Diet Of Defeat: Why Football Fans Mourn With High Fat Food
A study that links sports outcomes with the eating behavior of fans finds that backers of NFL teams eat more food and fattier food the day after a loss. Backers of winning teams, by contrast, eat lighter food, and in moderation.
After a defeat, the researchers found that saturated fat consumption went up by 16 percent, while after a victory it decreased by 9 percent. "After a victory, people eat better," says Pierre Chandon, a professor of marketing at the business school INSEAD in France. "After a defeat, people eat a lot worse."
In many ways, the research fits with what we already know about the psychology of eating. When many of us feel miserable, we'll down a big bag of candy. Call it a form of self-medication – when your happiness levels are low, junk food and high-calorie food provide the brain with much-needed pleasure.
Chandon and his co-author Yann Cornil, also at INSEAD, find the same thing happening with sports defeats. They tracked the eating behavior of people in cities with NFL teams and measured how eating changed after victories and defeats. (In cities such as New York that have more than one team, the researchers tracked the victories and defeats of the team with the most followers.)
It wasn't just about eating saturated fats, either. Overall calorie consumption went up by 10 percent after losses, and down by 5 percent after wins.
Chandon says the connection between eating and sports outcomes was off the charts in the cities where following the local football team was tantamount to a religion.
"When we look at the behavior of people living in cities where football is really important — places like Green Bay, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, then the performance of the team has an even greater impact on what they eat," Chandon says.
After a loss, people in those cities eat 28 percent more saturated fat. A win swayed them over to eat 16 percent less saturated fat. "So, in those cities, people are even more responsive to the wining or the losing of the football team," says Chandon.