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Football and emotional eating - TheSportsDept.com

Football and emotional eating

Are sports fans more prone to bad eating after their team loses? As the 2013 NFL season begins, a new Medical News Today study, indicates fans eat better when their football team wins and worse when it loses. However the study indicates that through the incorporation of self-affirmation, fans can avoid the junk food temptation when their beloved team suffers defeat.

European researchers collected data that showed on Mondays following a Sunday game, fans ate nearly 16% more saturated fat than usual when their football team lost. It was more significant if the city’s NFL team lost by a narrow margin or the defeat was unexpected. Conversely fans would consume approximately 9% less saturated fat than usual on Monday if their team won the day before.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the practice of consuming large quantities of food, usually “comfort” or junk foods can be used as a way to suppress or soothe a variety of negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. This ‘emotional eating’ can be triggered by both major life events as well as the usual hassles of daily life rather than in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.

The researchers suggest that in the case of sports, fans can take the team loss as a “personal defeat”, as a threat to their self-esteem and are more likely to use eating as a method of coping. On the other hand, fans of the winning team get a morale boost — and so may opt for healthier food.

Through a process of self-affirmation sports fans can experience a restoration of self to minimize the sense of personal defeat that can impact self–esteem and unhealthy soothing behaviors. When all participants were shown photos of healthy and not-so-healthy foods, those that had practiced ’ self-affirmation’ writing about a positive core value in their life — such as their relationships with their family or friends, they were more inclined to eat the healthier foods no matter which video they watched. The researchers believe this demonstrates that through the process of self affirmation a a restoration of self can occur for the fan who feels a sense of personal defeat when their favorite team loses.

“In other words,” Cornil said, “affirming your values prevents the sport defeat from affecting your self-esteem.”

The Mayo Clinic offers the following tips to help stop emotional eating, try these tips:

  •  Tame your stress by incorporating techniques such as yoga, meditation or relaxation.
  •  Have a hunger reality check. To assess if your hunger is physical or emotional, and if you recently ate and don’t have a rumbling stomach, give the craving a little time to pass.
  • Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, how much, when, how you’re feeling hunger level. Look for emerging patterns to identify the connection between mood and food.
  • Get support. The likelihood of giving in to emotional eating increases when there is a limited support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group.
  • Fight boredom. Instead of snacking, distract yourself: take a walk, watch a movie, play with your pet, listen to music, read, surf the Internet or call a friend.
  • Take away temptation. Don’t keep comfort foods in your home if they are hard to resist. Postpone grocery store trips if you are feeling particularly angry or blue.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Limiting calories too much, repeatedly eating the same foods, and eliminating all treats may serve to increase food cravings, especially in response to emotions.
  • Snack healthy. Choose a low-fat, low-calorie snack such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip or unbuttered popcorn. Also try low-fat, lower calorie versions of your favorite foods.
  • Learn from setbacks. If an episode of emotional eating occurs, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future. Give yourself credit for the positive changes you are making that’ll lead to better health. — Joyce Hyde, Executive Director, Valley Sports Center


Emotional eating, comfort food

“Disappointed sports fans more likely to eat junk food” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 23 Whiteman, Honor. Aug. 2013. Web, 5 Sept.5, 2013.

When Football Team Loses, Fans Reach for Junk Food on HealthDay, By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

From Fan to Fat? Vicarious Losing Increases Unhealthy Eating, but Self-Affirmation Is an Effective Remedy, Yann Cornil, Pierre Chandon Sage Journals, Sept. 5 Psychological Science, online, Aug. 7, 2013,

The Mayo Clinic Weight loss: Gain control of emotional eating Psychological Science


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