During a recent interview on a talk radio show, a caller told me she had gained seven pounds since living in lockdown; her friends also had gained weight, she said. A few days later, a colleague who has been conducting what she calls “telephone clinics” with her obese patients wrote: “All were telling me how lockdown is causing further weight gain and how they feel unable to do anything about it.” She continued: “I think that the lockdown affects disproportionately people who were already struggling with obesity and unhealthy eating habits.”
As most of you know, it is not just select “obese patients” who are struggling with overeating and ensuing weight gain. This is because overweight and obese people are not a small subset of the population. Rather, almost 70% of Americans are overweight or obese; indeed, by 2030 the percentage is expected to be closer to 100%. This means that the lockdown may be speeding up our obesity stats, but it is not the cause of our overweight pandemic: The fat-track train left the station decades ago.
The Obesity Link to Covid-19
Today, with the threat of coronavirus infection, there is yet another reason to be concerned about being overweight: As Americans reel from the shocking and devastating health, mental, emotional, economic, and social impact the coronavirus pandemic has wrought, the virus continues to disproportionately harm those who are already struggling with obesity and other diet-related conditions — from heart disease and diabetes to high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. This is an alarming situation given that (1) almost 45% of adults in the United States are obese — we rank #1 in obesity among international OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations, (2) and one in two Americans — over 133 million people — suffer from chronic health conditions, many of which are linked to poor food choices.
In my opinion, the coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call; a stunning event that is sounding the alarm we need to take action NOW to remedy the struggle that millions of overweight and obese people live with day-to-day. Clearly, we are being alerted to change — really, really change — what we eat and how we eat. Each day and every day. Starting now. For the rest of our lives. My vision is that we accomplish this by halting and turning around the obesity pandemic without dieting; rather, by losing weight and keeping it off with what I call a dietary lifestyle, meaning, a way of eating that leads naturally to weight loss, health, and healing…for life.
The Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) Weight Loss Rx
…it were possible to overcome overeating and to lose weight and keep it off without traditional dieting? (Note: Almost 50% of Americans are “on a diet” at any one time; and typical dieters will try between 55-130 diets in their lifetime!)
…you could nourish yourself physically each time you eat? But also emotionally, spiritually, and socially?
…your relationship to food, eating, and weight was based on a way of eating that leads to a pleasurable relationship to food and eating—with weight loss as a natural “side effect?”
What I am describing is the Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE)® dietary lifestyle, an evidence-based, scientifically sound model and program that treats the root causes of overeating, overweight, and obesity. It is also a way of eating that may prepare your immune system to fight viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.1-3 And the WPIE dietary lifestyle can also help you prevent and reverse a plethora of other diet-related chronic conditions.
After 25 years of research by behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, PhD (transparent disclosure: Larry’s my
husband) and me, the well-documented message in Whole Person Integrative Eating is that it is possible to overcome overeating, overweight, and obesity by replacing the newly identified, new-normal overeating styles Larry and I have discovered with their antidotes: the ancient/new, science-backed elements of our Whole Person Integrative Eating® model and program.4-6 FYI…WPIE is a “whole person” program that address both what you eat (your food choices) and how you eat (your eating behaviors); and in turn, how your food choices and eating behaviors nourish you physically, but also emotionally, spiritually, and socially. As a first step, this article offers the WPIE what-to-eat guidelines for weight loss.
What-to-Eat Rx: Fresh, Whole, Inverse
What Larry and I, and hundreds, perhaps thousands of other researchers have discovered, is that there’s a simple way to eat that provides the antidote to the Fast Foodism overeating style our WPIE research identified that leads to overeating and obesity. It is a time- and science-tested what-to-eat guideline that has nourished humankind for millennia—and it is how people who are naturally thin and healthier eat today: Eat fresh, whole food in its natural state as often as possible.7 Please keep in mind the phrase “as often as possible.” This means making fresh, whole foods your most-of-the-time way of eating; it is not a rigid, regimented way of eating you start, then stop.
To get you, and your waistline and immune system, started on the road to health and healing, here are the three words that describe the WPIE what-to-eat guidelines that lower odds of illness: Fresh. Whole. Inverse.7 This is what I mean.
Fresh. Whole. The optimal way to eat for weight loss, health, and healing is to consume mostly unrefined, unprocessed, real food that has all its constituents (such as the fiber and germ in grains) intact. This means choosing lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts and seeds, with lesser—or no—amounts of free-range, grass-fed, and/or wild dairy, poultry, meat, and fish that is free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, and additives and chemicals (you often can’t pronounce).
Inverse eating. Along with “fresh” and “whole,” the third WPIE “ingredient” for optimal eating is to eat inversely. What do I mean by “inverse eating?” Whether you’re looking at the traditional diets of Mediterranean, Asian, South American, African, Indian, or Native American cultures, they all have one way of eating in common: meals are mostly plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, grains, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds), with lesser amounts of animal-based foods (dairy, fish, poultry, and meat). In other words, the diets of most cultures worldwide are—and have been for thousands of years—mostly plant-based foods as the centerpiece of the meal, and animal-based foods as a condiment or side dish.
Clearly, this is the inverse of the almost 40 percent—approximately 84.8 million Americans—who eat fast food every day and the 91 percent—at least 290 million Americans—who completely miss the mark of meeting the U.S. dietary guidelines of a half to two cups of vegetables per day. Same with fruit: only 12 percent of Americans consume one-and-a-half to two servings per day. In other words, most Americans eat the standard American diet (SAD) of mostly processed animal-based foods with few, or no plant-based foods.
With SAD as a starting point, I use the term inverse eating to describe the antithesis, or inverse, of the standard American diet: the opposite way of eating that evolved naturally over thousands of years and includes mostly fresh, whole, plant-based foods supplemented with small, occasional servings of fresh, whole, chemical-free animal-based foods.
The WPIE Dietary Lifestyle: If Not Now, When?
I know. Change isn’t easy. Especially when it comes to food and eating. I understand; truly. Since the social-isolation policy that has gone into effect for most of us, I’ve talked with people who are turning to high-carb, high-sugar, high-fat “comfort foods” to cope. And they are gaining weight. And weakening their immune system. And making themselves vulnerable to a plethora of diet-related conditions.
The antidote? Commit to, and adopt a dietary lifestyle that empowers you to eat to prevent, even reverse, a multitude of food-related ailments and increase odds of boosting immunity, which in turn may decrease your risk of becoming ill from the coronavirus. And it lowers odds of being overweight and obese. Or developing diabetes. And heart disease. And some cancers. And depression and anxiety. And other mind-body, diet-related chronic conditions.
In other words, we know that the WPIE fresh, whole, inverse way of eating ups the odds of helping you lose weight and keep it off, lessens the risk of Covid-19 symptoms, and can prevent and reverse food-related chronic conditions; that the Whole Person Integrative Eating® dietary lifestyle holds the key to transforming your relationship with food and eating so you can reclaim your health…for life. If not now, when?
Article originally printed on integrativeeating.com. Reprinted with permission from Deborah Kesten.
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.