Deborah Kesten, MPH
Holistic Nutrition Researcher
Whole Person Integrative Eating
Phone: (415) 324-4158
Deborah Kesten, MPH, is an international nutrition researcher, award-winning author, and medical/health writer, with a specialty in preventing and reversing obesity and heart disease. She served as nutritionist on Dean Ornish, MD’s first clinical trial for reversing heart disease through lifestyle changes, and as director of nutrition at cardiovascular clinics in Europe.
Kesten is the founder of the Whole Person Integrative Eating, a science-backed program for halting—even reversing—overeating, overweight and obesity. She is a VIP contributor at Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global, and her latest book is the award-winning Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle to Treat the Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight and Obesity.
Q: What was your motivation for writing Whole Person Integrative Eating?
A: 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 the disheartening stats: As I write, almost 70 percent of Americans are overweight and obese. At the same time, close to 50 percent of us are “on a diet.” As a matter of fact, most dieters will try between 55 to 130 diets in their lifetime. Yet millions continue to struggle with 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.
Q: Please explain the concept behind WPIE.
A: The paradigm-shifting, well-researched message in WPIE is that when you nourish yourself multi-dimensionally—physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially—you are empowered to halt, even reverse, overeating, overweight and obesity. In other words, with our “whole person” ingredients at your table, you will have the tools to re-envision and transform your relationship to food, eating and weight and, in the process, find true nourishment.
The WPIE dietary lifestyle was born in New Delhi, India, when I had the opportunity to interview clinical cardiologist Dr. K.L. Chopra—father and mentor of personal transformation pioneer Deepak Chopra, MD—about a magazine article I was intending to write on yoga and diet (anna yoga). When I asked Dr. Chopra about this, his response was immediate: The Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scripture) tells us that “Prana is the vital life force of the universe, the cosmic force . . . and it goes into you, into me, with food. When you cook with love, you transfer the love into the food and it is metabolized . . .”
The idea that a loving consciousness could be infused into food wouldn’t let go. Using ancient food wisdom from major world religions, including Hinduism, cultural traditions (such as yogic nutrition—called anna yoga), and Eastern healing systems (such as India’s ayurvedic medicine), behavioral scientist and co-author Larry Scherwitz, PhD, and I discovered new normal food choices and eating behaviors linked to overeating (we call these overeating styles), and we discovered their antidotes, the WPIE program.
We discovered the power of WPIE for weight loss, health and healing when the 5,246 research participants (RPs) in our study replaced their overeating styles with the ancient-food guidelines of WPIE—which includes what (food choices), but also how (eating behaviors) we eat. The bottom line: The more RPs enjoyed their food with WPIE, the less they overate, and the more weight they lost—without dieting. As a matter of fact, when researcher Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, applied all seven ingredients of WPIE to patients with type 2 diabetes, WPIE eating behaviors (positive emotions, mindfulness eating, heartfelt gratitude, loving regard, amiable ambiance and sharing fare) had a more powerful influence on lowering blood sugar levels than what (food choices) patients ate. Says Dr. Oberg: “Overeating and obesity simply resolved as “side effects” of practicing Whole Person Integrative Eating.”
Q: What are the root causes of overeating?
A: Larry Scherwitz, PhD’s and my research suggests that the seven new-normal overeating styles we identified are the root causes of overeating, and in turn, weight gain. The overeating styles provide illuminating nutritional insights into the trilogy of overeating, overweight and obesity—because we found that not only are the seven overeating styles the new normal ways of eating, but they’re all significantly and strongly linked to overeating. And five of the seven overeating styles are independently predictive of being overweight and obese. In other words, all seven eating styles are predictors of overeating. Their antidotes: the ancient food wisdom—verified by modern nutritional science—of our WPIE model and program.
Here, I’m presenting the overeating styles to you in the order in which they predict overeating—from strongest to weakest:
1. Emotional Eating—Turning to food to manage negative feelings, such as anxiety and depression.
2. Food Fretting—Dieting. Judging food as “good” or “bad.” Over-concern about the “best” way to eat.
3. Fast Foodism—A diet of mostly fast, processed, fried, high-calorie food.
4. Sensory Disregard—Not savoring scent, flavor, colors, etc., or “flavoring” food with loving regard.
5. Task Snacking—Eating while doing other activities: working, driving, watching TV, etc.
6. Unappetizing Atmosphere—Eating in unpleasant psychological, and aesthetic surroundings.
7. Solo Dining—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 WPIE, creates a nourishing, enjoyable experience for “all of you” each time you eat, which in turn, lessens overeating and weight gain.
Q: Talk about the Sensory-Spiritual overeating style. What are the three elements and why are they important?
A: To understand Sensory-Spiritual dining and its WPIE link to weight loss, health and healing, recall that WPIE encompasses a relationship to food and eating that nourishes “all of you” each time you eat. In other words, WPIE makes connections between food and body (biological nutrition), food and mind (psychological nutrition), food and soul (spiritual nutrition), and food and social well-being (social nutrition).
A closer look at the Spiritual Nutrition facet reveals three elements that include eating with:
1. Mindfulness. Bring moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness to each aspect of your meal—reduced their overeating and lost weight.
2. Appreciation. Appreciate food and its origins—from the heart.
3. Love. Savor flavors, aromas, colors and the mystery of life in food.
The WPIE takeaway is this: In the large national sample of 5,256 research participants (RPs) in our study on WPIE, the more RPs replaced the new-normal overeating styles Larry and I, discovered, with all the WPIE antidotes—including the three ingredients of Spiritual Nutrition: moment-to-moment mindfulness, heartfelt appreciation and loving regard—overeating lessened and the more weight they lost.
Q: What is Task Snacking? How can WPIE help curb it?
A: Simply put, Task Snacking is an overeating style that describes eating while doing other things. Have you ever watched TV, flipped through a magazine, or worked while eating? If so, you’re Task Snacking. Whatever form it takes—eating a meal or snacking mindlessly while working in front of your computer, driving, watching TV, shopping with a friend or talking on the phone—the Task Snacking overeating style our research on WPIE uncovered increases your odds of overeating, and puts you at risk for becoming overweight.
As a matter of fact, doing other things while eating is so common in our culture, it’s become normal. Not only do most of us not pay much attention what we’re eating and what we’re doing while we’re eating, but we also don’t think that these Task Snacking eating behaviors have anything to do with our weight. But they do.
The WPIE antidote to Task Snacking? Mindfulness eating. Those in our study who replaced the Task Snacking overeating style we identified (eating while doing other things) with the WPIE Spiritual Nutrition guideline of mindfulness eating—bringing moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness to each aspect of your meal—reduced their overeating and lost weight.
This is a good time to highlight that while mindfulness eating is the solution to Task Snacking, it is not a quick and easy antidote. What I mean by this is that I designed WPIE as a lifetime practice; a dietary lifestyle that is a way of eating you get better and better at as you practice it over time. WPIE gives you the step-by-step skills you need to accomplish this.
Q: How can mindfulness be useful when it comes to WPIE?
A: WPIE is based on nourishing “all of you”—physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially—each time you eat by bringing moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental mindfulness to each aspect of the meal. When you stay in the moment while eating, you can infuse meals with all the ingredients of WPIE: Take the time to truly taste, savor and appreciate your food. Eat with others in a pleasant atmosphere. Eat while filled with positive emotions. In fact, one of the most convenient ways to practice mindfulness is when we prepare food or when we eat.
Among the many benefits of eating mindfully are:
• Improved digestion. Researcher Donald Morse at Temple University and his team measured discovered that those who meditated mindfully before eating produced 22 percent more of the digestive enzyme alpha-amylase, responsible for digesting and metabolizing carbohydrates in carbohydrate-dense foods (such as potatoes, bread, cake and cookies). When you gulp down your food, you don’t digest food optimally, and your entire digestive system is affected.
• Lessens binge eating. Another study done by Jean Kristeller at Indiana State University discovered that after a participating in a six-week mindfulness eating program, women with binge eating disorder lowered their weekly bingeing episodes from an average of five times to less than one per week.
• Leads to weight loss. When the researchers at Dr. Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute looked closely at mindfulness, meditation and weight, they discovered that the amount of time each person spent practicing yoga as directly linked with the amount of weight lost, regardless of whether participants changed their dietary fat intake or their exercise habits. They also discovered that an increase in exercise didn’t contribute any further to the amount of weight loss. Rather, it was the number of time participants meditated and the degree to which they lowered their dietary-fat intake that brought the best results.
In addition to lessening overeating and increasing odds of weight loss, during this time of unprecedented stress, eating mindfully can help transform meals into a restorative, relaxing escape; an opportunity to practice a comforting, self-care mindfulness meal meditation. In other words, the right mix of WPIE ingredients—fresh, whole food, positive emotions, pleasant surroundings, mindfulness, gratitude, loving regard and social connection—when you eat, is a restorative recipe that curtails emotional eating and can help you relax and feel peaceful and serene.
Q: Can you explain the WPIE guided meal meditation? How does it work?
A: I created The WPIE Guided Meal Meditation to show you how to practice, internalize and integrate all the elements of WPIE (fresh food, positive emotions, moment-to-moment mindfulness, heartfelt gratitude, sensory and loving regard, amiable ambiance, and social connection) into each eating experience. In other words, The WPIE Guided Meal Meditation is a richly blended demonstration of how to practice all the elements of Whole Person Integrative Eating each time you eat, so you can up your odds of losing weight and keeping it off.
There are still more benefits. Not only may giving quality attention to each element of the WPIE dietary lifestyle ward off weight but it also holds the power to balance emotions, digestions, the absorption of nutrients, blood-sugar levels and more.
Here’s another key concept to keep in mind: As you practice integrating each ingredient of The WPIE Guided Meal Meditation more and more, you’ll become empowered to experience food as the symphonic masterpiece that it is, that plays the notes you need to overcome the overeating styles by replacing them with the elements of the WPIE dietary lifestyle. In other words, designed to be a lifetime practice, each core component of WPIE reinforces the others so that you are empowered to transform your relationship to food, eating, and weight…for life.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Today, our WPIE program is the first integrative, “whole person,” scientifically sound dietary lifestyle to treat the root causes of overeating, overweight and obesity.
With the discovery of WPIE, my mission is to revolutionize our thinking about food, eating and weight by offering a way of eating that brings maximum nourishment, and in turn, weight loss, health and healing. I want people to see their relationship to food and eating as a gift of nourishment; as one of life’s most pleasurable, positive experiences.
In other words, with the body/mind/spirit ingredients of WPIE at your table, you now have the tools to re-envision your relationship to food, eating and weigh, and in the process, find deeper levels of nourishment.
To jumpstart you on the WPIE dietary lifestyle, I want to share three steps you and/or patients, clients, and coachees can take now to reap the weight-loss and optimal-eating rewards of WPIE.
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 turn Whole WPIE into an actual practice, 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.
If you want help practicing the WPIE dietary lifestyle, visit https://integrativeeating.com to find a Certified WPIE Specialist, visit https://integrativeeating.com/specialists/.
I wish you a wonderful Whole Person Integrative Eating journey.