Diet & fitness

Fans of losing NFL teams eat their feelings

Sep. 16, 2013 at 3:02 PM ET

America's favorite sport might be bad news for the belly. If you or your man spend every Sunday from September to December shouting at quarterbacks on a television screen, you may be forced to loosen the belt a notch or two by Monday morning, finds a new study in the journal Psychological Science.

Over the course of two NFL seasons, 726 football fans consistently ate 16% more saturated fat and dramatically increased calorie intake the day after their favorite team lost a game. The effect was even worse in cities with particularly devoted NFL fans, such as New York, Boston, and Chicago -- their saturated fat intake jumped more than 28% the Monday after a defeat.

(Do you know that the average person eats 580 calories a day in snacks? Click here for 16 Ways To Curb Mindless Munching.)

The reasons are fairly obvious: Researchers account the excessive eating to a need for comfort food in the face of what defeated fans see as a direct personal attack.

"For many people, the football team that you support is part of your identity," says Yann Cornil, MS, lead researcher and a doctoral candidate at INSEAD, an international business school. "When your team loses, it threatens who you are. When there is such threat to your identity, you compensate by eating something unhealthy, something uplifting."

Luckily, you can avoid the Monday weight gain without resorting to hiding the barbeque chips and takeout menus (although that would probably help, too). The same research found that simply reaffirming the other aspects of one's life helped 157 French soccer fans avoid weight gain following the defeat of their favorite soccer team and even made them opt for healthier food choices.

(Start your day with these 8 Ways To Wake Up Happy And Energized.)

If the family's favorite sports team isn't playing too hot and you start to notice your husband (or yourself) picking up extra pounds as the season goes on, the trick is to take a step back and think about the other ways you define yourself other than a Bears or a Patriots fan. Are you a doctor, a country music lover, a supporter of a political party, a parent?

"Once you have identified this other value that is important to you, you can think about it or write down what you think about it," Cornil explains. "It'll help you get around the defeat -- because you are not just a sports or a football fan. You are many things else." (Looking for a mood-booster? Discover the Daily Habit That Triples Your Happiness.)

More Links:

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