Pretty much all of my friends have heard me raving about “The Archetype Diet” by now: I love it, I share it. I wouldn’t say that this book changed my life, but it did change the way I look at food. Before, when I would hear the word diet, the first thing that would come to my mind would be “restriction”, and I just don’t do well with that/restrictions. I like to think of my lifestyle choices as my own. It is only my choice to cut milk out of my diet because of all the hormones and antibiotics that go in it. It is only my choice to eat less sugar because I want my skin to be glowy and breakout free. But this time around things were different.
About six or seven months ago, I started having problems with sleep. Getting four hours of sleep felt like an accomplishment. I was recommended sleeping pills, but come on…to start that at the age of 27 years old? No, thank you.
Right around that time one of my favorite podcasters in functional medicine was interviewing Dana James, a triple-certified nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner and cognitive behavioral therapist who was about to release “The Archetype Diet”. And just before you jump to conclusions about the book, please hear me out. It is not your typical diet advice for how to lose 20 pounds in three weeks. It is not a guide to a “Victoria’s Secret” type of body. It is a guide to understanding your body, your eating habits and what your subconscious mind has to do with all of that.
In her book, James divides women into four archetypes: Wonder Woman, Femme Fatale, Nurturer and Ethereal. The book begins with a personality test that is about 20 questions long. You can take the quiz online, but it’s also included with the book. I suggest starting with the quiz first and see if the archetype (aka personality type) results are convincing enough for you before ordering it.
She then provides 10-day meal plans for each type, as well as supplements and workout suggestions. In this book, she will tell you so much about vegetables (yes, even the ones you don’t eat), how self doubt and low self esteem can sabotage your efforts to lose weight, how your past shapes your relationship with food (and what you can do to change that), along with everything that you didn’t know about proteins, sugar and fats. She also talks about meditation, insomnia, and so much more.
“Far too many of us use food as an emotional suppressing tool even when we don’t know it. Think about how many times you’ve gone into the kitchen looking for something. The something was not food, it’s more subconscious. That’s where my female archetypes come into play. You’ll understand what that ‘something’ is about and how to change it. For instance, the Wonder Woman is a reward eater (or drinker). She needs her treats, like wine or dark chocolate, to feel good about herself. She’s so busy that sometimes food is the only pleasure she receives. The Nurturer is too busy looking after everyone else, so she puts herself last. Who then is nurturing her? Where does this disappointment go? Into food. She tends to be a comfort eater and is often a secret eater. Ethereals tend to forget to eat as they are caught in their creative pursuits. They are also very sensitive to foods and tend to get bloated easily. They are often eating the wrong diet for themselves. The Femme Fatales have the most distorted relationship with food. As they believe that their value is based on how pretty and thin they are, they tend to be overly restrictive with food, skip dinners with friends and then they can binge later on.”
My archetype was spot on: Wonder Woman. I was shocked at the accuracy of her descriptions. She knew it all: the issues I had with sleep, which parts of my body I gained weight fastest, what my work means to me, and how much I am willing to sacrifice for it.
Ten days into the meal plan challenge, I felt like a completely different person. You can even ask my friends. Balance and calmness was my new name. I can’t tell you how much weight I lost. I simply don’t believe numbers are that important. I think we are way past that stage as a society. It’s more about how healthy I feel and whether I’m comfortable in my own body. Another big change was that my sleep pattern finally got regulated. The book introduced me to Cortisol Manager, which helped me sleep through the night those first few weeks. I’ve switched off it at this point and am now trying to maintain that balance with yoga, meditation, calming teas and adaptogens. While I didn’t purchase this book to help me lose weight, I did want to understand how I can feed my body better considering its unique chemistry.
Here are twelve things that I found useful for myself, and that hopefully will benefit you as well:
- Fast for about 12 hours of the day. Having dinner at 9 p.m. means your breakfast should be at 9 a.m.
- For snacks, try half an avocado sprinkled with lime, almonds, matcha with cashew milk, fresh figs, chia seed pudding, apricots and fresh-cut fruits. My favorite one has been pink grapefruit with caramelized coconut sugar. Most delicious thing on earth.
- Eat 5x per day: That’s three meals and two snacks. I literally set my alarm every three hours to remind myself. I know a lot of planning goes into it. It can be hard at first, but then you just work it into your routine, like anything else.
- Eat protein for breakfast to speed up your body’s ability to burn fat.
- Make your food Instagrammable (you didn’t have to ask me that). The point is to make it as colorful as possible. Brightly colored foods often have plenty of nutrients.
- Portion size matters. Try this trick: Hold your hands side by side, palms up, and that is the correct portion size for your meal. The left hand is for vegetables, and the right is for carbs, protein and fat.
- Go four weeks without gluten and dairy.
- Eat about two to four cups of vegetables for lunch and dinner.
- Try adaptogens. Ashwagandha is my favorite. I take it in pill form and also with an adrenal tonic that Dana James developed for my archetype. Rhodiola is my second favorite. It has improved my focus. Both of them also help you cope with stress.
- Have your cheat days, but come back to what feels good for your body and soul.
- Make your own food. That’s when you really start to know what goes into your body Plus, I find cooking as effective as meditation. I know the old excuse you may be thinking: “I don’t have time for this”. Neither do I. But health is not something we can buy tomorrow. You have to make the time.
I still believe that nothing tastes as good as pizza or a cheeseburger with fries. Trust me, I don’t restrict myself when I have a craving. But I try to limit those treats to once a week at most…because I remember what it was like not listening to my body and feeling absolutely out of balance.
Self-care comes first.