— By Deborah Kesten, VIP Contributor at Thrive Global

Have you ever chosen a particular food after calculating its calorie or carb content —perhaps with the intention of losing or maintaining weight? Or made a special smoothie because of its health-enhancing nutrients, such as antioxidants? If so, you’re familiar with Biological Nutrition, one of the four foundations of the paradigm-shifting, well-researched message of the Whole Person Integrative Eating® (WPIE) program.

Based on groundbreaking, scientific studies that behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, PhD, and I, did with 5,256 participants, WPIE offers documented proof it is possible to overcome overeating and overweight by nourishing yourself physically (Biological Nutrition); but also emotionally (Psychological Nutrition); spiritually (Spiritual Nutrition); and socially (Social Nutrition) each time you eat (ergo, ‘whole person’ integrative eating).1-3

Biological Nutrition: Do You Eat Fresh? Or SAD?

What is Biological Nutrition? This “physical-health” facet of Whole Person Integrative Eating® explores the power of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc.) in fresh, whole food—the kind of food our ancestors ate for millennia (fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and small (or no) amounts of chemical-free animal foods: fish, poultry, meat) that has the power to heal versus today’s new-normal WPIE overeating style of Fast Foodism (one of seven WPIE overeating styles Larry and I identified; Food Fretting, Task Snacking, Emotional Eating, Fast Foodism, Unappetizing Atmosphere, and Sensory Disregard are the other six), meaning, the standard American diet (SAD), comprised mostly of processed, denatured, additive-laden food products, which up the odds of overeating,weight gain, and a multitude of other food-related mind-body ailments—from heart disease and diabetes to high blood pressure, depression, and more. 

A closer look at the WPIE Fast Foodism overeating style can give us clues about how a diet of mostly fast and processed foods increases your likelihood of overeating and being overweight—and how its remedy—the Whole Person Integrative Eating inverse eating antidote to Fast Foodism can lead to weight loss and wellness.

Fast Foodism and Your Health

Some say it’s “snack crack.” Others call it an “industrial artifact.” Corporations may describe it a “commodity.” My catchphrase is “foodish food” to describe the denatured, highly processed, chemical-laden daily fast-food diet of millions of Americans.

A sampling: Perhaps a donut, breakfast bar, or sugary cereal for breakfast; Chicken McNuggets or a McDonald’s double-cheese burger with a Coke for lunch; and a pepperoni-and-sausage pizza for dinner. Add several soft drinks sipped throughout the day and some snacks of chips, cookies, or candy bars, and you have a profile of Fast Foodism,1-3 one of the seven overeating styles—Food Fretting, Task Snacking, Emotional Eating, Fast Foodism, Unappetizing Atmosphere, and Sensory Disregard are the other six—Larry and I identified that’s typical for millions of Americans.1 

Indeed, the statistics are daunting: 44 percent of Americans eat fast food once per week, 20 percent twice per week, and 14 percent consume it three or more times weekly.7,8 If the Fast Foodism overeating style is your most-of-the-time way of eating, our WPIE research—and that of many others—reveals you powerfully up the odds of overeating and being overweight or obese.

And there’s this: If you’re a “fast fooder,” you’re also much more susceptible to a plethora of other life-threatening, diet-related conditions—from heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure to ongoing inflammation, certain cancers, depression, and more. In other words, if consuming lots of processed, high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, fried, and chemical-laden food products—with little or no fruit, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds—is your “dietary lifestyle,” your Fast Foodism way of eating is threatening more, much more, than your waistline.4-7  

Meet Inverse Eating

What can you do to stop the slide into obesity and its family of diet-related conditions?

Here, the #1 simple step you can take: EAT INVERSELY!1-3,10-17

Let me explain.

Whether you’re looking at diets of the Mediterranean, Asia, South America, Africa, India, or Native American cultures, they all have one way of eating in common: meals are mostly plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, grains, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds), with lesser amounts of animal-based foods (dairy, meat, poultry, and fish). In other words, the diets of most cultures worldwide is—and has been for thousands of years—mostly plant-based foods as the centerpiece of the meal, and animal-based foods as a condiment.

Clearly, this is the inverse of the standard American diet (SAD), which leads with processed and animal-based foods as the centerpiece of the meal—with few or no veggies and fresh, whole, foods. For instance, the 7 percent of “vegetables” most Americans manage to eat are mostly ketchup (includes tomatoes) and fries (mostly potatoes).4-6

With SAD as a starting point, I use the term inverse eating to describe the dietary eating style of humankind that evolved naturally over thousands of years; a way of eating that is the inverse of SAD: mostly fresh, whole, plant-based foods supplemented with small (or no) servings of fresh, grass-fed, free-range meat, poultry, wild fish, and dairy.

Inverse eating matters a lot to your health, because a plethora of studies link this time- and science-tested way of eating to weight loss—without dieting, increased longevity, health, and healing.10-17

Worldwide InverseEating Wisdom

Want proof that inverse eating rules? Here’s a sampling of worldwide, inverse-eating wisdom in action:

  • The typical Mediterranean diet—from Greece, let’s say—emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, with low to moderate intake of dairy foods, poultry, and fish. Small portions of red meat are eaten only occasionally, and the fat in this diet comes mostly from fresh-pressed olive oil, feta cheese, and yogurt.
  • The core of the Mexican diet is rice, beans, and corn, supplemented with meat, poultry, fish, or fresh cheese.
  • A typical meal in the Middle East is couscous, made with bulgur (cracked wheat) and bits and pieces of lamb.
  • Staples of the Japanese diet are rice and tofu (made from soybeans), which is often supplemented with fresh fish.
  • People throughout India eat whole-wheat chapatti bread with lentils or legumes, greens, and other vegetables. Because the majority of Indians are Hindu and believe in ahimsa—causing no harm to animals—most are lacto-vegetarians who supplement their plant-based diet with dairy foods, especially yogurt and milk.9

The take-away: The inverse way of eating is humankind’s original diet; the way we were—and are—meant to eat for health and healing. Whether your ancestry is Mediterranean, South American, Middle Eastern, Asian, or Indian, variations of inverse eating are your “food roots.”

Which begs this question: How does returning to your “food roots”; to the inverse eating dietary lifestyle, weigh in with weight loss and well-being? A gem-of-a-pilot study, done not-too-long ago with Native Americans in New Mexico, provides a peek into preliminary proof that a return to one’s food roots, which of course includes eating inversely, does, indeed, lead to weight loss, health, and healing.

A “Food Root” Study: Inverse Eating in Action

“The Pueblo Food Experience” is the name of a research and education project that asked this question: What would be the health effects on Native peoples in the U.S. who replaced an over-processed, packaged, high-fat, high-sugar, lots-of-soda, chemical-laden, Fast Foodism diet, with a return to their original, Native American diet? If they ate only fresh whole food from their native area? Food from their food origins that, of course, was organic and GMO-free? A sprinkling of Native Americans of Pueblo descent agreed to find out.

At the start of the 3-month study, volunteers from 6-65 years old, were given blood tests and weighed. A few participants were fairly healthy, but most were overweight or obese, with chronic conditions ranging from diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, to liver imbalances, allergies, and more.

Here are some examples of the native foods enjoyed by those who followed the Native Pueblo inverse diet:

Fruit: Wild plums, currants, strawberries. raspberries, blueberries, juniper berries, prickly pear cactus fruits, chokecherry, serviceberry

Vegetables: wild onions, wild parsley, wild spinach, watercress, mushrooms, wild asparagus, purslane, corn, squash, tomatillas, asparagus, root vegetables, red pepper

Whole Grains: Indian rice grass, amaranth, quinoa, blue corn masa

Legumes: beans, black-eyed peas

Herbs/spices: mint, rosehips, chili pods, garlic, Native salt, sumac

Nuts: pinion nuts, seeds, sunflowers

Fish: salmon

Poultry: duck, geese, turkey, small birds, eggs

Meat: buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, mountain sheep

Game: rabbits, squirrels

Maria Gabrielle, ND, the doctor who did the pre- and post-tests for the Native Americans who undertook the challenge of changing their diets by returning to their food roots, reports these results:

  • An average weight loss of 35-40 pounds; one person lost 50 pounds;
  • Lower cholesterol, triglyceride, blood sugar, and LDL levels;
  • Feeling healthier and having more energy.

Says Roxanne Swentzell, Organizer/Participant of The Pueblo Food Experience: “This isn’t just another diet. It’s more about health within a cultural context with weight being only one piece of it…it’s about our connection to who we were…and choosing to continue our ancestral line.”10-13

Celebrate your food heritage. One dish at a time.

To promoting your own health and healing, consider researching, and then returning to, your own chemical-free, whole-food based, personal ancestral diet; your own original foodways. In other words, discover, and experiment with, the diet of your ancestors, which likely emphasized a wide variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and seeds, and chemical-free meat, fowl, and fish.

Inverse Eating: Food for Physical Health

Here is the Whole Person Integrative Eating® (WPIE) antidote to the Fast Foodism overeating style:

Choose fresh, whole food in its natural state as often as possible.1-3

Clearly, for most cultures outside of North America, inverse eating is the norm—and has been for thousands of years. The Biological Nutrition facet of Whole Person Integrative Eating tells us that returning to the foods that nourished humankind for millennia—and making these foods your most-of-the-time way of eating—gives your body a chance to find its way back to balance and in turn, to its natural weight, health, healing.1-3,14-16

Think of inverse eating as a lifetime practice, a way of eating you get better and better at over time. Integrating it into your life calls for blending your own ingredients for success: an understanding of fresh, whole foods; abundant curiosity about your personal ‘food roots’; and a willingness to merge your health goals with ancient food wisdom and the latest science. In this way, you are empowered to access food’s invisible power to sustain, rejuvenate, and heal—and in the process, find true nourishment.


  1. Larry Scherwitz and Deborah Kesten, “Seven Eating Styles Linked to Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity,” Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing 1, no. 5 (2005): 342–59.
  2. Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz, “Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Program for Treating Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity,” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14, no. 5 (October/November 2015): 42–50. 
  3. Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz, Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle to Treat the Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity (Amherst, MA: White River Press, 2020). 
  4. Source: USDA Economic Research Service, 2009; www.ers.usda.gov/publications/EIB33;www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodConsumption/FoodGuideIndex.htm#calories New York Coalition for Healthy School Food* www.healthyschoolfood.org
  5. CDC, “FastStats: Obesity and Overweight,” Source:Health, United States, 2013, table 64; http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm; Accessed July 28, 2014.
  6. Ashwani Garg, “Why Diets Fail—The Real “Magic Weight Loss”; LinkedIn, June 26, 2014; Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140626154632-41525622-why-diets-fail-the-real-magic-weight-loss [Accessed August 4, 2014]
  7. Bridget Murray, “Fast-Food Culture Serves Up Super-Size Americans,” Monitor on Psychol- ogy 32, no. 11 (2001): www.apa.org/monitor/dec01/fastfood.html.
  8. All seven overeating styles are statistically correlated with overeating frequency (p<0.001), and five of the seven are correlated with weight (p <0.02). The Fast Foodism overeating style ranked third for its link to overeating. The Emotional Eating and Food Fretting overeating styles ranked numbers 1 and 2 respectively, for overeating. The strongest over- eating-style predictors for obesity were Emotional Eating, Fast Foodism, and Sensory Disregard (all significant to p <0.02).
  9. Kesten D. The Healing Secrets Of Food. Novato, CA: New World Library; 2001
  10. Roxanne Swentzell and Patricia M. Perea, eds., The Pueblo Food Experience Cookbook: Whole Food of Our Ancestors (New Mexico: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2016). 
  11. Inez Russell Gomez, “Artist Reclaims Native Culture with Ancestral Foods,” The New Mexican, accessed August 30, 2018, http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news /community/artist-reclaims-native-culture-with-ancestral-foods/article_21a8e264 -1c29-5e25-b0f4-e384a643a2af.html.
  12. DeonBen,“Food as Medicine: The Healing Power of Native Foods,”GrandCanyonTrust, December 9, 2016, https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/blog/food-medicine-healing -power-native-foods.
  13. D. McLaughlin, “The Pueblo Food Experience,” Vimeo.com, December 29, 2013.
  14. Dan Buettner, “Blue Zones Diet: Food Secrets of the World’s Longest-Lived People,” BlueZones.com, https://www.bluezones.com/2020/07/blue-zones-diet-food-secrets-of-the-worlds-longest-lived-people/ (accessed May 2, 2022).
  15. Tucker KL, Hallfrisch J, Qiao N, et al. The combination of high fruit and vegetable and low saturated fat intakes is more protective against mortality in aging men than is either alone: The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Nutr. 2005; 135(3):556-61.
  16. Hu FB, Willett WC. Optimal diets for prevention of coronary heart disease. JAMA 2002 Nov 27;288 (20): 2569-2578.
  17. Steinmetz KA, Potter JD. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review. J Am Diet Assoc 1996 Oct;96(10):1027-1039.


  • Deborah Kesten


    Whole Person Integrative Eating

    Deborah Kesten is an international nutrition researcher and award-winning author, specializing in preventing and reversing obesity and heart disease. Her research career began as Nutritionist on Dean Ornish, M.D.’s first clinical trial for reversing heart disease, and as Director of Nutrition on similar "reversal" research at cardiovascular clinics in Europe. Deborah is Founder of Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE), her evidence-based model and program for treating the root causes of overeating, overweight, and obesity. Her research on WPIE has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals, and her WPIE training-and-certification course for certified health professionals may be accessed at  www.IntegrativeEating.com/training/ and at www.WPIE.org. Deborah's latest award-winning book is Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle for Treating Overeating, Overweight, and ObesityTo learn more, please visit https://integrativeeating.com/iesection/