The Internal Bowl
In terms of food consumption, the Super Bowl marks the unhealthiest day of the year.
On Sunday, Americans will eat more pizza than on any other day of the year. Data from a popular fitness app says that more beer will be consumed than on any day besides July 4. A food-industry council estimates that people who watch the game will take in 2,400 calories during the five-hour ordeal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns Americans that Super Bowl Sunday is the number-two day for calorie consumption per capita, behind only Thanksgiving. And because researchers from Cornell recently found that the food that people buy in the days leading up to the Super Bowl is less healthy than what they buy in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, cases have been made that Super Bowl Sunday is the least healthy day of the year.
Football is about violating societal order on a spectacular scale. But of the 112 million people partaking in today's festivities, very few will knock other people over in exchange for money and fame. So Americans choose instead to assault their own gastrointestinal systems, while taking in a Pepsi-sponsored halftime show and deluge of multimillion-dollar fast-food ads. The game is a thin veil for orgiastic consumption. And so amid the clatter, health experts are pleading for moderation.
This year the approach seems to be to make a game of it. My inbox is full of pitches about health-conscious approaches to Super Bowl Sunday: dietitians, trainers, and even doctors who want to give me their "easy tips" for enjoying the festivities without abandoning my diet or derailing my New Year's resolution. (Which is presumptuous. My New Year's resolution was to meet Alan Alda, and I did that.) We don't publish much in the way of health directives, but some of these Super Bowl tips should not go unread. So here are some of the best, from health publicists and publications. In the spirit of games, I'll add in some advice of my own, and you can guess which of these were proposed in earnest. The answers are at the bottom, but don't cheat, or that's a "foul." Okay, go—or should I say, "hike"?
- "Jump up and run around for each touchdown."
- "Position yourself ten yards away from the high-calorie foods."
- "Whenever someone eats a nacho, punch that person in the face."
- "Unclean hands are a major food penalty for you and your guests."
- "Acknowledge that while there is a lot of food, you don’t have to try all of it."
- "Fumble push-ups; first-down high knees; penalty planks"
- "This Sunday, Americans should be more concerned with over-inflated bellies [than] under-inflated footballs."
- "Declining a mozzarella stick can be stressful. Let off steam by wearing a referee's whistle around your neck and blowing it periodically."
- "Bring your own food."
- "No snack is healthy for humans when it involves harm to the environment. To minimize waste, ask all of your guests to eat from one long food dispenser."
- "Give someone a hug every time a beer commercial comes on. Friendship is more delicious than even the frothiest brew."
- "Use the game as an excuse to hang out with people who make you happy. Follow the widely accepted basic principles of healthy eating (minimally processed foods, in moderation, variety, many plants, etc.), just like any other day, and feel good because of it."