and wrong that we acquired from our parents and society. This is the perfectionist in us.
In a nutshell, the Id and the Superego are at two ends of the pendulum. The former is the devil on one shoulder and the latter, is the angel on the other. The ego is the one that is trying to find the happy medium.
How does this effect my health and fitness goals?
If you’re anything like me, you have had those stretches of time where we are gung-ho about our health fitness goals. We set a schedule to workout 6 days a week, set up a menu and plan to restrict all the “bad” foods, write down our goals and post them for all to see. Then about 2 or 3 months in, the wheels come off with a pizza night and the spiral begins. We feel bad because we weren’t perfect and before you know it, we have had 3 days of eating like crap and gained the 5 lbs.
5 lbs..... that nobody else notices but us.
This is the perfectionist, Superego, that has these ideals and standards that are not realistic for a normal person. Then we get that taste of pizza and the Id says, “this is the best thing ever. I want MORE”. Meanwhile the ego is in there somewhere trying to rationalize it all by saying “I was doing so well for 2 months; I’m allowed to have a little pizza”.
These aspects of our personality are dynamic and always jostling for position of power. It is the balance between the 3 that provides lower levels of anxiety, less drastic swings from being self-righteous and self-flagellation to impulsive and instinct driven. This strong ego that mediates the two extremes comes from a level of self-acceptance that many of us can’t comprehend or know how to practice.
The answer is not in tracking every morsel of food we eat and the quantity of our training sessions, nor is it in throwing all caution to the wind by eating whatever we want whenever we want. The answer is in between and that is different for each of us. The answer is in the balance between accepting ourselves as we are and still working towards our fitness goals. Awareness of where you are at is good.