Football season is upon us, and it could have an impact on your health. According to a recent study, the types of food fans choose appears to be linked to whether their team wins or loses.
Avid fans of a losing team ate more saturated fat and calories on Monday after a disappointing Sunday game. Fans of the winning team chose healthier foods, say two researchers who examined the effect of sports outcomes on eating behaviors.
People who lived in cities where the NFL team lost consumed about 16 percent more saturated fat and 10 percent more calories than normal.
Over the course of two NFL seasons, people in 24 cities, including those with and without NFL teams, kept a diary of their food consumption for two weeks, each a year apart.
On the Mondays after a game, people who lived in cities where the NFL team lost consumed about 16 percent more saturated fat and 10 percent more calories compared to what they normally ate on a Monday when there was no weekend game, researchers Yann Cornil and Pierre Chandon of the INSEAD Business School found.
A team's winning seems to boost fans' sense of self control.
People who lived in a city whose NFL team won on Sunday ate about nine percent less saturated fat and five percent fewer calories the next day. Interestingly, these results held true for those who were not football fans, suggesting that they were influenced by the food intake of others.
“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 report. They theorize that when a favorite team loses, fans take it as a threat to their identities and seek food as a way of coping and finding comfort. On the other hand, winning seems to boost fans' sense of self control.
“Even if you are rooting for a perennial loser, there is a solution if you are concerned about healthy eating,” the researchers said in a statement. “After a defeat, write down what is really important to you in life. In our studies, this simple technique, called ‘self-affirmation,’ completely eliminated the effects of defeats.”