Insight: Dana James
a conversation with Dana James, author of “the Archetype Diet”
a book that untangles the twisting roots of hunger, our emotional attachment to food, & the complexity of it all
Back in March the stars aligned, as they’ve been known to do from time to time, and I was traveling in Miami at the same time Dana was there giving a talk about her new book, the Archetype Diet. We’d been chatting back and forth for a bit beforehand, (we have a friend in common, because the world is very small) and had planned on doing this shoot for the Insight Series in NYC. I don’t know about you, but I’d take shooting outside in the Miami sunshine any day over NYC in March. We got together to shoot some portraits, and Dana sweetly answered loads of questions that had been fluttering around in my mind since I read her book.
Reading the Archetype Diet was pivotal for me. As women, our relationship with our body is always evolving. I think sometimes we don’t even realize how out of tune with our natural rhythm we are, until it gets pointed out by someone else, and this book was my someone else. It pounced into my life as I was working on energy healing, and beginning to understand what it meant to be fully present in my physical body, rather than living in my mind 24/7. When I took the quiz (you can take it online here), I was greeted with the “Ethereal” archetype. I learned so much about the root of my habits through the lens of the archetypes, and have recommended this book to countless women in my sphere.
Dana has generously shared so much insight into her work, process, and rituals below.
THE INSIGHT SERIES
featuring Dana James
THE INSIGHT SERIES IS AN ONGOING SERIES OF INTERVIEWS,
FEATURING SOME LOVELY LADIES THAT I’VE PHOTOGRAPHED,
WHO TOOK THE TIME TO CHAT & SHARE SOME INSIGHT.
JG: As you know, I love your book "the Archetype Diet" so much. What resonated the most for me, was of course the emotional root of it all, and how you explain it in such a down to earth way that feels very relatable, and generally quite easy to take in. When I read the “Ethereal” chapter, so many elements hit the nail on the head for me that I was honestly a little startled! Was there a moment that made you realize the “food and feelings” relationship that your work is based on? Was there an “aha!” moment when you created the 4 archetypes?
Dana: It’s often our own growth which give us the breakthrough and that was the case with me. Despite my background in nutritional science and biochemistry, as well as 10,000 clinical hours, I found myself unable to say no to cacao truffles in the evening. I could stop at five (but not one) and as my weight climbed and my self-respect declined I knew I had to look deeper than intellect. I was trapped in a cacao-eating habit that suppressed a lack of fulfillment in my life. It took me nine months to recognize this as I was in a complete state of denial.
Once I identified what the deeper meaning was, I was on an inward looking journey that took me to Jungian philosophy, CBT, Greek mythology, archetypes, shame, attachment theory and metaphysics. I weaved this into the archetypes to create them in addition to my functional medicine training. The archetypes are very layered but made simple to help understand the complexity if the human body and human mind.
JG: You bring a strong range of education to your practice, and I’m curious what initially inspired you down the path to become a triple certified nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner and cogitative behavioral therapist?
Dana: Not feeing good enough! As a Wonder Woman who values herself on her intellect and achievements, I felt that I needed to be educated on everything uncovered in my practice. My practice started with using food to correct imbalances in the physical body and then I observed that at the root of the physical imbalance was an emotional root and I ended up being the accidental therapist! I wanted more tools to help my clients so educated myself more.
JG: I can only imagine that releasing a book out into the wild comes with its own special roller coaster of emotions. Did you learn anything surprising during the process, or maybe from your experiences since the book was released?
Dana: Yes! The publishing process was difficult. I had numerous disagreements with my editor about the book copy and was adamant about the words used. Words have a certain vibration and using non-specific words to capture a broader audience was not my goal. I wanted to use language that speaks to you. As you just said, the accuracy startled you, part of this has to do with the vocabulary used and and knowing what is important to you. I had to stand strong in my own self-worth and not relent on what was important to me.
JG: One of the things that got me excited as I got deeper into the Archetype Diet was the chakra balancing aspect. As I read that I actually thought to myself “yes! This is what I’m here for!” What inspired this connection for you? Do you work with chakra balancing with your clients?
Dana: While I was developing the structure of the archetypes, I consulted with an intuitive who I’ve worked with for the years (she also predicted meeting my fiancé, down to the date and letters in his name!). I asked her, “What else does spirit want me to communicate in this book?” Her response, “You must link the archetypes to the chakras.” My first response was “how the hell do I do that?” she responded, “you already know the answer, just map it out.” That’s exactly what I did. On saying that, I was conversant in the chakras and had been applying chakra rebalancing strategies for years so it wasn’t a stretch, it simply required the the final thread to weave it together. Once I saw the connection, I couldn’t unsee it.
I had to stand strong in my own self-worth and not relent on what was important to me.
JG: Talk to me about the skeptics. Have you come across anyone who’s been hesitant to take in the information you’re offering? Has anyone found the categories limiting? Or has anyone felt that their personality type wasn’t represented?
If you look at the archetypes on the surface, it can appear limiting, in much the same way a horoscope appears limiting. The archetypes, however, are there to highlight your blindspots and the behaviors that follow from that. Most of us have never consciously thought about where our self-worth comes from, let alone look at the negative patterns and vulnerabilities that come form souring your self worth from an external factor, such as- success, looks, caring for others, and being different. The entire goal of the archetypes is to define yourself so you can un-label yourself. But you can’t just “un-label” yourself if you don’t know what your limiting beliefs are.
JG: The meal plan and supplement suggestions in the book were a huge turning point for my body at the beginning of the year. I don’t think I’ve ever felt better, particularly after the candida cleanse, and learning that as an Ethereal, I could really help ground myself with the foods I was eating…
Dana: Oh yes, if I meet a woman who can’t give up chocolate and she is an Ethereal, it’s often because she is trying to feel more grounded with the cacao. Once I discover that, I can guide her towards other grounding founds, like blue potatoes, chickpeas, cooked carrots, cooked beets, ginger, so she can break her obsessive chocolate eating. I can also help her find non-food activities which are also grounding. These are discussed in the book. The candida cleanse is a game-changer for almost all of the archetypes. Candida doesn't discriminate amongst the archetypes! haha.
JG: I’ve always been skeptical of anything that feels too extreme in regards to diet and nutrition, and I think that’s a big reason why I find your approach to be so welcoming and informative. Are there any health trends that you find are, or could be truly damaging to women? Or any nutritional trends you feel women should actively avoid?
Dana: Over-exercising, intermittent fasting, too low caloric restriction, and long-term use of the ketogenic diet. When you stress the body, ether physically or emotionally, you damage the pathways that the body uses to create energy and burn body fat. The normal pathway for converting food to energy is called the Krebs cycle and it give you 36 units of energy. If, however, you have stressed the body by under-eating for low periods of time, then the body uses an emergency pathway to create energy called the Cori cycle. Under this pathway, you create two units of energy but use up six in the process, so you are in an energy deficit. When this happens you will feel fatigued, won’t burn body fat, have food sensitivities, stressed out adrenals, and a whole lot more. Short bursts of any of those are fine. This is why there is an art to weight loss - my speciality - a little bit of stress on the body helps achieve a goal but not long-term stress!
Travel is not an excuse for acquiescing, and eating whatever is convenient. It simply requires a little forethought.
JG: You’re on the move a lot, and traveling often. With that in mind, do you have any insight to offer for remaining balanced and health conscious while traveling?
Dana: Yes! Don’t overpack snacks. You will not die without food for five hours and you’ll feel gross if you eat the airport / plane food. A banana is better than any protein bar or nut bar. Only eat what you would normally eat within the entire travel period. For example, if you wouldn’t eat a bag of dried fruit and nuts, then don't eat one. If you’d normally have a salad for lunch but you’re flying, pack one. Try to follow your regular routine as closely as possible. Travel is not an excuse for acquiescing, and eating whatever is convenient. It simply requires a little forethought.
I am also very conscious to ground myself after a flight. A foot massage with grounding essential oils, like sandalwood, is a quick fix, if a walk in nature is not available. I also shower post flight to get rid of the travel ickiness that you feel. And I apply a hyaluronic serum to my face during and post-flight to restore the hydration zapped by air-travel.
JG: Since I have existing food sensitivities that have “restricted” my diet in a sense, I’m not opposed to eliminating food groups. I’m wondering though, have you had clients that were upset about, or resistant to removing an entire food group permanently?
Dana: My food philosophy is being able to eat the most variety of food possible while still seeing results. The Nurturer, who is insulin resistant and has higher levels of estrogen, benefits greatly by following a grain and legume-free diet, as the carbohydrate density of these foods (even though they are healthy), imbalances her hormones and makes her health deteriorate. Nurturers are also the most prone to emotional-eating so they can become upset when their primary coping tool - starchy carbs - has been removed. That doesn’t mean they should eat them. Rather, it’s finding alternative ways to deal with the emotions and that's what the “Mind” section of the book is about. On saying that, this is a weight loss book, and once their weight loss goal is achieved, they will need to reintroduce the starchy carbs to maintain their weight. Eliminating food groups for short periods of time to achieve a long-term health goal is a worthy cause.
I said to a friend recently, I’m physically high maintenance, so I can be emotionally low maintenance!
JG: I’m so curious, what does a typical menu at home look like for you? Any kitchen staples that you always have on hand? Any daily rituals?
Dana: My day currently looks like this-
Organic French press coffee with organic milk.
Norwegian crisp-bread (basically a large seeded cracker)
with avocado, sea salt and cracked pepper.
Arugula salad with grated carrots
and grated beets, artichoke, hemp seeds, organic chicken,
baby potatoes and a Primal Kitchen dressing.
(I’m normally in too much of rush to make my own)
Rose tea and an orange
Something to take me through to dinner, like nori with hummus.
Herbed salad with pistachios and
raisins accompanied by grilled fish. I normally eat part of my
fiancé’s meal too as it aways tastes better from his plate! Haha
Sparkling water, maybe fruit, maybe chocolate,
maybe tequila. It depends on my mood.
I have lots of rituals which vary by day depending on what my body needs. I always clear my clients energy at the end of the day. I may rebound for ten minutes, shake it out for three minutes, do Kundalini Kriyas for 30 mins or take a beach walk. I see reiki healers once per week. Sometimes a clients low energy and self-loathing can get caught in my auric field and I need some extra help to clear it. My LA body-worker said, when you can’t clear it, it’s someone else’s energy! I take supplements. I meditate. I call friends. I dedicate intimate time for my fiancé and myself. I exercise. I plan a commitment-free weekend EVERY week. I cook. I get massages. I do a lot! I said to a friend recently, I’m physically high maintenance so I can be emotionally low maintenance!