Backing a winning team ‘can help you eat healthier’
Researchers show supporting a losing side prompts fans to consume fatty foods
’Stand up if you are winning’. Washington Redskins fans celebrate at Fed Ex Field. Photograph: Getty.
Sports fans can lead a healthier lifestyle if they manage to back a winning team. Fans whose teams win tend to eat better foods while those who support losers tend to binge out on fats and sugar.
There is no doubt that when you team gets beaten it helps make for bad losers, but researchers based at the Insead graduate business school also found that bad behaviour after a match extended to bad eating.
“Although prior studies had shown that sport outcomes influence reckless, driving, heart attacks, and even domestic violence, no one had examined how they influence eating,” says Yann Cornil of Insead. So he and Prof Pierre Chandon of Insead decided to find out, publishing their findings today in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The study was undertaken in the US, with a focus on American football. They lined up volunteers in more than 24 cities who for two years kept track of what they ate after a match.
They found that those backing the losing team ate on average 16 per cent more saturated fat than they might have the day after a match, while those enjoying a winning football team ate about nine per cent less saturated fat.
And the likelihood of this kind of eating behaviour was accentuated if a match came down to the wire, the researchers write. “People eat better when their football team wins and worse when it loses, especially if they lost unexpectedly, by a narrow margin or against a team of equal strength.”
They suggest that the comfort eating provided by eating rubbish foods represented a “coping mechanism” for the losers. Backing the winning team seemed to boost people’s self control, they theororised.
The researchers conducted a similar experiment on French sports fans , asking them to write about a time when their team lost or won. The researchers provided good snacks and bad snacks for those participating and found that those writing about how their team lost went for the crisps and sweets, while those writing about the time their team won went for grapes and tomatoes.
This could leave you in serious trouble if your team is a habitual loser given the amount of comfort eating it might entail. But the researchers say people should just apply “self affirmation” by writing down what is really important in life. It should stop you fretting about that extra time last second loss. ENDS