Watching your team lose in the nail-biting final seconds of an intense game is painful. Then, the insults and taunts from your friends who don’t share your team affiliation just add insult to injury. But your biggest loss might come the next day, when you load up on comfort foods to ease the emotional pain.
An August 2013 study published in Psychological Science found that fans of losing teams eat more saturated fats and sugars the Monday following a big football game. Talk about kicking you when you’re down. Conversely, supporters of the winning teams opt for healthier foods.
Researchers compared the outcomes of two seasons of NFL games to food consumption in over two dozen U.S. cities and found that residents in cities with teams that lost on Sunday night consumed about 16 percent more saturated fat the next day, compared to a normal Monday. The cities with winning football teams ate about 9 percent less saturated fat compared to their normal. The trend was even more prominent when the game was a close one or if the team lost unexpectedly. They don’t call it an upset for nothing.
The researchers guess that this plunge into calorie-land is the go-to coping mechanism for people who feel threatened or distraught by their favorite team’s downfall. And winning gives fans a little boost in self-control, which puts them on the path to making more conscious, healthy eating choices.
So what can you do during football season to cope with your losses and avoid drowning in a bowl of buffalo chicken dip? Two researchers on the study, Yann Cornil and Pierre Chandon, suggest the following technique: “Even if you are rooting for a perennial loser, there is a solution if you are concerned about healthy eating: After a defeat, write down what is really important to you in life," they say. "In our studies, this simple technique, called 'self affirmation,' completely eliminated the effects of defeats."
It probably wouldn't hurt to stock up on some healthier snacks before the next game, too, just in case.
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