Pre-season football is already underway. Baseball teams are approaching the home stretch in the race for the World Series. So your favorite sports team lost this weekend, best to hide the comfort food. The reason? A study finds that National Football League fans, whose teams are defeated on Sunday, soothe themselves on Monday by eating foods high in fat and calories.
While heart attacks, bad driving and even violence have been seen in disappointed sports fans, this is the first study to find a link to eating, according to Yann Cornil, researcher at the INSEAD Business School and lead author of the study.
To examine the effect of game outcomes on the eating habits of sports fans, Cornil and his colleague, Pierre Chandon, analyzed two NFL seasons, then compared them with food consumption in some two dozen cities. Saturated fat consumption rose about 16 percent on Mondays after a Sunday defeat, but declined nine percent after a Sunday victory. The patterns were especially prominent when a defeat came after a close game. Nor were they limited to NFL fans: an analysis of French soccer team fans found similar results.
“People eat better when their football team wins and worse when it loses, especially if they lost unexpectedly by a narrow margin, or against a team of equal strength,” Cornil and Chandon note in the study, published in the journal, Psychological Science.
They speculate that when a favorite sports team loses, fans feel an identity threat and are more likely to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Winning, on the other hand, boosts self-control, which could explain why fans of victorious teams ate less than usual saturated fat and calories the day after a victory.
How Can You Cut Your Risk of OverIndulging in Comfort Food after Your Team Loses?
- Make healthful choices easy by having a variety of healthy snacks ready. Good choices include: hummus and carrot sticks; a small package of nuts; fruit; applesauce; low-fat cheese sticks; pretzels; yogurt or whole grain cereal. Find more healthy snacks to control hunger here.
- Put pen to paper to list what is really important to you in life. This simple act eliminated the effects of defeat, the researchers report.
- Engage in mindful eating. Start by asking, “Am I really hungry now?”
- Practice portion control. If only comfort food will do, consider a personal sized pizza; single portions of low-fat ice cream or fruit sorbet or small sizes of high calorie foods. Unsure about a healthy portion? Take the portion distortion quiz.
- Add a little activity to your day. It can help boost mood. Plus, if you’re walking, biking or lifting weights, chances are you won’t be eating.
How do you recover when your favorite team loses? Share your tips here or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love getting e-mails, read them all and answer as many as time permits.
Editorial note: An earlier version of this blog first appeared at Everyday Health.com on August 26, 2013.