An interview with author Deborah Kesten, M.P.H. about her new book and the science behind this approach to eating better.

Q1What is Whole Person Integrative Eating?

So many people struggle with their weight. My book, Whole Person Integrative Eating, is a science-backed program that gives you the exact skills you need to nourish “all of you”—body, mind, and soul—each time you eat, so you can lose weight and keep it off. Anyone struggling with weight needs this book to halt—even reverse—overeating and being overweight. 

Q2. You describe Whole Person Integrative Eating as a “dietary lifestyle.” What is that?

The Whole Person Integrative Eating program is a dietary lifestyle that is the opposite of traditional dieting; something you go on, then off. Rather, Integrative Eating is a dietary lifestyle because it is based on the original meaning of the word “diet,” which, during the time of Hippocrates—about 2500 years ago—meant “way of life.” Over the centuries, the word diet traveled throughout Europe, until it came to mean a regimented, restricted way of eating. 

Whole Person Integrative Eating is a dietary lifestyle because it is a “way of eating” that is a lifetime practice. As you get better and better at it, you’re likely to eat less and lose weight—as a natural side effect of enjoying and taking pleasure in food and eating.

Q3. Your Whole Person Integrative Eating Program is based on what you call “ancient food wisdom.” What exactly do you mean by this and why is it an integral part of your program?

Nutrition, as we know it, is only about 100 years old. Before nutritional science in the 20th century, for thousands of years, people turned to world religions, cultural traditions, and Eastern healing systems for what and how to eat. In other words, we turned to “ancient food wisdom.” And what we’ve discovered is that when you eat the way human beings ate for thousands of years, you’re less likely to overeat and gain weight.

Q4. How did you discover that Whole Person Integrative Eating can help those who overeat and struggle with weight issues?

More than 5200 people participated in our online research on Whole Person Integrative Eating. At the start of the WPIE program—and then afterward—they filled out our quiz about what they eat (food choices), and how they eat—meaning, eating behaviors. What we discovered is that the way we eat now is very different from what and how we ate for thousands of years. During the online WPIE course, those who replaced the way we eat now with the Whole Person Integrative Eating guidelines were the ones who ate less and lost weight.

Q5. Some of the research in your book involves discoveries about weight loss that may surprise people. Please share some of your findings.

We discovered that the reasons we lose weight are much more complex—and remarkable—than we’ve been led to believe! What we discovered is that if you nourish yourself physically—but also emotionally, spiritually, and socially—weight loss happens as a natural “side effect”—without dieting.

Q6. Your program includes the Four Facets of Food. What are they?

 The Four Facets of food is a paradigm-shifting, re-visioning of nutritional health! The Four Facets tell us that food influences not only your physical health, but also your emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. I call this Biological Nutrition, Psychological Nutrition, Spiritual Nutrition, and Social Nutrition. These are the Four Facets of Food.

The Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE)® program offers documented proof that it is possible to overcome overeating, overweight, and obesity when you nourish yourself with the Four Facets of Food each time you eat. 

Q7. You identify seven root causes of overeating, or what you call today’s “new normal overeating styles.” What are they?

All the overeating styles we discovered will be familiar. Do you see yourself in any of them? Emotional Eating, Food Fretting, Fast Foodism, Sensory Disregard, Task Snacking, Unappetizing Atmosphere, Solo Dining.

Q8. Let’s talk about one of the root causes of overeating and weight gain: Emotional Eating, a term many of us have heard of. You found that it is the strongest predictor of overeating and weight gain. Describe Emotional Eating and tell us the WPIE antidote to overcome it.

 If you turn to food to manage negative feelings—such as anxiety or depression, in other words, for reasons other than a healthy appetite, you may be an emotional eater.

The Whole Person Integrative Eating antidote is to Be aware of your feelings before, during, and after eating. And to eat while filled with positive feelings. The Whole Person Integrative Eating program shows you how to do this. 

Q9. The Food Fretting style of overeating is less familiar. What is it? What is the Whole Person Integrative Eating solution?

If you often diet a lot, judge food as good or bad, or are overly concerned about the “best” way to eat, you are a “food fretter.” Obsessing about food is the unifier for food fretters. Food fretters are more likely to overeat and gain weight.

Q10. Fast Foodism is another root cause of overeating and weight gain. What foods can we choose in place of fast foods to decrease odds of overeating?

 Do you ever have, say, a donut or sweet cereal for breakfast? Or a burger and fries for lunch? Or pizza for dinner? If “yes,” Fast Foodism is your overeating style. And eating mostly fast food that is processed leads to overeating and weight gain.

Q11. You say that Sensory Disregard is the most overlooked overeating style. Explain what you mean.

We were so surprised to learn that Sensory Disregard is an overeating style. But it is! This means you do not take time to truly taste and savor your food. The WPIE antidote? Savor flavors, aromas, and colors of food when you eat. And “flavor” food with appreciation and loving regard.

Q12. Another root cause of overeating is Task Snacking, meaning, so many of us do other things—such as watching TV, working at our computer, or even driving—when we eat. What’s the Integrative Eating solution to the Task Snacking overeating style?

 The Buddhist concept of Mindfulness, which has spread throughout American and European cultures, is the antidote to Task Snacking and doing other things while you eat. The WPIE mindfulness antidote? Eat when you eat! You can do this if you bring moment-to-moment nonjudgmental awareness to every aspect of the meal.

Q13. Eating in what you call an Unappetizing Atmosphere also contributes to overeating. How did you discover this and what are the antidotes for it?

Remember, more than 5200 people took my Whole Person Integrative Eating online e-course. And many filled out our 76-item “What’s Your Overeating Style? Self-Assessment Quiz.” From this we learned that those who ate in both a pleasant emotional atmosphere and in a pleasant aesthetic environment, were less likely to overeat and more likely to lose weight.

Q14. Solo Dining, so common today, is the final root cause of overeating. What if you live by yourself or travel extensively for work? 

Yes, exactly. Eating by yourself has become so typical for so many of us. And, yes, it’s one of the overeating styles. The Whole Person Integrative Eating solution is to eat with others as often as possible. If you live alone, or you travel a lot for work, try enjoying a meal with some friends, coworkers, or family on Zoom. Or if you have a pet, consider eating when they eat.  

Q15. How can we find our overeating styles—and their Whole Person Integrative Eating solutions?

You can find out your own overeating styles by filling out the “What’s Your Overeating Style?quiz in my book, Whole Person Integrative Eating. Not only will the quiz tell you your exact overeating styles and trouble spots. Whole Person Integrative Eating gives you the Integrative Eating solutions and all the skills you need, and practical steps to take, to halt—even reverse—the reasons you overeat and gain weight.

Q16. The last section of Whole Person Integrative Eating includes lots of delicious recipes. What makes them unique to the Whole Person Integrative Eating plan for weight loss? 

The recipes in Whole Person Integrative Eating are based the three ancient-food-guidelines that lead to weight loss, health, and healing: freshwhole, and inverseFresh means foods you find on the outside aisles of the supermarket, such as fruits and veggies; whole means “not processed”—all the original parts of the food are intact; and inverse means the opposite of how most Americans eat. An example: lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds, with small amounts of animal foods (dairy, meat, poultry, fish). 

Q17. How can your book, Whole Person Integrative Eating, help people lose weight and keep it off?

Whole Person Integrative Eating is a science-backed program that is the real thing. It’s not a traditional diet—something you go on, then off. Rather, Whole Person Integrative Eating gives you step-by-step guidelines to transform your relationship to food and eating, so that you nourish body, mind, and soul each time you eat; and in the process, lose weight and keep it off…kind of as a side effect of enjoying your food.

Q18. What is the best way for someone to start the Whole Person Integrative Eating program?

First, take the quiz in Whole Person Integrative Eating to discover your overeating styles and trouble spots that lead to overeating and weight gain. Second, choose the overeating style you want to start with, then read the chapter that gives you the step-by-step Whole Person Integrative Eating solution to overcome the overeating style. Third, read the chapter, “The WPIE Guided Meal Meditation.” It guides you through all the steps of Integrative Eating, so you can apply and practice Whole Person Integrative Eating each time you eat.

Q19. How does Whole Person Integrative Eating differ from other books about weight loss?

First, it’s a scientifically sound program. Second, it’s not a traditional diet based on counting calories and obsessing about what and how much you eat. Third, Whole Person Integrative Eating is about a pleasurable, delightful relationship to food, eating, and weight. It is a lifetime practice; a way of eating you get better and better at each time you eat.

Q20. You describe Whole Person Integrative Eating as a pleasurable, positive, enjoyable relationship to food and eating. Tell us about one of your most memorable Integrative Eating dining experiences.

Without a doubt, it’s the meals my husband and I have put together during this time of sheltering-in-place and social distancing. Our meals have all the ingredients of Whole Person Integrative Eating: fresh, whole foods; a wonderful atmosphere; positive feelings; savouring flavours and eating with mindfulness, gratitude, and loving regard; and of course, enjoying each other’s company.

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