"It's the topic we've been addressing all week," says Debbie Hugo, a Weight Watchers leader in Seattle. "An abundance of food and drink doesn't go hand-in-hand with success."
For dieters who made losing weight a New Year's resolution, Super Bowl Sunday is the first major temptation on the calendar. While the association between pizza and the Super Bowl dates back decades, party hosts have lately upped the calorie count of their spreads, knitting bacon explosions and erecting meat stadiums for fellow fans who have nothing to do for hours but watch television and eat.
"We used to think we didn't have to worry about anything until Valentine's Day," Hugo says.
Mystifying food writers, many snack makers this year are seizing on Super Bowl season as an opportunity to promote their products' healthy attributes. Press releases touting the protein in pork rinds and antioxidants in pomegranate juice (suggested as a stir-in for spinach dip) have inspired a barrage of tweets wondering what sort of sad souls want to "skip the nachos and beer in favor of a healthier approach to Superbowl snacking."
But the message resonates with Americans who are terrified of undoing five weeks of hard work with wings and queso. According to Hugo, pizza, chicken and nachos are the snacks served most frequently on Super Bowl Sunday - but carrots and avocados round out the top five.
"People are starting to get the idea you can have a healthy Super Bowl," she says.
Hugo says much of the discussion in Weight Watchers' groups this week has focused on which snacks to avoid, and how to make healthier versions of fatty treats. "Bring snacks to share," she advises Super Bowl guests who've accepted invitations to parties stocked with cheese balls and fried chicken. "If I'm going to make a dip, maybe I'm going to buy baked chips and make the dip out of Greek yogurt. You want to choose the most bang for your buck."
Planning is essential, Hugo says. She suggests dieters think about limiting their eating to the first and third quarters, or have a meal before the game so they can deflect pressure to try a sugary cake with an honest "I'm full." While these strategies sound silly to eaters who don't struggle with moderation, Hugo says a gain of two pounds can be a disheartening setback for a newly committed dieter.
"You've got to plan to succeed," Hugo says. "Think about those two teams. Both of those teams believe they're going to win, so why don't we?"