Jean-Philippe Zermati: « accept yourself to become different »


I thus interviewed Jean-Philippe Zermati at the occasion of the Web site Linecoaching launch. Let me point out right now that our exchange focused on this website and not on the method this nutritionist has put together. Even if, of course, he mentions, in some of his answers, the basic principles of the method in question.

That said, I thank mister Zermati, alias doctor Z on this blog, for his answers which, I think, should enlighten you.

Before leaving the floor to the results of this interview, a few more words: I believe that mister Zermati and I have brought down one by one the barriers of a patient/doctor relationship. Mainly because of me. To have told on my blog our sessions with sometimes an informal tone has necessarily moved the initial lines. Now, here I am interviewing him, with my journalist cap, while not being able to disregard that I was talking to my doctor. Or I should write my former doctor, we indeed haven’t seen each other for a while.

This specific relationship has necessarily had an impact on our discussion and makes my objectivity rather relative. It doesn’t mean I’m claiming to be Linecoaching’s standard bearer. But I trust this practitioner, I’ve been in a position to assess his ethic and reliability during two years. I’m actually still surprised every day by the way his method has turned my life upside down. I’m not saying he deserves all the credit for my professional orientation change or my capacity to now speak in public without fainting. But, as I was telling him recently, “It goes beyond slimming down”.

After these few soppy sentences (yes thanks, my transfer is going very well), here comes doctor Zermati.

Why have you decided to create this website, Linecoaching, on top of your consultations and of the books you’ve written to explain your method?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: For me the question is rather “how could we manage without such a tool?” Linecaoching is indeed truly in line with what Doctor Gérard Apfeldorfer and I have been working on for years. I’ve been fighting for our voice to be heard for fifteen years. I was a president of the association GROS in which I participate voluntarily, give training, write books… But with this website we have a 1000 time bigger lever. We are, Gérard Apfeldorfer, myself and all the supporters of our method not very known. The apostles of all kinds of diets are much more known than us. And without being on the web we felt like we were fighting with a penknife against nuclear bomb assaults from some well-established nutritionists! Linecoaching must be primarily seen as a tool enabling us to reach a lot of people.

It’s thus not a mean to “make money” or to become a star on the web?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: Honestly, if I’d wanted to, as you say, “make cash”, I would have changed job or I would have practiced it differently. This site currently employs ten persons and it’s only a beginning, the personalized support we propose requires indeed a high number of experts being able to answer quickly to members’ questions. In an ideal world, of course, you could dream it was for free. Reimbursement of the fees by the department of health would be the only way to make it free. From the last news, it’s out of question…

What can be surprising, knowing your method or your views, it’s the promise of Linecoaching: “slimming down without a diet”. Yet, during your consultations or in your book you always stress the necessity to accept your set point and the fact that weight loss must not be an objective in itself. Why then place the emphasis on slimming down?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: You are right, I always insist with patients on the fact that weight loss is not a direct objective but a consequence of recovering a normal eating behavior. A happy consequence in general and which obviously makes me happy when my patients share it with me. But we shouldn’t bury our head in the sand. People come to me hoping to slim down. I rarely face overweight people who first of all wish to regulate their eating behavior. Generally suffering comes from weight, less often from compulsion. If we could eat more than is sensible permanently without putting on weight, much less people would consult. As a consequence, we indeed mention slimming down as we know what overweight people expect. However, you’ll find nowhere on the website a promise with numbers. And the question of set point comes very quickly, as well as the acceptation of this set point, even if it doesn’t match the one you’d wish. Acceptation is a difficult concept often confused with resignation. It is though a very powerful psychological tool which enables you to access change. You accept yourself in order to become different. Once again, Linecoaching is fully in line with our work and convictions.

Can people who will follow this online program slim down?  

Jean-Philippe Zermati: Indeed, not everyone will be able to slim down as much as they’d like. What we can do for each person suffering from overweight is to try to bring him or her back to his or her set point, keeping in mind that we don’t know, at the beginning, what it is. We can also help him or her to accept that weight. Because our theory is based on the idea that the more you stress about your weight and a slimness ideal, the more, at the end, you are likely not to slim down or even put on weight. We propose, for that purpose, that people work both on eating sensations which enable feeding when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full as well as on impulsiveness that drives you to eat when feeling emotional. It’s a huge bet to motivate people on that promise that differs totally from the ones made by many nutritionists.

Don’t you think that with latest studies proving that a high percentage of people put on weight again after restrictive diet and especially the one recommended by Dukan, there is henceforth suspicion towards promises like “lose ten kilos in three months”?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: It’s true that, at last, it is officially said that diets make you fat. But what is rather disturbing, it’s that in general, all these people who have put on weight again after a diet say they want to do it again. Why? Because they blame themselves for this failure, not the method or the doctor. It’s a vicious circle which can last for long.

Does this individualized care via internet equals the one you propose in your office?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: No. We can’t guaranty the same customization than for face to face. Tools don’t have the same impact. I would say that the site is better than books but less individualized surely than a consultation. It’s certainly less efficient than a follow-up by a seasoned therapist but a lot better than resorting to a therapist who is not trained on eating behavior work… Besides, a lot of people, for several reasons, don’t have the possibility to resort to these therapists.

That said we are not the first ones to try the adventure of an online therapy tool. And some studies show that for some people it can be as efficient as seeing a therapist. We have worked two years to put in place this system and have used artificial intelligence software. We propose feedback on experience, regular analysis of results, regular assessments. A mutual assistance group has been put in place. It’s virtual but it’s not objectified, far from it. We try permanently to improve the system, for each person to be taken into account with his or her difficulties and to adapt their care program consequently.

Paradoxically maybe, the lack of relation with a therapist is tremendously compensated by solidarity between members and the support they bring to each other. I find a big human wealth in the exchanges. Writing within a group furthers expression. On a personal note, I’m living a very nice experience.

Who are the “coachs” who follow-up members?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: “Method” coachs – they are four at the moment but should be more numerous soon – are psychotherapists trained on cognitive behavioral therapy and whom we have trained on our method. They can be reached by mail every day.

Do you have in mind adapting this tool so that it can be used by GPs too?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: Yes one of our objective is to develop the site so that it can be used by GPs, in order to help them elaborate care programs for their patients. I also add that we train GPs, around sixty per year. But don’t have control on how they practice afterwards. With Linecoaching, we are sure our method won’t be misinterpreted or diverted from its objective.

The proposed membership is for six months, why?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: I sincerely think that you can’t obtain anything, whether through a face to face or online therapy, in less than six months. There is a possibility however for people to register for three months, to test the method.

What is surprising is that the free assessment proposed on the site doesn’t eliminate any candidate. Namely a person not suffering from overweight can be accepted in the program. Why?

 Jean-Philippe Zermati: I have never refused a patient, whether he or she suffers from overweight or not. I have more and more people who come to see me not because they are fat but because they can’t stand controlling everything they eat anymore. Knowing that one day or the other, this excessive restriction can lead to weight gain. Everyone is thus “accepted” in the program. We even hope to reach people who are not yet “damaged” by diets or issues with their eating behavior. They have a chance to obtain a weight loss that will satisfy them and which will spare them the fall in the vicious circle of restrictions. Besides, for the same size, between a BMI of 20 and one of 25, there are 15 kilos difference. A young woman who has put on fifteen kilos in a short period of time and who still has a normal BMI is not for all that free from a risk of a eating disorders. 16% of the French population suffers from obesity, but 70% of people say they have been on a diet at one point. It shows that the care can’t concern only obese people. Because once again, being on diets will make you fat in the long run. Rather take the problem at its roots.

And for people suffering from massive obesity, what can Linecoaching do?

Jean-Philippe Zermati: Unfortunately, results for these people are often not as high as their expectations. But we can of course help them. We can also propose a preparation to surgery when such an operation is programmed. Our method can also help them after surgery, when they need to learn to eat differently anyway.

Last question, I’ve often heard you saying that sport can trigger a bigger intake of food, in “anticipation” of the effort. Yet Linecoaching proposes a physical training program. Why?


Jean-Philippe Zermati: The fitness program, as we propose it, is a way to be reconciled with your body, to galvanize it and improve your eating behavior (emotional regulation and better perception of physical sensations, thus eating sensation too). We are rather surprised by the success of this part of the program. Feedbacks are very positive. And people have understood that it’s not about calories spending but about working in a different way on your eating behavior. The physical activity program stays optional as it must be in line with a desire to move.


Edit: yeah the picture, slightly cheesy. But I didn’t have one of the doctor with me and I’m telling myself that there’s a long way and blah-blah…

A comment on “Jean-Philippe Zermati: « accept yourself to become different »”

  1. Ilse told…

    Thank you for your blogs on Zermati which I have read with alot of interest! I would love to read his books, and I was wondering whether you know if they have been translated to e.g. English? Unfortunately, I cannot read French.
    Thank you for your reply, with kind regards,
    Ilse Geerars


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