—By Deborah Kesten, VIP Contributor at Thrive Global
Are you eating more during today’s shelter-in-place lifestyle? Have you been struggling with weight issues for years? Is the understandable anxiety, depression, and loneliness you’re experiencing from the covid-19 crisis leading to bingeing and feelings of guilt about your out-of-control eating? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve got plenty of company.
As most of you know, for decades, millions of Americans have been struggling not only with their weight, but also with its new-normal “cousins”: stress eating and other disordered eating behaviors. From ongoing dieting and ruminating about the “best” diet, to overeating until stuffed—often “in secret”—many live their lives with varying degrees of obsessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors about food, eating, and body image that may lead to weight gain.1
Resetting the Overeating and Weight Crises
In this time of unprecedented stress, many are eating more and gaining weight as they cope by turning to high-fat, high-sugar, high-carb comfort food.2 As a matter of fact, internist David Reed Miloy, MD, MS, told me, “The covid-19 pandemic is accelerating the growth of the obesity pandemic among many of my patients. Since March, most have gained weight and in some cases upward of 10-20 pounds.”3
While overeating and overweight was a crisis that was surging long before today’s lockdown lifestyle, Dr. Miloy is saying he is witnessing a surge in this ongoing, personal crisis. In my opinion, during this watershed time, it is no longer enough to continue the same ol’, same ol’ depressing diet “think” that isn’t working for millions. Now is the time to “reset” and rethink new possibilities; to replace our disheartening struggle with food, eating, and weight with a science-backed way of eating that is pleasurable and nourishing. And that leads naturally to weight loss, health, and healing.4-6
Welcome to Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE)®:
A scientifically sound dietary lifestyle that treats the root causes
of overeating, overweight, and obesity.
Whole Person Integrative Eating: Thinking Outside the Diet
Over 25 years of research on the Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE)® dietary lifestyle, by behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, PhD, and me, has revealed that overeating, overweight, and obesity may be halted, even reversed, by replacing the root causes of overeating—meaning, the new-normal overeating styles4 Larry and I have identified—with their antidotes: the ancient/new elements of our scientifically sound Whole Person Integrative Eating model and program.4-6
Here are today’s new-normal overeating styles that lead to overeating and weight gain, and some—but not all—characteristics of each. Do you see yourself in any of them?
- EMOTIONAL EATING: Eating based on negative emotions instead of a healthy appetite
- FAST FOODISM: A diet of mostly fast, processed food
- FOOD FRETTING: Dieting and obsessing about the “best” way to eat
- TASK SNACKING: Doing other activities, such as working or watching TV, while eating
- SENSORY DISREGARD: Not taking time to taste, savor, and enjoy food
- UNAPPETIZING ATMOSPHERE: Eating in unpleasant emotional or aesthetic surroundings
- SOLO DINING: Eating alone most of the time7
What’s powerful about the discovery of the overeating styles is that (1) they identify and address root reasons many of us overeat and gain weight; (2) they are statistically significant—meaning each is a dependable predictor of overeating and weight gain; (3) and they provide a clear formula for overeating and becoming overweight and obese.
Our research also revealed a clear formula for overcoming the overeating styles: Whole Person Integrative Eating:
The more the 5,256 participants in our study followed the “new normal” overeating styles we identified—the more likely they were to overeat and be overweight or obese.4 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.
Since our study on WPIE, people I’ve 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; in other words, by thinking outside the diet, they are making weight loss last.5
7 WPIE Strategies to Overcome Overeating
To get you—and your waistline—started on the road to health and healing, here are the overeating styles and the WPIE strategy for overcoming each overeating style.
WPIE Strategy #1: POSITIVE EMOTIONS
To reduce odds of the Emotional Eating overeating style—and turning to food to manage negative emotions—commit to eating when you have a healthy appetite; and to enjoying food and eating while filled with positive emotions.
WPIE Strategy #2: GET FRESH
If a donut for breakfast; a double burger with fries for lunch; and a pepperoni pizza for dinner is typical for you, the Fast Foodism overeating style could be contributing to your overeating and weight gain. The WPIE Rx for Fast Foodism is to eat fresh, whole food as often as possible. And to eat inversely, meaning, lots of plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seed) with small servings of animal-based foods.
WPIE Strategy #3: APPRECIATE FOOD
If you identify with the Food Fretting overeating style—and you’re often filled with thoughts about “going on a diet” and the “best” way to eat—consider replacing your Food Fretting “think” with authentic, from-the-heart gratitude for food as a life-giving gift.
WPIE Strategy #4: MOMENT-TO-MOMENT MINDFULNESS
If you often eat while working, driving, or watching TV—in other words, while doing other activities—it’s likely that the Task Snacking overeating style is contributing to your overeating and weight gain. The WPIE antidote to Task Snacking is to bring moment-to-moment nonjudgmental awareness to every aspect of the meal.
WPIE Strategy #5: SAVOR FOOD
Do you focus on the aromas, colors, or flavors of food? Do you appreciate the presentation? The life-giving qualities inherent in food? If not, the Sensory Disregard overeating style could be increasing your odds of overeating and weight gain. To overcome this overeating style, commit to enjoying food more by eating “with your senses.” In other words, savor and “flavor” food with loving regard.
WPIE Strategy #6: PLEASANT ENVIRONS
Dining in unpleasant psychological and aesthetic environments is the Unpleasant Atmosphere overeating styles. The psychological element refers to your internal feelings and external emotions—from others or between you and others—when you eat; the physical atmosphere refers to your physical surroundings. The WPIE solution? To eat in a positive psychological atmosphere and in pleasant aesthetic surroundings.
WPIE Strategy #7: SHARE FARE
Our Whole Person Integrative Eating research revealed that the Solo Dining overeating style—eating alone more often than not—may be influencing how much you eat and your weight. The WPIE “prescription” for the Solo Dining overeating style is to enjoy food-related experiences with others as often as possible.4
The weight-loss power of Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) was what research scientist Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, experienced in her medical practice when she taught WPIE to her diabetic patients, many of whom were overweight. “Overeating and obesity simply resolved as ‘side effects’ of practicing Whole Person Integrative Eating…,” says Dr. Oberg.7-9 Indeed, that is the key takeaway of the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle: weight loss occurs as a “side effect” based on what and how you eat, not because you’re “on a diet.”
As you become familiar with the WPIE strategies in this article, please keep in mind they are really a first step—an introduction to Whole Person Integrative Eating. The ingredients of WPIE are designed to be a lifetime practice; something you get better and better at each day as you rethink, reflect on, and make a conscious, intentional decision to rewrite your fundamental relationship to food, eating, and weight.
In other words, by thinking outside the diet with the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle, you up the odds of orchestrating and creating true change in what you eat, how you eat, and making weight loss last. Throughout the pandemic. And ALL WAYS.
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Three Out Of Four American Women Have Disordered Eating, Survey Suggests.” ScienceDaily, 23 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080422202514.htm>.
- Almandoz, J.P., et al. (2020) Impact of COVID ‐19 Stay‐at‐Home Orders on Weight‐Related Behaviors Among Patients with Obesity. Clinical Obesity. doi.org/10.1111/cob.12386.
- David Reed Miloy, MD, e-mail to Deborah Kesten, MPH, July 25, 2020.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Erica Oberg, e-mail to behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, PhD, September 7, 2018.
- Ryan Bradley, “Eating habits and diabetes: how we eat may be more important than what we eat,” Diabetes Action website, June 2011, www.diabetesaction.org/article-eating -habits?rq=ryan%20bradley%202011.
- Erica Oberg, Ryan Bradley, J. Allen, and M. McCrory, “Evaluation of a naturopathic nutrition program for type 2 diabetes,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 17, no. 3 (2011): 157–61.