Will the Super Bowl Make You Fat?

The average spectator eats 1200 calories in snacks on game day.

ByABC News
February 2, 2014, 2:00 AM

Feb. 2, 2014— -- Super Bowl XLVIII is more like Super Bowl XL for many of us.

The average Super Bowl spectator gobbles down 1,200 calories worth of snacks on game day, according to the Calorie Control Council. Game day eating is so extreme that the United States Department of Agriculture has labeled Super Bowl Sunday the second most glutinous day of the year after Thanksgiving.

Brain Wansink, author of Slim by Design and a professor of food and brand psychology at Cornell University, said he believes there are several belt-popping influences that might contribute to game day overeating.

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In one study, Wansink threw a Super Bowl party with his unsuspecting guests serving as subjects. As they watched the game, guest-subjects helped themselves to a buffet of chicken wings. Some of their tables were bussed frequently to clear away leftover bones while others sat at tables that were allowed to pile high with wing waste.

The subjects who had their wing bones swept away ate, on average, seven wings -- two additional wings compared to those who sat at the messy tables.

The reason for this, Wansink speculated, is that cleaning up the bones created a sort of caloric blindness in the party goers.

"All the evidence of what they'd eaten was removed," he explained. "There was nothing left to remind them of how many calories they'd consumed."

While two wings might not sound like much of a difference, Wansink pointed out that each wing contains about 100 calories. It takes about 60 minutes of walking, 40 minutes of cycling or 30 minutes of jogging to burn off those 200 hundred extra calories.

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At another Super Bowl party, Wansink found boneless wings were even greater diet saboteur. The average partygoer ate 35 percent more calories when their poultry snack never left a trail of evidence behind.

Snack bowl size also influences calorie consumption, Wansink has found. When he doubled the size of snack bowls at yet another football gathering, attendees ate a 53 percent more party snack mix. The reason for this, Wansink said, is that larger bowls trick the brain into thinking portion sizes are smaller than they actually are.

And if your team loses the big game this coming Sunday, a recent French investigation found you probably won't be seeking comfort in the form of a salad. Fans who lived in cities of a losing team, increased saturated-fat intake by over 15 percent and overall calorie consumption by 10 percent compared to their usual Monday calorie count – even if they didn't watch the game – the study found.

Post game pig-outs were most pronounced when a team lost in a nail biter versus a blow out. In contrast, fans who tasted victory reduced saturated-fat intake by nearly 10 percent and their calorie count by 5 percent.

Why do people chow down on a diet of defeat?

"People tend to eat their feelings," Wansink said.

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