The Olympics

6 Ways to Avoid ‘Sochi Gut’ While Watching the Olympics

Unless you’ve got a stationary bike in the living room, chances are you’re not the most active when you watch TV. But that doesn’t mean you should gain an Olympics 15.

Chris Fertnig/Getty

Since the only athletic position fans assume during the Sochi Olympics is on a recliner, spectators risk gaining a “Sochi gut” much more than a healthy lifestyle.

And science agrees!

A study published in the January 2014 BMC Public Health journal found that watching sports had literally no impact on physical activity.

Cheering and jeering at the television an average of 5.3 hours per day was associated, however, with a higher risk of obesity. These disappointing results persevered even after adjusting for other bad behaviors. I would never recommend watching less of the Olympics, but there are things we can do to minimize the impact of a 230-hour bout of sedentary living.

These healthy reminders will help you avoid gaining that “Sochi gut” while being a supportive fan.

1. Don’t play hunger games

Reduce the chance of gorging on high-calorie snacks because you skipped a meal. Rather than planting yourself in front of the TV on an empty stomach, take time to enjoy a balanced dinner before staring at Nordic Combined or Slopestyle. The gold standard supper fits the recommendations created by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate with lean protein, whole grains, veggies, fruits and low-fat dairy. Training yourself to eat this way will help you reduce the risk of excessive snacking due to hunger.

2. Snack smart

If you muttered, “blasphemy” after reading the first tip about skipping a snack, then snack smart. Smart snacks are nutrient dense; they have lower calories with healthy benefits. Consider the following suggestions for lighter snackables worthy of a healthy Olympic fan.

• Air-popped popcorn, hold the butter. A recent report that Americans are eating more butter is bad news. Butter is rich in saturated fat—a solid fat known to increase the risk of heart disease. For those that need to visualize this, think about the way hamburger grease clogs your drains. Be kind to your heart, either pop 2 cups of butter-less for only 60 calories and 2.5 grams of fiber, or try a spicy popcorn recipe.

• Baby carrots with non-fat cottage cheese. Yes, these are vegetables, but they’ll satisfy your need to crunch. And yes, I said cottage cheese. Feel good about using cottage cheese as a dip because it delivers calcium, quality protein and potassium. Cottage cheese has a wee more sodium than preferred, but baby carrots are salt-free and an excellent source of vitamin A. Think nutrient density.

• Jicama sticks and salsa. Also known as Mexican yam, jicama is packed with fiber and vitamin C. Thankfully, YouTube has some videos to help you cut this strange turnip.

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• Light Greek yogurt. Healthy enough for a meal, but tasty like a dessert (I just made that up). Choose a light and fit version with less fat and sugar, but all the protein. Add berries for some sweetness and health-promoting goodness.

• Oatmeal—why not? It’s good for your heart and it’s an all-American favorite. And new research shows that oatmeal may help you feel full longer and keep you satiated through Bob Costas’ closing commentary.

3. Careful how many times you drink to that

The opening ceremonies are over and you already played the over-or-under drinking game where you predict the number of athletes representing each country as they entered the stadium. But drinking for every triple Lutz, American flag or smirk from Putin could cause a calorie avalanche and sick Sochi gut. If you must, then alternate between a libation and spritzer of seltzer water with a splash of cranberry juice cocktail and lime to save on calories and post-podium hangovers.

4. Give a standing ovation

Get involved in the action by standing up and clapping when an athlete deserves it. Show your team spirit and burn some calories. What I’m saying—get up and move around during the games.

5. Take an exercise break

Avoid tearing up during the sentimental commercial breaks about Moms and McNuggets by doing jumping jacks. Drop and do 10 push-ups; try some sit-ups or walk around the living room. You may not win a medal, but it will help you expend some calories while you watch.

6. Be an outlier

Even though the data shows that people are less likely to exercise or change behavior on account of the Olympics, you can be an outlier. Be inspired by the Olympics. Push your personal limits by becoming an everyday athlete. Instead of a “Backside Rodeo 720”, perform a two-mile walk without missing a step. While it’s not a biathlon, a 5K is pretty damn impressive.

Whatever it is, and whomever you’re cheering for, go on and light your own torch.