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Holistic Medicine Meets Primal Principles

Hey, folks! It’s Friday once again, and that usually means it’s time for one of your amazing success stories [1]. But something remarkable has been going on here at Mark’s Daily Apple that gave me an idea. Over the last year, there’s been a core group of people that our worker bees at MDA have gotten to know exceptionally well—a group of people that have gone above and beyond in their involvement in all things primal. I’m talking about the students in our Primal Blueprint Expert Certification [2] program. Many of them have taken the knowledge from the program and inserted it directly into their personal and professional lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined. So I thought it’d be a great tradition to occasionally highlight some of their accomplishments—to share some of the ways they’re helping bring primal principles mainstream through their acts of passion.

So today, to kick off this segment, I thought we’d start with one of our Cert graduates, Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons, a holistic medicine practitioner who uses Chinese medicine and primal lifestyle principles to help patients thrive in a whole-body, East meets West modality. She’s a wealth of knowledge, so I thought we’d pick her brain a bit.

To start, tell us a little about yourself and how you came across the primal lifestyle.

I began following a primal lifestyle in my early 30s, while studying medicine. Before that, I spent 10 years as a vegetarian with a chronic-cardio habit—continuing on that path even when it was hurting my health. Adopting a primal lifestyle was pivotal to my own healing and in shaping my practice as a doctor.

These days, I run a holistic clinic with my husband. Our Alchemist Eating [3] program helps people who experience food and eating as a place of struggle or pain. I work with clients both at our clinic and through long-distance sessions.

How did you come to study holistic nutrition?

I studied holistic nutrition as part of my medical training. In Chinese Medicine, we have an area of study called “Nourishing Life Principles.” This encompasses more than just food, but nutrition is a central component.

Within our medicine, individualized eating guidance—together with herbal medicine and acupuncture—helps patients to heal and stay healthy. Diet and lifestyle aren’t just “add-ons.” They’re an essential part of our modality—and an essential part of keeping people well!

What are some of the major tenets of your holistic nutrition practice?

I start with 5 core principles—everything else emerges from here:

  1. The body and mind make up an interconnected system. When there is balance in that system, wellness results.
  2. Finding balance is a process. Our eating patterns are a core component of this process and manifesting a healthier version of ourselves.
  3. There is no one best diet for all people. The optimal eating pattern is individual, responsive and relational.
  4. The primal eating guidelines offers a powerful starting point for finding one’s optimal eating pattern. Placing primal principles within the context of Chinese Medicine food therapy provides a guide for crafting an individual eating plan and continuously adjusting that plan to align with shifting needs.
  5. Eating is more than just eating, and food is more than just food. They are wrapped up in our history, our identity, our social context and our beliefs. Changing eating patterns requires self-experimentation and mindful, focused exploration. It is a learning process that extends beyond what’s on our plate.

Given your previous education in holistic nutrition, what motivated you to take the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification course?

Together, primal principles and Chinese Medicine are a powerful combination. Each brings different perspectives and tools to the practice of “eating and lifestyle therapy.” But they share core places of alignment—this is part of why combining them makes sense and works.

The course was a wonderful bridge between my personal success with primal eating and my professional practice of medicine. It offered a wealth of information collected by a trusted source in an expertly presented way. The material is extremely accessible—explaining complex topics using clear, simple wording that I can use with patients. Also, it was fun!

What are some examples of overlap between holistic nutrition and primal principles?

Both are holistic in considering the whole body-mind system, rather than compartmentalizing symptoms or parts. They also see real-food eating patterns as a powerful way of supporting health and preventing disease.

And yet, both also recognize that eating is just part of the picture. Primal and holistic lifestyle principles encompass far more than a set of “food rules.” Eating well is a big deal—but so is adopting other habits and patterns that help us thrive.

Do you think there’s a strong demand for services like yours?

Absolutely! So many people experience food and eating as a place of struggle. And so many are suffering from health conditions that could be alleviated or eliminated by eating differently.

Oftentimes, people long to change their relationship with food (and movement) but don’t know how—or they know how but going it alone is just really tough. They are overwhelmed and looking for trained guidance and support.

What opportunities has the Cert given you as a health advocate that you didn’t previously have?

It has created closer connections with the primal community and real-food movement. It also expands my access to and credibility with people who embrace primal principles but who may not have considered holistic medicine as an option.

What’s something invaluable you do in your practice that you think more people should know about?

Alchemist Eating [4] combines individualized, primal eating guidance with prescription of herbal medicines and Western supplements. This combination makes for outstanding outcomes.

Equally important, we work with clients as partners—helping them get where they want to be with health, weight and wellness. Going it alone when you’re struggling with food and eating can be really hard. As part of a healing partnership, we’re in this together and move from a place of mindfulness, compassion, abundance and fun.

What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?

By far the best part is watching people get where they want to be…in a way that is less about “diet” and more about integration and lifestyle. They start to feel and look better…and this becomes something enjoyable and sustainable—and something they then share with family and friends.

What advice would you give others who don’t yet have formal educational training, but want to become health advocates? 

Living with authenticity and integrity is number one—be really honest about where you are, and model the sort of lifestyle you wish to share with others. Second, embrace lifelong learning—both through self-experimentation and by seeking outside knowledge. The Cert course [2] is an excellent place to start!

Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons