Supporting a losing sports team is bad for your health: Study

Supporting a losing sports team is bad for your health: Study
Published: 10:48 AM, August 22, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, August 23, 2013
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LONDON - Supporting a hopeless sports team is bad for your health because fans binge on unhealthy comfort food when their side loses, a study has found.

The day after a defeat for their local side, fans consume more fatty foods such as pizza, cake and cookies, and more calories overall, than on a normal day, researchers found.

In contrast, people in cities whose team win tend to eat more healthily, while the diets of those whose local team have not played a match remained unchanged, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The effects are particularly pronounced in cities with the most passionate supporters, after games between teams of a similar standard, and after an agonisingly close defeat or a convincing victory, the study showed.

Fans feel a threat to their identity after a defeat for their team and use comfort eating as a coping mechanism, while victories boost their self-control, the research on American Football supporters suggests.

Further experiments on French football fans backed up the findings, but found that the effects on eating habits could be cancelled out if fans consciously put the victory or defeat into context by thinking about other things which were important to them before eating.

Dr Yann Cornil and Prof Pierre Chandon of INSEAD Business School, who published their study in the Psychological Science journal, said: “Even if you are rooting for a perennial loser, there is a solution if you are concerned about healthy eating.

“After a defeat, write down what is really important to you in life. In our studies, this simple technique, called ‘self-affirmation,’ completely eliminated the effects of defeats.”

Previous research had shown that sporting defeats could lead to rises in alcohol-related crime, traffic deaths, domestic violence and heart attacks among fans.

To examine whether people’s eating habits were also affected, the researchers asked 726 people to keep food diaries on Sundays when their local team had an NFL game and on the following two days, covering a total of 475 games involving 30 teams.

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