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Mindful Eating and the Super Bowl

Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at

I’m not a sports person, but I’d have to be living in a cave not to know that the Super Bowl is today. And while I’ve never attended a Super Bowl party, I’m well aware that these are food-focused events. Even so, I was astounded when I saw on Wikipedia and the sheer amount of food people that go through.

“Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day of food consumption in the United States after Thanksgiving…. Rather than a sit-down dinner, on Super Bowl Sunday food is usually served buffet style. Foods that are traditionally eaten on Super Bowl Sunday include buffalo wings, pizza, chili, potato chips, and dipping sauces…. Roughly 28,000,000 pounds (13,000,000 kg) of chips which if laid end to end would stretch for 293,000 miles (472,000 km), 90 million chicken wings, and 8,000,000 pounds (3,600,000 kg) of guacamole are consumed during the Super Bowl, if all the guacamole consumed was to be spread over a football field the spread would be 11.8 feet deep.”

At first I couldn’t understand it. Thanksgiving makes a little more sense to me, with its focus on abundance, but this? As I thought about it more, though, I realized that a bit part of the reason is likely the difficulty of making this a mindful eating experience.

To illustrate, I’ll go through the Am I Hungry? mindful eating cycle with the Super Bowl in mind.

Why are you eating?

Enthusiasts likely eat on Super Bowl Sunday not only because it falls around a mealtime, but because it’s a social occasion, and it has the weight of tradition. Without the food, it just wouldn’t be the same. In short – you’re not necessarily eating out of hunger.

When are you eating?

This largely depends on how early you gather, who’s hosting, and when they put out food – all of which may have nothing to do with hunger. Even if you’re the host and have control over the timing, you may feel pressure to provide snacks out as soon as anyone arrives.

What do you eat?

Even I know that certain foods are as synonymous with the game as popcorn with movies, as noted by Wikipedia. None of them are particularly light, although some articles offer suggestions for healthier variations. I also noticed that most of these foods are easy to eat with your hands, or at most a spoon.

How do you eat?

Which brings me to how people eat. It can be difficult to focus on eating in any social situation because you’re talking with others, and it becomes even more so when you add in concentrating on a game. Additionally, you’re not sitting at a table, and it’s not a particularly calm or relaxed atmosphere, since those who are really invested may jump up in excitement or dismay, or talk to the TV.

How much do you eat?

That, in turn, certainly contributes to how much people eat, which is clearly a lot. If you have access to a constant stream of food, much of which probably tastes good (at least initially), without really focusing on it, it’s very easy to just keep going until the game is over, or the food is gone, or you’re stuffed.

Where do you spend your energy?

And then what do you do? Given the length of the game (and what time zone you’re in), you may well just be going to bed, although depending on how much you’ve eaten, you may not sleep well that night. You may be so caught up in the emotions of the game that you don’t even notice how the food made you feel, unless it’s really making you miserable. But likely, your next steps are still on the game, and not about being mindful.

Considered in that light, eating mindfully on game day is a considerable challenge. But if you’d like to try, here are a few suggestions:

  • Try to be hungry (but not too hungry) when the event starts

  • Only pick the foods you really, really want

  • Notice how many times you’re tempted to re-fill your plate or bowl

  • Split your attention between the food and other stimuli

  • Let your hunger and fullness guide your eating

After all, you want to enjoy the food as well as the game and your friends, and that’s easier to do if you bring some mindful focus.

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