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Why We Pig Out on Super Bowl Sunday

Want to reign in distracted snacking? Small, red plates or bowls that look larger than the area you fill with food could help.

Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest eating day of the year, topped only by Thanksgiving. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans eat more than 1.3 billion chicken wings. The rest of the menu tends to be similarly loaded with fats and carbs. And there’s a reason for that.

“These are foods that make us feel good, neurobiologically. Our brain actually responds like something really fantastic is happening when we taste sweet and when we taste fat,” explained neuroscientist Rachel Herz, author of Why You Eat What You Eat. “It actually both turns on the pleasure and reward centers of our brain, and reduces pain – both physically and emotionally.”

That may be why high-fat, high-carb foods are so prominent at Super Bowl parties – which are both celebrations, and potentially stressful events.

The party atmosphere also lends itself toward distracted overeating. That, at least, is something we can influence, according to Herz. She suggests using small, red plates for snacking.

“Red actually draws our attention to what we’re consuming in a way that makes us pay extra vigilance to it,” Herz said. “It has been shown to make us eat less than if food is served on a white plate or a blue plate.”

Not everyone wants to reign in the chips and dip. Stuffing ourselves with pizza and wings is all part of the Super Bowl tradition.

“Special occasions are when people feel like they can give themselves license to ill,” according to Herz. “There’s kind of an acknowledged ‘We’re gonna be bad today, and that’s okay.’”

For fans of the winning team, that may be true. Those people are more likely to make up for their sins by eating extra healthfully the day after the game. But not those mourning a Super Bowl loss.

“People feeling that loss of their home team are going to be eating more pizza, eating more nachos, drowning their sorrows in comfort foods,” Herz said. 

For die-hard fans, Herz says the comfort eating could last more than just one day. And it isn’t typically followed by extra healthful eating, just a return to normal.

I guess you could say that the Pats winning was the healthiest option for New Englanders.

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