The Super Bowl, America’s unofficial national holiday, is not known for its emphasis on nutritious foods that are soothing to the digestive system. The high fat content in six-foot long subs, chili cheese dogs and deep-fried buffalo wings can all send a person’s intestines into overtime. This is especially true if you suffer from any kind of digestive disorder. Do your body a favor and devise a game day strategy to treat your body well while you enjoy the game.
Like the athletes on the field, a winning Super Bowl food plan involves careful preparation on your part.
- Plan a quiet day for yourself before the game. Stress can intensify intestinal cramping.
- Engage in some exercise. Physical activity is excellent for stress relief and can help offset any extra calories you might take in during the festivities. Keep your workout light, though. Intense exercise can intensify stomach cramps and may stimulate your appetite, making it hard not to gobble down those wings later on.
- Eat light meals throughout the day. Do not go to watch the game on an empty stomach. This will make it harder for you to avoid the temptation of those enticing (though poor) food choices. Try to eat fruits, vegetables and low-fat protein, all of the things that may be in short supply during the game. Eating small meals every few hours will help to keep your digestive system humming along quietly.
- Practice relaxation exercises to establish a calm foundation for the excitement of the rest of the day.
During the Game: Defense
In order to ensure a win, the defensive line focuses on preventing the other team from scoring. Your plan to defend yourself from intestinal upset should focus on choosing your foods carefully. Certain foods have a reputation for being poorly tolerated by the digestive system. Others have the potential for intensifying the contractions that are naturally set off by the body’s gastrocolic reflex, a response in which the act of eating sets the digestive system in motion. Unfortunately, the following such foods tend to be pretty much standard fare at the average Super Bowl party:
- Fried foods
- High-fat foods
- Diet soft drinks
During the Game: Offense
The ability to stay alert and be proactive makes for a successful offensive line. Here are winning strategies for enjoying the game and keeping your gut happy.
- Watch the game (or at least, the commercials). Distraction is a wonderful stress reliever and pain reducer.
- Enjoy the company of others. If life stressors or chronic illness have kept you isolated, enjoy the spirit-filling energy that comes from sharing an enjoyable activity such as this.
- Keep yourself relaxed. Deep breathing exercises are an easy, portable way to keep your baseline anxiety level low.
- Search for the healthy food options. Most party hosts do try to offer some more nutritious foods, although you may have to go on a bit of a scavenger hunt to find them. Look hard for fruits, vegetables, lean meats and bread with some fiber (whole wheat or pumpernickel, for example).
Regardless of whether a team wins or loses, its post-game analysis is crucial for future success. Following the game, ask yourself the following questions:
- What worked? Which of your strategies seemed to help keep your stress level low and your digestive system quiet?
- What didn’t work? Which of your choices do you most regret? What can you learn from that?
- What can you do in the off-season to keep yourself healthy? No athlete can just slack off after the season is over, and doing so won't help you manage issues with your guy either. Active self-care, healthy nutrition and stress management should be a daily part of your life.
- If your efforts were not successful, how can you reward yourself for just being out there trying your best? You probably can’t "go to Disney World,” but you certainly can treat yourself to a hot bath, a heating pad or a comforting cup of tea. Be proud that you were out there playing the game of life, even if your gut didn’t cooperate. Stay focused on self-care and work toward better outcomes in the future.