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This week in our Images Shaping History blog, resident blogger Eric Winter discusses athletes and their nutrition. Labragirl Pictures strives to create a conversation about social issues and the power of images. Eric discusses how images and commercials  shape our ideas about food and athleticism.

While reading Eric’s blog, keep in mind these questions:

What comes to your mind when you see athletes in food advertisements? 

What is the relationship between athletes and nutrition in television commercials?

Please comment below or discuss with us on .


As I was refereeing a soccer game in sunny southern California, one of the players asked me if I had eaten my Wheaties today. I promptly responded:

“No. I hate Wheaties. I am a Captain Crunch kind of guy.”

This question got me thinking, whatever happened to Wheaties and their healthy brand? 

It wasn’t that long ago when athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were seen on commercials promoting Wheaties and “proper nutrition”. My aunt collected Wheaties boxes, and I grew up thinking if I ate my Wheaties I could look and play baseball just like Mark McGwire.

Mark McGwire displaying his athleticism on the cover of a Wheaties box {Click on image link for source info.}

It seems today, Subway has attempted to corner the healthy fast food market in a similar way by hiring athletes like Blake Griffin, Michael Phelps and Robert Griffin III to market their brand. But, what other food and beverages are our elite athletes marketing and how do these images shape our ideas regarding nutrition?

Here is a Subway promotional advertisement with Robert Griffin III {Click on image link for source info.}

If aliens were monitoring our television to study our diet, they would come to the conclusion that humans ate fast food and sugary drinks and looked like LeBron James. It is one thing to have athletes market a sports product like Gatorade, it is another to show them in athletic clothes eating fast food and drinking soda after working out. Fast food is not a part of most athletes diet’s and images depicting athletes eating fast food and drinking soda are misleading and dishonest.

In the video below,  LeBron James and Dwight Howard are competing for a McDonald’s lunch. Let us take a look at the images displayed in this video.

Both athletes are dressed in athletic clothing and throughout the video they are displaying their athletic talents. The idea that these two basketball super stars choose to eat fast-food after they workout is very naïve and deceptive. In the commercial these athletes are exercising and performing unbelievable athletic feats. The commercial gives credence to the idea that athletes like LeBron James and Dwight Howard can eat fast food and still  perform like superstars.

Fast food is not nutritious and many even argue that it should not even be classified as “food”. This type of industrialized food does not provide the fuel for an average person’s daily activities, never mind the nutrients and caloric needs of a world class athlete. The subtext behind the commercial is that McDonalds is a part of  LeBron James and Dwight Howard‘s diet. This insinuation sends an insincere narrative to the viewers.

LeBron James in McDonald’s commercial. {Click on image link for source info.}

Is soda a healthy beverage that quenches your thirst and provides post workout nutrition or a sugary carbonated drink that has zero nutritional benefits and in fact dehydrates the body?

Because if you watch the video below, one would think Kobe Bryant rehydrates his body after intense workouts with Sprite.

Kobe Bryant has played 18 years in the NBA (which is an eternity in professional sports). He credits his work ethic and diet for his longevity. But does his diet consist of a bottle of Sprite along with a hamburger and fries? No, it is actually a strict diet that contains:

  • Pasture-fed foods  [1]
  • Sugars specifically anything with corn syrup,  should be avoided, and the intake of carbohydrates [should be] scaled down, consumed in moderation. [2]

This is a case where the athlete markets a product and a diet that he or she simply doesn’t follow. Kobe Bryant and other successful athletes are not drinking soda after workouts (or rarely for that matter) and are not fueling their body with fast food like McDonalds. Yet, food and beverage companies continue to use athletes who promote unhealthy nutrition options.

Do you think commercials showing professional athletes consuming soda and fast food are dishonest?

Or are you okay with these companies promoting their brand through the spokesmen of their choice?

How do the images of athletes promoting unhealthy foods shape our ideas regarding food and nutrition?

Until Next Time,


Check out Eric’s other blogs:

Holograms & History

From Body Snatchers to the Terminator: How History Impacts Villains in Film.

[1] Trevor Wong “Kobe Bryant’s Diet Helps Maintain Elite Level Of Play” http://www.nba.com/lakers/community/1213_fitforlife_features

[2] Trevor Wong “Kobe Bryant’s Diet Helps Maintain Elite Level Of Play” http://www.nba.com/lakers/community/1213_fitforlife_features


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Marilyn Hernandez





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