The Four Levels Of Eating

Proper nutrition is a major form of health investing. It is safer than the stock market as a hedge against the risk of illness. When you eat poor quality food, you are dipping into the nutrient reserves in your bones, soft tissue, organs, glands, skin, and hair. You wear the results of being overdrawn nutritionally, an unhealthy appearance, and you feel the warnings signs of ill health which start to show up as fatigue, pain, and mood swings.

To create sustainability in one’s own and the planet’s health, we need to exercise greater levels of thought, awareness, and discrimination around food selection. Eating for health is a wake up call to eating consciously! A process, rather than a method, with each level reflecting the awareness and maturity of a person when he or she is eating, a behavior that affords us abundant choice and delight, but is often done with little thought.

Becoming aware and interrupting the unconscious behavior patterns when we eat is the first step toward eating for health. See if you recognize your eating patterns in the levels below.


Level One: Eating for Pleasure.

This level is an immature and impulsive approach to eating, aimed at maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. Eating at this level is for immediate gratification: “I ate it because it tasted good” and “I ate as much of it as I wanted to” are hallmarks of this stage. Emotional eating, which often means compulsive overeating, is a Level One adaptation to pain, tension, and stress.

Level Two: Eating for Energy.

Blood sugar regulation drives one’s food choices at this level. We choose substantial foods that allay hunger. The goal is to fill up and not have to eat again for three to four hours. Little concern is placed on the quality of the food, the likely nutrient loss due to processing, possible pesticide residues, environmental toxins, or added hormones, antibiotics, coloring, and artificial flavors.

Level Three: Eating for Recovery.

The inevitable cumulative effects of Level One and Level Two eating are poor body composition, obesity, and diminished energy, health, and brightness of mood.

People experiencing these effects often go on a diet that organizes foods into good and bad categories and limits quantities. Examples of Level Three eating are diet plans such as the Zone, Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, Food Combining, Blood Typing, and Raw Foods.

The benefits of such diets are typically short-lived. There is an immediate positive effect from eating fewer refined and processed foods, but then we reach a point of diminishing return. The diet is no longer satisfying and no longer producing the promised effects. The tendency then is to stay with the rigid, reductionist approach even longer or to slip back to Level One or Level Two eating patterns. This is a more mature approach than the first two levels, but it can be tiresome, judgmental, and sometimes supplement driven.

Level Four: Eating for Health.

Food choices at Level Four are made by discerning what the body needs and what the best available choices are at a given time. At this level, we consciously choose among a wide variety of healthy, organic foods. We exercise moderation in the amount of foods we eat, and take more time and care in its preparation and presentation. Nourishing ourselves then becomes a wise, mature, and loving act of awareness cultivated through daily practice.

Choose wisely!

Source: Eating for Health by Ed Bauman (M.Ed, PhD, founder of Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts).


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