Science and Magic


Wonder Woman has nothing on Dana James. The native Aussie draws on her studies in nutrition, psychology and functional healing to get to the core of what’s eating us. And through the four goddess Archetypes she’s identified, she exposes the deep set patterns that ultimately determine body shape and then sets us on a course to reprogram and reveal the lean, lithe and liberated selves within us all. She serves her lucky clients through her NYC and LA based practice but at long last she’s scripted her method into a book, The Archetype Diet, out this week. Now we can all be free. Here's Dana on the ins and outs and inspiration behind her magic. 

Cindy DiPrima Morisse: When did you first start to notice the patterns that ultimately became The Archetype Diet?

Dana James: It was an evolution. In functional medicine we’re familiar with body types and the influences of hormones, so I was very aware of the insulin dominant woman who is now my Nurturer. The insulin dominant woman tends to have a layer of body fat all over her body. When she’s estrogen dominant she will tend to carry it on her upper thighs and when she’s cortisol dominant, it’ll be on her belly. So that was very well known and it’s generally accepted in the functional medicine field that that’s the way you can read hormones. Where the link with the mind came in is that I was intrigued by my clients who are very smart, successful women but were unable to stick to a plan for longer than about 3 weeks. Something would cause them to fall off the plan and some were really good and they would get back on and others wouldn’t. And when I delved into it, I realized that the reason behind it was our source of self worth. That took years to identify. So it wasn’t just, “Oh here it is!” It was “What is going on here? Why does this happen?” and once I saw that the source of self worth was creating a set of behaviors, and therefore a set of food behaviors, I was able to link it through to these body types. So that when someone would come into my office, I would read their body and by reading their body I would have a very good understanding of what was going on psychologically with or without them even having a conversation about it. And then I would open the conversation. There would be tears. There would be tears because they’d think “Oh my goodness how do you know this?” And so then I realized I was onto something here.


CDM: So it sounds like each Archetype is determined by the hormonal balance within a woman. Would you then say that this hormonal balance dictates the psychological and emotional behavior?

 DJ: No, it's more the other way around. It’s more that the psychological will dictate the behaviors which will then change the eating behaviors and the eating choices. What you eat influences the hormones. Now of course there’s a feedback from the hormones which may influence the mind, but if we step back to what’s the core of it, the mind is the precursor. So this completely moves me out of the functional medicine realm, which focuses on the hormones and why are the hormones out of balance, and it’s very biochemical. Here instead it's like well why is cortisol high in the first place? Yes, it's stress but what is the person thinking about that’s leading them to this chronic level of stress?


CDM: Is our Archetype developed through nature or nurture? If someone is able to bring their eating habits into balance can their Archetype change over time?

DJ: It is absolutely nurture. You are not born this way. You experience or you observe something that is emotional and uncomfortable for you and therefore you create some beliefs. Those beliefs then dictate patterns and that leads to eating patterns and that changes the shape of the body. So your primary Archetype doesn’t change. But what you can do is move from being out of balance to being balanced.

My family is full of Wonder Women. That’s my Archetype. But we’re all completely different because we are on a different spectrum of our self awareness and how we treat and respect and nourish our bodies. 


CDM: So it’s nurture, but these patterns are so ingrained in us from an early age that they tend not to change. But we can still change our behavior?

DJ: Yes, and once you are aware of that, and this is what the book is about, you can then start to change it. So the latter part of the book is our Six R reprogramming process to change these seemingly self-sabotaging behaviors. It’s all about where do I source my self worth from?


CDM: Can you tell us more about the Six Rs? 

DJ: It’s a six step process to actually reprogram. The first one is Restore and that’s about restoring the brain in a way that it's going to be receptive to changing these beliefs. The second one is Recognize. Let’s recognize what experiences did you encounter to create this belief structure. Then you need to Reinterpret it, because there’s some flaw with it. There’s some flaw. Your child is viewed through an emotional lens. It’s not particularly rational. And so you need to reinterpret it. Sometimes you have to rewrite the story. Then you need to Release it. You need to energetically release what is going on. That’s the most important aspect of it. It’s what I call the 3R trifecta and then that’s really breaking the subconscious thought patterns. The next piece is Rewire and then the last one is Revive. It's about becoming a complete woman. Once you can identify and you’ve cracked that thought that your self worth is based on an external factor, you’re not constantly in pursuit of rewarding yourself for that. So you can then cultivate these other attributes of the other archetypes.  


CDM: It seems like there must be an aspect of this that is self fulfilling. Momentum builds. The more we come into balance the easier it is to follow the program.

DJ: That’s exactly right. That’s why in the book I actually start with the dietary piece. So that you can start to immediately feel good physically and once you feel better physically it’s much easier to then do the deeper emotional work. And that emotional work is always evolving.

I know within three days of somebody following this type of eating plan, they’re going to start to feel better. I mean if somebody’s feeling shitty and they’re lying on their back and they’re just in survival mode, they won’t have the capacity to do the inner work. They’re just stuck in survival mode. 


CDM: So Dana, some of this sounds like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, some sounds like Kundalini, there’s an element of Ayurveda, just in the idea that there are types. You’re so well studied and well read. What traditions do you draw on?

 DJ: You’re absolutely right. Of course. You’ve got my training in functional medicine. I’m trained in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). You’ve got my background as a nutritionist. I practice Kundalini. But I’m also incredibly interested in the psychology behind how we behave. And so my reading has taken me to the works of Carl Jung and then Jungian analysts who have focused on the goddess archetypes. And I went on a thirteen month priestess training program which is about the mastery of being a woman and is all about archetypes and goddesses. So I’ve been exposed to this for probably a good six years. So when I created the Archetypes, it was in my realm.

Plus I have my clients. My own archetype is the Wonder Woman and it's all about success and results so when my clients would start to plateau or when there was something psychologically that was impeding their success I wanted to find out why. I went looking.


CDM: You’re so studied the science of nutrition, in micronutrients and bloodwork. And I know that your practice has a lot to do with supplements and diving in to some of the more detailed aspects of nutrition. How do you blend this with the relatively simple model of four Archetypes? Especially in this era of bespoke nutrition?

DJ: Functional medicine is based on the thought of bioindividuality and so we all have these unique differences. The art however is to identify the patterns. Where are the similarities? Because we can’t work on health on a larger scale if it’s only customized to a particular person. It’s not sustainable. It’s just not feasible.

We’re all humans. We’ve got just under 24,000 genes so there are absolute similarities. Our cellular function, our metabolic function, our digestive system and nervous system all function in the same way. It’s just how far out of balance are you and where are the issues for you? And so with these four Archetypes I’ve really scaled it down to the consistency and the patterns that I see with my clients, That’s not to say that they’re not going to have issues on top of that. Because it’s highly likely they will. So I’ve spoken about the Wonder Woman. That constant pursuit of success is going to lead her to a state of adrenal fatigue if she’s not cautious which will then have an impact on her thyroid and liver detoxification and so forth. But she might also have digestive issues. And those are something she’ll also need to work on. I discuss it in the Ethereal because the Ethereal will principally have digestive issues. But she won’t necessarily have these adrenal issues. So the Archetype determines the base for you but sometimes you might have specific health issues that will require you to have a personalized one to one. But what I’m really hoping is that this gives people a very good base to start to work from. 


CDM: What advice do you have that applies to all four Archetypes? How should we all be eating?

DJ: In general the meal should be 75% plant based. In general. There are tweaks within that and there are certainly things that each of the Archetypes should be focusing on but that’s just a very general overview. 

Now how much of that is vegetables vs. fat vs. carbohydrates depends on the Archetype.  


CDM: When you say 75% do you mean that by calories or by volume or by real estate on the plate?

DJ: On the plate. What does it look like? When you look at your plate 75% of it should be full of plants. Some of that’s going to be fat and some carbohydrate, depending on the Archetype.

The 25% is protein. For my Nurturer Archetype, I have her on slightly more protein because I’ve removed the starchy carbohydrate. And without that extra addition of protein, she’s going to get hungry. And she’s also the Archetype where her appetite mechanisms are a little screwy. They’re a little screwy because her diet has been more carbohydrate focused and so its interfered with her insulin levels and its changed how the appetite mechanisms work within the body and so there’s an unfortunate biochemical irony for her. She feels like she needs more food and she want to go towards carbohydrates, but they’re actually the worst things for her.

But we all need the phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals and fiber that come in from these plants. As well as the amino acids and the fats.


CDM: Does your diet include fruit?

DJ: That includes fruit, yes. But I do have a limit on fruit and this book is written as a weight loss book. So I’ve also got a paragraph in there for each of the archetypes about what happens when you don’t want to lose weight, for when you get to your goal weight. 


CDM: What about other lifestyle recommendations? Are there any non-negotiables or practices such as meditation and exercise that you encourage us all to participate in?

DJ: Both. I really encourage a daily meditation practice and I encourage that women try to get 5 days of exercise in. Four of those will be a little more active and the fifth day can be more of an active recovery or some type of yoga or hiking. For each Archetype I’ve put down the exercises that will be the most effective for their body. So for the Nurturer, going and doing a barre class isn’t the best for her, because she’ll need to do 6 barre classes to see a result. She needs something that is more stimulating to the metabolism and moving the lymph through the body. So she needs more intensive types of exercise. Now, the Wonder Woman has a lot of adrenalin and needs to burn it off so high intensity interval training and boxing is going to be great for her. Unless she’s adrenally fatigued and then she needs to go to yoga. And then you’ve got the Ethereal and she doesn’t suit the high intensity training. She is better of going and doing a barre class, a TRX class, the more softer feminine forms of exercise. So I go through the specifics here.


CDM: What books have been most important to you? And who are your heroes? 

DJ: Women who Run Wild with Wolves was huge for me. I love Sally Kempton and her book Awakening Shakti. A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson. This completely transformed my thinking. The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton and Why We Don’t Heal by Caroline Myss. And then Carl Jung’s works have been huge for me. 

And then women that I admire: Brenee Brown, Ester Perel and Kelly Brogan. Three women who are breaking the ground on different ways of looking at, in Brenee’s case vulnerability and shame, in Ester’s case, human relationships and affairs and in Kelly Brogan’s case, mental health.


CDM: I would say in Kelly’s case too, our relationship to medicine.

DJ: Yes, yes, you’re absolutely right.


CDM: She practices it so definitively within the psychiatric realm and that’s so fascinating but her advice really spans to any type of chronic condition. It’s pretty illuminating.

DJ: Exactly. She’s functionally trainined and she practices Kindalini as well and she an incredible psychiatrist.

Join us in our West Village store on Wednesday June 6 at 7pm for a book signing and talk with Dana James. Free to all.

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