If this song gets you all fired up and ready to go, you know what I’m talking about. I love watching a great football game as much as the next fan. But let’s face it, most Sunday afternoons are bad for the waistline.
- Too much sitting indoors.
- Too much snacking.
- Too much drinking.
The NFL could easily stand for “Naturally Fattening Lifestyle.” This doesn’t even account for the psychological stress during a game and the mental agony of a tough loss. So how can you enjoy watching your favorite football team without negatively impacting your health?
Here are 11 Ideas to Make Watching Football Healthier
1. Plan Your Workout AFTER the Game. A lot of people will try to work-out on Sunday morning in anticipation of eating and drinking a lot later. While in theory this may seem like a good idea, it often backfires. People often justify over-consuming while watching a game simply because they exercised earlier.
Instead of working out Sunday morning, work-out after your game is on.
You are a lot less likely to over-indulge or over-drink if you know that you have to move and sweat after the game. The key is to sign-up for a class so you’re committed.
Have a workout buddy or coach hold you accountable for showing up. That way you’ll think twice about over-stuffing yourself or going back for that extra drink.
2. Place All the Food and Snacks in a Different Room. Watching football often leads to mindless snacking. If you don’t have that bowl of chips or a plate of appetizers in front of you, you’re a lot less likely to overconsume simply because it’s there.
Be strategic, and place your food items in a different room. The extra effort of getting up to serve yourself can keep you from eating when you’re not hungry.
3. Set-up Your Viewing Area for Movement. If possible, create space to spread out and move around. Clear out extra furniture and make an opening in front of your TV large enough for you to lie down. If you have any workout equipment at home, place it directly in front of the TV.
The idea is to let your environment nudge you towards activity. If you see a dumbbell in front of you the entire game, you’re might just pick it up. If there is a foam roller lying next to the couch, you may decide to do a quick roll during a break. You may even try getting off the couch and squatting or sitting on the floor just to expose your body to new positions.
If you don’t have space in your home to move, take advantage of the halftime break and go outside if you can. Walk around the block or try tossing a ball around with friends.
4. Create a Football Workout Game. This is one way to make watching football healthier that kids love. Once your space is set up properly, there are many great opportunities to get active. Make up your own rules with your family or friends and challenge each other as you are viewing.
Here is one fun game I came up with, and I encourage you to experiment with your own variations:
- Someone scores a touchdown = 7 Push-ups
- Someone kicks a field goal = 3 Squat jumps
- Your team in the Red Zone = Stand-up and cheer
- Time Out = Hold a plank until the game resumes
- QB Sack = Lift someone up into the air (or just give them a hug)
5. Drink OR Eat While Watching — But Not At the Same Time: I understand the appeal of having a beer or cocktail during the game. But when there’s a 12-pack in the cooler, you not only end up drinking hundreds of calories, you also are more likely to make poorer food choices. Alcohol inhibits executive functioning, a.k.a. that little voice in your head that says, “Hey this food is not aligned with your long-term weight goals.”
One way to make watching football healthier is to not eat and drink at the same time. If you’ve got a beer in your hand, no food until you’re done. If you’re eating something, no drinking until you’re finished.
If you do decide to forgo the alcohol, don’t let that become an excuse to eat more. Thinking to yourself that you can have another bowl of chips because you’re saving calories by not drinking is just playing mental games with yourself.
Instead, ask your body if it really needs more food or drink. Pause and see if you can feel your body’s response rather than think your way to an answer.
6. Mute the Commercials: Nowadays, football is one of the few times people watch live TV, which means you are a captive audience to advertisers. The challenge is that the majority of advertisements are for food and beverages.
Even if you think you’re immune, there is some evidence that food advertising can trigger automatic snacking of available food that is unrelated to hunger or other conscious influences. While this effect may be more significant for children, why bother exposing yourself to the constant barrage of ads for calorie-dense low-nutrient foods. Just mute it.
7. Create Micro-Moments of Connection During Breaks: If you’ve followed tip #6, you’ve created a little more peace and quiet during commercials. Now there is an opportunity to fill that time with the one thing that has been shown to be most important for long-term happiness and fulfillment–relationships.
What really matters is turning to the person sitting next to you and sharing a moment of genuine connection. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stranger or someone you’ve watched hundreds of football games together, there’s an opportunity to create an emotionally uplifting experience.
Sometimes all it takes is a hi-five and a cheer. Maybe you can ask a good question and really listen to his or her response. Or if you are watching alone, maybe you send a friend a text that says you’re thinking of them. There are endless small, simple gestures that say you’re here, you care, and you want the best for them.
8. Trade Football Hours for Facetime Hours: If you’ve decided to spend 3-4 hours in front of the TV, pledge an equal amount of time off your devices and interacting with others.
Whether it’s a family outing before or after the game, or an activity that doesn’t involve screens like cooking or playing a board game, try to spend time nourishing your body and heart by spending time with people that matter to you.
9. Make Healthy Snack Swaps: That buffalo chicken cheese dip with tortilla chips may taste great but it can pack a not-so-wholesome dietary punch. Instead, try a buffalo cauliflower dip or just put out fresh-made salsa.
Rather than serving chips, cut-up veggies and serve them with hummus. If you love nachos, consider swapping tortilla chips with cut bell peppers. There are lots of lots of great snacking ideas that can make traditional dishes like more wholesome. Consider it an opportunity to get creative and try new recpies.
10. Breathe…It’s Just A Game (A Really Awesome Game): Football-related depression and mood disorders can be significant, especially after a big loss. During a tense game, your blood pressure can skyrocket and heart rate can increase.
The intensity can be fun for sure. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate, but if the games are leaving you blue and bent out of shape, it might be time to reassess your relationship to the game.
It’s not that sports stress is necessarily bad. There is an optimal level of arousal that can be invigorating. But if you find yourself not returning to baseline after the game ends, you may have gone over the edge.
To make watching football healthier, keep things in perspective and practice some deep breathing if you notice your blood boiling. Here is a short micropractice you can do during game that only takes 3 breaths:
- On the first breath, just pay attention to how deeply you’re breathing and try to slow down a bit.
- On the second breath try to relax your body by 5%
- On the third breath ask, “What is worth holding onto right now?”
11. Focus on Community, Not Stats. Whether you’re in a fantasy league or playing your biggest rival, football can become very divisive. Either you’re for the right team or you’re rooting for the bad guys. It’s easy to get up in arms and aggressive towards fans of visiting teams or division rivals.
This tribal mindset is ingrained in our humanity and sports fandom is one way we way express this aspect of our nature. It allows us to identify with something greater than ourselves and feel a sense of belonging when we see others wearing our team’s jersey.
Fandom only becomes problematic when it gets violent and nasty. Remember that beyond your team, you are all part of a larger community–one that loves the sport of football.
You can all agree that watching a tense 2-min drill, holding your breath during an onside kick, or seeing a miraculous catch are some of the most exciting moments in all of sports. Focus on the common ground you all share and be a good sport, even if they’re cheering for the opposite team.
Don’t ever let a football loss detract from the meaning and fulfillment you bring to life. If it’s not going to matter in a year, don’t spend more than 10 minutes worrying about it.
A fist bump to making watching football healthier again,
I’m Jeff Siegel, a life & wellness coach, fitness instructor, and mindfulness teacher who works with people who want to learn how to change habits and improve their physical and mental health. For free bi-monthly wisdom on how to eat, move, and be healthier, sign-up for my newsletter. If you’d like to explore working with me, you can schedule a private 30-min consultation call with me.
p.s. E.A.G.L.E.S. EAGLES!!!