I have to admit, I'm a bit of an Olympics-junkie. My eyes tear up at the familiar "BAAA-bum-ba-baa--bada-da" as NBC starts it's nightly montage of fantastic athletes and beauty shots of their most amazing moments. It's hard (and not advisable for your own health) to sit through hours upon hours of it, but it can be so inspiring. My almost 3 year old has been practicing "jumping off a chair and rolling across the rug" in a toddler-style mimic of the synchronized diving. Although my heart goes straight to my throat when she does it, I'm glad she's responding to the athletic display by getting active herself. I'm DVR-ing events to similarly inspire my older kids who are away at camp--Gymnastics for my acrobatic older daughter and Track and Field for my son who joined the middle school track team last year.
There was an NBC profile of gold-medalist swimmer Michael Phelps in which he said one of his biggest problems was getting enough to eat. He reportedly consumes 10,000 calories a day as part of his regimen. Wow! He is great evidence that exercise (a tremendous amount) can balance out even the largest of diets.
In contrast, most Americans consume far too many calories and exercise far too little. This past Sunday, the Times had a very interesting piece with a cool graphic, The Overflowing American Dinner Plate. Basically, from 1970 to 2006, American food consumption rose as did its rate of obesity. Americans now eat roughly 2 additional lbs of food per week, most of it in increased fats, refined grains, and refined sugars. According to the CDC, 15 percent of adults age 20 to 74 were obese in 1980, but by 2007, that percentage had doubled. Many other social and economic changes have occurred in these decades. many of which seem to contribute to a thickening waist-line: the rise of two-income families (leading to less time and more $ to purchase "convenience" foods), more "take-out" and restaurant meals, more car driving and commuting, less exercise, and of course, less family meal time.
Let's take the spirit of the games home and be inspired by those wonderful athletes. Don't go for the McDonald's version of the Olympic spirit. Instead, get yourself and your family out there and have fun with some physical activity. Be mindful of your eating, knowing that you are no "Michael Phelps" with 5 hours+ in the water everyday. Eat dinner with your family and get some play time in too.
14,000 pounds of Tofu and Hold the Lettuce. NYT Ring Blog. 08.11.08. Report on Size of Food venture needed to feed Olympians in Beijing.