Habs fans have faced a lot of frustration this season. One-goal losses. Scoring droughts. No Subban on the PK. Injuries. The self destruction of David Desharnais' career. The list goes on, but now there's more bad news. It turns out the Habs are making us fat.
Earlier this fall, French scientists Pierre Chandon and Yann Cornil released the results of their study of passionate fans' eating habits. Admittedly, they examined only fans of football and soccer, but they assure us the findings can apply to any sport.
In any case, after years of research, they discovered that if your team loses, you eat more and you eat worse. The danger isn't so much in watching your team lose, although there's evidence fans consume more snacks if they're emotionally detaching from a loss during a game. The real problem is the loser hangover.
The scientists learned fans of the losing team take in an average of 16% more saturated fats the day after a loss than winning fans, and 10% more calories overall. Fans of the winning team ate 5% fewer calories the day after the victory than they would on a normal day. Dr.Chandon says it's because fans with a deep emotional attachment to their favourite teams share some of the endorphin rush players feel when they win, and those feel-good hormones keep us from craving the comfort of extra food. They also make us feel more energetic, so we're more inclined to exercise rather than mope around. When passionate fans say "we won" or "we lost," they really are feeling a real investment in their teams.
It gets worse for fans, though. Dr.Chandon's report finds fans eat the most when their teams lose a close one, or one they think the team should have won.
"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," he writes. If you consider that eight of the Habs 11 losses this year were by one goal, that adds up to a lot of angst-eating by disgruntled fans.
It goes even deeper. Really devoted fans eat worse if they even talk about a loss later on. The scientists did a little experiment with French soccer fans. They asked one group of fans to write about a memorable win by their favourite team. Another group wrote about a loss. Later, in a seemingly unrelated task, the researchers asked both groups of fans to choose a snack. Those who had written about losing most often chose chips or candy. Those with the winning stories were more inclined to choose grapes or tomatoes. Dwelling on losses, then, tends to make the poor-food choice phenomena last longer. And boy, can Habs fans dwell!
The researchers say the results of their work weren't really unexpected. Previous studies prove a team's losses can influence reckless driving, heart attacks and even domestic violence among passionate fans.
Dr.Chandon offers hope, though.
"Even if you are rooting for a perennial loser, there is a solution if you are concerned about healthy eating," he says. "After a defeat, write down what's really important to you in life. In our studies, this technique, called 'self-affirmation' completely eliminated the effects of defeats."
Of course, this approach will only work if your list of the most important things in life doesn't include "The Montreal Canadiens." If it does, for the sake of our health and our waistlines, the Habs had better start winning more often than they lose.