It goes without saying that typical game-day snacks are not the healthiest fare. But a recent study suggests that football fans who root for a losing team are more likely to eat unhealthful, high-calorie foods—even the day after the game. On the flip side, fans of a winning team are likely to make better food choices than they normally do. “Backing a losing team isn’t just bad for your pride,” says National Public Radio’s science correspondent Shankar Vedantam in a recent broadcast called Diet of Defeat. “It’s bad for your waistline.”
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, was conducted by marketing researchers at the international business school INSEAD. Authors Yann Cornil and Pierre Chandon explain, “Using archival and experimental data, we showed that vicarious defeats experienced by fans when their favorite football team loses lead them to consume less healthy food. On the Mondays following a Sunday National Football League (NFL) game, saturated-fat and food-calorie intake increase significantly in cities with losing teams, decrease in cities with winning teams, and remain at their usual levels in comparable cities without an NFL team or with an NFL team that did not play.” The study also shows that these effects were greater in cities with the most committed fans, when the opponents were more evenly matched, and when the defeats were narrow.
In the NPR story, Vedantam suggests that the most interesting part of this research might not be the effects of defeats, but the effect that victories seem to have on fans. “Winning seems to make people think long-term—they look forward to the next match, for example,” he says. “The satisfaction of winning increases the capacity of people to withstand difficult choices—to pick the salad over the fries.”
What do you think? Do the wins and losses of your favorite team affect your eating habits? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!