Why You Should Eat for Your Archetype
- Written By:Alexandra Perron, Managing Editor
When it comes to losing weight, it isn’t always as simple as counting calories, eating leafy greens and hitting the gym. There is a really important psychological layer that is often overlooked in the weight loss equation, but functional medicine nutritionist and cognitive behavioral therapist Dana James is working to change that. Her new book, The Archetype Diet: Reclaim Your Self Worth and Change the Shape of Your Body, is a holistic approach to weight loss that starts with identifying the archetype you embody and dives into everything from hormone imbalances to self-worth. We sat down with James to learn more about what makes her diet plan different from all the rest.
Many people think losing weight is just about eating less and move more, why isn’t this a functional diet plan?
I started training in nutrition in 2002 and we were already aware that obesity was a metabolic issue. If its a metabolic issue, you’re dealing with hormones and inflammation, it’s not just the food you are actually eating. That was always the basis for my program. It was more that people culturally have that belief that it’s ‘eat less food and exercise more.’ It’s part of that, but it’s much more complicated.
Body fat is dictated by storage hormones. If you know what hormone is influencing body fat, you can change those hormone levels through lifestyle changes and the food you eat. The research is there, it just is not spoken about because we are still under this cultural aspect that it’s still calorie counting.
The actual weight loss equation is food, movement, inflammation, hormones, the gut microbiome, genes, medication, unexpressed emotion and shame. There are nine pieces that go into that equation.
How did you come up with the Archetype Diet?
I was prescribing the diet to my clients based on what was going on hormonally for them. I noticed that no matter how perfectly calibrated a diet or meal plan was for a particular person, it was their mind that took them off track.
I really started to look into that mind piece and once I connected it, it was so clear and transparent to me that that was what was going on. And boy, did we miss this. As a society we continue to fixate on the food without looking at why do we eat it in the first place. Over the years, I recognized it came down to where we sourced our self-worth from. And that self-worth ultimately dictates our behaviors and our food behaviors.
Tell me about the four archetypes…
The Wonder Woman sources her self-worth from success and achievement. Her greatest fear is being irrelevant. She is going to prioritize work over other areas in her life.
The Nurturer sources her self-worth from caring and being there for others. Her greatest fear is that she is no longer going to be needed or may be abandoned. For her, she will de-prioritize her needs in favor of other people’s needs.
The Femme Fatale sources her self-worth from physical appearance. She is in the extreme. When she is balanced she can be really sparkly and radiant, but when she is out of balance she will have a dysfunctional relationship with food.
The Ethereal is about being really creative and imaginative. For her, she is typically that girl who was a little ostracized growing up, she retreats into an inner world and is highly sensitive.
Once you’ve identified your archetype, does it ever change?
You integrate. When you’re really balanced, you draw on the attributes of all of the archetypes. You have those personality traits within you naturally, but they are often being hidden because your dominant archetype takes precedence.
You were not born this way, you became your archetype through a very personal experience in childhood that dictated to you that you would be more valuable or more loved if you behave this way. Which is a flawed belief. Because you believe that you are valuable because of an external factor there is a shadow piece or a negative side to it. That negative side is what we want to dissolve so that you have space in the mind to take on positive attributes of the other archetypes.
Every archetype can learn from the other archetypes to rise up to what I call the crown, which is when they are truly balanced. When the mind is balanced, the body is also balanced.
How do you hope to change the way women view food?
It’s about reprogramming the way we look at food. We have been dictated all of these guidelines based on, what I would say are very restrictive diets, and they don’t apply to the vast majority of women out there. This is a lifestyle diet.
What I want is to eliminate the guilt and shame around the way we eat and how you look at body fat. Rather than looking at body fat as though it is something unwanted and ugly and upsetting, instead look at as a way to read your body. Someone who carries body fat on their upper thighs can look at that and understand they have an estrogen dominance. It is a sign that the body is out of balance. It’s about saying, “I’m story body fat here and this means this hormone is out of balance. What can I do to alter it from a food, supplement and lifestyle perspective?” That is a core piece of the archetype diet. And then we get to the mind piece.
Let’s talk about that — in the book you identify the “six Rs.” Why is this piece so important?
The six Rs — restore, recognize, reinterpret, release, rewire and revive — are based on a combination of functional medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both of those modalities are about getting to the core root of what the issue is. Functional medicine focuses on the physical body and CBT on the mind and core memories.
It is about reprogramming the subconscious. It’s uncoupling the belief that you are worthy because of some external factor. The ultimate goal here is to believe you a worthy just for being alive, because that is the truth. You are not worthy because you look a certain way or because you need to do something, that is a lie.
What do you hope is the biggest takeaway for people who pick up this book?
That they feel heard and understood. That they know their body more and they have a roadmap to bring themselves back into balance.
This interview has been edited and condensed.