Dana James speaks from personal experience.
The founder of Food Coach NYC and LA—a functional medicine practice that merges science with spirituality—struggled with negative self-perception and overeating. When the onetime finance executive finally decided to make a change, she dedicated herself to understanding the science of her own body chemistry: She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, UK, as a nutritionist and cognitive behavioral therapist, and holds a master’s degree in Medical Nutrition from Columbia University. She also studied functional medicine at the Institute for Functional Medicine and honed her vibration medicine techniques by working with energy healers, Russian physicists and Kundalini teachers.
Today, James uses her experience of having worked with over 1,000 women—as well as healing modalities from nutrition biochemistry to psychology and vibrational medicine—to observe and advise clients on optimizing everything from their physical forms to their emotional states, one-on-one and during private retreats. She has been featured in publications including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker, and on TV programs like The Today Show and Good Morning America. Her first book will be published in January 2017.
Here, James describes the importance of being awake to the inherent wisdom of life’s lessons:
Live The Process: What personal experiences led you to work in functional medicine, specifically with women?
Dana James: I've always been fascinated with how women behave—they're much more complex and unpredictable than men. Their relationships with themselves and food are more delicate and more estranged. And I was one of those women.
I had terrible teenage insecurity issues about not being pretty or thin enough, and this sent me into a Dante’s Inferno of dieting, disappointment and distress. The more I dieted, the fatter I got. By the time I was 25, my finance job was eating away at my life and I was eating to console myself (unbeknownst to me).
My salvation was the dot-com crash, which enabled me to take a year's sabbatical to travel through Asia to “find myself.” I didn't find anything, but I did end up in London even fatter than before and I wanted answers! No diet books, no quick fixes. I wanted the science! I wanted to know how to do it myself, and I was prepared to spend four years studying nutritional biochemistry to find out how. It was purely self-serving, but it's often those practitioners who've had a personal experience that make them more effective teachers.
LTP: Can you describe your particular method of treatment?
DJ: It’s always evolving and becoming more layered. Having worked with over 1,000 women, I can quickly see what their biochemical imbalances are by observing where their bodies hold fat.
A couple of simple questions also give me insight into how they store their unexpressed emotions: Do they hoard or easily release them? Based on this assessment, I know what foods will reshape their bodies and which will wreak havoc.
I may also use functional testing to delve deeper into imbalances. This might entail looking at the gut microbiome, neurotransmitter imbalances, hormones or food sensitivities. I'll also incorporate cognitive behavioral techniques to help shift a person’s mindset when she feels stuck or self-sabotaging. Scents, mantras, movement and other pretty things all form part of the protocol. In essence, it's helping a woman return to her most alluring and magnetic self.
LTP: What are some of the most common obstacles or issues that women face that throw them off-balance?
DJ: There's one I call, “Smart Woman Syndrome,” where she’s over-informed and undiscerning. She can't say “no” and she rationalizes her choices with her intellect. “No” feels like deprivation, so she says yes to everything. Yes to another glass of wine, yes to those raw vegan treats, yes to anything that temporarily pleasures her. Then, she gets upset because she can’t seem to stick to a diet or detox. Instead, if she reinterprets “no” as discernment, then the power comes back to her. It becomes a choice, not an act of rebellion.
LTP: What comprises your personal wellness routine and current wellness obsessions?
DJ: Oh gosh, so many things. I recently discovered Glow Inner Beauty Powder, which is a fermented probiotic powder that I mix with some of Sakara Life's rose water. This is my wakeup drink that I take with probiotics and my company's Collagen Activator for youthful skin. I'm no longer in my 30s, so I'll take all the help I can get!
I have a very solid, grounding practice. After my beauty tonics and pills, I do a 15- to 45-minute Kundalini set. I'm guided by Rama TV, which is a Kundalini studio in Venice, which live streams their classes. If I skip a day, it’s like eating junk food for 24 hours. If I'm feeling super spacey, I'll use the vibrational properties of food to ground me. I'll swap a green juice for a beet and carrot juice and replace my lunchtime salad with a vegan chili. I'll cook instead of eating out, as cooking a nourishing meal is one of the most grounding things you can do! I might also wear red to reactive the root chakra—earrings with a flash of red or red nail polish. My friend Taylor Eyewalker has a scent called Vintage Piano, and I'll apply that for extra connection.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
DJ: Golden California sunshine. Picking herbs from the garden. A late afternoon picnic with friends. The electricity of touch. The breeze. The pink skies. White sheets. Lazy Sunday mornings. Coffee. Morning smiles.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process,” and how can we each do that every day?
DJ: Dance to the wisdom of life. It will be enchanting and heartbreaking, and neither lasts forever. Be present with both because they offer their own intelligence.