Her events at CAP never fail to pack the house. And for good reason. Dana James is a nutritionist, therapist and founder of Food Coach NYC who teaches modern women to rebalance themselves through holistic means (think: food, nutrients, elixirs, mantras, movement and scents). The focus of Dana’s treatments are to amplify magnetism, so expect to leave her office with a prescription for optimal health and beauty in hand.
Have you always been interested in nutrition? What was your path that brought you to being The Food Coach:
I was a rebellious teenager that just wanted to move to America and eat fat-free food. It was the 90’s and I thought this was a gift to weight loss. I struggled with my own weight and skin throughout my teens and 20’s and I thought protein bars would give me Jennifer Aniston’s body. All they gave me were pimples and greasy skin. It’s no wonder I don’t let my clients eat bars! I was seeking answers for myself but once I started studying nutrition I become much more interested in how food affects our mind and emotional state and the psychology behind our eating behaviors. I established the Food Coach ten years ago and I’ve evolved significantly just as our understanding of nutrition, the gut microbiome and nutrigenomics has.
You are so practical and filled with so much knowledge, what are three foundational tips you’d give our readers to implement on a daily basis to create transformation:
1. Find the area in your life that is troubling you the most. Maybe it’s night time eating, social drinking, dating unavailable men and so forth.
2. Do you believe you can change? If yes, move to the question. If no, why not? What benefit are you getting from staying in this pattern?
3. What benefit do you get from changing your patterns? If the benefit that you get from changing these behaviors isn’t greater than benefit of staying stuck, then you won’t stick with it. Make sure you include subconscious benefits like “it distracts me from looking at my job, relationship.” Get to the real truth.
When and why do you people come to you? Are they looking for strictly nutritional advice or do they want to go deeper into the psychology of eating:
Most of my clients are referrals from clients so they have some idea what they are getting into! Ha ha! Rarely is it strictly nutrition advice. It’s much more. And even if they think it’s just about their diet, I’m very quick to show how it’s more psychological than they realized. I was just at a client’s wedding last week and I’m so proud of him. When he come to see me, he was 40 pounds overweight, on a cocktail of psychotropic drugs, couldn’t sleep, and his last boyfriend had tried to kill him. Today, he’s found the love of his life, lost the weight and is only on one medication (we’re working on this). They met at a breathing workshop in upstate New York several years ago when I convinced him to try meditation. I’m a very good curator, I have my own skills, nutrition, functional medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy, but I also know that more guides are needed along the journey, and I’m often project managing it!
What does your fridge look like, a few things that are always in there:
My NYC fridge is very different to my LA fridge. In NYC, it’s simply ingredients to make my morning smoothie because the rest of my meals are eaten out. In LA, I cook at home for almost every meal. I go to the farmer’s market twice per week because I eat my vegetables very quickly. My partner laughs at me because I still shop like a New Yorker, I buy for 1-2 days as I did when I lived in a fifth floor walk up in NYC, which means two grocery bags only! It’s full of produce (whatever is in season), organic eggs, hemp seed milk (for smoothies), hummus and frozen fish from Vital Choice in Washington State. I make most things from scratch including tahini, pumpkin seed milk and curry powder. Cooking is therapeutic for me and with the luxury of space in LA, it’s a pleasure!
We hear you’re writing a book, when is it coming out and what can we expect:
I am! What most woman aren’t aware of is how their beliefs about their self-worth influence their eating behavior and food choices and how this shapes their body. The book is written to expose that. In essence it’s a psychological profiling tool with a diet to match. I’m wrapping up my first draft now but the book won’t be published until Spring 2018 through Avery/Penguin.
I know you’re deep into Kundalini, why do you think this is such an effective and and transformational practice:
It’s quick and is a multi-taskers gift to meditation. It’s meditation, breath, mantra and music all in one! It’s virtually impossible to focus on those nagging thoughts because your mind is preoccupied with these four tasks. But breath, in my option, is the most powerful aspect of the practice. When we consciously breathe, we activate an area in the brain called the periaqueductal gray area (PGA). This is where the most amount of opioid receptors in the brain are, and this activation produces a powerful cascade of neuropeptides that alter many biochemical pathways in the body. What’s more, a three minute set, will rapidly change your emotional state. A two hour practice will dissolve all of the irritations and resentment you went in with and gives you radiant skin that has people stopping you in the street (that’s not a joke).
What practices do you incorporate into your life to encourage vitality and radiance:
Radiance is a by-product of you understanding yourself and clearing out the emotional dirt. Once you do that, you’ve wiped off the dirty marks that have dulled your radiance. It’s not easy. Sometimes it requires big life changes, like letting go of an unsupportive relationship or saying goodbye to a city that isn’t aligned with your joy anymore. But once you do, the radiance and vitality re-emerge in profound ways. After that, it’s the basics, food, sleep and exercise, and then it’s a daily Kundalini practice that runs from 15 minutes to two hours. (It’s mostly 15 minutes). I also start my day with rosewater and probiotics and my smoothies have all sorts of potions in them from spirulina to pearl, pine pollen and more. I mix up the potions depending on what I’m working on. It’s important for people to know why something works so they can decide what is best for them in the moment.
If someone is wanting to make a change in their relationship to food, what do you suggest as a starting point:
Identify their weakness. For most of my clients, it’s their snack. Their meals tend to be fairly good. Most people over-eat their snacks, including the healthy ones. Keep it simple, fruit, fat, or vegetable, and ideally raw. The latter point is simply to stop people eating “healthy” packaged vegan or paleo snacks. Think green juices, kombucha, pears dipped in tahini, apple tossed in raw honey or half an avocado dusted in cumin.
You travel a lot from the West to East Coast, do you have any helpful ideas for creating the best travel scenario:
Many! Start with a green juice in the uber on the way to the airport, drink chlorophyll water on the plane, meditate on the plane (trust me, if you land in LA with traffic that takes an hour to get out of LAX, you’ll be glad you did!), always take your own food on the plane, sit in the window seat so you control the window shade (keep it up), bring your own eye mask if you’re sleeping, make sure you land before 10pm no matter which direction you’re flying to.
What are your thoughts on the popular “cheat day” idea that many live by:
That it’s a terrible way to live. One cheat day will change your gut microbiome for the worse. Instead, savor one treat meal a week if you want to lose weight. And the vibration of the words matter. A cheat meal feels like a binge (and often it is) while a treat meal is for pleasure.
Any on the go snacks we’d find in your bag:
A pint of raspberries, a pear, or an apple. And a Tulsi sweet rose tea bag, you can get hot water anywhere!
How important is exercise and what do you think is an optimal scenario:
Exercise is a re-sculpting tool. Diet changes how fat is stored, your hormones, gut microbiome, inflammatory pathways and brain chemistry. But sleep overrides both. If you don’t get enough sleep, it doesn’t matter how good your diet is (or how much you exercise), you’ll feel poor the next day, and will crave starchy carbs like nothing else and will be too tired to exercise!
What is your greatest hope and wish for your clients:
To understand their mind, emotions and behaviors with transcendent clarity. And that it’s safe to change.
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