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Sports fans: The gluttony of defeat

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It’s 4th and goal. The announcer screams, “It’s gut-check time!” Turns out, if your team chokes, it’s gut-check time for you too — literally. In a study in the journal Psychological Science, researchers found that fans of losing National Football League teams eat more unhealthy food the Monday after a game while fans of victorious teams decreased their intake of saturated fat and calories. The effect was true for both men and women and most pronounced in cities with the most devoted fans, with saturated fat consumption zooming up by 28 percent the Monday after a loss and decreasing 16 percent after a victory.

The authors, from the INSEAD business school in France, found similar effects among soccer fans. They speculate that fans who live vicariously through their teams feel a threat to their identity when they lose and react by reaching for foods high in fat and sugar “because of their expected comforting properties.”

As for fans of really bad teams, the researchers suggest that if you are concerned about healthy eating, “write down what is really important to you in life” after a defeat. This exercise of self-affirmation “completely eliminated the effects of defeats.” It puts a new meaning on being a Monday-morning quarterback. Along with second guessing the coach, fans may want to scrawl X’s and O’s on their fridge, with a big X over the leftover pizza.

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