— By Deborah Kesten, VIP Contributor at Thrive Global
At the start of our coaching sessions, Alison was a single, five-foot-five, sixty-four-year-old woman who weighed 265 pounds, her highest weight ever. A former businesswoman turned professional meditation practitioner, her weight gain, which had begun as a pre-teen, had continued to escalate in the following decades of her life.1,2
Weary from her lifetime struggle with obesity, when Alison contacted me she was ready to explore the research-backed Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) dietary lifestyle approach to eating less and weighing less. WPIE appealed to her because, instead of the more conventional approach of restricting calories and exercising, she was hopeful WPIE would bring to meals the meaning she sought and in turn sustainable weight loss and well-being.
Two years after our one year of coaching, Alison guesstimated that she may weigh approximately 165 pounds. (Alison has an aversion to living by the scale and so does not weigh herself.) And she wears a medium, size 12. Alison attributes her weight loss to the wholeness of the integrative-eating program and to overcoming each of the overeating styles (Emotional Eating, Food Fretting, Fast Foodism, Task Snacking, Sensory Disregard, Unappetizing Atmosphere, and Solo Dining)3 that are part of the WPIE program—at first to varying degrees and, then, more and more, so that she eventually replaced, at her own pace, her disordered eating behaviors and aversion to traditional dieting with deep changes from within that enabled her to enjoy and savor her new relationship to food, eating, and weight…and to herself.
Now, seven years later, Alison has kept the weight off and she still wears a size 12.
The Perfect Pair: Inside-Outside WPIE Ingredients
On the surface, Alison has been successful in attaining and maintaining weight loss because she replaced each of the new-normal overeating styles in the Whole Person Integrative Eating program with the “ingredients” of the Whole Person Integrative Eating program.
Yet there is a deeper, far-reaching, more meaningful reason she has been eating less and weighing less for years: the inside-outside ingredients of Whole Person Integrative Eating. In other words, the science-backed internal and external elements of Whole Person Integrative Eating are what empowered Alison to lose weight and keep it off.
This is because WPIE showed her how to make an experiential change in her attitudes and perceptions about food, eating, and weight. And it is this inside-outside, internal shift in her ‘way of being’ that has lead to eating less and weighing less—as a natural “side effect” of practicing WPIE—not as a regimented, restricted diet to go on…then off.
Here are the science-backed inside-outside ingredients of Whole Person Integrative Eating that, WPIE research has revealed, lead naturally to weight loss and well-being.1-3
The 4 “Internal” WPIE Ingredients
The “internal” ingredients of Whole Person Integrative Eating ask you to be aware of “invisible,” often-overlooked thoughts and feelings that influence the metabolism of food and in turn weight and well-being. The four internal WPIE ingredients are: positive feelings, moment-to-moment mindfulness, heartfelt gratitude, and loving regard.
#1. Positive feelings. Eating while filled with positive emotions is the antidote to the WPIE Emotional Eating overeating style—turning to comfort food to self-soothe negative feelings, such as anxiety and anger. Checking into your feelings before, during, and after eating is the WPIE antidote. Why? Pausing to connect with the emotions and thoughts that are driving you to dive into your favorite high-carb food can be an opportunity to fine-tune your mood and emotions. Another feel-good strategy: After the food-mood effect has kicked in about 20 minutes after eating, why not take the time to enjoy and delight in the calm, pleasant feelings you’re experiencing?2,4
#2. In-the-moment mindfulness. Bringing moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness to each aspect of the meal is the Rx for the Task Snacking overeating style, meaning, eating while doing other things. Bringing a mindfulness meditation mentality to meals is the opposite of multi-tasking while eating. When Dean Ornish, MD, and his team looked closely at heart patients who meditated every day, he found that those who did the most meditation were the ones who lost the most weight.5 The takeaway: bringing a meditative consciousness to meals maycontribute to weight loss.
#3. Heartfelt gratitude. Appreciating food and its origins—from the heart, is the antidote to the Food Fretting overeating style—defined as dieting a lot and obsessing about the “best” way to eat. Replacing being “in your head,” filled with concerns about food and weight, with eating “from your heart” while experiencing authentic gratitude for the food before you, means being “other-oriented”; not focusing on yourself. When you live your life with such other-awareness, studies have shown it can actually lower your risk of heart disease.6
#4. Loving regard. “Flavoring” food with loving regard has traveled through the centuries in most cultures worldwide. After all, haven’t most of us heard the expression, “cooked with love?” Eating with loving regard and with your six senses—such as savoring the scent and flavors of food—is the remedy to the Sensory Disregard overeating style. When researchers fed rabbits a high cholesterol diet to see if they would get heart disease, those who were held with care while eating were the ones who didn’t get heart disease. This suggests that eating with a loving consciousness influences the way in which food is metabolized, and in turn health and healing.7
The 4 “External” WPIE Ingredients
The “ external ” elements of Whole Person Integrative Eating are about being aware of what you are eating, but also your social, psychological, and aesthetic surroundings. This is because research on Whole Person Integrative Eating revealed that certain “outside” elements while eating influence overeating and weight.2,3 The four external WPIE ingredients are: fresh food, pleasing aesthetics, social connection, and the emotional atmosphere. Here’s how they influence weight and wellness.
#5. Fresh food. Eating fresh, whole food in its natural state as often as possible is the what-to-eat Whole Person Integrative Eating guideline that is the antidote to the WPIE Fast Foodism overeating style, meaning, a most-of-the-time diet of fast, processed, denatured foods. WPIE research—and hundreds of other studies—have linked Fast Foodism to overeating, overweight, and obesity. To lose weight and lower odds of other diet-related mind-body ailments such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and depression,3,8 as often as possible, choose fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds, with smaller servings of chemical-free dairy, fish, poultry, and meat.
#6. Pleasing aesthetics. Eating in an amiable ambiance is the remedy to the WPIE Unappetizing Atmosphere overeating style that increases odds of overeating.3 The idea of dining in pleasant environs is supported by both research on Whole Person Integrative Eating and the emerging field of optimal healing environments. Examples range from personal space, and sound or noise to warm, natural light, and color.3,9 Create your own nourishing dining atmosphere with, for instance, a beautiful place setting; or if you’re working at your computer, pause while eating to look at a beautiful view or work of art.
#7. Social connection. Eat with others as often as possible is the remedy to the WPIE Solo Dining overeating style. More and more studies are linking eating alone to weighing more and eating more high-fat, high-carb, high-sugar processed, fast food. A famous study done with citizens of Rosoto, Pennsylvania, showed that social support kept the population healthier, even though many consumed a lot of high-fat foods. Some suggestions for sharing fare with others: Create an online cooking club. Or make a date to have a virtual meal or snack with friends or familymembers.10
#8. Emotional atmosphere. Research on the WPIE overeating style, Unappetizing Atmosphere, suggests that the psychological atmosphere in which you dine holds the power to influence your weight and well-being. What does this mean? Have you ever eaten when, for instance, others are arguing? Or while you’re watching a horror movie? Research shows that the mood that surrounds you while eating may influence how much you eat and the way in which you metabolize food—and in turn your weight and well-being.11-13, 2
WPIE: An Internal and External Positive Dining Practice
The inside-outside elements of the Whole Person Integrative Eating program are like an interconnected web of food, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and environment that, when integrated, lead to eating less and weighing less. Alison’ssuccess and transformation in attaining and maintaining weight loss lies in her integrating all the inside-outside WPIE ingredients into her everyday eating.
The powerful takeaway message is that the elements of the Whole Person Integrative Eating practice address both the internal and external reasons for overeating and weight gain. When you nourish yourself with pleasure-filled food choices, feelings, thoughts, surroundings, comradery, mindfulness, and gratitude for the food before you, you up your odds of eating less and weighing less.
Contact a Certified WPIE Specialist. Whole Person Integrative Eating has teamed up with the American Academy of Sports Dietitians and Nutritionists (AASDN) to train and certify health professionals in Whole Person Integrative Eating. To find a Certified WPIE Specialist, please visit http://integrativeeating.com/specialists/.
Award-Winning Book. Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle to Treat the Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity. https://www.amazon.com/Whole-Person-Integrative-Eating-Breakthrough/dp/1887043543/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3MM5I9R8GVR2G&dchild=1&keywords=whole+person+integrative+eating&qid=1616168171&sprefix=whole+person%2Caps%2C265&sr=8-2
- 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.
- 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).
- Larry Scherwitz and Deborah Kesten, “Seven Eating Styles Linked to Overeating, Over- weight, and Obesity,” Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing 1, no. 5 (2005): 342–59.
- Judith J. Wurtman, Managing Your Mind and Mood through Food (New York: Rawson Associ- ates, 1986).
- J. Daubenmier, G. Weidner, M. Sumner, N. Mendell, et al., “The Contribution of Chang- es in Diet, Exercise, and Stress Management to Changes in Coronary Risk in Women and Men in the Multisite Cardiac Lifestyle Intervention Program,” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 33 (January 2007) 57–68.
- Larry Scherwitz, “Type A behavior, self-involvement, and coronary atherosclerosis,” Psychosomatic Medicine 45, no.1 (1983): 47–57.
- R. Nerem, J. Murina, J. Levesque, and J. Fredrick Cornhill, “Social Environment as a Factor in Diet-Induced Atherosclerosis,” Science New Series 208, no. 4451 (1980): 1475–76.
- A. Gosline, “Why Fast Foods Are Bad, Even in Moderation,” New Scientist, June 12, 2006, https://www .newscientist.com/article/dn9318-why-fast-foods-are-bad-even-in-moderation/.
- M. Schweitzer, L. Gilpin, S. Frampton, “Healing Spaces: Elements of Environmental Design That Make an Impact on Health,” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10 (2004), supplement 1: S71–S83.
- Julie Stewart Wolf and John G. Bruhn, The Power of Clan: The Influence of Human Relation- ships on Heart Disease (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1993).
- Whole Person Integrative Eating research findings: Those who reported preparing food in a more serene and less tense atmosphere also were likely to overeat less often (r = .27 and r = .19 respectively).
- N. Garg, B. Wansink, and J. Jeffrey, “The Influence of Incidental Affect on Consumers’ Food Intake,” Journal of Marketing 71, no. 1 (2007), 194.
- E. Widdowson, “Mental Contentment and Physical Growth,” The Lancet 1, no. 24 (June 16, 1951): 1316–18.