If you look at Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard, you would assume that he had been raised on nothing but the highest quality grass-fed meats and organic vegetables, adhering to a diet that would be too restrictive for even the most dedicated GOOP reader. But no, Howard once fueled his chiseled 6'11" frame with thousands and thousands of calories of candy every day—and he did that for more than a decade.
According to an ESPN feature about—weirdly enough—the NBA's league-wide obsession with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Howard's candy consumption was so ridiculous, it once required an intervention. By 2013, he was eating so much candy, he was showing symptoms of dysesthesia, an unpleasant nerve condition that is often seen in prediabetics who have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. How much candy? Up to TWO DOZEN candy bars every day, a collection of simple sugars that adds up to more than 5,000 calories. Even worse, Howard had been eating like that, like a kid whose babysitter who'd fallen asleep, for an estimated ten years.
"Skittles, Starbursts, Rolos, Snickers, Mars bars, Twizzlers, Almond Joys, Kit Kats and oh, how he loved Reese's Pieces," ESPN's Baxter Holmes wrote of Howard. "He'd eat them before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, and like any junkie, he had stashes all over—in his kitchen, his bedroom, his car, a fix always within reach."
Howard's sweet tooth wasn't a secret, not at all. In 2011, Skittles gave him a custom pinball machine that would hold 30 packs of the rainbow-colored candy (or a little more than a day's worth for the big man). At the time, he was only concerned about what the candies would do to his teeth. "[My dentist] told me I could eat them as long as I flush my mouth out with water to get the sugar out," he told CNBC. And in 2012, when the Orlando Magic hoped to lock their then-center down for another year, the team did the only logical thing: CEO Alex Martins brought all of Howard's favorite candy to their meeting. (Oddly, it didn't work).
Several months before the Lakers staged the intervention with Howard—who joined the team just before the 2012-13 season—he was coming off an offseason back surgery and was struggling to regain his conditioning. In February, he told ESPN that he was trying to cut down on the candy and had started a new diet. But in a meme-worthy Me/Also Me scenario, he also mentioned his NIGHTSTAND FULL OF CANDY. "My pantry is full of candy. Skittles just sent me 30 pounds of Skittles," he said. "I have a nightstand full of every candy you could think of. Skittles, Blow Pops, Laffy Taffy, Reese's Pieces, Kit Kats, all types of candy was in the drawer. They had to clear it out."
Part of the they had to be Dr. Cate Shanahan, the Lakers nutritionist. She emptied his cabinets, cleaned out his nightstand, and put him on a reduced-sugar diet, and was so sure that his game would improve that she volunteered to resign if he didn't see results. Howard played along and, after de-Skittling his life, his rebounds, points per game, and minutes per game all improved.
Dr. Shanahan is still with the Lakers. Howard, now with the Hawks, is presumably still sugar free.