The Armchair Quarterback Diet

The Armchair Quarterback Diet

Every year, by Super Bowl Sunday, my jeans have mysteriously shrunk a size. Okay, in truth, the jeans stay the same, but I get bigger. Why? I’m a football fan (some would say fanatic), so almost every weekend is devoted to watching games with friends and family—and all the eating and drinking that goes with it. After a season’s worth of hot wings, beer, and margaritas, I usually feel like I’ve donned enough padding to play some football myself.

But this year, I’ve vowed to work hard to prevent the weight gain—maybe even harder than I work at creating a winning fantasy football team. I went to some top Sharecare experts for advice and put together what I call the “armchair quarterback diet.” Here’s the play-by-play:

First down: Beverages
There’s nothing like a cold beer to cut the heat of a plate of hot wings, but according to fitness expert Mike Clark, DPT, regularly consuming alcohol can sabotage weight-loss efforts. Dr. Clark explains that drinking alcohol, especially when eating, can cause your body to “divert all of its energy to burning the alcohol rather than the calories you took in from your meal, which instead are stored as fat for later.” Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, making it easier to say “yes” to a side of fries with those hot wings.

So I’ll be opting for light beer in place of regular beer, and skipping those margaritas. (According to Mehmet Oz, MD, cocktails are often made with high-calorie mixers.) I’m also planning to follow these two strategies for cutting calories from alcohol from registered dietician Keri Gans: Alternate each alcoholic beverage with a glass of water, and have a healthy snack before your drink so you drink less.

Second down: Food
I’ll be using these tips from Sharecare experts to cut back on game-day calories from food:

  • Chips: Instead of fried, greasy potato chips, Hungry Girl author Lisa Lillien suggests baked or air-popped chips, low-fat microwave popcorn, or home-baked kale chips.
  • Pizza: Buy healthy frozen pizza instead of ordering takeout pizza, says Andrea Pennington, MD. I’ll save at least 100 calories and 15 grams of fat, according to Dr. Pennington.
  • French fries: Dr. Pennington also advises choosing baked fries instead of French fries. This simple swap can save about 150 calories per serving.
  • Buffalo wings: Instead of those fatty bufflao wings, try cornmeal-crusted boneless buffalo wings. Pair those wings with a light blue cheese dip or yogurt dip to save additional calories. Or, venture away from wings altogether in favor of one of these healthy chicken recipes.
  • Portion control: By using a 10-inch plate instead of a 12-inch plate, I can reduce my calorie intake by as much as 22 percent according to dietician Kate Geagan.

For the record, I’ll be bringing veggies and store-bought yogurt dip to the tailgate this weekend to help me avoid the ribs and wings my friends are cooking in their smoker and the pimento cheese spread my friends are bringing (this is the South!).

Third down: Exercise
If I do overindulge in the ribs or wings, I know I’ll need to do some additional exercise to work off those calories. Walking my dogs (I have two high-energy, 60-pound rescue mutts) for an extra hour each week will burn about 200 calories. Even something as fun as dancing (or a doing a touchdown dance, in my case), can burn three to six times more calories than sitting.

So that’s it! With these strategies, my jeans should still fit come the big birthday I’m facing in early spring. (The number may be round, but I won’t be!) I wish you all a happy and healthy football season, and may your team always win—unless of course they’re playing my team, the East Carolina Pirates. Go Pirates!

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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