An emotional check-in may be just the answer for helping to lose weight during the holiday season.

While the call to arms to reduce obesity has lead policymakers and health professionals to emphasize better food choices, portion control, and physical activity, these traditional approaches have been modestly successful, at best.

A new study found in the Journal of Marketing Research suggests training people to pay attention to their emotions is a far more powerful strategy.

“Consumers are often mindless,” write authors and marketing profs Drs. Blair Kidwell (Ohio State University), Jonathan Hasford (Florida International University), and David M. Hardesty (University of Kentucky).

“We not only demonstrate that emotional ability is trainable and that food choices can be enhanced, but also that emotional ability training improves food choices beyond a nutrition knowledge training program.”

In the study, participants were given general training in recognizing basic emotions in themselves and in others. They were then exposed to a variety of food products and packaging and asked to notice what emotions they, and others, were experiencing.

After the training, both the trained participants and people who had received no training were given the opportunity to choose a snack of either a healthy item or a chocolate bar. Those who had received the training were more likely to choose the healthy item.

Three months later, participants in both groups were weighed: Those who had received training in recognizing their emotions had, on average, lost weight whereas those who had received no training had actually put on weight.

The authors believe training individuals on emotional awareness is a more effective strategy than programs that focus on reading nutritional labels.

“With a better understanding of how they feel and how to use emotions to make better decisions, people will not only eat better, they will also likely be happier and healthier because they relate better to others and are more concerned with their overall well-being.”

Source: American Marketing Association/EurekAlert