Sports Fans Fail at Nutrition After Team Loss | Mental Health Articles

Date: 09/19/2013    Written by: Beth Levine

Sports Fans and Junk Food

Cheering on your favorite team can be a fun, exciting experience.  And being part of a community of fans and getting together with others can be thrilling when they are victorious.  But apparently, it is not without a downside.  According to a new study, when the team a community loves loses a game, many fans react by eating food loaded with calories and saturated fat.

The research, which took place through the INSEAD school in Singapore, found that poor food choices are often made by sports enthusiasts if a game doesn't go their way. So much for a balanced diet. 1  Three separate trials were conducted involving both American football fans and French soccer fans.  In the first segment, the scientists analyzed information obtained from a nutrition survey of adults in the United States.  They observed a short-term difference in the diets of residents of a city depending on whether their National Football League (NFL) team experienced victory or defeat.  When a team lost their Sunday game, on Monday the local inhabitants consumed 10 percent more calories and had a 16 percent higher intake of saturated fat versus their normal eating habits.  When the team won on Sunday, on the other hand, the locals consumed a little bit less than usual in both calories and fat on Monday than on a typical day.  And in the case of those who live in an area that has no NFL team, no corresponding Monday fluctuations were found.

The second portion of the study involved 78 male and female subjects from France who were identified as sports fans.  The researchers had the subjects write some of their thoughts about a particular win or loss of their favorite team.  Next, the participants were tasked with a word puzzle to complete and provided with a selection of snacks to enjoy while doing it, including grapes, cherry tomatoes, chocolate, and potato chips.  Those who had focused their writings on a defeat were more likely to choose the chips or chocolate than their peers who had written of a victory.

The third and final leg of the research used a different group of French volunteers. This time, approximately 160 adults were shown clips of three various soccer matches.  The videos consisted of highlights of a major victory of the French national team over their Italian rivals, scenes of the 2006 World Cup finals loss in which France was bested by Italy, or neutral footage that featured games played by two Belgian teams.  The subjects were divided into two groups following the viewing.  One group was asked to write a "self-affirmation" that focused on an important personal value such as maintaining close relationships with others, while the second group had no such task.  Then photos of both nutritious and junk foods were shown to all of the volunteers and they were told to rate them according to what they would want to eat.  Those who had not spent time performing a self-affirmation chose more of the unhealthy items after watching France lose to Italy in that crucial match.  But interestingly, those who performed an affirmation were more likely to opt for tomatoes and grapes rather than chocolate or chips, even if they had viewed France's defeat.

Emotional eating is not a new concept, there are many mental health articles to show that.  A 2007 study at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, found that when people are sad they are more likely to indulge in unhealthy foods than when they are happy.2  But the third part of the study serves to remind us that even if we are tempted to drown our sorrows in a giant bowl of ice cream because it tastes so good, there are other ways to help us feel better that won't clog the arteries and tip the scale in the morning.  While writing out an affirmation of your values might not be the ticket for everyone, you can also meditate or do some yoga poses, go for a run, or call a good friend to chat to get into a more positive frame of mind.  You might need to try a few different options to determine what works best for you.  And if all else fails, you can always move to a city with a winning team you can root for…or just move to Vermont.

  • 1. Norton, Amy. "When Football Team Loses, Fans Reach for Junk Food." WebMD. 5 September 2013. Accessed 12 September 2013.
  • 2. "Food-Mood Connection: The Sad Are Twice As Likely To Eat Comfort Food." Science Daily. 2 February 2007. Accessed 13 September 2013.

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