— By Deborah Kesten, VIP Contributor at Thrive Global

Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) is a science-backed, breakthrough program with a simple yet powerful premise: Identify the reasons you overeat (your overeating styles) and gain weight—with the illuminating WPIE self-assessment quiz1—then overcome overeating and lose weight by replacing your overeating styles with the antidotes: the elements of the Whole Person Integrative Eating program. 

What is Whole Person Integrative Eating?

Whole Person Integrative Eating is a scientifically sound program by holistic nutrition researcher Deborah Kesten, M.P.H., and behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D., that shows you how to halt, even reverse, overeating and weight gain by replacing your overeating styles with the elements of the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle.2,3

So what makes this weight loss program different? The key is this: Whole Person Integrative Eating addresses the underlying causesof overeating, being overweight, and obese. And it encompasses all facets and attributes of being human, meaning, your physical health, but also your emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. If you do the work to find the “all-of-you” WPIE-based causes of your overconsumption, you’ll likely reap the weight-loss rewards.

Another proviso: TheWhole Person Integrative Eating program is not a diet, but a lifestyle plan, a way of eating—for life—that combines ancient food wisdom with modern nutritional science. As you might imagine, it’s a diet rich in fresh whole foods – fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds, with smaller servings of chemical-free animal foods.  

Plus, factored into this ‘whole person’ approach are the why, how, and with whom you are dining on a daily basis. Here’s what I mean: Did you know that overeating and weight gain are influenced by the state of your psyche and spiritual and social dimensions? Did you know that there are 7 “new normal” overeating styles—reasons you overeat and gain weight? Plus, Kesten and Scherwitz share some invisible eat less-weigh less ingredients that are missed in other weight loss programs. For instance, have you ever practicedmindfulnessand gratitude while cooking or eating?

“If people follow the revolutionary [Whole Person Integrative Eating] program…it may be the most helpful step they can take toward losing weight and keeping it off,” says bestselling author Kenneth Pelletier, M.D., Ph.D., clinical professor of medicine at University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco.

Ancient Food Wisdom Meets Modern Nutritional Science

For millennia, prior to the birth of nutritional science in the twentieth century, humankind turned to the wisdom traditions—world religions (such as Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, etc.), cultural traditions (Yogic nutrition, Native American food beliefs, and so on), and Eastern healing systems (such as India’s Ayurvedic Medicine and traditional Chinese Medicine)—for guidelines about what and how to eat.

The Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle is a distillation of this ancient food wisdom—with each element verified by modern nutritional science. In other words, the perennial principles of WPIE tell us what religions, cultural traditions, and Eastern healing systems discovered instinctively and intuitively over thousands of years, and what modern researchers are beginning to conjecture: that food empowers us to heal multidimensionally, meaning, physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. 

When Kesten and Scherwitz applied the ancient Whole Person Integrative Eating food wisdom they discovered to more than 5,200 mostly overweight people who participated in their research, those who replaced their “new normal” overeating styles with the ancient elements of Whole Person Integrative Eating, ate less and lost weight as a natural “side effect” of WPIE.2And those who made a lifetime practice of WPIE, continued to eat less lose weight, and keep it off.3

The 7 Ingredients of Whole Person Integrative Eating

Here are the 7 ancient-food-wisdom “ingredients”  of the Whole Person Integrative Eating program that Kesten and Scherwitz unlocked. As you will see, they are an interconnected web of food choices and eating behaviors that, when practiced together, can empower you to replace traditional dieting with a way of eating, their research revealed, that lessens overeating and that leads naturally to weight loss, health and healing.1-3

1. Fresh Food

FreshWholeInverse. These are the three what-to-eat ingredients of WPIE that lead to less overeating and weight loss. Fresh, whole and inverse means your most-of-the-time way of eating includes unprocessed fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds, with small servings of chemical-free, lean animal-based foods: dairy, poultry, fish, and meat. These are the foods that have the nutrients your mind-body needs to be healthier. And WPIE studies—and that of hundreds of others—reveal that making this your most-of-the-time way of eating leads to weight loss, health, and healing.

2. Positive Emotions

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “emotional eating,” turning to comfort food to soothe negative feelings such as depression, anxiety, or anger; but also sometimes to enhance joyous, celebratory feelings in response, let’s say, to a birthday or promotion. To overcome emotional eating, the key WPIE concept to keep in mind is this: all seven ancient-food, WPIE ingredients I am telling you about are designed to work synergisticallyIn other words, to overcome the WPIE overeating style of Emotional Eating, WPIE research reveals that replacing negative feelings with positive emotions and the other WPIE ingredients each time you eat, lessens overeating and leads to weight loss as a natural “side effect.”4

3. Mindfulness Eating

“Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing,” says mindfulness meditation researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn. Research on Whole Person Integrative Eating tells us that when you bring moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness to every aspect of the meal, you eat less and weigh less. The opposite of mindfulness eating is the WPIE overeating style of Task Snacking, meaning, eating while doing other things, such as working at your computer or watching TV. An easy antidote: Do what you’re doing, but when you take a bite of food, pause for a moment, close your eyes, inhale, relax, and focus on the flavors of the food. Afterward, return to your activity.

4. Heartfelt Gratitude

“Gratitude is not dependent on what you have. It depends on your heart,” says Buddhism master Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock. For millennia, humankind said blessings of appreciation—from the heart—over food. To up your odds of eating and weighing less, replace the WPIE overeating style, Food Fretting—dieting, counting calories, over-concern about what you’re eating—with an appreciative, authentic, from-your-heart connection to food and to the extraordinary experience of nourishment and eating.

5. Loving Regard

For thousands of years, Eastern healing systems—such as India’s Ayurvedic Medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)—related to optimal eating based on whether meals included six tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent. Eating with a 6-flavor sensibility means that when you eat, you’re savoring the colors and flavors and scents of the meal before you. WPIE research revealed that when you “flavor” food by nourishing your senses and with loving regard when you eat (Sensory Regard), your meals are better metabolized and you’re more likely to eat and weigh less.

6. Amiable Ambiance

Most of us know that eating in congenial surroundings is, at the very least, enjoyable. Although it’s still an emerging field, the medical community is becoming more and more aware that environment has a profound impact on health and healing. Research on Whole Person Integrative Eating revealed that eating in an Unappetizing Atmosphere—both psychological and/or aesthetically unpleasant surroundings—leads to eating more and weighing more. The WPIE antidote? When you dine, create an amiable ambiance by being aware if your emotions and others’ are positive; and if the external atmosphere is pleasing.

7. Share Fare

If you typically eat by yourself, you’ve got plenty of company. The eat-alone trend has escalated over the last few years—and of course with today’s Covid-based social isolation. More and more research is revealing that the escalating eat-alone trend—and its twin, loneliness—up the odds of overeating and weight gain. Some recipes for social nourishment: Consider creating an online cooking club “family”; make online dining dates; or, while eating, fill your thoughts with memorable meals you’ve had with others. Or consider dining with your pet!

The Eat Less-Weigh Less Power of ‘Whole Person’ Nourishment

“The quality of one’s life depends on the quality of attention,” writes Deepak Chopra in Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. So too are your weight and well-being strongly influenced by the “quality of attention” you bring to food and eating. Not only may “flavoring” each meal—with awareness—the 7 ingredients of the Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE)®dietary lifestyle ward off weight,1,2but it also holds the power to balance emotions, digestion, the absorption of nutrients, blood-sugar levels, and more.

As you practice integrating each WPIE ingredient each time you eat, more and more you’ll become empowered to experience food as the symphonic masterpiece that it is; that plays the notes you need to up your odds of weight loss, health, and healing…and of making “go on a diet” thoughts, plans, and intentions, unnecessary and obsolete.   

To find out more, please visit www.IntegrativeEating.com.


  1. Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz, Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Dietary Lifestyle to Treat the Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity (Amherst, MA: White River Press, 2020).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. “I experienced the power of Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) in my medical practice when I conducted research on WPIE with diabetic patients. When they applied the seven root causes of overeating that Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz have identified, they were transformed. …Overeating and obesity simply resolved as ‘side effects’ of practicing Whole Person Integrative Eating…”. —ERICA OBERG, N.D., M.P.H., Research scientist with more than 30 peer-reviewed publications


  • 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/