I’ve Been Studying Nutrition for Decades: Here Are the 11 Stages of a Holistic Hero’s Journey

I wasn’t always strong and I’m not talking about my last name (though that applies as well). Yet, as many people, my strength grew like a seedling planted in the most fragile of soils. I grew up in the culinary equivalent to a gastronomic black hole and a complete nutritional void. fed from birth, a lethal recipe of refined sugars, oils, salts, grains and chemicals including MSG (a known neurotoxin) which was a perfect cocktail for breeding addiction to a world of processed food, obesity and disease symptoms.

After several decades of studying nutrition I’ve witnessed thousands of others who’ve traveled a similar journey the mirror the 11 stages to a path of holistic health*. Knowing the path and where you are and are heading will bring you comfort to a challenging journey and understanding where you are can actually help you fast track your process through a level of awareness.

The 11 Stages of the Holistic Hero’s Journey

1. Blissfully or Painfully Unaware 

This is the initial stage where you have no idea of how food plays a part in how you are feeling and your energy 

2. Inquiry to Enquiry

(Information to Knowledge) – This is the stage where a seed has been planted and you are starting to gather information and knowledge, enlightening you to your ignorance and how you may potentially reverse your symptoms of lethargy, excess weight or disease. You acknowledge a separation from nature that has led to your pain/ disease state and start to feel a calling to change.

3. Resistance

Refuse the call where you get a sense of everything that is involved in recognizing the world as you know it is not quite right, think Neo in the Matrix. This is the stage where you realize all that is involved in the process of switching your present toxic state to that of a ‘Holistic Hero’ and resist usually due to overwhelm and fear of a death of a life you’ve become accustomed to even if it is making you sick and even killing you. You feel a calling to change but can feel broken and not up to it, fearful of all that is required for you to become the hero of your own story.

4. Becoming Aware

In the stage of awareness you’ve started to make some changes that have noticeable changes in your body and how you are feeling. This is where mentors and teachers appear to guide you in the form of books, films, videos and people who’ve been on the path.

5. Awakening

This is the religious stage where you exhibit the zeal of the newly converted. Your transformation has been almost a ‘I’ve seen the light’ experience. You have more energy, pain is gone or greatly diminished, your disease symptoms reverse, blood sugar and blood pressure normalize. There is no going back and you are committed to change.

You tend to be black and white about choices, there is a danger of being judgmental exerting a bit of superiority over others now that you have seen the light. You want to share this with the world as it seems all others around you are deluded and drinking the koolaid (literally and figuratively)

You are most likely given to fads in this stage and more clean and extreme the better. You are on the bandwagon and most like suffering from a new addiction, information addiction. You find it hard not to spread the word and find that almost every conversation can be turned into one about your new way of eating. It is also not surprisingly the most likely stage to repel people so be mindful and gentle with people, think long-term and of the expression ‘prefer to be kind versus right’. People will be more inspired by how you look and feel than by what you tell them especially if you tell them from a position of ‘nutritional moral superiority’.

6. Shifting

In this stage there is an acceptance fueled by the motion generated by the emotion and ensuing energy of the Awakening. You start to experiment with what works for you. There are ever present temptations and dangers and you move from the emotion more to the mental intellectualizing which can make things feel like hard work as you are no longer so e-motion-al in your approach. Logic comes in, faddish behaviours tend to start to lose their shine and you start the process of figuring out what really works for you.

7. Turning

This is the stage where you start the internal evolution to mirror the external. You start the spiral up of emotions that vibrate at a higher level and as a result you make choices that give you more energy more often than not. It is not easy but not too difficult and you know you can never truly go back to the Lethal Recipe. This is the stage of falling back to the old patterns and behaviours but your body is now accustomed to what it is like to eat nourishing foods and so the contrast is very much in your awareness. This can be a time of turning back and on some level returning to refusing or at least questioning the call to return to food.

8. Habituating

You are no longer propelled by zeal and some routines can become boring but you are committed. You are coming out of an initiation of sorts and there is a clear death of an old way of being. You may morn for old foods and rituals that brought you comfort and struggle to form new ones that serve you along with the thoughts and ensuing feelings that you inevitably feel when you are no longer using the Lethal Recipe to numb, push down or bliss out with instead of moving through and developing truly empowering tools to evolve past old patterns and thoughts that are not serving you.

9. Maintaining

This is the stage where you’ve fully accepted your new path. You have taken the torch and are running with this. You’ve fully accepted the consequences and the transformation into a new life. Temptations finally come but you are much more able to resist and are more forgiving when you do revert to former behaviours.

10. Living

This is the stage of clear, conscious choice. You’ve worked through the angst, done the time and the work to get to a place of contentment. Eating in a way that right for your body, your way of being and values. It is much easier to resist the things that don’t serve you and making those choices are just a matter of ‘this is how I do life’. You have a feeling like you’ve atoned for the transgressions against your body and the environment with no need to make others feel inferior to you for their choices.  At this stage you will inspire people to enquire about change.

11. Being 

This is the stage of total acceptance of self and true peace around your choices. Your way of being is so non-judgmental and your vibration is so elevated that people just ‘want’ to eat and live better because of how good they feel around you without you saying a word. Food can still bring you pleasure but there is not obsession or dependency on food for pleasure, you are able to find pleasure in the thoughts you choose and the emotions and empowerment that this brings. 

The Being stage isn’t about perfection but rather a state of peace with your journey and the measure of health that is a reflection of eating in a more nourishing, energizing and protective way for your body and the planet. 

It is not common to span different stages as we spiral up to a higher vibrational frequency. You may need to experience many moments of the next phase as you transition fully into it. Some people transcend all the phases either momentarily through the threat of death or extreme pain or simply a miracle. No matter where you are, please be kind with yourself and others. You may actually experience windows of Living and Being as you go through the phase of initiation and before you truly return to a level of mastery that is encoded in you from conception.

Wherever you are on your journey, awareness can be a great tool to advance with greater ease and grace. The best tool of all is to find the places where you can experience the most elevated forms of joy, where you can move into a compassionate place of love for self and then others. That is the fastest most graceful way to return to food and love for your body and the planet.

*We go into great detail of the 11 Stages of the Holistic Hero’s Journey in the Return to Food 8 week Online Program which is the prerequisite course for the Return to Food Academy. 

Sherry Strong

Founder of the Jiivala Wholistic Culinary Academy and Entrepreneurship Program. Author of Return to Food and creator of the Return to Food 8 Week Online Program: http://www.returntofood.com/