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5 Levels of Nutrition

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NUTRITION LEVELS

In an earlier article, we introduced the Three By Five Health Framework, with the core accomplishments that happen between each level. Here it is again for reference:

Level 1  {AWARENESS}  Level 2  {EDUCATION}  Level 3  {MINDSET}  Level 4  {MASTERY}  Level 5

In this section, we are talking specifically about the 5 Levels of Nutrition.

A quick warning, this may be the longest article on our blog – in fact, it’s more of a Guidebook. But having the reference will truly help you achieve your fitness goals. We offer this detailed content for free so that people can get truly useful information to make actual change.

My hope is that this article will help you to identify where you currently are with your diet, and then help you level up one at a time until you’ve reached your goals, whatever they may be.

To begin, read through each level and pick the one you most closely identify with. Its OK if more than one level applies to you. Pick the level that is “80% True for You”.

After you assess your current Level in Nutrition, you’ll do it again for Fitness, and Emotional Health. So let’s dive right in! Level 1 is the lengthiest, because it is our entry point of health.

Level 1: Daily Processed Food Diet

The very 1st level of Health from a Nutrition perspective is the Processed Food Diet, also called the Western Diet or Standard American Diet. Even though it often associated with Americans or Western societies, it is seeping into all parts of the world as food corporations expand operations.

This diet consists of large quantities of food made by corporations, in factories. Because corporations care about the shelf-longevity of their food, as well as its addictiveness, these foods tend to be high in fat, high in sugar, high in salt, and high in hydrogenated (shelf stable but fake) oils.

If you’re still unclear whether you are at this level versus Level 2, answer these questions. How many of these items do you eat on a daily basis?

  • Anything bought from a convenience store (7-11, Plaid Pantry) or gas station
  • Fast Food – any meal you eat from a drive through or ordered from a counter
  • Takeout and/or Large Chain Restaurant eating out (Applebee’s, Outback, Red Robin, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc)
  • Sweet foods (breakfast, snack or dessert food) that is in the center aisles of the grocery store
  • Deep fried salty snacks like potato chips, Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos and all the other O’s 🙂
  • Soda or any other sweetened drink (tea, juice, sports drink) – whether regular or diet
  • Sweetened alcoholic beverages like cocktails

If you eat a good majority of those items daily, you should start at Level 1 Nutrition. The CDC estimates that a full ONE THIRD of Americans eat fast food every single day. That’s over 100 Million of us. So there are a lot of people out there at this Level.

At this level, you probably don’t know very much about what healthy eating truly looks like. You’ve likely been influenced about nutrition mainly through cultural sayings, or advertising. You may have become thoroughly discouraged by previous attempts to eat healthier. Or, eating healthier may not have been much of a priority for you until recently.

People who eat particularly a lot of fast food and junk comfort food often have other emotional or life stressors going on – constant financial stress, a traumatic past, a rocky home life, multiple jobs, or a high stress job or workaholism. So it’s important to take a look at your total situation as you start on this journey. Feel free to read up on our 5 Levels of Emotional Health as well.

But let’s move forward with Nutrition. First off, I’m going to be straight with you: If you’re eating this way daily, this is the Red Zone of Nutrition health. Our goal is to get you out of there as fast as we can. Even if you only make it to Level 2, you will see massive health wins in a very short amount of time if we can get you out of this Level.

Your Goals To Conquer This Level

Our goal (together, you and me) if you are at this level is simple: to stop your downward spiral of health. I want you to become aware of unhealthy foods you’re eating, and begin to remove the very unhealthiest, which will make you start feeling better and likely give you hope in your health journey again.

The awesome news is that this level can be conquered fairly quickly! But it really depends on how engrained these substances are in your body, how much of an emotional crutch you are using this food as, and what your stress/emotional situation is like in the rest of your life.

You may need support and at least a semi-positive environment to make it out of this phase. You also need healthier replacement foods lined up and ready to go. This will make your efforts less likely to cave in a week from now.

Take Action

In order to get to Level 2, you simply need to choose the top 2 foods from that list above that are YOUR personal trouble foods, and stop eating them. Cut them completely out of your life.

Here is something you may not know: ALL people are habit eaters, with go-to meals and snacks. Healthy eaters are habit eaters too. They just have healthy go-to foods. None of us are capable of focusing on food every moment of every day. This is why a lot of diets fail. You obsess over every little thing for 3 or 4 days, but eventually it’s exhausting so you just go back to what’s familiar.

The secret is to choose healthier go-to foods in advance, and make them readily available so they become habit. When you automate your health, you don’t have to put so much focus and effort into it and this allows it to seamlessly integrate into the rest of your life.

If you can’t eliminate both of your top bad foods overnight, congratulations – you’re just like the rest of us! 🙂 It’s perfectly find to follow a phased approach. No one said you had to graduate this level in a day. Try just picking one item to eliminate and then follow with the other. Or, start to reduce them both gradually. Only have fast food or chips 5 times a week, then 4 times, then 3 times, until you can go an entire week without any of it – sticking to your healthier replacements.

Remember, right now you’re not expected to instantly replace your Burger King Whopper with a Kale Salad. We aren’t even trying to get you to reduce your calories here, or add in ANY healthy stuff. If you want to do that, great. But to graduate at this level, all that’s needed is to cut out your top TWO most harmful foods.

This level is only about loosening the hold that addictive food has on you. That’s it!

How You’re Likely To Feel

Day 1 you’re likely to feel euphoric and excited, and a little scared. You may experience some cravings toward the end of the day.

Days 2 and 3 are going to be rough. Your body and brain will recognize they aren’t getting their daily fix anymore and they are likely to retaliate – particularly if you cut out really sugary stuff. Know this in advance. Stay strong and tell yourself you’re going to make it past Day 3. Drink plenty of water or other non-sugary beverages (flavor your water or sparkling water if you want to – I do!) to help flush toxins out of your body. Find healthier replacements as mentioned above, so that you don’t feel completely deprived. If you feel the need to treat yourself, do so with dark chocolate.

Day 4 of consistency is when you typically start to feel a bit better, and if you can stick with it to Day 7, you are likely to feel FANTASTIC. Depending your weight level and how much you chose to cut out, you’re also likely to have lost a pretty dramatic amount of weight. Some of that will be fat but most will be excess water weight from bloating, inflammation, and too much glucose in your blood and muscles. Your body is ALREADY rebalancing. Regardless, you should expect to see an increase in energy, mental clarity, and better fitting clothes in as little as 5-7 days. SWEET!

Once you’ve made it to Day 7, go ahead and polish off another week, just to show those toxins who’s boss. And once you’ve successfully said goodbye to these things for 2 weeks straight, congrats! It’s time to move on to the next level.

If you regress, or this takes you 6 months – its OK. Remember what we said about the journey? There’s no finish line. I’m proud of you for even making an effort. Keep at it and put habits into place daily that will help you succeed. Don’t let yourself become deprived and starving. Have a food plan on hand that works with your budget and schedule. That’s the key to success!

Final Note

It’s important what you tell yourself about this whole process. The internal narrative matters. So, do not tell yourself you are “going on a diet”. Tell yourself (and others, if they ask) the truth: You are cutting out some harmful foods from your lifestyle. A diet is all about calorie deprivation, and that isn’t what this is. Continue to eat as many calories as you want at this phase. This is ONLY about cutting out the very worst foods for you, AND its about breaking your emotional or habitual dependence on those foods.

Between Level 1 and Level 2, you have achieved AWARENESS.

Level 2: Restricted Processed Diet

If you are at this level, you’re at least aware of what you’re eating and you’ve  cut out a couple top offenders in terms of problem foods for you. Otherwise, you’re still pretty much eating as normal which is a slightly cleaned-up Western Diet. This diet still has plenty of processed/pre-made foods eaten daily, along with too few veggies and too little fiber.

Your Goals To Conquer This Level

Your main goal at this level is EDUCATION.

Remember, our journey toward Health is Awareness-Education-Mindset-Mastery. You accomplished Awareness in Level 1. But you may now be confused by conflicting information about what a bad versus good diet really entails. From Level 2 to 3, we’ll continue to focus on Simple & Actionable Info – cutting out those “big boulders” of processed food in your diet, and replacing them with more whole foods and more hydration. We are not going on a true Elimination Diet which removes whole food groups. We are only eliminating any processed food we haven’t already.

Getting educated on a simple balanced diet can be really hard in the midst of advertising noise, because there is a wealth of misinformation and marketing messages in today’s information landscape. Most of us have Information Fatigue.

However, from the most reputable sources (unbiased professionals like scientists, researchers, anthropologists, and nonprofits), there is a very clear consensus on a few fundamentals of healthy diets. We summarize these fundamentals in more detail in 8 Pillars of Healthy Eating – but I have a synopsis of each Pillar below.

The goal for this level is to really absorb the concept that eating healthy is not as complicated as a lot of books and blogs would have you believe. You don’t need to be tracking micronutrients and plant chemicals with a microscope.

Especially to just get to the next level, the only thing you need to do is to learn the fundamental pillars, and then begin to implement them. We like to keep Healthy eating SIMPLE and BASIC.

The 8 Pillars of Healthy Eating are these:

PILLAR 1: MINIMIZE EATING CORPORATE FOOD

Fast food, Factory farmed meat/eggs/dairy, big packaged brands like Nabisco, Kelloggs, and Frito Lay. Make them an occasional treat rather than an every-meal occurrence.

PILLAR 2: REDUCE ADDED SUGAR

Particularly High Fructose Corn Syrup, and anything with added sugar or more than 10g of overall sugar in one serving

PILLAR 3: EAT MORE WHOLE, NATURAL VEGGIES AND FRUITS

Really – anything you like, just eat more of them. Even if all you like are baked potatoes and bananas, that’s still a start. Get them in your mouth daily, no excuses!

PILLAR 4: EAT MORE BEANS OR LEGUMES

These consummate superfoods are a major part of every longevity diet worldwide. Use dried and soaked more than the canned versions.

PILLAR 5: EAT MEAT & DAIRY IN MODERATION, FROM PASTURED ANIMALS

Most Americans eat way more meat than the rest of the world, and could probably cut their daily intake in half or more, while still getting all its benefits. Make more room on your plate for veggies, fruits and plant protein. This doesn’t mean you have to give up meat entirely. Just consume less of it, and ensure what you are consuming is from very high quality sources.

PILLAR 6: EAT MORE FERMENTED FOODS, PARTICULARLY YOUR GRAINS

Fermenting wheat breaks down the brain, making digestion super easy relieving a lot of so-called wheat sensitivity caused by the mass bread/flour industry who cut corners with commercial yeast. All other Fermented foods = probiotics and healthy gut. From parmesan to dark chocolate, there are a lot of options out there.

PILLAR 7: EAT NUTS & SEEDS LIKE YOU WOULD A DAILY SUPPLEMENT

A lot of people actively avoid these things due to perceived high fat and calorie content. But with heavy antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, nuts and seeds are health superstars. Even a half walnut a day reduces risk of inflammatory disease significantly.

PILLAR 8: DRINK MOSTLY WATER – AND MORE OF IT

Eliminate anything that isn’t water, broth, coffee, tea, kombucha, or occasional wine or clear liquor. This is closely tied to slashing sugar, because thousands of commercial drinks and cocktails out there are high-sugar.

That’s it. You don’t need to be worrying about calories or macro’s or plant lectins or saturated fats in red meats or omega-3 supplements, or any of that nonsense right now. Try to master these Pillars, and that’s it!

Take Action

Here’s what you need to do to graduate from this level. I want you to finish cutting out the 4 Culprits: Fast Food, Deep Fried Food, Hydrogenated Fats (any snack that’s shelf-stable), and Excess Sugary Foods.

You’ve educated yourself on 8 basic principles of healthy diet, and now we need to implement them – while still keeping our diet rules simple and basic. We are still focusing on those “big boulders”. We can get more refined later.

An way to accomplish this is with three simple guidelines:

  1. Don’t eat food from any place that has a drive through or assembly line
  2. Don’t eat takeout or food delivery (like pizza)
  3. Stay out of the middle of the grocery store, except the bulk bins for beans or nuts or whatever you like

As you cut these things out, you’re going to notice that you’re hungry and cravey. You need to find healthier replacements that will become habit just like the fast food, snacks and soda were habits.

The key here is to find stuff you actually like, and not to be miserable eating things you think you “have” to eat.

We have to let go of these ideas we have about what “healthy proper diets” and “clean eating” entail.

I remember a cabbage soup diet I tried with my mother when I was a teen. She and I lasted 4 whole days before we were ready to never taste cabbage again. I also recently attended a dinner party where a woman was touching nothing and clearly miserable. There are so many crazy diets out there that are based on obligation and deprivation.

Those diets for most people just aren’t necessary. Yes, there is the occasional allergy or IBS or leaky gut or other health conditions requiring that we avoid certain foods at least for a time. But the mass public does not need to cut out entire food groups to get healthy.

The same goes for eating food we don’t like out of obligation. I know that I will never like zucchini or eggplant, and I am OK with that. I eat at least 30 other types of veggies and discover new ones every week through my CSA. So please, don’t feel obligated to choke down stuff you hate just because your Whole30 or Paleo book tell you to. Find yourself a couple awesome cookbooks and start exploring! You would not believe how complex and delicious the new modern recipe books are. Cookbook authors are really upping their game, and you should take full advantage. We have a great collection of our favorites here.

Remember – part of this process is learning that eating healthy IS pleasurable, and doesn’t involve obligation! You shouldn’t dread putting your fork in your mouth. Your food life should be full of pleasant and delicious surprises. A whole world of discovery and flavor combinations await you. I’ve recently had dishes that put together heirloom tomatoes with peanuts and mint, and beets with blueberries and goat cheese. Give yourself permission to go explore and learn to LOVE food again.

Last thing on the menu for this level is to address your dehydration. Every person eating a Standard American Diet is chronically dehydrated, and this is handicapping you from focus to fatigue to proper digestion. We have an article on Hydration I want you to go read, and then do yourself a favor and order our Hydration kit off Amazon. It has an awesome water bottle (I’ve tried dozens) and some Nuun tablets to make drinking water a little easier (especially if your’e giving up sweet drinks). It also has a couple recipes for at-home Rehydrating Drinks that are great Detoxing Cleansing drinks that you can sip throughout the day.

How You’re Likely To Feel

Because this level is so much more involved than the last level, you’re probably going to feel overwhelmed at first.

If you just try cutting out the bad stuff with no replacements lined up, you’ll starve yourself and end up caving over and over. The absolute key to success at this level is to have a plan. Figure out your replacement foods, and this is also a great time to do some trial runs of Meal Prepping.

Remember, take one thing at a time. Don’t be trying to track your calorie intake, or macronutrients like how much protein or carbs you’re getting. We’re going to work on that in the next level.

While you’re going about the business of removing big unhealthy boulders from your diet, feel free to ignore all the pop diet advice out there attacking every food group and nutrient. The fact of the matter is humans just can’t thrive by cutting out half of our entire food pyramid.

The only part of the food pyramid you need to cut out is the corporate fake processed stuff. So if it was made in a factory or other industrial processing plant, aim to skip it.

Carve out more time for Nutrition in your life by cooking and baking at home a little more. You’ll soon learn at this level that eating healthier (i.e. at home) does take more time than McDonald’s, but it is not hard and it does not take away your entire weekend. If you meal prep, you can have healthy home cooked food for an average of 5 to 10 minutes per serving – that’s on par with Baja Fresh and Subway.

Final Note

This level is so exciting because it’s really where you start to take your health into your own hands, quite literally. You’re voting with your fork three times a day. You’re backing away from corporations preparing your food for you, and being at the mercy of their ingredients and processes.

Instead, you’re responding with “No thanks – I’ll take it from here, and maybe use you on the odd occasion.” Do this consistently for at least a month, and you’re ready to move on.

YOU CAN DO THIS! It’s time to level up!

Between Level 2 and Level 3, you have achieved some basic, reliable nutrition EDUCATION and are taking action on that knowledge. No noise, no marketing, no fluff.

Level 3: Healthy, Conventional Eating

If you’re just reading through this article for the first time, you may be eating at the level currently. Or, you may be flying in hot from several weeks or months spent mastering Level 2. Either way, at this point you can consider yourself at a Nutrition Level 3, if:

  • You’re pretty aware of the dangers of processed, premade foods, deep fried foods, and refined sugars, and avoid them at least 75% of the time (eat them a max of 1-2 times a week, if at all). You probably still experience cravings for it from time to time.
  • You’re eating much more often at home, and purchase conventional groceries from a supermarket
  • You’re not tracking calories. Or if you are, you may be having difficulties with accuracy

If you’ve been at Level 3 for awhile but want to eat healthier or look fitter, you might be feeling frustrated that you seem to be on a plateau. Don’t worry, Level 4 is going to fix that.

And if you are new to this level from Level 2, just know that Level 2 was about breaking some habits and addictions, but Level 3 is about really committing to health and changing your MINDSET.

This is the transition where you go from “conventional eater” to having a more focused “healthy lifestyle” mindset. You’ll become savvy about the food industry, the importance of local and sustainable eating, and start avoiding some chemicals that can mess with your gut, hormones, and overall health goals.

At this level you develop a MINDSET of health. As you move forward in your health journey and notice your body changing, you must also change your inner dialogue about who you are. Make sure your mental and emotional health are at the top of their game so you can continue to eat consistently, and are OK with putting a bit more effort into finding and going after local sources of food.

Your Goals To Conquer This Level

You have a two goals at this level. The first goal is to reduce chemicals and toxins in your food by getting more food from local sources. We are moving you away from factory food and more into sustainable food.

The second goal is to adopt a mindset of yourself that is both loving and disciplined, if you haven’t already.

First Goal: Start moving from conventional supermarket foods, more into the local and sustainable food world. You shouldn’t freak out about every mass produced food on the market and try to go cold turkey overnight. Keep in mind you’ve been eating this stuff your whole life, its better to keep at it for a few more days/weeks than to starve and end up caving on a week’s worth of pepperoni pizza. Grocery store will always be healthier than fast food, even if its conventionally produced. Try picking one food you’d like to eat more locally – whether its local bakery bread, veggies from a farmer’s market or CSA, or some local meat, dairy or eggs. Implement those things one at a time by finding your preferred local source, and make it a routine before you implement the next food.

We have some great suggestions in our Where to Shop article. Whatever it is, find “your” new go-to resources, and then bake these things into your weekly schedule – as natural as going to the grocery store. Then they won’t feel like a chore.

This leads us to our Second Goal: In order to graduate from this level, you need to adjust our mindset. This is frequently when other people begin noticing our health journey, and society can be unsupportive, whether they mean it or not. It’s important to level up our mental game here with more self-love, and more discipline as well. We need to use our “Adult” mental muscle to make it stronger. The truth is that you are no longer just doing a thing here or there to lose some weight. You are now IN this thing. You are INVESTING in a healthy lifestyle, and at this point you ARE a healthy eater.

Making that mindset shift into believing in yourself, and fighting for your life and happiness, can take time.

The two goals at this level – of eating locally and improved mindset –  might seem incongruent, but they aren’t.

A lot of the shift away from “conventional” (factory farmed) food is about removing chemicals and toxins from our circulatory and nervous systems. A chicken breast from Tyson Foods and a chicken breast from your Local Farm may both have 28 grams of protein for a 3 oz portion, but they’re likely to differ significantly in grain byproduct, bacterial contamination, and preservatives.

Making the shift from factory farmed food to sustainably farmed food isn’t really about calories or macronutrients. Rather, it is about detoxing our bodies. Over 900 groups of different chemicals are used for agriculture currently in the world. These are substances that only a couple of generations of humans have even had to contend with.

The average piece of produce is doused in 10 different chemicals from seed to storage. Just one piece of produce. Many of the chemicals are systemic, meaning they are found inside the produce – not just on its surface.

So again, making an effort to cut out some industrial, factory farmed food is about removing chemicals. Because chemicals are likely to wreak havoc on your brain and nervous system, cutting them out supports your emotional health as well.

Take Action

There are SO many ways that you can dive into the world of local food systems. So to get started, go read our Eating Local articles: Why Eat Local, Intro to CSA, and Where to Shop.

As for Mindset changes, I think repetition and habit are the processes we can use most effectively to hijack existing habits and beliefs, and replace them with new ones.

Tell yourself every morning when you wake up, and before every meal, or whenever you think of it, that you are proud of how healthy you’ve been eating. Take note of how much better you feel. Recall back to some of your worst, sickest moments and how miserable you were. It helps you put the journey into perspective. What you tell yourself matters.

Again – tell the “voice in your head” which is really just stored advertising and other people’s opinions, to be quiet. Learn to trust your OWN voice. That’s the one that is quietly cheering you on. It’s the one that says Yeah, I want to feel better. I want to be a role model to my kids. I want my whole family to be healthy, and it starts with me.

Habit is the other force of nature that you want to become your best friend here. Automating health and fitness is one of the KEYS to long term success, particularly for busy people. You can automate your shopping schedule by planning a route and always doing it the same day, and even the same time of day. If your closest farmer’s market is open Saturday mornings, plan to hit it early with a cup of coffee, followed immediately by a swing by your favorite local grocer, or butcher, or bread shop, and then home.

The second healthy habit is Meal Prepping. After your shopping habit to make sure you have fresh local food in your house for the week, you should spend a couple hours prepping some full meals or “building blocks” that can be used throughout the week.

When you automate this stuff and bake it into your schedule, you barely have to think about it. That is when efforts becomes consistent – and consistency is when success happens.

So at the end of this level, you’re going to be well on your way to eating quite a bit of your food from local farms and growers. This will take the QUALITY of your food significantly. You aren’t necessarily tracking calories or macronutrients yet (we’ll do at at Level 4, if you want to). But you’ll have focused more on the SOURCE of your foods.

You’ll be getting more nutrients and less chemicals than you probably ever have in your life, especially if you’re 40 or younger. And you’ll be mentally happier and stronger – because discipline is a holistic thing, like a muscle. Once discipline is strengthened in one area, it’s easier to strengthen in another area. Fantastic news!

Level 4: Clean/Organic Eating with Calorie Tracking

OK, we are really rocking and rolling now! Let’s recap our journey for a moment, if you’ve been coming up through the Levels. And if you’re reading this for the first time and this is where you landed, good for you! That’s amazing.

If you’re at this level, you’ve pretty much lost your appetite for soda and junk food. You don’t eat the really bad stuff up to 90% of the time, if ever. You’ve become educated on the basics of a simple healthy diet. You’re aware that fad diets usually have good elements to them, but they’re designed primarily as marketing machines for profit – and as such, they are inherently biased.

You’ve been made aware of the importance of avoiding chemicals and antibiotics in your meats and veggies. You’re making attempts to eat more sustainable, local, and higher  quality food that wasn’t produced at a mass scale. And you’ve taken steps to rehydrate your body.

If you’ve been eating this way for any length of time, its less likely that you’re truly or significantly overweight – but you probably still have body composition (fat, muscle and water) goals you’d like to work on. If this is the case, you may have started to track your calories and macro (protein/carb/fat) ratios – or you’re interested in doing so.

This is the level (finally!) where doing so makes sense. We’ve now successfully eliminated the big boulders of crappy food from our lives and bodies. The little we do still eat is easily taken care of by our liver and kidneys, which are operating far more efficiently because they’re well hydrated and not continually overloaded.

Now that you’re eating a basic healthy diet based on the 8 Pillars of Healthy Eating, let’s start customizing your plan by looking at your overall caloric intake.

Your Goals To Conquer This Level

We are going to do something different now. You are going to set your own goal at this level, not me. 🙂 Do you want to lose some fat? Do you want to gain some muscle? Are you happy with where you are and just want to get better at maintaining a clean lifestyle? These questions roughly equate to 3 Dietary Phases, which we go more into here.

Based on what YOUR goal is, you should learn about your daily caloric maintenance needs. To do that, you need to put your age, weight, height, and lifestyle (most people will need to put “Sedentary” if they have desk jobs.)

The best calculator I like best is found is the TDEE Calculator. We base our Maintenance meal plans here on 2000 calories for men and 1600 calories for women, because those are the average amounts that can be adjusted by a couple hundred calories easily with more or less snacks.

A 35 year old man who is 5’ 10” and weighs 160 pounds needs about 2000-2100 calories a day.

A 35 year old woman who is 5’ 5” and weighs 140 pounds needs about 1600-1700 calories a day.

These are maintenance calories, so to focus on losing fat while retaining lean muscle tissue, you would reduce your calories by 15-20% while keeping your protein intake at 20% of your total calories, at a minimum.

Take Action

At this level, you really just want to focus on your body composition goals. You’ll start by figure out your caloric needs, and then getting consistent with your weekly caloric intake.

It didn’t make sense to start you here in Level 1 or 2, because health is NOT just about calories. If you’re eating 1500 calories but its all donuts and dorito’s, you’re not going to feel or look healthy. So we had to get the types of foods under control (as well as your overall discipline) before we start zeroing in on tracking calories and macros.

Now that you’re ready to start learning about Calories and Macros, you need to arm yourself with more knowledge, and some tools. When you do this, you will have achieved Mastery over your nutritional health, and you’ll enter Level 5: Being a Clean Intuitive Eater.

To get started, read our related articles:

A Balanced, Traditional Diet

Foundations in Fitness

Three Health Phases

And check out the following tools for weight loss:

TDEE Calculator (in my opinion, the most accurate calculator)

My Net Diary App – this allows you to input the foods you eat, including making custom recipes, and track your overall calories and macros for the day. I particularly love the recipe functionality which will show you overall nutrition info for any recipe.

You can continue in Level 4 indefinitely, but I recommend only tracking things this carefully when you have specific goals – i.e. a Depletion or Rebuilding phase, or you’re learning what it feels and looks like to eat a balanced diet.

The ultimate goal is to wean yourself off of the daily tracking and instead to achieve mastery in intuitive eating. That is, you can eyeball what’s on a plate and know roughly how much carbs and protein you need to eat. You keep fat in balance, and your body is reset and primed to tell you when it is full. You listen to those signals and don’t need to rely on an app to tell you when to stop eating.  When you’re ready for that, you’re ready for Level 5. You have achieved Mastery.

Level 5: Clean, Intuitive Eating

This is the level of Nutritional Eating that we all aspire to, and the perfect level for Maintenance Phase living. It means we’ve gained mastery over our nutrition and hunger levels. We now know what it looks and feels like to eat a balanced diet, and can generally do so without tracking it daily as we needed to do in Level 4.

At this level, you avoid most processed foods like the plague except on very special occasions (ie a couple times a year, like you’re on a road trip and all that’s around is McDonald’s). You definitely consider yourself a “clean eater” but you aren’t neurotic with your food. You have a positive rather than negative relationship with your food and your body.

At this level, you are consistently eating according to the 8 Pillars. Your diet roughly consists of the Nutrition Pyramid we outline here (with some flexibility between Protein, Carbs and Fats according to your preferences). You prioritize your Nutrition with a foundation of Hydration, and you also enjoy your top 10% “Fun stuff” level to its max.

As we discuss in our article 3 Dietary Phases, our Maintenance Phase eventually ends as well. Maybe we go back into Depletion for a Cleanse or Rebuilding after an Illness. But now that we know our dietary cycles ebb and flow naturally, we address them from a place of empowerment and realize that a new phase does not mean failure.

Congratulations, you’ve graduated the 5 Levels of Nutrition! You’ve eliminated processed junk, are eating sustainable whole foods, enjoy your foods and are living simply and joyfully. You’ve increased your discipline and emotional health along the way, and because you feel so much better you’re likely exercising more as well. You may have prevented or reversed some health conditions you previously had, and in general you are happy and content with life. You may be reaching out to help others along in their journey as well. You’ve become a health leader. And you can’t get much healthier than that. ❤️

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