Should you eat based on your personality type?

archetype diet
Photo: Stocksy/Nabi Tang

Is your body type determined by your personality? Dana James, a board-certified nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner and cognitive behavioral therapist, believes it is. After 12 years in clinical practice working with over 3,000 female patients, James discovered that there is a powerful link between how women source their self-worth and their behavior around food, which in turn influences their hormones and where they tend to store fat.

archetype diet book cover“I developed the four female archetypes to simplify very complex connections between the mind and physical body,” says James, whose new book, The Archetype Diet, just hit bookstores. In it, she argues that you first have to figure out why you eat (or overeat) before determining what you should put on your plate: “No matter how good the diet makes you feel, unless you’ve looked at how you use food—as a source of comfort, reward, pacifier, numbing tool or to disengage—you’ll simply fall back to old patterns, jumping from one diet to the next, hoping that one will eventually stick. Nothing will until you address the eating psychology,” explains James.

So what are the archetypes?

First, there’s the Wonder Woman, who is all about success, achievement and working hard. “She’s a reward eater—or drinker—and putting down that nightly glass of wine—or chocolate—is a challenge. Cortisol is her dominant hormone and this leads to belly fat,” says James.

Then there’s the Nurturer, who has an innate desire to feel needed and put others before herself. “She’ll eat pizza because everyone else is and then feel ashamed for breaking her diet. Her dominant hormones are insulin and estrogen. She tends to store body fat everywhere but particularly on her upper thighs,” says James.

The Femme Fatale, however, doesn’t have a specific body type. Her self-esteem is based entirely on her looks and she is almost always dieting. “She tends to have a dysfunctional relationship with food. She often restricts food and then binges,” says James.

Last is the Ethereal, a creative, sensitive type who tends to retreat into her own world. “She can feel lonely and like no one understands her. She often forgets to eat so tends to be lean and willowy. Weight is not so much of an issue for. It’s digestive and mood issues,” says James.

Depending on which type you most identify with, James prescribes different approaches to eating. For example, the Nurturer should follow a low-carb diet and load up on the cruciferous veggies while the Femme Fatale is encouraged to eat more fruit and starchy carbs. “It’s nutritional science and behavioral science. They need to be considered together,” says James.

The book is full of recipes for each archetype. Curious as to what they look like? Keep reading for one that’s on the menu for all four personality types.

Halibut with Curried Vegetables and Potato

This recipe works for all of the archetypes and is James's personal favorite. Nurturer types should skip the potato and increase the fish per-person portion to five ounces, while the Ethereal type should double the amount in the recipe.

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Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, potatoes, if using, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes, until the vegetables soften.

  2. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, cauliflower, tomato, turmeric, coriander, and cumin and stir to coat the vegetables with the spices. Add one-fourth cup water if the tomato is not juicy.

  3. Cover the saucepan and simmer for five minutes more, or until the fish is opaque throughout. Stir in the lemon juice, salt to taste, and cilantro, then serve.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted from The Archetype Diet: Reclaim Your Self-Worth and Change the Shape of Your Body by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018, Dana James, MS, CNS, CDN. To learn more about how your personality or behavioral patterns might be impacting your food choices, check out this book that takes an economist's approach to eating and this article about how to know if your clean eating has become too extreme.

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