Breaking up is hard to do. Especially when it comes to sugar and obsessive eating habits. Dana James knows this firsthand so she’s devoted her life to helping other women break their antagonistic relationships with food and body image. Along the way, she’s gathered some impressive degrees including a Masters in clinical nutrition and training in nutrition biochemistry, functional medicine, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Suffice to say, with an MS, CNS, and CDN, she’s the real deal and has risen to the top of a crowded field thanks to her unique approach to nourishment on all levels. So what does this wellness superstar actually eat in a day? Dana, who splits her time between Los Angeles and New York City, gave us the scoop (of coconut oil) on her eating habits, food philosophy, and her cheat foods.
How would you describe your general food philosophy?
Beauty doesn’t come from eating ugly food! Eat beautiful food and you’ll get all of the nutrients for your body, brain, and beauty. I’m also trying to have people move away from very limited thinking when it comes to food. I consult with educated and well-read women and they’re eating like sick people, refusing to eat foods that might be inflammatory for a person with chronic fatigue syndrome, but not for a normal woman with a few skin and weight issues. I want to bring clarity and a sense of calmness back to our relationship with food.
What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
Papaya smoothie made with my Beauti-fuel protein powder, almond milk, bee pollen, pine pollen and cordyceps
Raw flax spirilina wrap filled with raw vegetables, sprouts, avocado, and wild salmon OR a raw vegetable salad loaded with French radish, grated carrots, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and crunch purple cabbage
Pan-seared lemon sole topped with lemon zest and served with baby blue potatoes and a warmed vegetable salad.
(gasp!) Dessert? Rarely, but when I do it’s a macaroon from a patisserie close to my NYC apartment.
Snacks? They vary by the day but I typically eat two — one around 4pm and one at 6pm. Most often raspberries, green juice, kombucha, energy elixir, nori with avocado, bone broth, left over lunch, or San-J black sesame seed cracker with hummus.
The excuse that most of us have is that we’re too “busy” to eat healthy. What’s your response to this? What are some of your favorite meals on the go or tips for attaining a healthy lifestyle despite a hectic schedule?
There are many busy women out there who manage to eat healthy. I’m one of them, you’re one of them. It’s a matter of priority. We value the power of food and how it makes us look and feel over whatever is keeping us busy.
Eating clean doesn’t take long. Dinner can be made in 10 minutes or even five minutes, provided you’ve thought about it in advance. In the morning, I know what I’m going to eat for dinner. I often take out fish from the freezer to defrost, so that it’s thawed when I get home. I can pick up vegetables on the way home or even have them delivered by services like Instacart. They are many quick ways to eat clean that don’t require much time at all!
So, you get home late and you’re hungry. What’s your easy, nutritious go-to meal that you eat often?
Raw avocado soup made with 1/2 avocado, 1 cucumber, 4oz coconut water, cilantro and lime. You put all of the ingredients in the blender and voila! It’s done in less time than it takes to boil water (seriously, I tried this). The other alternative is an omelet with micro greens. It feels like an indulgence!
What is your philosophy on “cheating” or swaying from your usual diet?
Embrace it! But only twice a week. If it’s more than that, then forgive yourself and identify the triggers and thought patterns [that caused the lapse in the first place].
What are some of your “guilty pleasures”?
Many! I just don’t eat them that often — croissants from Bosie in NYC where the flour is from France. Better than anywhere in Paris (yes, I said that)! Or steak frites with an expensive glass of Burgundy. Or beet tagliolini (real pasta) and quail ragu from Barrique in Venice, CA — I normally don’t order that but have bites of my fiancés’.
You’re really into quitting sugar. Why should we consider nixing our habit, and what does this actually entail?
Rather than quitting it, change your relationship with it. Understand why you’re craving it — is it physical, emotional, or habitual? It can often be all three and they each require a different strategy.
When I suggested to one of my clients that she give up her evening ritual of dessert, she hit the panic button. She couldn’t sleep for two weeks — it’s the worst withdrawal I have seen. When I asked her why it was causing such an emotional disturbance (the physical withdrawal is about three days) she was able to trace it back to her childhood. She was a child who couldn’t tolerate dairy, so most sweets were off-limits. With the creation of dairy-free desserts, she was able to indulge in what she felt she’d missed in childhood. She was subconsciously trying to recreate the playfulness of it. We had to decouple this belief before the desire for sugar disappeared.
Giving up sugar is more than just detoxing from it, it’s looking at why it’s being used in your life. I’ve created a course for MindBodyGreen because of the complexity of it! If someone is struggling with sugar, I’d highly encourage them to check it out.
What’s next for you?
Lots! I’m writing my first book which is published by Penguin and will be out in Dec 2017 / Jan 2018. I’m creating new product lines too. It’s all very exciting!