If the Patriots Win, It Could Change How You Eat Next Week
How football outcomes alter eating behavior.
Posted February 2, 2018
If you’re going to watch the Big Game on Sunday and you care more about the score than the commercials, take heed that whether your team wins or loses could change how healthily (or not) you eat next week. Feelings of failure can change how we eat, and make comfort food much more appealing. But that failure need not be when we are passed up for promotion or mess up at an important event; vicarious failure can feel almost as bad as personal failure and football is especially powerful at creating it.
Everyone eats lots of chips and chicken wings while they’re watching football and the Super Bowl in particular is the event each year when chickens run scared. On Super Bowl Sunday 2016, approximately 1.3 billion chicken wings were eaten—as compared to the usual mere 780,000. But, how many chicken wings versus salads are consumed on the Monday following a big game is strongly affected by your team’s result.
In 2013, a study published in the journal Psychological Science that tracked football scores and eating behavior over two NFL seasons found that football outcomes could radically alter eating behavior. Daily food diaries collected from a large number of average Americans living in major metropolitan areas over two 14-day periods during the football season showed that on the Monday after the home team lost, consumption of high-calorie, high-fat processed foods jumped by 16 percent compared with a typical weekday, and as much as 28 percent when the teams were arch-rivals, when the defeats were narrow, and in cities with the most committed fans. Moreover, excess binging on junk food on Monday was not counterbalanced by healthier eating later in the week. This means that drowning your football sorrows in calories will have an impact on your waistline. Hearteningly, however, if the home team won, the average intake of high-calorie processed food dropped by 9 percent on the Monday following the game, and as much as 16 percent after thrilling victories and among the most dedicated fans.
If you are among the majority of viewers who will not be rooting for the Patriots on Sunday, beware that if they win, you don’t over-indulge on pizza and pie on Monday, especially if you’re a diehard Eagles fan. If you are a Patriots fan and they maintain their Super Bowl streak, you can feel additionally elated in the win-win that you’ll probably be eating more healthily next week. But the story doesn’t have to end in high-calorie escapism if your side loses. The researchers of the food and football study found that if after watching a disheartening defeat, fans engaged in a self-affirmation exercise, such as writing about personal values of high importance to them, they were less likely to want to indulge in unhealthy tasty treats. That is, you can remedy your football blues in ways that don’t involve food.
In preparation for the Big Game, keep pen and paper handy and stock your refrigerator with fruits and vegetables so that no matter what happens on Sunday you can stay positive with how you eat next week.
Cornil, Y., & Chandon, P. (2013). From fan to fat? Vicarious losing increases unhealthy eating, but self-affirmation is an effective remedy. Psychological science, 24(10), 1936-1946.