Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard is a physical marvel. He has been that way ever since entering the league straight out of high school—a superhero-scale monster of speed, size, and power. It's a combination rarely seen, particularly in an 18-year-old.
So how did Dwight get that marvelous physique? Was it merely genetics, or did he work to hone his body into the instrument it became? Eh, not so much. Stories of Howard's early-career candy habit are well known, or so we thought. Thanks to a recent ESPN piece, we can finally understand just how much sugar he was consuming on a daily basis. Not to give anything away, but: a lot.
Let's go back to 2013, when Howard was struggling with the Lakers. The 27-year-old big man was laboring on the court. At first all of his problems seemed to stem from his bad back. But the deeper the Lakers' medical staff, including nutritionist Dr. Cate Shanahan, delved into his health problems, the more shocking the results.
Howard's legs tingled, he complained, but she noticed he was having trouble catching passes too, as if his hands were wrapped in oven mitts. Well, he quietly admitted, his fingers also tingled. Shanahan, with two decades of experience in the field, knew Howard possessed a legendary sweet tooth, and she suspected his consumption of sugar was causing a nerve dysfunction called dysesthesia, which she'd seen in patients with prediabetes.
It's difficult to reconcile a professional athlete coming down with a sugar-induced nerve dysfunction...at least until you read just how much sugar was coursing through Howard's veins.
To alter Howard's diet, though, Shanahan first had to understand it. After calls with his bodyguard, chef and a personal assistant, she uncovered a startling fact: Howard had been scarfing down about two dozen chocolate bars' worth of sugar every single day for years, possibly as long as a decade. 'You name it, he ate it,' she says. Skittles, Starbursts, Rolos, Snickers, Mars bars, Twizzlers, Almond Joys, Kit Kats and oh, how he loved Reese's Pieces. 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.
That's right: 24 chocolate bars' worth of sugar. Every. Freakin'. Day.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. The medical staff convinced Howard to switch to mostly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and eventually the tingling sensation in his fingers and legs stopped.
Ah, PB&J: Is there anything you can't do?