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  • Curtis Hinton

Deborah Kesten

2021 is finally here! It's fair to say 2020 wasn't the year we all thought it would be and without a doubt it has affected each and every one of us in some way. Our January cover features Deborah Kesten, whose latest award-winning book, Whole Person Integrative Eating, tackles an issue some may have experienced during the last 12 months: eating and our relationship with food. We sat down with Deborah to talk about her new book, the inspiration behind it and how our eating habits now and over the decades - have changed.

Deborah Kesten, author of the award-winning book, WHOLE PERSON INTEGRATIVE EATING: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle to Treat the Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity

What was the motivation behind you writing Whole Person Integrative Eating?

My motivation to write Whole Person Integrative Eating is based on the deep compassion I feel for the millions who struggle with their weight. Most of us know that many grapple with weight issues by trying different diets throughout their lifetime. Yet millions continue to gain weight, and the obesity pandemic continues to soar. As a holistic nutrition researcher, I was acutely aware that so many grapple with food-related conditions—from overeating and overweight to heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more. At the same time, I had experienced the power of food to heal, firsthand, when I lived with and taught heart patients who were research participants in the Ornish heart disease reversal program — so I knew that food and other lifestyle changes (such as stress management, social support, physical activity, etc.) have the power to halt and reverse a plethora of chronic conditions. With this in mind, I wanted to create a scientifically sound, dependable, new recipe for weight loss success; a way of eating that transforms peoples’ relationship to food, eating, and weight so they can lose weight and keep it off—with a pleasurable, positive relationship to food, eating, and weight. For life. Not by dieting. My Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) program does this…and more.

What was your process when you started to write this book? Was it months of

research that led you to write the book or did the decision to write the book come first?

Years of research led to the discovery of Whole Person Integrative Eating and in turn, the book. Here, the research odyssey behind the Whole Person Integrative Eating program. “Ancient food wisdom meets modern nutritional science” is how I describe the Whole Person Integrative Eating program. This is because its foundation is based on a distillation of ancient food wisdom that provided optimal eating guidelines to humankind for millennia—prior to the evolution of nutritional science in the 20ᵗʰcentury. The perennial food wisdom I unearthed emerged when I studied major world religions (such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.); cultural traditions (yogic nutrition, Native American food beliefs, and so on); plus Eastern, holistic medical systems (Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and Tibetan Medicine).

When behavioral scientist and co-author Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D.—who is my husband—and I stepped back to make sense of the enormous amount of ancient food wisdom we had amassed, we realized it encompasses perennial principles and guidelines that make up 4 facets of food:

(1) BIOLOGICAL NUTRITION (what to eat for physical health)

2) PSYCHOLOGICAL NUTRITION (how food affects feelings)

3) SPIRITUAL NUTRITION (the life-giving meaning in meals)

4) SOCIAL NUTRITION (dining with others) nourishment.

The four facets of food tell us what religions, cultural traditions, and Eastern healing systems discovered instinctively and intuitively and what modern researchers are beginning to conjecture: that food empowers us to heal multidimensionally. I use the term “whole person integrative eating” to describe the “four facet” way of eating, because the facets make connections between food and body, food and mind, food and soul, and food and social well-


Whole Person Integrative Eating and weight

To find out if there is a link between perennial food wisdom and weight, I partnered with Spirituality & Health magazine. In its cover story on what I than called “The Enlightened Diet,” readers were invited to take my six-week, eighteen lesson e-course on the magazine’s website. Participants first completed our 76-item WPIE survey and entered their height and weight.

Of the 5,256 participants, throughout the e-course, those who increasingly ate according to the perennial, ancient-food guidelines we had identified—which evolved into the elements of our Whole Person Integrative Eating program—were the ones who lost the most weight. Meet the 7 overeating styles While the implications were enormous in relation to the question of how to lose weight, with another look at the food choices and eating behaviors our 76-item questionnaire revealed, we identified seven statistically significant styles of eating that predict overeating and weight gain. We call them the new normal overeating styles.

What’s especially powerful about our discovery of the overeating styles is this:

All seven new normal overeating styles Larry and I identified go in the completely opposite direction of the perennial principles of Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) that served as optimal eating guidelines in the past. The more participants followed the ancient WPIE guidelines, the less overeating and more normal their weight. The more they followed today’s new normal ways of eating—the seven newly identified overeating styles we discovered—the more likely they were to overeat and be overweight or obese.

As a society, we have systematically moved away from the time-tested, integrative modes of eating and living that kept us slimmer and healthier for centuries. The way we ate and lived for thousands of years worked. The “new normal,” the way we’ve been eating and living for the past few decades, doesn’t. Today, our Whole Person Integrative Eating ® program is the first integrative, “whole person,” scientifically sound dietary lifestyle with the well-researched message that it is possible to overcome overeating, overweight, and obesity by replacing your overeating styles with “whole person” nourishment.

Who would you say you had in mind when writing this book? 

Ultimately, my main motivation for writing Whole Person Integrative Eating was to help the millions who are struggling with weight and eating issues. Here’s what I mean: In the U.K., 67% of men and 60% of women are overweight or obese. At the same time, two thirds of Brits are “on a diet” most of the time. As a matter of fact, the average British adult will try 126 fad diets over the course of their lifetime. Yet millions continue to struggle with weight, and the obesity pandemic continues to soar. And then there’s the conjoined “twin” to overeating and overweight: disordered eating. A sampling: stress eating; dieting and over-concern about the “best” way to eat; eating alone and often “in secret.” And on and on…

Here’s how Whole Person Integrative Eating addresses the “dieting dilemma” and differs from other weight loss “offerings”: The seven new-normal overeating styles I tell you about in Whole Person Integrative Eating define, describe, and reveal today’s new normal, disordered, food choices and eating behaviors. And the “What’s Your Overeating Style? Self-Assessment quiz empowers readers to identify their personal overeating trouble spots. Once you know your own reasons for overeating and weight gain, Whole Person Integrative Eating gives you the scientifically sound antidotes to your overeating styles, and a comprehensive, personal system that addresses these underlying and multidimensional causes of overeating, overweight, and obesity.

At the same time, because our Whole Person Integrative Eating program is scientifically sound, it is my hope it will serve as a reference for research scientists, nutritionists, physicians, psychologists, and all health practitioners as a resource to help patients, clients, and coachees. To accomplish this, I teamed up with the American Academy of Sports Dietitians and Nutritionists (AASDN) to offer the “Foundations of Whole Person Integrative Eating” Certification Course for licensed health professionals. In other words, the readers I had—and have—in mind for Whole Person Integrative Eating are people coping with weight and those who treat them. Given this, readers may find it of interest to know that physician David Reed Miloy, M.D., M.S., prescribes Whole Person Integrative Eating to his overweight patients. His experience—and that of his patients—has been very encouraging: “Whole Person Integrative Eating delivers a profoundly powerful, evidence-based program for sustainable freedom from the ravages of overweight and obesity,” said Dr. Miloy.

What would you say are the top 3 points you make in this book?

To make the most of Whole Person Integrative Eating, here are 3 points to keep in mind:

1. Whole Person Integrative Eating gives you the science-backed insights and in-action steps you need to halt—even reverse—overeating, overweight, and obesity by replacing our newly identified, new normal overeating styles with their antidotes: the ancient/new elements of our scientifically sound Whole Person Integrative Eating model and program.

2. Whole Person Integrative Eating reveals it is possible to overcome overeating and being overweight by nourishing yourself multi-dimensionally each time you eat. Combining ancient food wisdom with groundbreaking modern science, Whole Person Integrative Eating empowers you to discover the reasons you overeat and gain weight — while offering the Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) antidotes: physical, emotional, spiritual and social nourishment.

3. Through a powerful self-assessment quiz—What’s Your Overeating Style?—you’ll

identify your overeating styles, then build a personalized plan to create a new, healthy way of eating. Plus, you’ll discover 30 delicious recipes based on the Whole Person Integrative Eating program to jumpstart your optimal-eating efforts.

Whole Person Integrative Eating is not a diet you will go on…and then off. It is a scientifically sound dietary lifestyle designed to be practiced for a lifetime. The program is designed to inspire you to transform your relationship to food, eating, and weight by empowering you to discover true nourishment—physical, emotional, spiritual, and social—each time you eat…for life.

What would you say is the biggest relationship issue people have with eating?

For insights into the biggest relationship issues people have with eating today, meet the “family” of seven overeating styles Larry and I discovered. These new normal overeating styles—which are a complex of food choices, emotions, and eating behaviors that we bring to each meal—reveal the root causes of the trilogy: overeating, overweight, and obesity. What’s especially relevant is this: While all seven overeating styles are statistically significant, meaning, they are all dependable predictors that a person will overeat, the Emotional Eating

overeating style is undoubtedly number one. In other words, negative emotions—such as depression, anxiety, and anger—are the strongest indicators you will turn to food to self-soothe and in turn overeat. Here are the seven overeating styles:


Turning to food to soothe and manage negative feelings, such as anxiety and depression.


Dieting. Judging food as “good” or “bad.” Over-concern about the “best” way to eat.


A diet of mostly fast, processed, fried, high-calorie food.


Not savoring scent, flavor, colors, etc., or “flavoring” food with loving regard.


Eating while doing other activities: working, driving, watching TV, etc.


Eating in unpleasant psychological, and aesthetic surroundings.


Dining alone more often than not.

The takeaway: Replacing the new-normal food choices (Fast Foodism) and eating behaviors (Emotional Eating, Food Fretting, Sensory Disregard, Task Snacking, Unappetizing Atmosphere, Solo Dining), above, that lead to overeating, overweight, and obesity, with the elements of Whole Person Integrative Eating, creates a nourishing, enjoyable experience for “all of you” each time you eat, which in turn, lessens overeating and weight gain.

How would you say our eating habits have changed over the last decade and what would you say are some of the biggest influencers of this?

This is a great question, because our eating habits have changed a lot over the last few decades. The transition from more healthful eating to today’s overeating styles began decades ago—especially in the 1970s—when more and more women entered the work force. This in turn led to fewer homemade meals and more pre-packaged, processed, cheap convenience foods (the Fast Foodism overeating style) as the basis for family meals and snacks. Add the other overeating styles—eating alone (Solo Dining) more often to the mix, plus Task Snacking (eating while doing other things), Food Fretting (dieting and over-concern about the “best” way to eat), Emotional Eating (eating to self-soothe negative feelings), Sensory Disregard (not taking time to savor and taste food), and Unappetizing Atmosphere (eating in unpleasant emotional and aesthetic environs), and you have the Whole Person Integrative Eating formula for today’s overweight and obesity pandemic, which started to surge in the 1980s.

What age group would you say has the worst relationship with food? 

Although people in their teens, 20s, and 30s tend to eat food less healthfully than older adults, our research on the overeating styles—supported by others’ studies—has revealed that all ages and groups—from children and t’weens to teens and adults—have learned to have the “worst relationship with food”; a not-so-good way of eating that leads to being overweight and obese, but also to other mind-body, diet-related conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more. Educated, uneducated. Poor or affluent. Male or female. Today’s new normal overeating styles are consistent across all these groups. In other words, both what (food choices) and how (eating behaviors) most of us eat today are making us more susceptible to a plethora of diet-related ailments.

These overeating styles scratch the surface about the new normal food choices we make and eating behaviors most of us have that define a not-so-optimal way of eating. I say this because all the overeating styles lead to overeating and increased odds of weight gain. The key takeaway: The overeating styles may seem subtle on the surface, but they’re all-encompassing in that not only does each one influence overeating and in turn weight, they differ drastically from what and how humankind ate for millennia.

What is the general type of feedback you get from those that have read this book?

The first supportive feedback we got for Whole Person Integrative Eating was from 14 colleagues who are leaders in their fields who read advance copies and then contributed comments, in the “Advance Praise for Whole Person Integrative Eating.” Period. Their praise was validated when Whole Person Integrative Eating was awarded the #1 best book award from Book Excellence Awards in the Health category. Since then—from readers who have successfully lost weight with Whole Person Integrative Eating, to academics, and health professionals who are now Certified WPIE Specialists—the feedback has been rewarding.

Here’s a sampling of comments from a reader, researcher, and Certified WPIE Specialist who has completed my “Foundations of Whole Person Integrative Eating” certification course for health professionals:

“Deborah Kesten’s book, Whole Person Integrative Eating, which, ultimately, is about how to confront eating disorders and being overweight—was fundamental in my recovery from depression, which I had lived with since I was a teenager. When you are ready to change your life for the better, give yourself the gift of this book. You won’t regret it.”

— L.V. Valásquez, Author and Reader.

"Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz…report revolutionary research proving for the first time that replacing today's overeating styles with their evidence-based Whole Person Integrative Eating program is a safe, scientifically sound step toward overcoming overeating and a lifetime struggle with weight. If people follow the revolutionary program outlined in this game-changing, insightful book, it may be the most helpful step they can take toward losing weight and keeping it off.

— Kenneth R. Pelletier, Ph.D., M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

“Being introduced to the WPIE course was a game-changer for me. It’s not just about the food; it’s about how our client’s live and their strengths and weaknesses that revolve around their overall nutrition. I plan to use [Whole Person Integrative Eating]…during my nutrition lectures,

my individual sessions, and with my own family. It’s well researched, well organized, and much- needed in a world that primarily focuses on the ‘what are you eating’ versus the ‘who, when, where, and why?”

— Abby Elias, M.S., Certified WPIE Specialist Assistant Director of Wellness-Fitness at Florida Southern College.

What would you say to any budding writers out there?

William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens. Charlotte Brontë. J.K. Rowling. Many people reading this article are from England, home to some of the greatest writers in the world. How to continue the craft of great writing? Here are my suggestions for your consideration:

1. Begin with the basics. Learn the tried and true techniques of good writing.

2. Study the best writers in your genre. Whether fiction or nonfiction, become familiar with their structure and pacing and “feel” and what it is about their writing you like so much.

3.Now, decide if you want to turn the writing techniques you know into an art form. Or not. If “yes,” marry your technical skills with imagination, conceptual ideas and/or emotional power.

4.Write from your heart.

5. Always remember you’re writing for your readers.

The bottom line: Keep writing. Keep caring about writing. Keep focused on sharing your truth with the world through your words.

Is there anything you can tell us about any upcoming books you plan on releasing? 

I am working on a workbook to help people integrate WPIE into their lives. Each element of the WPIE workbook will give you hands on, practical, experiential insights and in-action steps you need to turn overeating into optimal eating, weight loss, and well-being by practicing all elements of WPIE. In the meantime, while my workbook is in process, here are 3 steps you can take—NOW—to reap the weight loss and optimal-eating rewards of Whole Person Integrative Eating ® .


Discover your overeating styles by taking the “What’s Your Overeating Style? Self-

Assessment Quiz” in Whole Person Integrative Eating. It will tell you your trouble spots, and give you instant insights into the food choices you make, and eating behaviors you have that are leading to overeating and weight gain.


Prioritize your overeating styles and decide which one you want to work on first. For instance, a formally overweight woman I coached, who lost weight and has kept it off for more than six years, decided to begin to replace her Unappetizing Atmosphere overeating style with a beautiful place setting. Start with what’s important—and manageable—for you, personally.


Put WPIE into action by practicing “The WPIE Guided Meal Meditation” (chapter 13). I created the WPIE Guided Meal Meditation to empower you to infuse each meal with all the ingredients of Whole Person Integrative Eating, so that each time you eat you nourish body, mind, and soul, and in the process, up your odds of losing weight and keeping it off.

For support…

If you want help practicing the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle, please visit my website to find a Certified WPIE Specialist: I wish you a wonderful Whole Person Integrative Eating journey…

Deborah, Thank you for your time.

Thank you.