It’s always a treat when we’re able to interview and share the expertise of others in the holistic living realm with our Radiant Rebels and today is no exception.
Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons is the owner of Alchemist Eating, offering custom plans to help you eat, live and feel better. Through long-distance coaching packages and deep dives, she crafts routines that are healthy, simple and just right for you. Her work is an alchemy of Chinese Medicine, mindful eating and minimalism. A Chinese Medicine doctor and instructor, she also owns sister business Alchemist Academy, offering online courses and community.
What drew you to Chinese Medicine?
Another lifetime ago, as a 20-something living in Washington, DC, I worked as a self-employed Arabic translator. I liked my job well enough, and being able to earn a living from translation felt like quite an accomplishment. Plus, I could make my own schedule and work from home in pajamas.
It was the perfect set-up in so many ways. And yet, something pivotal was missing. Thing is, three other developments were unfolding around the same time:
- I began experiencing health problems, the culmination of a decade’s worth of deficient eating and overexercising.
- I discovered yoga and adopted a daily body-mind-spirit practice.
- I started exploring holistic health and healing, hoping it’d help where allopathic medicine had failed.
My work as a translator, though comfortable enough, felt wholly disconnected from these three shifts, along with everything I most longed for. Sitting there in a very compartmentalized life, I wanted not only to heal my body but also to integrate that path with how I earned a living and how I showed up for others.
Thus began a somewhat scattered search for an easy solution. For something that would be the secret of my own healing…and my new, more integrated life.
I dabbled at the surface of a handful of modalities, exploring how it’d be to become a massage therapist, yoga instructor, or Ayurvedic herbalist. After all, I have an abundance of admiration for people in those roles. Why not follow suit?
Problem is, those roles were not a good fit for me or for what I truly wanted. As a result, I wasn’t taking any of them deeper—to a place where, regardless of modality, the real magic happens. Instead, I remained at the surface, flitting from one thing to the next in the “Spiritual Supermarket of Holistic Healing.”
I learned a lot going about things this way and don’t regret my explorations. But deep learning was missing—so was the “secret” for a more integrated, fulfilling life.
When I finally faced what I had to do to get where I wanted to be, I didn’t like the answer. I thought it’d be a long road that would take lots of time and an abundance of effort. I was right. My 5-year Doctor of Chinese Medicine training was one of the most challenging things I’d ever done.
I chose a particularly tough program—one that still taught Chinese and did things “old school” rather than teaching to North American licensing exams (though I had to pass those too). Going back to school full-time in my early 30s wasn’t such a walk in the park either.
It was not the fast track to a career in holistic health. It was the most transformative, powerful thing I’ve done in my whole life. And it led me deep in my learning, changing me from patient to practitioner.
How did you go from that…to becoming an eating and lifestyle coach?
I began eating paleo-primal in my 30s while studying medicine. Before that, I spent 10 years on a nutrient-poor vegetarian diet—even when it no longer served my body or mind. (These days, at age 44, I eat mostly vegetarian, plant-forward paleo-primal—yes, you can do both!)
Getting honest about my eating patterns was painful. It was also a key piece in my healing and shaped my practice as a doctor.
It took a health crisis in my 20s for me to face how my own eating needed to change. This filled me with compassion for others on a similar path. It also created a strong desire to ease the way, providing the sort of knowledge, skills and support I could have used.
In changing my relationship with food, I changed my health, body and life. I know the alchemy of holistic medicine, mindful eating and minimalism works… and I’m passionate about sharing it.
Can you tell us a bit about your practice (what you do, who you do it for, etc)
I offer three core packages:
- The Foundation: In this 3-to-12-month coaching package, we re-design your diet and daily routines, crafting clear steps that support expression of your fullest, most vital self.
- The Deep Dive:This 2-day intensive jumps into the work of unravelling unhelpful mindsets and patterns. It offers mindfulness-based and practical steps for making your body your ally. It is perfect for exploring overeating, emotional eating, eating addiction and eating disorders.
- Healthy Skin Inside + Out: This skin-focused package is for anyone wanting to nourish their skin inside and out using clean products, real food and herbal supplements.
All of these offerings are available long-distance—I work with clients by phone, email and online check-ins. As a whole, my approach is real, intuitive and simple. I meet clients where they are and help them develop practices that make them feel better.
And….through my sister business Alchemist Academy, I offer online courses and one-on-one mentorship in Chinese Medicine.
This is a brand new passion project, and we just launched Roots + Shoots: An Alchemist Guide to Chinese Herbs. It’s an entirely online, self-guided introductory course in, well, Chinese herbs! I tried to make it a bit quirky and fun—same as I did while teaching face-to-face at Chinese Medicine college.
What is the number one concern that people seeking your help come to you with?
My clients span different ages (20s to 60s at present) and seek me out for a host of reasons.
- Some want to lose weight in a sustained, healthy way without “dieting.”
- Some are working with health conditions conventional medicine hasn’t been able to fix.
- Some “just” want to eat healthier and feel better but don’t know how (all the information out there can be SO overwhelming!).
- Some know what to do but have trouble following through and thrive with external accountability and a caring support system.
- Many want to shift eating patterns that just don’t feel good, whether that’s emotional eating, binge eating, yo-yo dieting, sugar addiction, or an eating disorder.
- Many want to shift lifestyle patterns that are holding them back, whether that’s excess consumption and clutter, too much busyness, or other patterns that contribute to stress and anxiety.
- Many, many, many want to put simple, intuitive, seasonal routines in place that help them feel clearer, lighter, more energized, and more awake in their lives.
If you could give us “homework” or one small task to tackle over the weekend to bring us closer to living healthy lives, what would it be and why?
Before “adding more” or seeking the “next new fix,” take stock of where you are and where you want to be.
Tidy your home space—or even just your skincare products, desk or laptop. Pick one thing, rather than tackle All. The. Things. Get clear on what you have and what is most alive for you. Edit the rest rigorously and radically!
Then, from that place of clarity, draft your Life Design Wish List. There’s great power in tidying up, getting clear, planting the seeds of what you truly long for.
For anyone wanting additional mantras or exercises, you can find my free ebook on Mantras for Minimalist Living here.
What do you want people with acne-prone, eczema-prone, or rosacea-prone skin to know?
Here’s the thing when it comes to healthy, glowing, clear skin: Safer, better skincare is part of the equation…but eating and lifestyle patterns are just as important (and herbal supplements can add an extra boost).
This alchemy of inner + outer care for skin + self brings way better, deeper results than slapping on the latest miracle potion.
So start with real, nutrient-dense food; plenty of sleep; a daily breath and movement practice; and natural, clean skincare.
Stellar foods for skin (and brain!) health include:
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Wild salmon
- Green tea
What advice do you have for healthy conscious busy people?
Healthy living doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s what our whole body-mind-soul longs for. Start simple—one small, doable, sustainable step at a time. Ask yourself:
- Is this helpful or not helpful?
- Where can I make this easier?
- What can I edit out?
- Where can I request support?
Where can people connect with you?
Find my website, blog and free ebooks at Alchemist Eating. And for Chinese Medicine courses and community, head to Alchemist Academy. Hope to connect with you in these spaces! Thank you for the introduction, Jamie!
We want to send a big thank you to Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons for taking the time to share her expertise with our Radiant Rebels. Be sure to check out her other resources and the interview I did for her blog HERE.
Until next time,
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