In Studio: Health expert explains how to indulge without guilt this holiday season

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) -- The holidays can be a stressful time if you're trying to lose weight.

Parties are focused around food, alcohol and temptation.

Don't throw up your hands in defeat before the party even begins.

Health expert Karen Owoc talked with KRON 4's Marty Gonzalez about some tips to cope and still enjoy the festivities.

1)  Emotional Eating

Holiday time is an emotional time. While food fuels your muscles, it also feeds your feelings. When eating is triggered by an emotion rather than physical hunger, it's known as "emotional eating" and it comes at a cost to your health if you don't control it. Emotional eating strikes suddenly and you crave a specific food, such as a "comfort food". Unlike physical hunger, when you eat emotionally, you continue to eat beyond the point of feeling full.


2)  Curbing Emotional Eating

The solution to emotional eating is to first recognize it and identify a pattern. The next time you encounter one of your emotional eating triggers and are driven to eat, try these four easy steps called the "Stop-Breathe-Reflect-Choose" strategy. It takes just a couple of minutes.

A. Stop - stop what you're doing. Break the cycle of automatic eating.

B. Breathe - relax and slow down. Take four deep breaths and release any tension as you exhale.

C. Reflect - think before you eat. Ask yourself if you're physically Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT) or Bored, Anxious, Depressed (BAD). Then note what food you're craving. This exercise will help you identify whether your need to eat is emotional or physical, which emotions trigger you to eat, and which emotions are associated with particular foods. You'll start to see a pattern.

D. Choose - choose to eat or cope. You have three choices. You can choose to eat the food. Choose to eat a healthier version of that food or find a non-eating way to cope. With practice, you can take control of your reactions.


3)  Action Solutions to Emotional Eating (Non-Eating Ways to Cope)

Call a friend of write about your feelings in a journal. Express your emotions rather than shove them down with food.

Get physical or productive. Go for a walk/jog, play with your pet or play a game, or work out at the gym. (Exercise helps release endorphins that trigger feelings of well-being.) Wash the car, clean house, do laundry, work in the garden, or redecorate a room.

Calm yourself. Do yoga/meditation.

Find ways to have fun and laugh.

Seek help. Individual or group counseling may be effective in coping with emotional stress.


4)  Focus on the People, Not Your Plate

There will be lots of food and a wider variety of food options can lead you to eat up to 23% more, so divert your attention away from the table. Join in or start conversations. That's not to say you have to be the "life of the party" - just engaged. Move around the room and find pockets of conversation. Remember… being a good conversationalist is NOT about doing all the talking. It's someone who's genuinely interested in the other person, asks open-ended questions, and lets the other person talk.


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