Food gives us life, and then one day we realize that it also offers us an escape. When we suffer we eat, and when we eat, we fall asleep awake. The result is that fine dining in the modern world isn’t simply a competition to create the most delectable dish, but to design the most effective existential anesthetic. Strip away the signifier and isn’t “ice cream” just a “10 minute Distraction from the Suffering of Life Milk Product?,” a Spicy Tuna Hand Roll simply a “Forget Your Troubles for 30 Minutes Fish Wrap?” Do you remember the moment when taste, succulence and texture became less important to you than the degree to which a meal could capture your attention and transport you into a dopamine fueled bliss state? When the ennui of life dawns on the unenlightened self the logic of making every meal an escape suddenly becomes self evident. Because god forbid I find myself experiencing a moment of neuro-chemical sobriety between my buffalo mozzarella bruschetta buzz and the ego annihilation of my stilton burger to realize that I’m just swinging from one carbon induced high to another in an irrational attempt to fill up the hole in my soul by stuffing food down the one in my face. And yet so goes the journey. That moment when we find ourselves yearning day after day for more caloric luxury, more mouth watering moments of ecstasy, until we eventually become sick of the indigestion bouts, and tired of the sugar spikes and decide that’s its time to free ourselves once and for all from food. So we slowly begin to increase the quality, subtlety, and purity of what we eat, while decreasing the quantity and variety. Instead of gorging we begin to fast, try macro biotic, vegetarian, vegan, raw. Little by little we begin to rehabilitate our palate so that one day, like a revelation on par with the grandest of spiritual experiences, we come to recognize that even a single leaf of lettuce is … exquisite. But the journey is not obvious, and for most of the world involves moving through several distinct stages. Here are four of the main ones that can help you determine if you’re overdue for an upgrade. Toxic Food Championed by every noxious gas station and convenience store selling the kind of products that have been hog tied in off-gassing cellophane, and tarred with preservatives that augment their shelf life to outlive Uranium, “Toxic Food” refers to those temples to the unholy trinity of High Fructose Corn Syrup, Dextrose and Mono Sodium Glutamate. These graveyards of the “unperishable” boast the rank and file of every candy bar, soft drink, cereal, and bag of cheesy poofs that sport the kind of luminescent colors that you’d expect to find in toxic waste dumps and Sci-Fi B-Movies like “the Blob.” Make no mistake, these are the provisions of Doomsday, Lucifer’s own “all you can eat buffet,” the real Hell’s Kitchen. If your diet consists of “the Toxic” on even a semi-regular basis then you’re part of that contingent of humanity that will either mutate to become the first generation of XMen, or have your genetic line slowly and irreversibly eradicated from existence. Unconscious Food Referring to every deli, chain restaurant, diner and supermarket that follows the lemming-like business plan of cutting as many corners as possible to provide you with the cheapest sustenance imaginable, “Unconscious Food” has a sub standard nutritional value that’s conveniently imperceptible to the average gastronomically illiterate consumer. Yes, it may look wholesome but rest assured, you’re likely being served mis-identified fish laden with heavy metals, vegetables saturated with pesticides, and industrially farmed meats that have been marinated in antibiotics and deep fried in levels of cortisol that only the most traumatized livestock of the industrial farming complex can produce. Hiding in plain sight these seemingly innocuous emporiums can be identified by their overly enthusiastic declarations of NATURAL, FRESH and HEALTHY, or by an obnoxious advertisement slot on the propaganda delivery system of main stream television. Conscious Food When you eat consciously you’re shopping organically, locally, and ethically with your own bag from the local co-op that your mom got when it first opened in 1973. Your fish is wild, your water pure, your vegetables lush, and your meat grass fed and sprinkled with fairy dust. Now sugar is your nemesis. Gluten your Al-Qaeda. Nutrition Facts your Walt Whitman. Walking the aisles with you is like perusing the poetry section of a book store with your creative writing teacher high off a cardamon infused triple fair trade espresso. Sure, you get laughed at by your biochemically oblivious friends, and that block headed uncle of yours who thinks you’re a priss, but at least you can console yourself in the fact that you don’t have leaky gut, and an anger issue. When you go conscious there’s no going back. You’d now rather go hungry than fill your body temple with crap just to save a buck. Then again your greatest discovery from going nutrient dense? You don’t end up eating more, but less. Vibrant Food When you take the quantum leap into eating vibrantly your junk food becomes cacao and goji berries dipped in unicorn tears, your condiments include gourmet sea salt dried on the crown chakras of ascended masters sitting full lotus in the Himalayas, your deserts are now sweetened with raw honey infused with Royal Jelly and Propolis wrenched from the panties of only the most fertile queen bees. You’re consuming neurologically protective oils and algaes, gut biome balancing pickled sea vegetables, and anti inflammatory herbs and elixirs. You juice with religious fervor. Fruit is dehydrated on sight. Even the idea of using your placenta to make a growth hormone and stem cell producing minestrone isn’t entirely out of the question. At the “vibrant” stage of consumption you’re not a foodie as much as you’re a modern day druid on homeopathic steroids. But Why Should I Eat Better? When you eat poorly you’re tired, dim witted, slow to act, sluggish to revolt, fearful to rebel and stand up for what you believe in. You’re literally fueling your passivity, subservience and compliance to the behemoth of the consumer industry. You’re closing your eyes to the suffering of a world that desperately needs you to fight not only for your own enlightenment but for the healing of the entire planet. Conversely, when you take on the burden of eating consciously and endorse businesses that are pioneering a healthy food alternative, you’re not only buttressing your energy, supporting the balance of your brain chemistry, and improving your hiring potential, you’re lobbying for a whole host of preventable, man made illnesses to be eliminated, and for mother nature to be finally included in the women’s liberation movement. Above all you’re powering your courage and determination so that you can meet the injustice, and unconsciousness of the world day after agonizing day with your eyes wide open and your heart on fire. Healthy food isn’t just the breakfast of champions, it’s the breakfast of revolutionaries. And in case you didn’t notice we’re in the middle of one and the front line is the cash register. So whether you want to change government policy, live your dreams more boldly or increase the odds of having a non-dual experience more quickly, the quality of your consumption, on all levels, is essential to the degree of life that you bring to the party. This is why every time you put something in your mouth you’re not just making a choice for your body, you’re making it for humanity.