I don’t know about you but I’ve always been on some kind of diet. I was a fat kid and my mother bought grapefruit by the case. She weighed every item she served me on a plastic scale and had a local handyman drill a padlock on the refrigerator door. She emptied my pockets for loose change before I left the house and cruised the shopping plaza because a neighbor kid told her I sometimes bought a hot dog and devoured it by the dumpster in back of the deli. She ran her fingers around the waistband of my pants to make sure they weren’t getting tighter–to this day I opt to drip rather than tumble dry, having more than once been the innocent victim of shrinkage—and clicked her tongue in disgust when the clothing salesman led us past the regular sizes to the elephant’s tent of the children’s wear department: the table marked Huskies.
I was weighed for times a week, always showing far above the Metropolitan Life Average Weight for Children (of India? I wondered) and driven bi-monthly to a diet doctor who prescribed amphetamines. Before every meal I choked down a black pill whose street value today is six dollars.
Throughout adulthood I’ve tried Atkins. The Zone. Weight Watchers. South Beach. None of them work without a boring hour of exercise. Weights. Pull-ups. Rowing machine. And the harder you push, the more you’re likely to sprain some muscle, and have stop for while you heal, and gain back everything you lost.
It all stems from a recent study about whether a football team’s winning or losing effected what fans ate the day after the game.
Now, in past commentaries I’ve mentioned the behaviors that psychologists call birging and corfing. These are acronyms. BIRG stands for Basking In Reflected Glory. It’s opposite is CORF, whose letters stand for Cutting Off Reflective Failure.
People are Cutting Off Reflective Failure when they get so upset with their team losing that they’d rather shut the TV off than watch Tom Brady get sacked. They’re Basking In Reflected Glory when they watch the highlights again and again after a team win.
But get this. According to this most recent study, football fans saturated fat consumption increased by almost 30% following a loss and decreased by 16% percent after a win.
In fact close games led to even more high-fat pig-outs. It’s all because we identify with our teams and when we feel our identities are threatened we compensate by eating high calorie foods. Now the fact that disappointed fans tend to get drunk, beat up on their domestic partners, and have heart attacks have all been documented but this study was the first to explain why the sizes of Chicago Bears jerseys start at Extra-Extra-Extra-Large.
But the key here is the effect on fans of winning teams. Fans of winning teams feel good about themselves. They pass up three-cheese nachos for a shrimp cocktail.
You’ll be happy to know that this phenomenon is not solely American. According to the New York Times, the experiment was duplicated in France, a country not known for fried pork rind binges, but the results were the same.
So how do we apply this to our own diets? Simple. Just ditch the losing teams and root for the winners. I don’t know how many Boston Red Sox fans had to pack away their skinny jeans and replace them with overalls in 2011 when the Sox finished dead last in the standings, but I do know that John Lester, Josh Becket, and John Lackey weren’t the only ones stuffing their faces with Popeye’s Fried Chicken. We all got fat when the home team tanked.
But how easy would it have been to switch our allegiances? Would rooting for the Yankees have been so bad if it meant dropping your LDL cholesterol level by 30 milligrams? And here’s the best part…you can participate in sports without getting up from the couch. No personal trainers. No membership at the gym. No stationery bicycles or push-ups every morning. You don’t have to do anything…but be disloyal.
This past summer my fitness plan comprised a baseball cap for every team and an MLB Extra Innings package with the Cable Company. As soon as one team started losing I changed my hat and my channel and voila, instead of craving a half gallon of chocolate fudge chunk ice cream I went for a cup of plain yogurt. Hey, okay. I know it sounds disloyal, but at least my pants fit.
I’m Ira Wood…and that’ my opinion.
Matters of Opinion are Ira Wood’s short, personal, often rather odd takes on current events. They wrap up the WOMR News on most Fridays at 12:30 PM and are available as podcasts HERE. Feel free to email Ira to tell him what you think.