For some football fans, the phrase “it’s just a game” doesn’t bring much solace if their team loses. As The Scientist points out, game losses can have very real-world impacts—heart attacks, traffic accidents, incidents of domestic violence. But fans also deal with their feelings in less dramatic (if still unhealthy) ways, like, a new bit of research found, junk food binge eating
A fan’s closeness to his team may be so tied up in his personal identity that his body interprets the loss as an effrontery to his own psyche, The Scientist explains. This triggers a defensive craving for fatty comfort foods. Here’s how the researchers arrived at these findings:
Chandon and a colleague collected diet information from 726 people on game day Sundays and the following two days. In the cities where the local team experienced a loss, people reported eating 16 percent more saturated fat and 10 percent more calories on Monday than they did the day before. In contrast, people living in winning-team cities reported eating 9 percent less saturated fat and 5 percent fewer calories on Monday than they did on game day. In cities without an NFL team or where the home team didn’t play, there were no significant dietary changes between Sunday and Monday.
For fans hoping not to gain weight over the season because they’re following a losing team, the researchers suggest “a simple self-affirmation” exercise after the game. How to convince die-hard sports fans to stop and reflect on their best personal qualities following a losing match, however, is not addressed in the study.
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