There are many lessons I would want my child to learn from Olympians, such as the importance of hard work, dedication, determination and focus. I even put together a list of ten lessons we can all learn from Olympians. But one quality of Olympic hopefuls I won’t be sharing with my child? Their eating habits.
Endurance athletes face a unique challenge. They must indulge in a very high-calorie diet to keep their weight stabilized. Their workouts are so intense that they run the risk of losing too much weight and must replace the calories lost with large, and what some may consider unhealthy, feasts.
The New York Times notes that, “refueling can resemble an episode of ‘Man v. Food,’ with dinner consisting of things like a pound of pasta drizzled with olive oil (about 800 calories), a dozen eggs (840 calories), an entire cheese pizza (perhaps 2,000 calories) and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s cheesecake-brownie ice cream (1,000 calories)…plus beer (about 150 calories a bottle).”
Some athletes, they add, also indulge in junk foods like, “Snickers bars, store-bought chocolate-chip cookies, Pop-Tarts…even an athlete who intends to eat healthfully can be defeated by nutritional realities.” And their nutritional realities are calories, calories and more calories.
I myself am in a nutritional struggle with my 6-year-old. She has issues coming to terms with the fact that ice cream, cupcakes, and lollipops are not everyday fare, a reality she finds unfair. If I told her that these amazing athletes that we will soon be watching on the Olympics gorged on things like Snickers bars or Pop-tarts I just know I would hear a whiny “but the Olympians eat them, that means they have to be good for you.” And since my kid is fine-tuning the art of debate and pleading her case, it will be a very long, drawn-out argument that may or many not include the reading of nutritional labels, a discourse on polyunsaturated fat vs. monounsaturated fat and a whole lot of refrains of “no, no, no” from me.
So I’m opting to avoid letting her know about this fascinating foodie Olympic fact. I’ll just focus on these other lessons instead.