(Health.com) -- Super Bowl Sunday: A day of first downs, touchdowns, and, often, unwanted pounds.
Excluding Thanksgiving, Americans eat more on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year, according to the American Institute of Food Distribution. Former NFL lineman Jamie Dukes says the amount of food consumed, coupled with inactivity, makes Super Bowl Sunday one unhealthy celebration.
Dukes, who will be covering Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts for the NFL Network, is on a personal mission to help former NFL players and football fans eat healthier, exercise more, and lose weight.
When Dukes played for the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, and Arizona Cardinals, the offensive lineman weighed around 290 pounds; he surged to nearly 400 after retirement in 1996. Along with the extra weight, which put him at risk for diabetes and heart disease, Dukes had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
But he got a real wake-up call when former teammates with weight problems like his began to die.
"Unfortunately, I've had five teammates that have died in their 40s with obesity-related issues," Dukes says. "I just can't imagine allowing my diet and exercise -- and my weight for that matter -- to keep me from being with my family."
Dukes tried dieting and exercising, but after many failed attempts, he opted for gastric band surgery in 2008. Since the surgery, he's lost more than 90 pounds and adopted better eating and exercise habits.
"For me it was finding something that I could sustain and finding a tool that would help me sustain the weight loss," Dukes says. "My whole vision in this equation is to help raise the awareness that says it's OK to look at alternative solutions. You've got to find a way to get something done."
Now Dukes, 45, is preparing to cover his fourth Super Bowl. He's working with the NFL Network and NFL Alumni Association to spread the word about the dangers of obesity to retired NFL players. And he's got some advice for overweight Super Bowl fans planning to gorge themselves on buffalo wings and potato chips come Sunday.
• Get off the couch. "Use Super Bowl Sunday as your New Year's resolution part deux," Duke says. "This is the day where all the food is being consumed and so you have to do something to work that food off." Try tossing a football around between quarters and at half time, he says.
When traveling to cover games, Dukes gets up early in the morning to get his workouts in -- even on game day, when games in California start at 10 a.m. locally.
• Focus on portion control. "I've consumed a 5-pound lobster like it's nothing," he says. "I've consumed 40-ounce steaks and then had desserts, salad, appetizers, and the whole shebang." Now Dukes might have an egg-white croissant with turkey bacon for breakfast and some baked chips when the game is on.
One party trick: Serve snacks in smaller bowls. A 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found portion presentation plays a factor in the quantity of food people eat. Adults who grabbed snacks from larger serving bowls placed more food on their plate versus adults who grabbed snacks from smaller serving bowls.
• Serve healthier food. For Dukes, health starts in the kitchen. He uses heart-healthy fats like peanut oil to prepare food that he eats during games. He also eats grilled chicken instead of fried chicken when he's in the NFL Network offices. During games, he might nosh on 100-calorie snack packs and granola bars. "For the overall diet perspective, I'm just consuming less calories," Dukes says.
He's hoping to get others to do the same.
Copyright Health Magazine 2011