What Your Sports Team Says About Your Weight

When the team you root for takes a hit, your diet may suffer, tooWhen the team you root for takes a hit, your diet may suffer, tooIt's not just the game-day smorgasbord that can threaten your waistline. If your favorite football team bombs a big game, you're more likely to binge the next day, according to new research from France.

For the study, researchers from the business school INSEAD tracked the eating habits of NFL fans after 475 games. Turns out, the losing team's fans had consumed 16 percent more saturated fat than normal the next day. In cities with the most serious football followings, intake of the unhealthy fat actually shot up by 28 percent. Bummed-out fans also tended to increase their overall calorie intake by 10 percent.

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In a second study, researchers found that even just thinking about a time when their team had suffered a loss made people more likely to overdo it on potato chips and chocolate than when they reminisced about a victory.

"Fans identify with their teams--they say 'we lost,' not 'they lost,'" says study author Pierre Chandon, Ph.D. "So the team's defeat becomes, in part, their own defeat." And there's a reason junky snacks--not celery and carrot sticks--are considered "comfort" food. "Eating indulgent, immediately gratifying foods is a way to cope with this loss of self-esteem," says Chandon. It's also a way to temporarily boost your mood (hello, Ben & Jerry's!).

The need to feed was especially strong when NFL teams were evenly matched--therefore making the outcome of the game unpredictable--and when the final score was painfully close. Why? "Because you could have won," says Chandon. Narrow defeats can squash your self-control more than crushing ones because when your team gets creamed, you've had time to adjust to the loss before the fourth quarter--and that may help curb your impulse to raid the fridge, says Chandon.

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Want to avoid a dietary disaster after a Sunday night football flop? Chandon suggests trying a mental strategy called "self-affirmation," in which you reflect on what's important in your life--for example, your family or even another sport--after your team loses. It sounds a little mushy, but in the study, this completely eliminated people's drive to eat unhealthy foods after a defeat.

By Laura Tedesco, Women's Health


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