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Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Dietary Lifestyle for Attaining and Maintaining Weight Loss

“By integrating the ancient physical, emotional, spiritual, and social dimensions of food, Whole Person Integrative Eating…affirms the multidimensional healing power of food and leads us back to a deeper, healthier “whole person” relationship to food, eating, and weight loss.”

—DEAN ORNISH, M.D., Founder & President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute. From the Foreword: Whole Person Integrative Eating

At the beginning of our Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) coaching sessions, Alison was a 64-year-old woman who weighed 235 pounds and wore a size 3x. A former businesswoman turned professional meditation practitioner, Alison’s obesity began as a teenager. She had tried many “diets-du-jour” over the decades. Each time she would lose some weight—sometimes a lot; then she would return to her preferred “go-to” foods and gain back the weight…and more.1

Alison had called me after reading an article I had written for Spirituality & Health magazine.2 In the cover story on what I then called “The Enlightened Diet,” readers, like Alison, were invited to take my 6-week, 18-lesson online e-course on the magazine’s website.3 The course offered my evidence-based Whole Person Integrative Eating program, which addresses both what (food choices) and how (eating behaviors) to eat for weight loss and well-being by nourishing yourself physically, but also emotionallyspiritually, and socially each time you eat. I call the multi-dimensional ways in which food heals the “4 Facets of Food.” The WPIE e-course also included my 80-item “What’s Your Overeating Style? Self-Assessment Quiz,” which research participants (RPs) filled out—along with weight and height—both before and after the e-course.4-6

Overcoming Overeating with WPIE

Here’s what we found:

More than 5,200 people took my WPIE e-course. The first breakthrough was identifying what I call the “7 new normal overeating styles”— ways of eating that lead to overeating and weight gain. What’s especially powerful about the discovery of the overeating styles is this: All seven overeating styles strongly diverge from the perennial, optimal-eating principles that comprise the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle.

Indeed, the more the RPs followed today’s “new normal” styles of overeating, the more likely they were to overeat and be overweight or obese.4-6 Conversely, those who replaced their overeating styles with the perennial, optimal-eating principles that comprise the Whole Person Integrative Eating model and program were the RPs who ate less and lost the most weight — as a natural “side effect” of practicing the WPIE dietary lifestyle — not because they were following a traditional, regimented, restricted diet.

“Whole Person” Nourishment to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

When Alison began our coaching sessions, she filled out the same “What’s Your Overeating Style? Self-Assessment Quiz” that the RPs filled out, so both of us could get a better understanding of her overeating-style trouble spots, and the biological, psychological, spiritual, and social root causes of her overeating. In turn, we gleaned insights into her lifetime struggle with weight.

After one year of coaching, Alison weighed about 165 pounds and wore a size 12. I talked with Alison in February 2020, and, having adopted Whole Person Integrative Eating as a lifetime practice, she has maintained her weight loss six-plus years later. What we both realized over time is this: A relationship to food and eating that provides multidimensional nourishment, and that is supported by our research and that of many others, enabled Alison to attain and maintain weight loss success.4-6

WPIE Webinar with nutrition researcher Deborah Kesten

In this webinar, Deborah offers a paradigm-shifting, evidence-based foundation for nutritional health; an integrative approach that reveals the power of food to heal physically, but also emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Deborah will distill her WPIE program into seven simple, yet powerful principles that you can apply to yourself, clients, and patients.

A WPIE Certification Course for Health Professionals

Deborah’s WPIE Program has teamed up with the American Academy of Sports Dietitians and Nutritionists (AASDN) to offer the Foundations of Whole Person Integrative Eating Certification Course for certified and licensed health professionals. To find out more, please visit IntegrativeEating.com/Training/ or WPIE.org to enroll.

Deborah Kesten, M.P.H., is an award-winning author, specializing in preventing and reversing obesity and heart disease. Her expertise includes the influence of epigenetics and diet on health, Lifestyle Medicine, and research on the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle to treat overeating, overweight, and obesity. She and her husband, behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D., collaborate on research and writing projects. Her latest book, “Whole Person Integrative Eating” was named the “Winner” in the Health category by the 2020 Book Excellence Awards.



  1. Alison’s case study is based on an actual client written about in my research paper, “Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Program for Treating Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity,” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, October 2015. (For the purposes of this article, “Alison” is a composite of an actual client and others I have coached who struggle with weight issues.)
  2. Deborah Kesten, “The enlightened diet: integrating biological, spiritual, social, and psy- chological nutrition,” Spirituality & Health 5 (2003): 29–39.
  3. Deborah Kesten, “The enlightened diet integrative eating e-course.” New York: Spiritual- ity & Health (December 16, 2002–January 24, 2003).
  4. 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.
  5. Kesten D, Scherwitz L, “Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Program for Treating Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity,” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14 5 (October/November 2015): 42-50.
  6. 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).

MFN Contributing Author