— By Deborah Kesten, VIP Contributor at Thrive Global

For decades, millions of Americans have been struggling with overeating, being overweight or obese, disordered eating behaviors, and/or full-blown eating disorders—problems that have worsened during today’s Covid lockdown lifestyle.

Nutrition researcher Deborah Kesten, M.P.H., and behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D, have combined ancient food wisdom with modern nutritional science to create Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE), an effective, science-backed program that can lead us all back to a deeper, healthier relationship with food and eating, and in turn, weight loss, health, and healing.

The Research: WPIE as a Path to Eating Less, Weighing Less

Kesten and Scherwitz made two groundbreaking discoveries when they did research on their Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) program. They discovered: (1) 7 new-normal overeating styles that lead to overeating and weight gain; (2) and the solution to overeating: 7 perennial WPIE principles that are the antidotes to each of the overeating styles. Here’s what they found:

The more the 5,256 participants in our study followed the “new normal” overeating styles Kesten and Scherwitz identified—the more likely the study participants were to overeat and be overweight or obese. Conversely, those who replaced the seven overeating styles with the Whole Person Integrative Eating guidelines, were the ones who ate less and lost the most weight. 1-3 

In other words, their research revealed that Whole Person Integrative Eating is a scientifically sound new and varied path to eating and weighing less. Since their study on WPIE, people who have been coached to replace their overeating styles with the ingredients of the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle have been successful at losing weight and keeping it off.2 

The 7 Principles of Whole Person Integrative Eating

Here are the 7 evidence-based principles of Whole Person Integrative Eating that lead to eating less and weighing less. Like an interconnected web, you up your odds of overcoming overeating and overweight when you integrate all 7 WPIE “ingredients” into your meals each time you eat. (Note. “The WPIE Guided Meal Meditation” shows you how to do this.)

Fast Foodism Rx

#1. FRESH FOOD. Choose fresh, whole food in its natural state as often as possible.

FreshWholeInverse. These are the three what-to-eat guidelines of Whole Person Integrative Eating that lead to less overeating and weight loss. Fresh, whole, and inverse means your most-of-the-time way of eating includes unprocessed fruits, veggie, whole grains, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds, with small servings of chemical-free and lean animal-based foods: dairy, poultry, fish, and meat. 

This is the “inverse” of the Fast Foodism overeating style, meaning, today’s standard American diet (SAD) is mostly animal-based foods with ketchup, fries, and white flour functioning as the most-often consumed plant-based foods.

Eating mostly plant-based foods is integral to the Whole Person Integrative Eating program, because more and more studies have documented that returning to your “food roots”—going back to a diet of predominantly fresh, whole, plant-based foods—helps to prevent, treat, or even reverse a plethora of food-related chronic conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, depression, and more.

Emotional Eating Rx

#2. POSITIVE FEELINGS. Be aware of feelings before, during, and after eating.

Emotional eating—turning to food to soothe negative emotions or out-of-control food cravings—is the #1 predictor of overeating and weight gain, according to Whole Person Integrative Eating research.1 To get control, try this: First, commit to getting in touch with your feelings before, during, and after eating. Next, make a conscious choice to eat when your emotions are balanced and positive—not negative. Then recognize that one of the best reasons for eating is a healthy appetite, meaning, don’t let yourself get too hungry. The bottom line: Commit to eating for pleasure, with a healthy desire for food, and experience feel-good emotions when you eat and enjoy!

Food Fretting Rx: 

#4. HEARTFELT GRATITUDE. Be grateful for food and its origins—from the heart.

Although dieting, judging food as “good” or “bad,” and thinking a lot about the “best” way to eat may not seem to have much in common, they are all characteristics of the Food Fretting overeating style.1-3 If you see yourself in the food-fretter scenario, you’re at increased odds of overeating and weight gain. To get off the food-fretting treadmill, perceive food and eating as a gift that enables you to not only to survive, but to thrive. In other words, replace food worries with gratitude—from the heart—for one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Task Snacking Rx

#3. MINDFULNESS EATING. Bring moment-to-moment nonjudgmental awareness to every aspect of the meal.

Do you ever eat while watching TV? Or while working at your computer? Or when you’re driving? If you eat while doing other things, you’re doing “task snacking,” a Whole Person Integrative Eating overeating style that is linked with overeating and increased odds of weight gain.The antidote? Mindfulness eating. Give up eating while doing other activities. Instead, stay mindful, keep focused on your food, and do one thing at a time. In other words, eat when you eat!

Sensory Disregard Rx

#5. LOVING REGARD. Take time to taste, savor, and enjoy the mystery of life in food.

Here’s your excuse to buy that favorite gourmet olive oil you’ve sniffed in one of those fancy olive-oil boutiques. Scientists in Germany have linked an aroma—specifically, the scent of olive oil—to eating and weighing less. Somehow, the scent of olive oil lead research participants to feel satiated sooner than those in the canola-oil scented group. And it gets better: those in the olive-oil group lost weight, while the canola-oil folks gained weight. Can “sense-filled” dining really up your odds of eating less? Yes, according to research on Whole Person Integrative Eating.1,2 To find out if aroma is a stay-slim tool that works for you, try your own experiment with scent-sory olive oil and other scintillating scents. 

Unappetizing Atmosphere Rx

#6. PLEASING ENVIRONS. Dine in pleasant emotional and aesthetic atmospheres.

When you eat in emotionally (think eating while surrounded with angry people) and aesthetically (visualize eating in your car in a traffic jam) unpleasant surroundings, Whole Person Integrative Eating research1,2 revealed you’re more likely to overeat. So think about the atmosphere in which you’ll be eating ahead of time. As often as possible, each time you eat, design a pleasing dining experience by creating an emotional and physical atmosphere that’s as pleasant as possible.

Solo Dining Rx

#7. SHARE FARE. Eat with others more often than not.

A famous study that began in the early 1960s in the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, explores the influence of human relationships and social support on the metabolism of high-fat, high-cholesterol, calorie-dense foods. Amazingly, this study suggests that when social support is present in our lives, especially when we eat, what we eat is somehow metabolized differently—so much so that it can keep you from getting sick. WPIE’s more recent research on overeating1,2 revealed that eating alone more often than not—the Solo Dining overeating style—is yet another “new normal” eating style that strongly increases the odds of overeating. When it’s time to eat a meal, invite others to join you, perhaps for an online meal, snack. or coffee break. Share mealtimes with friends, family, or coworkers as often as possible. Or if you have a pet, consider eating at the same time as your furry friend!

The WPIE Takeaway

More than a self-help program, Whole Person Integrative Eating® is an invitation to explore an inspiring new take on eating less and losing weight. Here’s how it works: Identify the reasons you overeat (your overeating styles) and gain weight—with the illuminating self-assessment quiz (“What’s Your Overeating Style?”) — then overcome overeating and lose weight by replacing your overeating styles with the antidotes: the elements of the Whole Person Integrative Eating program. 

Another groundbreaking concept of WPIE is this: It is not a diet that a person goes on … then off. Rather, it is a dietary lifestyle to be practiced for a lifetime. In other words, Whole Person Integrative Eating is designed to replace traditional dieting and the reasons we overeat with a scientifically sound, nourishing, positive way of eating that lessens overeating and that leads naturally to weight loss, health and healing…for life.


  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).


  • 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/