Supporting a sporting team that is the perennial underdog could seriously damage your health, according to the latest research from Insead. Marketing professor Pierre Chandon and doctoral student Yann Cornil, report that on the day after a football team loses a match, its fans will eat more calories and saturated fats than if the team had won.

According to Prof Chandon, “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.” According to his research, fans of the losing team consume 16 per cent more saturated fats and 10 per cent more calories on the day following a big football match. By comparison, supporters of the winning team eat 9 per cent less saturated fat and 5 per cent fewer calories.

The two researchers conclude that when a favourite team loses, people feel an identity threat and eat as a “coping” mechanism. Winning, on the other hand, seems to provides a psychological boost, and that improves self control.

The research centred on fans of the National Football League (NFL) whose food consumption was monitored over two seasons in more than 20 US cities. To help validate the research the Insead team then asked a group of French people to write about a time when their favourite team lost or won match or game. Their food intake was then monitored.

So what do you do if your team is a perennial loser? “After a defeat, write down what is really important to you in life,” say Mr Cornil and Prof Chandon. “In our studies, this simple technique, called ‘self affirmation,’ completely eliminated the effects of defeats.”

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