October 31, 2014

A Big Mac, a Coke, and a Heineken: the new breakfast of champions?

Hamburger with Cheese and Tomatoby Jessica Serdikoff 

As you may have heard, it’s official – McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Heineken have branded the Olympics with their famous logos and are poised to entice the Games’ attendees with their products. No brand name food company except the Golden Arches will be allowed to sell food at the games; no non-alcoholic company except Coca-Cola will be allowed to sell beverages; and, you guessed it, no other alcoholic beverage company except Heineken will be allowed to sell alcohol. Additionally, commercials geared towards those of us watching at home on our television (the overwhelming majority, I would say, of people watching the events) will be largely brought to us by these three food industry giants as well.

The commercials that will surely integrate the Games with the products of these three sponsors, the exclusive sale of their food and drink at the Games, and the sheer fact that the Olympics has an official beer at all – are these sending conflicting messages, particularly to younger generations? On the one hand, the competing athletes are likely not eating diets comprised mostly of Big Macs, soda, and beer; and having these three companies as sponsors insinuates otherwise. On the other hand, some competing athletes do consume these higher calorie “junk” foods – well, during training, anyway. Michael Phelps, for example, would consume 8,000 calories of food a day, much of which came in the form of greasy pizzas (he apparently eats a whole pie for dinner) and other “fast food” type fare. However, he was also burning an exorbitant amount of calories by training 6 hours a day most days of the week, and needed those calorie-dense foods (he could never get up to 8,000 calories with fruit salads and tofu). So even if the athletes are eating this way, that doesn’t that we have the green light to emulate them – that is unless we too plan to spend the entire day going through a grueling and rigorous training regimen as they do. Our lives are just not the same as theirs, which means our diets should be different too.

The Olympics defends their sponsors by saying that they, quite frankly, need the money – this event is tremendously expensive to put together, and the industries and companies who can afford to back them happen to be those with questionable health associations. The Olympics aren’t the first organization to be caught between a rock and a hard place, deciding between sticking to their guns and suffering financially, or relinquishing some of their high standards in order to achieve their objectives. Even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has sponsors like Coca-Cola for their annual conference. But where do you draw the line? Is it okay to accept money from companies and industries whose products may not be perfectly aligned with your beliefs and the things for which you stand? If the Olympics and the people behind it would stand their ground and refuse sponsorship from conflicting companies, do you think they’d be at risk for canceling the event due to lack of funds, or would smaller sponsors crop up to carry them through?

It’s clear that the Olympic Games are walking a fine line, but the question remains: are they still within acceptable limits, or have they pole vaulted straight over to “the dark side?”

Jessica Serdikoff is the chief blogger behind Floptimisma blog where Jessica shares deliciously inspiring recipes and tales of life as a nutrition student. Follow Floptimism on Facebook and Twitter

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